In the past 10 years, Erie has recovered from the Great Recession, welcomed an unprecedented number of New Americans, and developed and enacted a number of initiatives to revitalize our downtown area, bayfront, and neighborhoods. Some residents have enjoyed growth in the business community, while others have suffered from rapidly changing demand for particular skill sets.
Erie has absolutely changed, and in 2020, we will have the chance to document the underlying truth of our transformation.
The city has just one chance every decade to accurately report who is being represented in our policy decisions. As the Census Bureau compiles information on cities across the country, this information is used determine who is being represented in local, state, and federal policy. Data collected by the Bureau just once every 10 years has the power to determine the amount of funding that our city may receive, in addition to the number of representatives that our state is apportioned in Congress.
The count has the power to inform (or misinform) community development initiatives, research, and investment decisions. Just once every 10 years, our city is entrusted the responsibility of speaking to politicians, community leaders, nonprofits, and businesses about the fabric of Erie and the needs of its people.
At the greatest risk of being miscounted are demographic groups such as the elderly, young children, immigrants, people of color, and low-income residents. While statisticians at the Bureau have developed methods of adjustment for undercounts of these populations, they are often viewed as subjective and imperfect.
As a community, we should desire and thus facilitate an accurate count of everyone. Otherwise, we rest our fate in the hands of statisticians who have never before seen the vibrancy of our home. The development of our community depends on our ability to demonstrate our story, which to date involves strong potential and momentum for growth and an urgent need for intergovernmental support.
The Bureau will utilize a well-researched and somewhat effective mechanism of digital marketing to encourage participation in the count, however in a community of underserved residents with well-founded distrust in our legislators, it is the job of neighborhood, nonprofit, and community leaders to reach out to populations that are at great risk of being overlooked, and to provide them with the resources that they need to properly respond to the survey. This may include computers in the case in which the Census is digitalized or translators for the unprecedented number of New Americans who now call Erie home.
Community leaders must also educate our residents of the significance of the count, and how impactful each response may be. It is our duty as a city to ensure that those populations which are often overlooked at a national level are not excluded from policy consideration once again.