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Census complaints, challenges speak volumes of its critical role.

The high number of complaints and degree of interest in the problems of the 1990 Census are "the best needs survey" you'll ever get on how important the content and quality of the Census is to city governments, according to Ann Azari, mayor pro tem, Fort Collins, Colo. in recent testimony for NLC before a House subcommittee.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Census and Population, chaired by Rep. Thomas Sawyer (D-Ohio) on October first, Azari argued for the Census to continue to gather important data and to gather it for small geographic areas.

Under questioning by Chairman Sawyer, Azari gave an example of why accuracy, at the small geographic level is so important. A small town in the Colorado mountains had almost half its populations missed because a count was not made of the people residing on second floors above "main street" businesses. She said that for such a small community these numbers are "survival data" and said to avoid such problems in the next Census that local community involvement must be welcomed by the Census Bureau and trust must be built.

She recounted a number of examples of how Census information is used locally - not only to fulfill information requirements imposed by federal and state grants, but also for such local issues as city facility locations, affordable housing plans and strategies and economic development The federal voting rights laws require much of the data be gathered at the small geographic area level in order to reach justice and fairness.

Azari argued that the Census data help paint a picture of "who we are and what we are" and argued for "building connectivity and collaboration" suing the resources of city government to strengthen the next U.S. Census. She urged that the Census Bureau consult with local officials to a greater degree on the next Census. She cited an informal estimate that her community of 87,758 had probably invested $100,000 in staff resources and expense on the last Census. She urged that in the quest for simplification and cost savings in the Census that new costs not be imposed on city governments by forcing cities to gather data now compiled by the Census Bureau.

Azari, who represents NLC on the Census Bureau's 2000 Census Advisory Committee will moderate a workshop, "Beyond 1990," of Census Bureau personnel at the Congress of Cities in New Orleans to focus attention on changes that can be made to improve the accuracy and usefulness of the Census.
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Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Oct 5, 1992
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