Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Town of Wusses?

Not to steal Gov. Rendell's line, but there's a front-page story this morning in the Waterbury Republican-American featuring my hometown of Salisbury, Conn., where, at 55%, we had the lowest rate of response to the 2010 U.S. Census of any town in the state.

The Rep-Am puts all but the first three or so paragraphs of most its articles behind a pay wall, but click here if you want to read the teaser and the see the nice photo taken behind the pillars at Town Hall.

So why do we have such a lousy response rate so far below the state average of 78%? Is it that we're so timid or lazy that we don't want to stand up and be counted?

I don't think so. As longtime resident Peter Fitting observed, "People own property but they don’t live here."

I don't have the figures in front of me, but my recollection is that about half the homes in Lakeville/Salisbury (maybe even more) are owned or occupied by part-time residents. And I can attest to that figure anecdotally as well. In my neighborhood of 25 to 30 houses, about half are owned either by weekenders of retired people who spend half the year elsewhere in order to beat Connecticut income taxes.

We also have three private boarding schools that include as many as 100 faculty families who live in school-owned campus housing. Many of them own property elsewhere or do not feel terribly connected to the town anyway and might be less inclined to fill out a census form than local property owners or even renters.

And as someone who has lived here for almost nine years, I can say with certainty that traffic in this town roughly doubles on the weekend. Plus, as has been well documented, we have lots of old folks.

I like the comments of town assessor Barbara Bigos when asked by the reporter about her experience with the census workers:
... Bigos remembers meeting with census workers in her office and spending hours at a time trying to help them track down residents. First they mailed notices to homes. Then, she said, they went door to door and left notices.
Then they finally tried Bigos’ method by sending mail to their mailing addresses, where the property owners actually live.
"It was a waste of time and money," Bigos said.
Come to think of it, maybe the entire Rep-Am story itself was a waste of time and money. But hey, as I learned in the newspaper business myself, you gotta fill up that space somehow. Plus, it breaks the monotony. And it makes for a pretty ride up from the Brass City for the reporter and photographer.


  1. a census taker knocked on my door asking if I knew 'when my neighbor would be home'. He came to their place, and though their cars were in the driveway, lights were on, and i knew for a fact that they were home, no one answered the door. He left the little note asking them to call, and they never called. He came back again a week later with the same results. Knock knock, no answer, no response to the call tag. And came to my door again asking if I knew them, prodding for information about how many people lived there, etc, which was information I was not going to give since I am not the resident in question. All in all, I'd say he came out 3 or 4 times with no response from them. They purposefully dodged the census taker. And there is no excuse for that. Right here in Salisbury.

  2. Terry, I've heard the 50% figure thrown around for years. Where does it come from?
    I've heard 70% too.
    I didn't read the rest of the article. Did they come up with a guesstimate of population? The semi-official number in the town report, 3987, comes from the State.

  3. Jim, the 2000 census estimated about 4,000 residents in the town of Salisbury. My understanding is that it's a full-time number, as those who live full-time elsewhere would be counted there.

    The paper did not give the 2010 population figure but noted that the town has "more than 2,100 properties ... scattered around 60 square miles."

    I've heard the 70% figure, too. But I believe Barbara told me it was closer to 50%, which is still quite high. Real estate brokers have told me other towns in the NWC vary, with, for example, North Canaan clocking in at only about 10%.

  4. You see, this is a perfect example where the implementation of "Bar Codes" on each and every individual would save the government so much time and money.

    Of course we'd have to pass some new legislation concerning privacy, and individual freedoms.

    Although that's just a formality, because the laws don't really apply to the ones running the government anyway. The Laws are just to keep the common people tied up so the ones running things will always be the ones running things.

    At least the Socialists are honest about it, That's why there allowed to set up shop here, because the other side that is supposed to be fighting against Socialism, benefits from that system for the same reason while making it look like they’re the good guys. It’s a different part of the same scam.

    I guess that I kind of got off topic here, so allow me to recommend another solution to the problem as long as "Bar Codes" can’t be considered a viable solution. Maybe we should get as many lawyers involved in the process as we can to clarify the gray areas, and possibly enforce stricter laws including jail time for the people that don’t fully comply with the census bureau.

    Ah yes, stricter, tougher laws, that always seems to be the best solution!

  5. Terry: I am the last person to defend the people of Salisbury, but I have to say that, in my case, the census workers were buffoons. I have 5 properties in town, and never heard from the census people about 3 of them. As to the other two, I sent back the forms the day I received them. Then it began. Phone calls from strangers, phone calls from census workers that I knew, people knocking on my door, forms left at both houses...and every time I answered the questions again, and in the same way. Finally, after months and months of this, I said "enough". Wendy Hamilton