Pasadena and Census 2020: 'Pay Up and Be Counted'

Published : Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | 8:47 PM

A U.S. Census Bureau graphic shown to the Pasadena City Council on April 8, 2019 which shows low response areas within the city during the last Census in 2010.

Pasadena must not only stand up, to ensure federal funding and proper legislative representation resulting from the upcoming national Census, but pay up to be counted, as well.

Meredith Maxwell, the Census Bureau’s partnership coordinator for Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, addresses the Pasadena City Council on April 8, 2019

Two representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau addressing an April 8 City Council meeting revealed a map of areas in Pasadena that were undercounted in the 2010 tally. The numbers of people likely missed in the count were as high as 30 percent in certain parts of the city.

City Councilmember Victor Gordo’s District 5 was captured in the overlay and he wanted to know “what sort of resources” the Census Bureau would dedicate to remedying the situation.

Meredith Maxwell, the Census Bureau’s partnership coordinator for Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, responded that, “Unfortunately, we’re glorified beggars.”

Maxwell said the effort would be undertaken by the local Complete Count Committee, which is a volunteer effort. “We are asking the cities employ whatever resources they have to assist in obtaining a complete count,” Maxwell said.

Mayor Terry Tornek interjected: “To have these two gentlemen characterize themselves as ‘glorified beggars’ is a little unnerving. It’s a federal and constitutional responsibility to count everybody and if the Congress and the administration have underfunded the effort, shame on them, and shame on us.”

Councilman Gordo noted that not only does the census determine allocations for all manner of government funding, but it is also key to the drawing of legislative maps and maximizing each vote’s impact.

Given this, he asked what the city had planned “to address the map and the undercount represented on that map.”

City Manager Steven Mermell expressed a concern the undercount might even be exacerbated in the 2020 cycle. He said the City has formed an internal working team consisting of City Clerk Mark Jomsky, Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian, and Michelle Perera, Director of Pasadena Libraries & Information Services.

The City Manager said he’d requested an appropriation, in a budget to be presented next month, to support the effort. He further noted that California is kicking in $200 million to the statewide push at an accurate accounting.

“We need to tap those resources, tap whatever the county is putting forward, and then contribute our own resources, to make sure we get a count in Pasadena,” said Mermell.

If there’s a silver lining to the looming count, it’s that the Census Bureau’s Pasadena field office could be employing 500 people.

Councilmember John Kennedy pointed out that, in addition to undercounting in Gordo’s district, his own District 3 and Councilmember Tyron Hampton’s District 1, had suffered the same fate.

Kennedy suggested the Census Bureau, “ensure that people who were undercounted receive some of those, or a significant number of those, jobs to do the counting and to engage with the Complete Count Committee.”

The Complete Count Committee is the local mechanism through which public officials, agencies and other social actors work to optimize the effectiveness of the census locally.

Maxwell made no such promise, but said, “What we will do is make sure that those hardest hit, those in the least likely to respond areas, have the information on the jobs, and do our due diligence to make sure they’re applying.”

The Bureau will be hiring approximately 300 people in May for the Pasadena Area Census Office’s address canvassing field staff, along with 10 managers.

This fall, it will follow up with 200 additional hires to conduct the nonresponse follow-up.

Those interested in the jobs can find out more online at or call the Census Hotline at 1-855-JOB-2020.








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