City Councilman Charles A. Walker is applying political campaign tactics to the task of making sure everyone in the city gets counted in the upcoming 2000 census.
Walker on Monday will ask his Council colleagues to back his effort and take an active role in "Getting the Word Out (Census 2000)." Walker, the only African-American councilman, is spearheading the grass roots campaign because of his concerns that segments of the minority community often fail to respond and go uncounted.
The city's "numbers in the past have not been accurate and it is predicted they will be even less accurate in the 2000 Census and, because of this, the city will suffer greatly by receiving less in federal dollars, which means less for housing, job training, senior citizen centers, day-care, libraries, etc." Walker's resolution says.
The city is at a pivotal point, with an estimated population of about 56,000 going into the head count. Should the population drop below 50,000, the city stands to lose a great deal of state and federal aid, much of which is based on population figures gathered during the Census. Especially at stake is its status as an "entitlement city" for Community Development block grants. The entitlement assures the city an allocation of block grant funds each year, according to Community Development Director John C. Drake.
Should the city drop below 50,000, it would fall into the "Small Cities" category and have to apply for smaller grants each year on a competitive basis with other similarly sized cities. With its large population of senior and low-income citizens, the city can ill afford to lose the aid that targets that population. It is the same group that is most likely to ignore or avoid mailing back the Census forms.
The importance of an accurate count is magnified because funding for the next 10 years will be based on this year's results.
Walker said his plan will enlist the aid of block clubs and community organizations to schedule presentations on the importance of the Census at their meetings. He said Census officials from the local office have agreed to attend the meetings. Walker hopes to paper the city with Census reminders to get people "pumped up" the way they are during political campaigns.
Our plans are to try to do this as many times as we possibly can with different groups in different parts of the city," he said, adding that he hopes politicians and legislators, as well as community groups, will sponsor meetings.
"We want to keep people informed and perhaps they will keep other people informed. I wanted to get this resolution out now before the Census forms go out to try to get the people pumped up about how important it is," Walker said.
Councilman John G. Accardo said he will support the Census effort in anyway he can. Accardo said he has been promoting the Census in his role as a board member for the Community Center & Girls Club and the Niagara Community Action Program, which administers many programs funded with federal dollars.
"As a board member I've impressed upon the board to really get the word out, that it's incumbent upon all of us to take responsibility and do what we can to make sure every person in Niagara Falls is counted. Those are two boards in particular that deal with people we really need to be counting and the people who most likely won't take the time to fill out the census forms," Accardo said.