February 6, 2010 | Miami Herald | Original Article

Aventura city commissioner promoting ``sexy'' census

The 2010 census can be described in many ways -- immense, crucial and for some, controversial -- but Aventura Commissioner Luz Weinberg prefers the word ``sexy.''

``It's about two things -- it's about power and it's about money and that's pretty much what defines the word sexy,'' Weinberg said.

As a board member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Weinberg has been played a role in the organization's ``Ya es Hora, ¡Hágase Contar!'' (Now is the time, make yourself count) campaign to inform the Hispanic community about the importance of the census. NALEAO has bought TV and radio adds, sent mailers, held events, and used social media to deliver the message, and Weinberg has spoken to radio stations, college classes, chambers of commerce and TV shows.

The national census is taken once every 10 years. A 10-question form is mailed out to every residence in the United States with questions about the names, ages, races, and housing of the occupants. Census employees visit homes that have not filled out and and mailed back the form.

Weinberg believes that the 2010 version will be crucial for South Florida and the area's Hispanic community. Population estimates show that Florida could gain an additional congressional seat if its population is correctly counted, and federal funds for states and cities that help pay for things like hospitals, schools, and emergency services are tied to the census count. Weinberg believes that South Florida may be undercounted if the Hispanic community -- particularly undocumented immigrants -- are reluctant to fill out the form or talk to census takers.

``The pressure is on for Florida, especially South Florida with our large Hispanic population, to make sure we do the responsible thing,'' she said.

Weinberg is focusing her efforts outside of Aventura because she believes the city has a well-organized census outreach. Every condominium in the city has set up a ``complete count committee'' to make sure all residents fill out and mail back the census form. The city's recreation center is also serving as a testing and training site for the Census Bureau.

Weinberg, a native of Puerto Rico who arrived in Miami when she was 14, thinks that apathy is one of the largest obstacles for the census among Latinos. As she sees it, families of recent immigrants from Latin America tend to be less politically involved in the United States than they were in their native countries.

``Why do we lose that connection to civic engagement? It's pretty sad,'' she said.

Weinberg is trying to do her part to address that trend, and prefers to use her own slogan -- with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, ``The Census is Sexy,'' over the official one, ``The census is easy, important and safe.''

On Jan. 21, during a presentation to The South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she had a crowd of about 150 people on their feet when she started a call and response. Every time she said, ``El censo es sexy!''(The Census is sexy!) the crowd replied ``Si, muy sexy!'' (Yes, very sexy!)

If it works, she's going to stick to it.

``I'm going to speak to everyone I can,'' she said. ``I'm going to hit the airwaves, the TV waves, so that people are aware, especially in the Hispanic population, that this is a census year and in about five or six weeks, you're going to have a questionnaire in your mailbox that you're going to have to fill out.''