Every 10 years the country undertakes a data-intensive process that goes a long way toward defining us, at that point in time, as a nation and as the individual states, cities and communities that make up our version of America. We need the process for our representative government to function as it was intended. The founders built it into the Constitution.
It’s largely about numbers. The decennial census counts hundreds of millions of Americans. In 2010, it counted more than two million New Mexicans. The numbers that come first to mind lead to other numbers. The population figures determine Congressional representation, sure, but the various data sets compiled during the process also decide the direction in which all manner of dollars are funneled.
A population count is also an important component of the community snapshot examined by businesses looking to venture into new markets. An accurate and complete census count is critical for every community, but could be especially important to Roswell given one specific number: 50,000. It’s a threshold many in Roswell — current estimated population: 47,635 — see as critical.
“The goal for Roswell is pure and simple: 50,000,” said State Rep. Phelps Anderson when he visited the Daily Record last week. “For the next decade of growth and success in our community, we must move forward as a city of 50,000 inhabitants. In order to accomplish this census-count goal, our community must be hitting on all cylinders in advance of the census. A united effort is the only successful way in which to achieve our goal.”
Part of that effort is a local committee working to prepare for next year’s census. Marcos Nava leads the committee, which is focused on making sure everyone here is counted. “The new motto for the city — We Believe — well, we believe everyone should be counted,” Nava said.
“ … When we get down to the nitty-gritty, (a goal) is to really work and reach that segment of the community that in past censuses have not really been willing to do it, have been hesitant to do it, for whatever reasons,” added Nava, who’s also executive director of the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “Mistrust. The information didn’t get to them in a timely manner — I don’t know what the reasons are. But I think that we are going to focus in those areas.”
Among those areas are parts of the local Hispanic community in which uncertainty about the process could discourage participation. The committee plans various forms of outreach — there and elsewhere as needed — to encourage everyone to be counted. Part of that is reiterating that data collected during the census is confidential.
“If I had one bit of hesitance … I would say so,” Nava said. “But I feel 100% certain that it’s confidential and that it ends there. All they want to know is, count the people. Count everyone.”
The committee, which is being aided by a field representative from Dallas, has gathered local representation from various segments of the community to assist in reaching out, providing information.
We’re months away from residents being invited to respond to census queries next year. That will be preceded by efforts to promote participation. It’s anticipated that the option to respond online this time around will help realize a more complete count, Nava said.
Residents should remember the importance of the numbers. “The thing that excites me,” Nava said, “is to be able to say these resources benefit the future generations. … more resources for schooling, for infrastructure, better roads — but as we have a higher population, the corporate will look at us and say, ‘Oh man, this is a growing place.’ I wouldn’t mind having an In-N-Out coming here, you know?”
If we don’t have 50,000 people in Roswell, is that a failure of some sort? No, our population is what it is. But if we have 50,000 people and don’t achieve a count that reflects that? Maybe we weren’t able to muster the team effort we needed.
Those looking ahead, planning for the 2020 census are confident that won’t be the case. Along the way, they’re going to need all our support.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.