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Cotter urges cities to get word out on 2020 census

January 30, 2019

LAKE HAVASU CITY — Government leaders of Bullhead City, Kingman and Lake Havasu City — who come together under the moniker Tri-City Council — met Tuesday in Lake Havasu City.

The council meets a few times a year to talk about things of potential interest to all three communities, such as issues under consideration by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, special taxing districts, the state legislature and federal authorities.

Bullhead City government has been interested in ensuring the 2020 Census counts as many residents as possible. The city has a citizen advisory committee focusing on the census. The committee was established in 2010.

Each Bullhead City Council member chooses two citizens on the census committee. Having a diverse group of people on the committee is highly desired so that a variety of residents are represented, said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter.

Cotter told the mayors, city council members and staff members from the three cities why the census is important to local government. He suggested that they work together on getting the word out to the public and discuss ways to improve the count that might be widely beneficial.

“We’re all fighting for those same dollars,” he explained.

In state income tax dollars alone each resident, is worth $121.10, Cotter said.

Getting residents to respond is expected to be difficult. People are going to be asked to respond by computer for the first time.

There will be a piece of paper mailed out by the U.S. Census Bureau that asks residents to be counted. However, Cotter said, it isn’t known how many people will pay attention to it.

Ballots mailed to 21,000 voters’ residences regarding a fire department matter resulted in a return of less than one-third of the ballots.

And compared with past U.S. Census operation, there will be only half the number of people hired to canvass information this time around.

“What is going to inspire your citizens to be counted?” Cotter asked.

Undercounts will be verified by U.S. Census employees who go to neighborhoods and attempt to contact people in person. But people going to homes still doesn’t guarantee a full count. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 reported that when employees couldn’t find someone to talk with in person, they instead would rely on “proxy sources” — neighbors, building managers, rental agents or other people knowledgeable about the location in question.

Cotter said he expects that the U.S. Census Bureau will provide information soon about how the online counting system will work, particularly how secure it is and whether users will need to have a username and password to access it.

The U.S. Census Bureau will be recruiting about 500,000 workers nationwide. Ensuring the community is fully staffed with census workers is another way city government can make sure the count is as accurate as possible.

Paying for a kiosk to be set up in the city so people have access to it is another way to help make it easier for people to take the census, Cotter said.

One local census tract was undercounted by 26 percent in 2010.

As a result “we probably lost $5 million,” Cotter said.

“We’re going to have to communicate with our citizens that they need to log on,” he said. “We have 16 months to get this right.”

“This is a good idea,” said Lake Havasu City Manager Jess Knudson.

He suggested that snowbirds in Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City be reminded that they should respond that they live here if they do so for more than half of the year.

Cotter also pointed out that getting people interested in the census will be difficult because of at least one other major national event next year: “The next presidential election.”

Mohave County Sup. Ron Gould asked if the forms were going to lengthy. Cotter said no.

The topic will be discussed during future Tri-City Council meetings.

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