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For Immediate Release:
Contact: Mario H. Lopez
(301) 457-5080

Blackwell Calls on Census Bureau to Enlist Lo...

WASHINGTON – “The frontlines of the war against the undercount of millions of children, minorities and the poor in Census 2000 will be in hard-to-count neighborhoods all across the nation – not Washington,” U.S. Census Monitoring Board Co-Chairman J. Kenneth Blackwell said Tuesday in remarks to members of the Urban Institute. “And it must be fought by the residents and community leaders of those areas, not Washington bureaucrats statistically adjusting the census count.”

Blackwell told the group of his recent visit to one such neighborhood – Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, the nation’s largest single public housing project. The project covers some 15 blocks of prime real estate in downtown Chicago. It is comprised of 4321 units located in 22, sixteen-story buildings. He noted that 99% of the residents are African-American and that 84% earn less than $10,000 a year.

“Robert Taylor is the picture of a hard-to-count neighborhood: low-income residents in a high-crime area who don’t trust government,” said Blackwell. “In 1990, the Census Bureau counted 8787 people. But the Chicago Housing Authority estimated the population at over 12,000 – 3500 more than the census found. The adjustment – the statistical adjustment – would have added only 673 people. Adjustment would have added over 100,000 people to Illinois, but only 673 would have been added where they were needed most – in the 15 blocks of Robert Taylor Homes.

“If we count the people of Illinois but we do not count the people of Robert Taylor, we will not alleviate the social injustice of the census,” the Co-Chairman said. “No one denies the census will miss people. It is common sense that in a nation as large and diverse as ours we will miss some people. But it is unconscionable to consistently miss the same people in the same communities – the very communities that depend on the census for schools and health care and child care that come with being counted.”

To help count communities such as Robert Taylor, Blackwell said the Census Bureau must enlist the people who live and work there. People such as Reverend Herbert Martin of the Progressive Community Church, which operates a food and clothing pantry in the community, and Gwen Long, the principal of Farren Elementary School, who works with parents from Robert Taylor daily. Blackwell said the Bureau also needs men like Tyrone Galtney and Levi Nawls – two Robert Taylor residents he met during his recent meetings there.

“Tyrone and Levi don’t have official titles like Reverend Martin and Principal Long, but inside Robert Taylor they carry just as much weight," he added. “They are the undercounted – the census missed 1-out-of-12 Black men in 1990. The undercount among Black men in public housing was even higher. The Census Bureau needs men and women like Reverend Martin, Principal Long, Tyrone Galtney and Levi Nawls. If a census taker walks into Robert Taylor alone, most doors will be closed. But if a census taker walks in with community leaders and residents, doors will open. People will offer to help.” He urged the Census Bureau and its Director, Dr. Kenneth Prewitt, to heed their call to provide the tools and resources to count their communities.

“I have fought the war against social injustice for 22 years of public life and 15 years before that. For the first nine years of my life, I grew up in a neighborhood like Robert Taylor. I can assure you that the battle is won in the trenches – the churches, the schools, the community centers and in the Robert Taylor Homes,” said Blackwell. “Adjustment won’t count Reverend Martin’s church or Gwen Long’s school. It won’t find Levi and his friends. Adjustment won’t put people into Robert Taylor Homes and neighborhoods like it. So be intellectually honest before answering the undercount with a statistical adjustment.”

Blackwell brings a distinguished record to his position as Co-Chairman of the Board. He is the elected Secretary of State of Ohio, past State Treasurer, former Mayor of Cincinnati, a former Deputy Undersecretary of HUD and Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission. The Census Monitoring Board is an eight-member bipartisan panel – four appointed by Congress and four by the President – to oversee the preparation and implementation of the 2000 census. A complete copy of Co-Chairman Blackwell’s remarks can be found on our web page at www.cmbc.gov

RJ. Kenneth Blackwell`s Remarks to the Urban Institute