Joining in the 2020 Census Kickoff for Santa Fe County Friday morning in Pojoaque are, from left, Pueblo of Tesuque Gov. Robert A. Mora, Pueblo of San Ildefonso Gov. Perry Martinez, Gabriel Montoya of the Pueblo of Pojoaque and City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber poses with Somos Un Pueblo Unido members wearing shirts that say ‘Somos El Censo’. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
At the Santa Fe County 2020 Census Kickoff Friday morning in Pojoaque are, from left, Santa Fe County Commission Chair/Complete Count Committee Chair Henry Roybal, Pojoaque Valley Schools Supt. Sondra Adams, City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Santa Fe County Manager, Katherine Miller. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber thanks Rayos Burciaga, left, and Zulema Chavero of Somos Un Pueblo Unido for their work on the 2020 Census. Somos has already counted more then 10,000 households. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, left, and Santa Fe County Complete Compete Committee Chair and County Commissioner Henry Roybal chat at Friday’s 2020 Census Kickoff at the Pojoaque Pueblo Council Chambers. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
As Santa Fe County leaders kicked off the 2020 Census Friday morning at the Pojoaque Pueblo Council Chambers, collaboration and excitement were in the air.
Santa Fe County Complete Count Committee chair Henry Roybal, County Commission chair, opening the event, said the goal of the Committee is to maximize self-response through community partnerships and education of County residents about the importance of the census for their communities. He said the data collected determines the funding for healthcare, community services, infrastructure, transportation, affordable housing and many other fundamental needs of the community.
“In the past it has been difficult to get a lot of the areas counted correctly and we want to make sure that we do this right ,” Roybal said. “We have to keep in mind that the cost of one person not counted is $3,700 – in 10 years that $37,000 that we’re losing. We owe it to ourselves and to our communities to make sure that every last person gets counted.”
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who also attended the event, said the cost of a one percent undercount in New Mexico could be the ultimate loss of up to $780 million.
‘That’s a one percent undercount. So you amplify that family to family, person to person with what that means to important programs all across New Mexico. So that’s why we’re here,” he said.
He said people can go online and get counted today but all families do not have connectivity and those who do, should help family, neighbors and friends.
“We should work with employers and business owners so that they’re able to help their employees take advantage of whatever connectivity exists in that business so that they can also get signed up and we can do trainings there,” Representative Lujan said.
He noted that 42 percent of New Mexico’s current population lives in what are called “hard to count” communities.
“We live in a rural state with a big geographic area. It takes hours and hours to drive across our state. We know our neighbors – it’s not that they’re next door neighbors – they’re neighbors that live across the fence, across the pastures, down the road. We live in rural communities but you know them. You know where those families live and that’s why this committee is coming together,” Representative Lujan said.
He said everybody that lives in the United States needs to be counted.
“I know that there have been some mistruths, efforts by some members of the Trump administration to try to get some citizenship questions included or to discourage people or put fear even into people coming forward to get counted. If we want to do what’s right by the American people and here in New Mexico, it’s important to share what I’m going to share with you now,” he said.
First, census takers will never ask about your citizenship status because the citizenship question was stripped from the questionnaire and it’s not the job of the census to ask about your status, Representative Lujan said.
“Second, everyone counts. If we don’t get an accurate count of everyone living in New Mexico, that’s the $780 million I talked about is going to hurt us. That’s $780 million for a one percent undercount that we won’t have for schools, for senior programs, for investment in roads, in infrastructure, for food programs, for every other service that we depend on from the federal government,” he said. “Third, information given to census takers will never be used against you or reported to law enforcement. We have trained, reliable individuals collecting data for the census and you can trust these individuals to protect your information.”
Gov. Robert A. Mora of the Pueblo of Tesuque and Gov. Perry Martinez of the Pueblo of San Ildefenso also stressed the importance of the census and noted that their Pueblos are ready to go with census activities
City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber commented on the partnerships, the collaboration, and friendship that exist in New Mexico that mean everybody counts. He gave special thanks to members of Somos Un Pueblo Unido who stood out in the crowd with their yellow T-shirts.
“When you go out to knock on doors, people respond. People know you’re there to help and they know that you are part of the community and that you are giving them reassurance that everything the Congressman said about your data being safe is true,” Webber said. “There’s a financial reason that’s been touched on as to why everybody counts, but there’s also a moral reason. That is that we all stand for democracy and the Constitution. The Constitution says everybody counts. So when we go out and knock on doors we’re looking for money but we’re looking to do the right thing for the United States of America, for New Mexico, for Santa Fe County and for all of our communities”
Santa Fe County Manager Katherine Miller noted that the census is a constant reference in the world of government. She noted that a one percent county for Santa Fe County would be more than $5 million a year. She said that is money that needs to come back to Santa Fe County to provide housing, healthcare and so many things that we count on in the community.
“Right now Santa Fe County is going through its budget process and I’m acutely aware of every dollar that we generate in local taxes and what we get in federal taxes back to this community and what it does for the community. I can’t stress how important it is that everybody is counted. The enthusiasm and excitement in this room and in all the groups that are taking part in the census are key to making sure that we carry that through the whole year until everybody is counted,” Miller said.