A mixed message from the Census

By Charles Sercombe
Does the U.S. Census Bureau even know Hamtramck is a city?
That’s what some Hamtramck households might think when they read the address on the recently mailed Census survey forms.
The addresses say Detroit instead of Hamtramck, and that has a number of city officials and residents shocked and angry. Turns out, however, the same thing happened to the forms mailed to the Grosse Pointes and other nearby suburbs.
In fact, it’s even bigger than that. Many suburbs surrounding big cities across the country were mislabeled.
But, and this is a big but, the Census Bureau says not to worry. Each city, the Bureau says, is identified in the bar code above the address line. Addressing the surveys to Detroit, Census folks say, is just for postal purposes.
We’re not entirely sure what that means either, although technically part of Detroit shares Hamtramck’s 48212 zip code. In fact, most of the 48212 area is composed of Detroit. However, that doesn’t explain why the Grosse Pointes would be addressed as Detroit.
While it appears that the misnaming of Hamtramck has no bearing on the final count, there is concern that some residents will throw away the survey thinking that it doesn’t apply to Hamtramck.
“This is truly a case in which the federal government did not gauge the impact” said Ted Radzilowski, a member of Hamtramck’s Complete Count Committee.
Mayor Karen Majewski said it’s important that residents fill out the survey because “there is so much at stake” for the city.
The city’s population count is used to determine how much federal aid the city will receive, among other things. It’s said that each person counted by the Census is worth several thousand dollars in federal funding every year.
Although the address flap is being dismissed as irrelevant by the Census Bureau, the city’s Chairman of the Historical Commission, Greg Kowalski, said this incident might reflect deeper problems with the people organizing the Census.
“It’s outrageous. They do the Census once a decade and can’t get something
as fundamental as this right,” Kowalski said in an email. “I’m not as concerned about how residents will perceive this as I am about whether the census will indeed count the Hamtramckans as Hamtramckans and not Detroiters. They have not demonstrated
a great deal of competency so far.”
In the 2000 Census, city officials aggressively promoted participation in the Census. The effort paid off. The city’s population count increased by four thousand people.

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