Members of Western New York's minority community must stand up and be counted if they don't want to be shortchanged on political representation and the allocation of government dollars, according to a local employee of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Mitzi Williams, a community-awareness specialist for the bureau in Western New York, said the state may lose as many as three seats in Congress this year and a number of other government programs could be reduced unless everyone is counted.
"Political representation means political power . . . it's even more critical now than it was ever (before) because political power is the name of the game," Ms. Williams said in an address at a Sunday meeting of the Buffalo Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She said there are still concerns that minority populations will be undercounted.
The national census, taken every decade, sets off a process whereby the boundaries of political districts are redrawn to reflect equal political representation on the national, state and local level. Ms. Williams said the census will also influence the allocation of federal and state aid.
"It can only help. The only way a particular street gets broadened or receives metro service depends on the census. It gives a picture of a community," she said.
Two community centers in Buffalo -- Langston Hughes at 25 High St. and the Father Belle Center at 104 Maryland St. -- have census intake centers that operate eight hours a day, Ms. Williams said. She said persons who have not been counted can fill out shortened census forms at the centers or pick them up and return them to those locations.