Saturday, February 5, 2011

Undercounted : My Take On The New Orleans Census

Just for the record I have always disagreed with the population count of New Orleans. I thought it was too low before the storm. According to the census there are 343,829 people living in New Orleans now. Yesterday I read a great blog about this yesterday by Sean Fitzmorris. You can read it here. While I agree with him that there seems to be far more people here than the census counted. I can’t say that the population is as big as it was before the storm. Since I know at least 200 people personally that’s not here anymore there’s no way that can be true. What I really agree with is the silly fact that not everyone sent in the census forms to be counted.

I wasn’t surprised by that because after looking at the voter turnout for the last citywide election I knew too many people are tuned out of reality to even think about the impact on the city that a low census might have. We have too many people that are worried about their own individual daily hustle and don’t see the bigger picture. I bet you there are some people who sent it in and only listed a few people living in their house and left other people off because they have a voucher or a subsidy that doesn’t allow all those extra people. That’s why homeless families pop out of nowhere because they were living in someone’s house as long as they could and no one knew they were there. Those are going to be the folks hurt most by a low census count because they need the most help.

Then there’s the complicated part of post Katrina New Orleans that includes all the folks we can’t count in the population but we should get credit for. We can’t count all the people who came back to the area after the storm but couldn’t find a place inside of the city so they settled in all of the surrounding parishes. It really doesn’t make sense for them to move back into the city limits because they have to drive back out to where they are to shop and do things anyway so they just stay there but they consider themselves New Orleans residents. We should get half credit for them.

Then we have the yo-yo residents who have moved back and forth three or four times because they really want to be here but they keep getting frustrated so they leave out and then come back again in a few months. I always seem to hear someone’s coming home at the same time someone else is leaving. Who knows where those people were when the census was going on. We should get half credit for them too and they need to keep still and stop moving every six months.

We will probably never know what the population of the city is. The census is the official count so we have to roll with it for now. I guess we’ll lose some political power and some funding. In some ways I think we deserve to lose. It's not good for us but we brought it on ourselves. I am not one of the rich and elite or lucky enough to live in a neighborhood that wasn’t flooded. I am also not one of the voucher carrying people who got to come up and suck up all the available rental property because landlords wanted that sure money. I’m part of that middle group who didn’t have to live her but chose to and while the powerful spent all of their time trying to keep the poor from coming back they made it hard as hell for regular people to get their lives together.

I don’t have a romanticized few of post Katrina New Orleans. From where I sit the truth is that we didn’t do a good enough job at trying to get as many people back to the city as we could, not enough people care and try to understand the big picture to vote and make sure they are counted in the census. Let them take the congressional seat and send less money. Maybe that will wake everyone up and make them pay attention.

1 comment:

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