January 30, 2010 | Dallas Morning News | Original Article

A lot riding on census count for Dallas area

Texas could gain between three and five congressional seats after the 2010 census is tallied – more than any other state.

Besides more representation, additional seats would mean a bigger slice of federal resources and funds – more than $400 billion is doled out each year based on population data. And Texas certainly could use its share for hospitals, schools and roads.

But we need an accurate count to make it happen.

Unfortunately, Texas also ranks second behind California among states with hard-to-count populations, according to a study of census data by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. More than a quarter of Texas' population lives in hard-to-count areas, according to the study.

And Dallas and Harris are among the top 10 counties with the greatest number of people living in hard-to-count areas. They also happen to be counties with large Hispanic populations.

The data has spurred several national Hispanic organizations to mobilize to ensure an accurate headcount of all Latinos by April 1. Next month will see a flurry of activity by local and national organizations and officials.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund will hold a community forum on Feb. 6 at the Salon de las Américas to inform community leaders and volunteers about the importance of encouraging Latinos to be counted.

"Dallas has a high number of immigrant populations, a large number of unemployed and people on public assistance, and a high dropout rate – all of which makes for a high mobility population that tends not to answer census questionnaires," said Anna Alicia Romero, regional director for the MALDEF census project.

Romero is also concerned that the country's tough economy could diminish or eliminate resources for census outreach.

All the more reason for local organizations to come together to ensure an accurate count, Romero said. Without it, "Texas leaves money on the table, and this creates an environment of more inequity."

The National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials also will be sending information to Hispanic elected officials around the country on what they should do to promote the census, said Dallas City Council member Pauline Medrano, vice chair for the U.S. 2010 Census Advisory Committee.

She said the city of Dallas allocated $240,000 for census outreach, despite a budget shortfall, and she asked each City Council member to reach out to hard-to-count areas in their districts on March 6.

"Wherever our folks are that are hard-to-count, that's where we have to go," she said.

Like MALDEF and NALEO, Medrano said she has been reaching out to neighborhood associations and faith-based community organizations to spread the word about the importance of the census.

Many churches are aware that the census forms will be mailed out in mid-March.

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas has designated March 21 as Census Sunday. Local Protestant groups have designated Feb. 14 as "Loving Your Community" Day.

Looks like the countdown has begun.