City prepares for 2010 census

Posted 11/25/09

For its eight-year history, Centennial’s unofficial population has been 103,000. That could potentially change next year when the federal …

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City prepares for 2010 census


For its eight-year history, Centennial’s unofficial population has been 103,000. That could potentially change next year when the federal government conducts the first U.S. census since the city was incorporated in 2001.

The number of citizens who call Centennial home is more than a matter of fleeting curiosity for the burgeoning city. Its official population can affect everything from the funding the city receives from the federal government to its representation in Congress and the Colorado General Assembly.

For those reasons, the city government is preparing to launch “Centennial Counts,” a multi-pronged public-relations campaign to encourage residents to complete and return census questionnaires next spring.

Sherry Patton, Centennial’s communications director, outlined the planned effort and explained its importance to the city council on Nov. 16

“Sometimes there are groups of individuals who for whatever reason are afraid to be counted, or are against the census, whatever,” she said. “Our hope is we can make sure that generally people understand that [the census] is important for the people of Centennial.”

The second largest city in Arapahoe County and one that is presumed to be the 10th largest in the state is particularly interested in maintaining its estimated population of 103,000. Cities with 100,000 residents or more are eligible for a variety of entitlements, including an energy-efficiency community block grant.

“We have many state and federal funding opportunities that are based upon population. So the more people we have, obviously, the more money that can come to us,” Patton said.

A population of more than 100,000 also gives Centennial a seat on the executive board of the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the ability to serve on its transportation advisory committee.

To help spread the word, Centennial will initiate “Centennial Counts” after the first of the year. Targeted media is likely to include print advertising, community newsletters, bus-bench advertising and the city Web site.

“We hope to have some surveys and some gimmicks to get people to keep coming back to that [Web] page just to have a little fun and gather information,” Patton said.

A secondary hope of the campaign is that it may assist in Centennial’s overall efforts to foster identity and community awareness in the largely “invisible” city crafted from unincorporated Arapahoe County eight years ago.

Image and profile issues have presented challenges in areas ranging from misdirected sales-taxes to residents unaware that they live in Centennial and use Littleton, Aurora or Englewood mailing addresses.

“[With a high population], the post office will consider us more seriously in the future in terms of actually finding people who live in Centennial,” Patton said.

A special logo has been created for the marketing campaign. Its slogan is “Centennial Counts 2010: Stand Up and Be Counted.”

City council members and city staff will be provided talking points, handouts and PowerPoint materials to use at citizen meetings and other events.

The campaign will take several forms and will emphasize diverse photos of Centennial residents. The message will boil down to this, according to Patton: Every person counted means more money for such things as roads and senior services.

“Centennial Counts” is one of several recent city actions surrounding the upcoming census. On Nov. 23, the council unanimously approved an annexation, hastening action to ensure that the new city population will be in place in time for the census. On Nov. 16, Mayor Randy Pye issued a proclamation “recognizing the importance of the 2010 census.”

Much of the cost of the campaign is likely to be reimbursed by the U.S. Census Bureau through federal grants, Patton said.

The U.S. census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790 as required by the Constitution. The previous one was completed in 2000, the year Centennial residents voted to incorporate. It did not officially become a city until 2001.

The 2010 census will consist of 10 questions and is expected to take about 10 minutes to complete. The form will be mailed to households next March and should be mailed back to the Census Bureau by April 1.

Unlike previous years, the 2010 Census will use only a short-form asking basic questions, such as name, gender, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity and relationship, and housing status.

In the past, some citizens have received a longer form, which prompted privacy concerns from those asked to provide more detailed personal information.

Between April and July, census workers will visit households that did not return census forms.


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