By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.netAtlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is personally delivering the message that Atlantans must be counted in the 2010 U.S. Census.

“The stakes for Atlanta are very significant,” Reed told a meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit B’s board on March 2.

Reed made the rounds of NPU meetings recently to stress “we really have to push down on this [2010 census effort] as a community.”

“We really need you to reach out to all of your centers of influence and ask for help in this important initiative,” the mayor said.

He pointed out the city is believed to have added 100,000 residents between 2000, the year of the last census, and 2007. That increase in population, he said, could translate into large amounts of money for the city.

“We all know about the federal distribution of $400 billion around the census counting,” he said. “In 2012, we will have a redistribution of the sales tax among the cities in Fulton County. Because of the pickup in population, we have a very good opportunity to increase our share of the sales tax of between $15 and $25 million. That would be extremely helpful to the city of Atlanta if we want to improve service in a number of areas, most importantly public safety.”

The mayor pointed out that during the 2000 census, the percentage of Atlantans returning census forms was 10 percent below the percentage the federal government predicted. The city only reported at a 57 percent rate, rather than the expected 67 percent rate.

That means, he said, “we left significant federal dollars on the table and we were also impacted in terms of the amount of sales tax that was available to us.”

Reed said only $3,500 had been budgeted for the city’s promotion efforts regarding the 2010 census, and that $2,700 of that had already been spent when he came to office in January. He said large cities in Florida are spending $500,000 to $1 million on their efforts to see that every resident is counted.

Reed said he wants to raise money from the private sector to pay for the effort in Atlanta. His goal is to raise $200,000. He said $75,000 has been raised so far.

“What we do during this two to three months of the census taking period, sets the standard for a 10-year period of time that is locked in,” Reed said. “We have the opportunity to pick up one and possibly two congressional seats, which will expand our state prestige. That is vital. So, there are a number of areas where this census effort is important.”

He said the 2010 census questionnaires will be mailed by the end of March. He plans to go all over the city in the next 10 weeks in an effort to see that Atlanta is fairly and fully counted in the 2010 census, he said.