County denies funding for 2010 U.S. Census awareness on principle

By Lisa ZahnerINDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday not to expend $3,000 on printed materials and promotional products to raise awareness of the Complete Count Committee’s efforts to increase participation in the 2010 U.S. Census.The denial was based on the principlel that the federal government has no right to pass on a portion of the costs of a constitutional mandate to local governments. Commissioner Gary Wheeler made the motion to deny a request by Commissioner Joe Flescher, who serves as liaison to the Complete Count Committee, for the funding. Wheeler opposed the measure because he said he thinks the federal government should fund any census awareness efforts and also because free avenues such as the county website are available and more than adequate to get the information out. Voting with Wheeler were Chairman Wesley Davis and Commissioner Bob Solari. Flescher and Commissioner Peter O’Bryan dissented in the 3-2 vote to deny the budget request.The money would have paid for 1,000 pens, T-shirts and bumper stickers with the Census 2010 logo for distribution at public events and festivals. It would have also paid for flyers to be inserted in more than 65,000 county utility bills. There is a possibility that the county could be reimbursed for direct expenditures for the census awareness effort, but due to the time lag in the federal process, the funds would probably arrive too late, requiring the county to front the money for any meaningful public relations effort.”I don’t think they’re going to get a T-shirt or a bumper sticker and say, ‘oh, I need to go do my census now’,” Wheeler said, questioning the link to giveaways and census compliance.Flescher, disappointed that his colleagues were opposing such a small allocation on a grand principle, said he felt that the protest “would not be heard” in Washington, D.C., and would leave Indian River County residents “in the balance” when it comes to getting their share of federal funding. Flescher said it is important for every person living in Indian River County to be counted by the Census because many revenue-sharing programs determine how they dole out funds based upon official population figures, as reported by the census. Census surveys have begun arriving in the mail and should be completed and returned to be included in the count. Complete Count Committee Chairman Deputy Jeff Luther had made a lengthy presentation at the last commission meeting on Oct. 20 stating the challenges of reaching everyone, especially minority populations, with the census. Luther also assured residents that the information gleaned from the census, by law, cannot be shared with any other federal agency such as the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or immigration authorities.For more information about the Census 2010 effort, go to www.census.gov.

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