Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroit won’t be undercounted in 2020 Census

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, right, speaks with Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah on Thursday about the importance of the U.S. Census to Detroit. (Courtesy photo)

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has famously said he should be judged on whether he’s able to reverse the city’s 60-year population skid.

So far, it’s one goal he can’t reach, as Census estimates show Detroit has slowed the rate of decline –  but hasn’t ended it – since Duggan’s 2013 election.

City officials have privately doubted the Census estimates for years and contended the city population is actually slowly increasing. They’re determined to ensure Detroit is fully counted for the 2020 Census.

On Thursday, Duggan told a gathering at the Detroit Policy Conference the city is gearing to hire 100 people to knock on doors and raise millions to spread the word about the Census.

Detroit is determined to avoid undercounts, which the mayor said contributed to a stunning 25 percent city population decline to 713,777 from the 2000 to 2010 Census. The Census Bureau now estimates Detroit’s population is  about 673,000.

“The discussion about the minority underreported numbers is real,” Duggan said at the event at MotorCity Casino sponsored sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get people counted.”

More than bragging rights are at stake. Federal funding for programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and education assistance is tied to population, as is political representation.

The 100 workers hired by Detroit will complement thousands of U.S. workers who are counting southeast Michigan, said Victoria Kovari, executive director for the Detroit 2020 Census Campaign.

The count starts next spring, and city workers will use technology to monitor Census tracts where less than 70 percent of estimated households are responding to the Census, she said.

Then the city’s Census “troops” will go knock doors and help people fill out the forms, Kovari said.

In the meantime, the city needs to raise money to publicize the importance of participation, Kovari said. So far, the effort has raised $1.7 million.

Jane C. Garcia, board chair for Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, and Hassan Jaber, executive director and CEO of Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, said immigrants and people of color often do not want to respond to the Census because they don’t trust how the information will be used.

“It’s a government form and that’s very scary,” Garcia said. “There’s been significant undercounting among the minority community. Period.”

Another issue: The U.S. Supreme Court in February agreed to decide whether Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to Census forms. Foes of the plan say the question would discourage immigrant participation.

Jaber said the issues of confidentiality and language barriers often lead to undercounting. It’s an issue statewide, she said, and not just for people of color.

“This is a problem that doesn’t impact one community and leave others.  It’s a problem that will impact all of us,” he said.

In addition to immigrants, Duggan said there are easily 20,000 Detroiters who live in high-rise apartments but are not counted as Detroiters because they insure their cars at a home in the suburbs to save money.

“Two thirds of people in high rise apartments today claim they don’t live in  the city of Detroit … who say ‘I live with my mom and dad in Sterling Heights,’” Duggan said.

“If you want the city of Detroit to have representation and services you have to fill out the form.”

The Census is not connected to car insurance or voter rolls, he said, imploring Detroiters to fill out the Census truthfully.

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Bob Potocki
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 8:55am

Retired Traffic Manager here. 50 years advocating for good roads and paying massive user taxes (commercial truck). The story is simple. 3 decades ago we began raiding road taxes for other purposes. We took money needed to build and maintain roads and diverted it to general fund, mass transit, education and lots of other pork projects. That money is gone. We will never get it back. And the deficit in monies spent on maintenance will follow us until we do the right things.
First. Stop the bleeding. Fuel taxes go to roads. No more looting.
Second. Return to a part time legislature. Full time politicians have shown the will and capacity to really screw things up. Time they stop feeding their special interests at the expense of our roads.

Additional funding is needed to plug the 30 years of theft. But until we plug the leaks, there is little to be positive about.

Bob Potocki
Woodland Lake

Lorraine Howlett
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 9:49pm

I understand that all of the gas tax doesn't go to roads, but if you change that than you have to find a way to support $1 billion lost to the school aid fund. I like a graduated income tax and would support all gas tax going to fix the roads as long as Proposal A can be reworked to give money to schools. Michigan students are being cheated now with too little funding.

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 9:12am

But he was OK with the republicans destroying 75000 Detroit votes in 2016 giving tRUMP Michigan!!

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:35pm

Aside from the village idiot, why is it so hard to believe a considerable number of people would move from Detroit? Not any different than many cities. If they don't put Detroit on their driver's license or pay full city income tax it is what it is. Just because a bunch of millennials move into a few square blocks of downtown doesn't mean the LT trend has been reversed, and if/when they decide to grow up and they want kids it's bye bye!

Tim Allen
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:13pm

Count early and count often.

Bill Doyle
Fri, 03/01/2019 - 4:36pm

Regardless how the money is raised, it needs to be earmarked for roads and placed in the appropriate account. Otherwise, placing it into the General Fund will only lead to the monies being eaten up by something else. The end results being higher taxes and the roads still being shit.......

Ren Farley
Sat, 03/02/2019 - 9:19am

In fiscal 2015, about 140 federal programs allocated about $675 billion to local governments on the basis of census counts, sometimes using a complicated formula.
That is in excess of $2,000 per capita although few of the federal programs allocate
federal dollars on a per capita basis. And the 2020 data will be used for a decade.
I hope that other governmental officials follow the lead of Detroit's mayor and do
everything possible to make sure that all residents are counted. There is no reason for Michigan to lose federal funds to those state that do an excellent job promoting the census.