PATERSON, NJ- Vowing not to allow the population to be undercounted on his watch, as many claim it was in both 2000 and 2010, Mayor Andre Sayegh convened the inaugural meeting of the Paterson Complete Count Committee on Tuesday. With more than 75 individuals representing the government, non-profit, education, and social service sectors packed into the NJCDC Great Falls Youth Center the marching orders were clear: leave no Paterson resident uncounted in Census 2020.
“It is essential that we get an accurate count on the 2020 Census so that our residents get the resources we deserve,” Sayegh told TAPinto Paterson recently. Speaking directly to the magic number of 150,000 that would make Paterson a “first class city” by federal government standards Sayegh said that “we believe we are already there, now it’s time to make it official.”
After the 2000 census put Paterson's population at 149,222, some municipal officials believed it was inevitable that it would reach the first-class city threshold in 2010. But instead, the numbers showed Paterson's population declined by about 2 percent, down to 146,199. The U.S. Census Bureau currently estimates that as of July 2017 Paterson has 148,678 residents.
By appointing the committee, according to Sayegh’s office, the mayor is “creating a grassroots effort to ensure that every Patersonian is counted.” The subcommittees, members were told, will be empowered to meet on their own to map out a plan for the next two years, which will then be coordinated across the city. Among the examples given were the city’s fraternal organizations using social events to communicate the importance of the census while the education subcommittee may focus on parent and family events hosted by Paterson Public Schools.
With nearly 30,000 students in Paterson’s Public Schools connecting to parents will be a key factor in obtaining an accurate count, Oshin Castillo, President of the Paterson Board of Education, said. By opening up computer labs and raising awareness through the PTOs and the Department of Parent and Community Engagement, Castillo believes the school community can help alleviate concerns that if parents give up personal information “someone is going to come back and find them.”
“Our schools have been seen as safe havens for students and parents,” Castillo said. Once inside the buildings, she believes, parents will “know the faces” of the teachers, principals, and others, and be compelled to complete the census with an understanding that “if we get more money our students get more opportunities.”
Outlining specifically how the count will be undertaken was Patricia Green of the U.S. Census Bureau who announced that there will be a local office open and that they expect to begin the process of hiring an office manager and recruiting manager within the next two months.
Residents, she said, will be able to respond to the census via telephone or online with “boots on the ground” being used in the later stages of the count where response is low. In a continued effort to combat fears immigrants may have about sharing personal information with the federal government, Green emphasized that all Census takers, and other employees, are bound by an oath not to reveal personal data and that failure to comply with this mandate is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Serving as one of the co-chairs of the committee is Orlando Cruz who said that “getting an accurate count means that Paterson will get properly funded in a number of areas, that’s good for economic development.”
And that, Cruz,who also serves as Chairman of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce continued, is “good for business.”
Speaking to the practicalities of getting residents to complete their census forms Cruz suggested that local business owners will play a key role in education and awareness because “they’ve already gained the trust of people in the community.”
Saying that it was “thrilling” to see so many people coming together for the effort, and that “hopefulness and excitement” filled the room, Coleen Stevens Porcher, Chief Executive Officer of 4Cs of Passaic County, a child care resource and referral organization that assists families obtain quality child care, offered her belief that everyone in attendance was there because they want to make “Paterson the best it can be.”
The message to residents when it comes to Census 2020 is, Porcher said, “simple.”
“Everyone in Paterson counts,” Porcher share enthusiastically adding that “when every Paterson resident is counted we get the resources we need for our children and schools, for cleaning the streets, and for public safety,” to name a few areas where the city’s treasury will benefit from accurate census figures.
In short, she concluded, Census 2020 will “impact the day to life of everyone in Paterson.”
Whether it’s fear of answering about citizenship, limited resources, or any other factor that may stand in their way, Porcher struck a positive note suggesting that when it comes to being successful members of the the Paterson Complete Count Committee are going to “do what we can” to get an accurate count, “no matter what the obstacles are.”
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