DOWNTOWN — Mayor Lori Lightfoot sought to cast the act of being counted in the 2020 Census as “the ultimate form of protest” of President Donald Trump’s effort to target immigrant communities.
When the 2020 Census kicks off in six months, it will take an “all hands on deck” effort to improve on the 66 percent response rate notched by Chicagoans during the 2010 Census, Lightfoot said. The city’s goal is to have 75 percent of its residents counted, the mayor added.
Lightfoot said she would ask the City Council to set aside $2.7 million in the 2020 budget for outreach efforts to be led by well-established community organizations familiar with Chicago’s hard-to-count residents — immigrants, refugees, renters, those who are homeless; people with disabilities; those who don’t speak English, young children; seniors citizens; and college students.
Nearly half of the city’s population could be hard to count, said Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30), the chair of the City Council’s Census committee. The city plans to spend $2 for every hard-to-count resident, Lightfoot said.
“There is $800 billion at stake and a decade of consequences,” Lightfoot said. “Stand up, fight back and be counted.”
However, Lightfoot acknowledged that the Trump administration’s raids on businesses that employ undocumented immigrants as well as the president’s failed effort to include a question on the Census about whether respondents are citizens have created “palpable fears.”
Lightfoot said she was hopeful that those fears could be countered by having community groups reach out to Chicagoans and make the case for participating in the Census.
“We’re looking at $1,400 per year per person that we stand to lose if we don’t get people counted,” Lightfoot said. “You add that up across tens of thousands over a decade, that’s real money that’s not coming to Chicago.”
The city’s effort will get an assist from Chicago-based advertising firm FCB, which will build and launch a citywide campaign free of charge.
The campaign will paint the Census as a “true tool of empowerment,” said Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of FCB Chicago.
The results of the 2020 Census will be used to redraw the city’s ward maps, and Lightfoot said she remained committed to having an independent commission — rather than the City Council — determine those boundaries.
Lightfoot said wards should track as closely as possible with neighborhood boundaries, noting that Back of the Yards and Englewood are carved up among three or four different districts.
That makes it “difficult for residents to feel like there’s a level of accountability on the part of City Council members,” Lightfoot said.
The city’s census outreach campaign runs parallel to a similar effort by Cook County leaders, who launched a 15-member commission earlier this year and set aside $2 million to boost outreach efforts countywide.
During their board meeting last week, county commissioners hired Chicago-based consulting firm The William Everett Group to help “increase awareness” and “improve the response rate in hard-to-count communities,” according to a Tuesday announcement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The William Everett Group had previously contracted with the city of Chicago for outreach work related to the 2018 overhaul of the city’s 311 service. The firm will be tasked with launching a social media campaign aimed at boosting the county’s response rate.
County leaders also enlisted Accenture, The Tallulah Group and Vera Creative as “subconsultants” to aid outreach efforts, officials said.
During the September meeting of the Cook County Complete Census Commission, officials unveiled an interactive map showing 2010 Census response rates for each city census tract and suburban municipality. Fewer than 63 percent of residents responded on much of the city’s South and West Side.
The Daily Line’s Alex Nitkin contributed to this report.