Nathan Stubbs

Officials fear New Orleans skewing 2010 Census

by Nathan Stubbs

Lafayette has a lot to gain from the 2010 Census, as one of the top growth areas of the state over the past 10 years. (Estimates show the parish could pick up an extra seat in both houses of the state legislature.)  It’s one of the reasons local officials are pushing for a so-called ‘fair count’ Census in 2010 and taking umbrage with recent comments from New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin. An article in last week’s Times Picayune revealed that Nagin was encouraging residents still displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but hoping to return, to list the Crescent City as their home in the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey next Spring (that tactic violates Census regulations).

The stakes are high. The Census helps determine the allocation of some $300 billion annually in federal grants, as well as the reapportionment of congressional and state legislative seats for the next decade.

In an article in 10/12 magazine, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel responded that New Orleans seems to want to have its cake and eat it, too.

“From what I understand, the Obama Administration has already eliminated ‘Fair Count’ as a necessity of this census,” he says. “This means that they will not ask where people actually reside, so even illegal aliens will be counted, which already results in a skewed count for areas like New Orleans. They say this is because people who are there still need services. Now it sounds like New Orleans would like to have it both ways. Count people who don’t actually reside in New Orleans as residents while also counting people who no longer reside in New Orleans. This would obviously result in the area having more representation than they would have had in a ‘Fair Count’ census.”

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has also been working to promote a ‘fair count.’ The Chamber has teamed up with Shreveport demographer Elliot Stonecipher in hosting presentations on the importance of an accurate Census count. “The reason it’s so critical for Lafayette is that if there is a fair count we will certainly win because of our population growth,” says Chamber Vice President Bruce Conque. “Nagin’s comments are representative of what we would deem to be an unfair count.”

“Everything starts with New Orleans,” he adds, “and if they skew the numbers then we could be adversely impacted when reapportionment and redistricting occurs."