Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Finkbeiner to address Census issue before House subcommitte

This just in via email:

At the request of the Representative William Lacy Clay, Chairman of the Information Policy, Census, National Archives Subcommittee of the United States House of Representative, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner will testify on behalf of the City of Toledo at the congressional subcommittee hearing, entitled “Census Data and Its Use in Federal Formula Funding”.

Mayor Finkbeiner will speak about his first-hand experience as a Census Leader in 1970, his vigorous leadership to ensure an accurate census count for Toledo including the City’s partnership with Social Compact, Inc., and his concerns with the CDBG allocation formula’s effect following a successful population estimate challenge.

The prepared text of his remarks:

Remarks for Mayor Finkbeiner
Testimony before the House Committee
Information Policy, Census and National Archives
July 9, 2009 2:00 p.m.

I appreciate the opportunity to address you today on the importance of an accurate count of the census every year, particularly every ten years.

I have been Mayor of Toledo for 12 years. My experiences in attempting to get an accurate count of Toledo during that 12-year period have been rather frustrating. That is why we hired Social Compact on the recommendation of the Mayor of Cincinnati where Social Compact had helped them significantly.

I can speak today with perhaps as much knowledge of a census count as any Mayor coming before you, as I was a Census Leader in 1970 in Toledo, Ohio. I want to tell you what I learned from that experience. Many of my counters were elderly females. We began the census count in affluent, upper-middle and middle class neighborhoods. My elderly enumerators felt very comfortable as they walked up and knocked on the doors of rather spacious, extremely well kept, trendy suburban type households. My enumerators enjoyed themselves immensely.

As the weeks progressed and my enumerators completed their task in these middle-class neighborhoods, they methodically worked their way toward Central City Toledo. As they did, their enthusiasm began to taper off. Their gusto for enumerating poorer neighborhoods of significant diversity became really apparent. With multiple- story, apartment-tenement buildings as part of their daily agenda, I began to lose my crew. Ultimately, of the three-dozen members of my staff that began, one remained to tackle Central City Toledo neighborhoods. Even though others were brought onboard, they did not have the same degree of training and enthusiasm, my initial crews had.

I began to worry about a serious undercounting of the poor, the disadvantaged, and men and women of color.

In the 40 years that have gone by since, there are more poor people than ever living in the heart of our cities, including Toledo. Some are homeless men and women. Some are regular visitors at the shelters that provide food on a daily basis. Others have been released from mental hospitals, and seek counseling and meds. These men and women cling to the heart of the city where assistance is available and they are able to “fit in” as opposed to looking extremely out of the normal in those suburban and middle class enclaves I mentioned earlier.

Fast forward to my 12 years of mayor, I asked my Neighborhoods Department staff to help me estimate how many John and Jane Does were being left uncounted. It is the John and Jane Does who need the help of the Federal Government, as well as the State and Local governments, 501 C 3’s and non-profit agencies. If people that are not counted because the U.S Census workers are tentative at best, as they count the central city, (marching door-to-door, apartment-to-apartment, homeless shelter-to-homeless shelter), how can we ensure we are identifying all of our citizens?

One thing I know for sure - there are more men and women living in mobile housing conditions, in bleaker environments and in growing numbers. These men and women need the help of Federal agencies. Our responsibility is to find out how to get each and every one of these individuals counted by the U.S. Census.

During the past few years there have been numerous reports, saying that the City of Toledo, as well as Lucas County, is losing population. In preparation for our 2010 Census, the staff of the Toledo Plan Commission, at my direction and with the help of Social Compact, identified over 1400 addresses previously not recorded on the U.S. Census Bureau’s current address list. This confirmed my suspicion that there was a population undercount of housing units from 2000 to 2007 in the City of Toledo. In fact, the adjusted estimate meant that Toledo’s population in 2007 was actually higher than in 2000! Far from declining, as had been consistently reported over several years!

To the Credit of the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau, they acknowledged Toledo had a population of 316, 851, 21,822 more people than the U.S. Census Bureau’s original 2007 Population estimate. The date of that acknowledgement was January 9, 2009. A copy of the letter is attached.

Then, to my surprise, on June 2, 2009, I was sent a letter from HUD’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, stating that as a result of Toledo’s successful challenge, the city will actually be receiving $293,585 less in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in Fiscal Year 2009. A copy of that letter is also attached.

CDBG Entitlement Communities Grants are a vital source of funding from HUD directly to Toledo. The ability to use the grants flexibly allows my administration the freedom to respond to the very specific housing and development needs of Toledo’s low and moderate-income communities. At a time when great efforts are being made to stimulate the economy, CDBG funding serves a vitally important role in that endeavor. Having successfully participated in the Census Challenge Program, we expected to receive a larger allocation in CDBG funding.

If there are more people in the City of Toledo as confirmed by the federal government, but increasing poverty and unemployment topping at 12 percent, why would City of Toledo’s CDBG allocation be reduced? I can only conclude that the CDBG allocation formula needs to be addressed to rectify the situation facing the City of Toledo.

In closing, the City of Toledo, regardless of current formula allocations, will continue to strive for accurate data for investment and planning purposes. And we will continue to work cooperatively with our community and the U.S. Census Bureau to make sure every citizen of the City of Toledo is counted.

Each human infant is given a name at birth. Until death, they are to remain a concern of a caring society. Without a name or identity, they may as well be condemned to death. None of us want that. Therefore let’s make sure every person is counted

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