Clerk urges: Be counted in U.S. Census

March 18th, 2010 in the Oak Leaves
By: Chris LaFortune

Oak Park threw itself a little party last week to remind everyone to take part in the national census, soon coming to a mailbox near you.

About 100 people turned out for the National Census Road Tour event March 9, Village Clerk Teresa Powell said. There were performers from Oak Park Concert Chorale and a variety of artists on hand for the census celebration.

The Oak Park Concert Chorale sings March 9 at Oak Park Village Hall during the US Census National Road Tour. (Tamara Bell/Staff Photographer) The village also hosted a Census Road Tour bus. Thirteen are touring the country providing information about the census.

"I think people enjoyed it and enjoyed getting little treats and trinkets and all the rest," Powell said.

The census counting begins April 1.

The census is important to local municipalities and the state. Depending on how many people live in town, Oak Park can qualify for different grant programs. In fact, the village was disqualified from one federal grant because the census estimated its population dipped.

"A couple years ago, we applied for an energy grant, and you had to have 50,000 people," Powell said. "Most of the time, these grants are done based on the prior census."

The prior census had Oak Park with 52,000 people, Powell said. But the census also does periodic census estimates for some towns, and it estimated Oak Park's population was closer to 47,000 at the time the grant was awarded.

"We missed out on that $300,000 grant as a result of that estimate," Powell said.

The village challenged the estimate, Powell said, and the census later came back with a population estimate closer to 53,000.

"At this point, we want to make sure we count all those 53,000 to assure we stay in that range that qualifies us for some important federal grants," Powell said.

Additionally, Illinois is expected to lose a United States Congressional seat because southern parts of the country are growing, Powell said. So an accurate count here is important.

Powell's been going around the community reminding people about the census, visiting the high school, the Rotary Club and the League of Women Voters. The village has also spoken with local churches, asking them to remind parishioners of the pending census.

One thing new in the census this year is the ability for same sex couples who married in other states to recognize themselves as such on the census form, Powell said.

"That is an additional option that was never provided in the past," Powell said. "If (same-sex) couples did that in the past, I think they ignored it ... if it didn't make sense on the census, based on the traditional understanding of marriage."

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