The Waverly City Council approved on Monday a partnership between the city and the federal government to help conduct the 2020 Census.
As a means to that end, the council also appointed a committee of five city officials and three community volunteers to help promote the plan to make sure everyone in Waverly gets counted.
As required by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, the government takes a head count of all people living within the 50 states, the nation’s territories and its overseas military installations every 10 years.
The process helps authorities in Washington, D.C., distribute funds to the states and cities as well as apportion the seats in the House of Representatives.
The outcome also would allow each state to redo its maps to determine where congressional and legislative districts are aligned. The last time the Legislative Services Agency, which draws the maps in this state rather than the Iowa Legislature, did this job was in 2011. Bremer County has been within the 1st Congressional District, House District 63 and Senate District 32 since the 2012 election cycle.
City Clerk Carla Guyer told the council that the Census Bureau has asked the cities across the country to help promote the decennial count.
“(They want to) start the campaign to … get information out there that says that kind of informs people how important the Census is,” Guyer said.
Guyer will be part of the local U.S. Census Complete Count Committee along with her deputy, Valorie Northrup, Paige Yoder, the community/economic development office manager, Community Development and Zoning Specialist Isaac Pezley, City Attorney/Economic Development Director Bill Werger, Wartburg College professor Dr. Mariah Birgen, Lindsey Kuhlmann, an assistant librarian with the Waverly Public Library, and Leann Hoffman, community outreach specialist with Waverly Health Center.
“We will be making appearances at sporting events, different areas around town… passing out brochures and whatever propaganda we could come up with,” Guyer said, as the council members chuckled at the word “propaganda.”
“You will see commercials on TV that will probably get tiring. You will see things in the mail. It’s just to say, ‘Hey, this really is important.’”
To emphasize her point about the Census being important for money distribution, Guyer said Road Use Tax funding is determined by the number of people living in each state.
“I believe it’s like $124 per person that we get per year,” she said. “That’s just an example of why it’s important. If we are 200 people shy of what the accurate count is, then we miss out on that money.”
She added that the demographical details of each person’s response is “secret.” That means even if a resident is undocumented, they need not worry.
“It’s just a matter of getting the count,” Guyer said.
Ward 5 Councilman Tim Kangas confirmed that those details won’t be released for at least 70 years.
“I know that genealogists get excited every time they get ready to release the Census data from when it was before,” Kangas remarked.
“And there’s quite a penalty if you give out data, too,” Guyer added. “We had to sign confidentiality forms, and it’s like $250,000 fine and so many years of imprisonment. It’s not just for us, it’s for the Census employees, too. They take confidentiality very seriously.”
“I’m glad I didn’t sign it,” City Administrator James Bronner quipped.
Guyer said that city officials spent the last two years making sure that every residential address in town was depicted on a map to help Census workers.
Ward 3 Councilman Rod Drenkow asked if it was appropriate to encourage Wartburg students to participate. Guyer said the Census considers college students to be residents of the city in which they attend school.
“How is that going to work at Wartburg?” Ward 4 Councilman Mike Sherer asked. “Are they going to go up and down the dormitory hallways, or is there a place…?”
“Or they don’t get their grades until they sign up for the Census,” Drenkow added with a chuckle.
Guest council member Len Jantz asked if there was a cost to the city. Guyer said there isn’t. In fact, the Census Bureau will help with the public relations materials.
“I still have the hat from 2010,” Kangas added.
Sherer reminded everyone that Waverly is growing.
“It is important to get everyone counted,” he said. “There’s an economic impact, and the city has a stake in that. I’m glad we’re going to do that, and I want to congratulate Carla on having rehabilitated the word ‘propaganda.’ It is now a pleasant word.”
Kangas thought there could be a new label for what the Complete Count Committee would be handing out.
“I think the new terminology would be like ‘promotional swag,’” he said to some guffaws.
In other business, the city approved a contract with the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments (INRCOG) to administer a grant to help rehabilitate six homes in the northwest quadrant of town that used to be in the flood plain.
The six grants will be for $7,500 each, a total of $45,000. The grants include $3,500 for technical services, $2,000 for lead hazard reduction carrying costs and $2,000 for temporary relocation.
Rose Phillips, the administrator from INRCOG, said there were some technical changes to the grant contract to cover those items.
“What it didn’t (originally) include was $12,000 to relocate families when lead hazard reduction work was going on,” Phillips said. “That’s not really a cost that’s paid to INRCOG for a service we provide. It’s a pass-through cost.
“We have accounts with hotels, we book a hotel room for a family. We pay them a small stipend for meals and the inconvenience. Those funds were in the budget that you submitted to (the Iowa Economic Development Agency) that IEDA approved this time around.”
At-Large Councilwoman Edith Waldstein asked if there was an additional cost. Phillips said those costs were already factored in.