‘DREAD HEAD COW­BOY’ RIDES TO THE RES­CUE OF CHICAGO’S LAG­GING CEN­SUS RE­SPONSE

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

Four months ago, Mayor Lori Light­foot urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to post­pone the 2020 U.S. cen­sus, ar­gu­ing there was “not enough band­width” to con­duct the count while wag­ing a na­tional war against the coro­n­avirus.

That ap­peal fell on deaf ears. Not sur­pris­ingly, Chicago’s re­sponse rate fell to 55% — 20 points shy of Light­foot’s am­bi­tious 75% goal — and to less than 40% in some South and West side neigh­bor­hoods.

Chicago’s re­sponse rate has led those of other large cities, in­clud­ing New York, Hous­ton and Los An­ge­les, but it’s still not good enough for Light­foot.

So Mon­day, Light­foot gave that dis­mal ef­fort a “C” grade, donned a cow­boy hat and asked “The Dread Head Cow­boy” to ride to the res­cue of a 2020 U.S. cen­sus re­sponse that will de­ter­mine fed­eral fund­ing to Chicago for the next decade.

In rode Adam Hollingswo­rth on horse­back to the tune of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X.

The 33-year-old for­mer boxer is ex­pected to spend the next week rid­ing through 10 South and West side wards where re­sponse is low­est, with the goal of boost­ing cen­sus par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Hollingswo­rth be­came a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion af­ter rid­ing his horse, Bella, on May 30 to demon­stra­tions in the Loop protest­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd.

“That was my brother. That was my mother. That was my sis­ter. That was me down there. That could have been me,” Hollingswo­rth, who has had his own run-ins with po­lice, told the Sun-Times last month.

Rid­ing to the res­cue of the U.S. cen­sus in neigh­bor­hoods with low re­sponse rates — in­clud­ing East and West Garfield Park, Washington Park, Wood­lawn, En­gle­wood, Greater Grand Cross­ing, North and South Lawn­dale, Back of the Yards and West En­gle­wood — is an equally noble goal.

It’ll help de­ter­mine whether long-ne­glected South and West side neigh­bor­hoods fur­ther rav­aged by loot­ing and may­hem that started May 30 and con­tin­ued into early June get fed­eral fund­ing they so des­per­ately need for schools, parks, roads, bridges, mass tran­sit and job train­ing.

“It is right here on the West Side, as well as in neigh­bor­hoods on the South Side, where our re­sponses have un­for­tu­nately been low and, in some cases, lower than 40%,” Light­foot said.

“I know that this has been a chal­leng­ing time for ev­ery­one. But I am is­su­ing a chal­lenge to ev­ery com­mu­nity . . . . Please step up. The cen­sus takes about five min­utes. It couldn’t be eas­ier. You can go on­line. You can fill out a paper form. You can call on a phone num­ber [844-330-2020]. But please do every­thing you can.”

Light­foot did not men­tion Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by name but clearly was re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent’s anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric and re­peated at­tacks on sanc­tu­ary cities when she warned that Chicago can­not al­low it­self to be­come a vic­tim of the “na­tional winds that are blow­ing.”

“Peo­ple are try­ing to drive folks in our com­mu­ni­ties into the shad­ows. Peo­ple who don’t want us to be counted, who don’t want us to be suc­cess­ful, who don’t want us to get those fed­eral re­sources. Don’t let them win. We win by mak­ing sure that we are counted,” the mayor said.

In the 2010 cen­sus, Chicago’s 66% re­sponse rate was “among the worst par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els” of any big city in the na­tion.

This year, Light­foot set an am­bi­tious goal of 75%. To do that, Chicago had planned to spend $2.7 mil­lion — $2 for ev­ery “hard-to­count” res­i­dent — to cut through what Light­foot has called the cloud of fear cre­ated by im­mi­gra­tion raids and a nixed cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion.

But then the pan­demic shut­tered schools and busi­nesses, bring­ing ev­ery­day life to a stand­still. Li­braries where cen­sus kiosks had been in­stalled were closed.

“We had a very ro­bust com­mu­nity en­gage­ment plan that ob­vi­ously got side­tracked be­cause of COVID. We’re go­ing back to those plans. We’re us­ing trusted com­mu­nity voices to do the work,” the mayor said.

Mar­i­lyn San­ders, re­gional di­rec­tor for the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau, said she’s hir­ing and train­ing at least 11,000 and up to 14,000 peo­ple to knock on doors in Chicago.

The dead­line to fill out the cen­sus is

Oct. 31.

Adam Hollingswo­rth, oth­er­wise known as “The Dread Head Cow­boy,” will ride through some Chicago neigh­bor­hoods to pro­mote par­tic­i­pa­tion in the U.S. cen­sus.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.