Something doesn’t quite gel when it comes to Everett’s official U.S. Census numbers from 2000.
While those numbers have Everett at just over 37,000 people, other statistics would suggest that number is way off and this time around Mayor Carlo DiMaria is making a final push to make sure the 2010 U.S. Census is more accurate.
DiMaria explained that there are 31,000 registered cars in Everett and 6,000 public school students, something indicative of a much larger city.
"You look at that and you have to say, ‘Something’s off,’" said DiMaria. "Our hope is that the numbers do increase in this Census. Our expectation is that if we get a real good count, we’ll hit 50,000."
Matt Laidlaw, communications director for Mayor DiMaria and the point person in Everett for this year’s Census, said that Everett could be missing out on a lot of opportunities.
"We’re looking to that number [of 50,000] because it opens us up to a lot of grant money," he said. "It would make us an entitlement community, for one…We’re losing out on a lot of opportunities because we’re under 50,000 according to those Census numbers."
Mailings went out last month for the U.S. Census. Those mailings contained a form with 10 questions and a return envelope. Residents have just about two weeks left to return their Census forms. After that, federal Census workers will begin going door-to-door to try and finish the count.
DiMaria said he would be hosting an invitation-only breakfast with elected officials and local church and organizational leaders, urging them to tell their constituents, congregations and clients about the Census deadline.
This Saturday, in the Square, Census officials and City officials will have a ‘March to the Mailbox’ event with music and Census information. The event will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Citywide, Everett has logged a 46 percent return rate.
City officials said they aren’t totally disappointed with that number, but they do wish it were higher.
"We would like to definitely be higher," said the mayor. "Now, we’re at a point where we’re looking at areas that are the weakest in response. Some areas are responding at a high rate, like North Everett, which is at 51 percent. It’s when you get to some areas in Ward 1. It’s not bad. It’s at 42 percent, but we’d like more."
Statewide, Massachusetts is far behind the return rates from other areas of the country.
At the current response rate, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has said that the state is on par to lose at least one Congressional seat.
"Massachusetts is in direct competition with at least seven other states to maintain our representation in Congress. It is not good enough for Massachusetts to run with the pack – we need to be aggressive if we are going to ensure a complete count," said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of MAPC and a former Massachusetts State Representative. "What seems like a bureaucratic exercise will have profound effects on the political power of neighborhoods, and on the funds available to support both the services and infrastructure that are so critical to families and businesses."
Holly St. Clair of MAPC, which is assisting in helping to get the word out on the Census, said that Everett and surrounding communities were difficult places to count.
She said that having a lot of new immigrants makes it difficult because many of them are fearful of the government and don’t want to participate or give out their information.
Likewise, the elderly are also fearful about giving out information, but she said they shouldn’t be fearful of the Census.
"Ironically, both of these groups are the very ones that will benefit the most from the programs that are determined by the population count – like Medicare, WIC and highway and road funding," she said.