Detroit Gears Up for Decennial Effort to Avoid Census Undercounting

Detroit's Grand Circus Park

Detroit's Grand Circus Park Shutterstock

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In a city with a long history of population losses, Mayor Mike Duggan announces the city’s point person to lead community outreach to promote the 2020 count.

While the decennial census is important to all municipal governments, it’s been a vital topic of civic discourse over the years in Detroit. Few cities want to see their population decrease, and nearly two decades ago, when the 2000 Census count was under way, Detroit, once among the nation’s largest cities, was fighting to keep its head above 1 million residents.

The New York Times, in May of that year, wrote about the “decade old fear that Detroit could become the first American city of more than one million people to have its population fall below that number.” The paper pointed out the city’s battle to remain above 1-million mark in the 1990 census, which required a legal challenge for a recount.

The mayor at the time, Dennis Archer, the Times wrote “treated the census as a political candidate, stumping all over town on its behalf and imploring residents to view their participation as a vote for Detroit's future.”

Detroit’s population indeed fell below the 1 million and has ever since—it’s now under 675,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As Route Fifty has previously featured, local jurisdictions around the nation are gearing up for the 2020 Census by forming Complete Count Committees, a cross-sector effort utilizing local governments, non-profit organizations and civic stakeholders to promote the importance of filling out the decennial census when the official count comes next year.  

Detroit, as with previous census counts, will be ramping up efforts to promote the 2020 Census within local communities.

According to an announcement released Tuesday, Mayor Mike Duggan has named Victoria Kovari as the city’s point person to lead community outreach and coordination among the city’s local partners on census-completion promotion.

Kovari previously lead Detroit’s Department of Neighborhoods as general manager when it was created in 2014 and also served as the city’s chief service officer.

Victoria Kovari (Courtesy City of Detroit)

"Vicky has been a driving force behind the success of our Department of Neighborhoods and so many other important initiatives,” Duggan said in a statement.  "She is an outstanding organizer and will do a great job of coordinating this crucial effort for our city.”

According to the city’s announcement, “Detroit and its partner community organizations will focus heavily on areas of the city considered ‘hardest to count’ and among segments of the population that too often go undercounted, including black and Latino men, children under 5, immigrants, renters and homeless people.”

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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