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Miami: Don’t Count Us Out

City Will Challenge Census Results
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U.S. Census

(Source: AP)

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MIAMI (CBS4) – The melting pot that is Miami got burned by the 2010 Census and it could cost the town billions of dollars in federal funding.

That was the word from city hall Tuesday as Mayor Tomas Regalado and other elected officials announced a challenge to the Census Bureau’s head count of the Magic City.

“We were not counted the way we should have been,” Regalado said. He said it could cost the city dearly over the ten years until the next census is taken.

“We stand to lose more than twenty billion dollars,” Regalado said.

The city believes the Census Bureau may have under-counted Miami’s population by more than 100,000 people. The census concluded Miami has a population of just over 399,000, an increase of only 37,000 since the last census was taken ten years ago.

In 2009, the Census Bureau estimated Miami’s population to be more than 433,000, putting its own estimate at odds with its 2010 result.

Regalado was joined by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district includes much of Miami. She said the census numbers have to be corrected.

“It’s vital. It’s our bread and butter,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It determines how much money our city gets from the federal government.”

The government apportions funding to cities for schools, roads, health care, emergency services, almost everything, based on population as determined by the census.

Miami believes the Census Bureau failed to accurately count the influx of new residents who began to occupy high-rise Brickell Avenue and downtown condominiums in 2010.

The city also claimed the Census Bureau failed to count the many Haitians who fled to Miami after the January earthquake in Haiti; and missed many in the migrant community who deliberately avoided census forms and census workers.

“Many of them live in the shadows,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “They would not come out to be counted.”

Ned Murray, an urban planner and director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, said he was startled by the low numbers the census produced.

“We anticipated a more significant growth from what we saw in the 2010 census, not only for the city, but for the county as well,” Murray said.

Officials announcing Miami’s challenge to the census results said it’s not a matter of the city wanting more than it deserves, but wanting the federal funding pie to be divided equitably.

“We’re asking for fairness, to be counted fairly so that we get our fair share,” said Commissioner Frank Carollo.

The city plans to use – among other things – utilities hookup numbers and school enrollment figures to challenge the census findings. It has been done successfully before. New York and Pittsburgh are among cities that have won census challenges.

The process can be hugely expensive.

Fortunately for Miami, one of the poorest cities in the country, a not-for-profit advocacy group for the poor named Social Compact has agreed to mount and fund challenges on behalf of Miami and Birmingham, Alabama.

The Census Bureau released a statement Tuesday that said it makes every effort to assure that every person gets counted, but said errors can occur.

“The Census Bureau will research…challenges, and if a challenge results in a change, the Census Bureau will issue official revised counts to the affected governments,” the bureau’s statement said.

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