Census numbers have practical applications
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2001
Do the math: 35,356 minus 34,340 equals 1,016. That’s the net population loss due to deaths, births and simple migration into or out of Adams County over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is simple arithmetic, but the census figures released this month – and the more detailed statistics that will follow – have practical applications beyond just explaining where everyone lives.
Once all the numbers are in, they will tell us who we are, what we look like and how much money we make.
Adams County and Concordia Parish will use the data for grant applications, voting district lines and possibly even apportionment of judges.
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What the numbers mean
The preliminary numbers provide just a thumbnail sketch of county and parish demographics, from race to age.
In Adams County, the number of blacks slightly outweighs whites, although that proportion flip-flops among voting-age residents.
In Concordia Parish, the number of whites is greater than the number of blacks.
Owing to a trend across the country, the number of Hispanics in both the parish and county doubled over the past 10 years, although Hispanics still comprise a relatively small percentage of total residents.
The Census Bureau does not treat &uot;Hispanic&uot; as a race on its forms.
The numbers tell us which geographic areas are growing: In Adams County, it’s the southeast; in Concordia Parish, the south.
As a picture of who we are and where we live emerges, local leaders will have to analyze those numbers for their practical application.
&uot;We constantly use the numbers,&uot; said Winnie Kaiser, community development coordinator for the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority.
A large part of Kaiser’s job at the EDA is writing grants – for everything from businesses to educational programs.
When applying for an economic development grant, for example, she might use figures that show the county’s poverty level, median age and manufacturing wages.
The latest numbers for those categories are not available in the preliminary figures for Census 2000, but they will be released later this year.
Kaiser is working, along with surrounding counties, on an application that would designate the area an Empowerment Zone Enterprise Community, which would provide state funding for economic development.
But the application rules limit the population to below 20,000 – far fewer than the number of people in Adams County.
Rather than miss out on the opportunity to apply for the grant money, Kaiser can designate certain census tracts – geographical divisions of the county – in her application. The census uses several geographic divisions in its data. A tract is a division of a county, while a block is a division of a tract.
&uot;Instead of using the population for the whole community, we’ll target that area and those tracts,&uot; she said. The grant money would then be used just in those areas.
In that sense, the census numbers are valuable because the aid goes where it is needed most, Kaiser said.
&uot;We pinpoint your need and how we can help you with your need,&uot; she said.
Neither the county nor the parish has received official Census Bureau data, but some leaders are anticipating the need to redraw voting district lines based on the figures.
A difference in population of 5 percent either way in any district would force counties or cities to redraw their district lines.
According to the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi – the hub of the state’s official Census data centers – Adams County would have to redraw lines for two districts: District 2, in which Virginia Salmon serves, and District 4, in which Darryl Grennell serves.
Adams County Board of Supervisors President Sammy Cauthen said he has not received official information about redistricting, but he has been through the process before.
Ten years ago, the county hired a Jackson consultant, Hoyt Holland, to help redraw the district lines. Holland uses the smallest census geographic division – the block – to rearrange the district lines.
&uot;He gets the block numbers and he arranges, in various fashions, the population blocks in each district,&uot; Cauthen said.
Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said the city also has not yet received its official census numbers, but he said he would not be surprised if aldermen have to redraw ward lines.
&uot;There has been some talk that we are potentially going to have that facing us, having lost some population,&uot; Smith said.
The Mississippi Legislature also faces the task of redistricting – and the loss of a representative in Congress. The state grew in population over the past decade, but not at the rate many other states grew. Because the number of representatives in the House stays the same, they are reapportioned among the states based on official Census figures.
In addition to the prospect of redistricting, Adams County faces the loss a justice court judge and a constable, because its population dropped below 35,000. But supervisors acted last week to stave off that possibility.
State law allows counties with populations of 35,000 or fewer to have only two justice court judges and equal number of constables.
But in the past, other counties have sought protection from that law based on certain criteria, such as whether the community has a tourism or gaming component and whether or not the county borders another state.
At Grennell’s suggestion and by a unanimous vote of the supervisors, county attorney Marion Smith drafted a local and private bill that would allow Adams&160;County to keep its three justice court judges and constables.
Smith has submitted the bill for the Legislature’s current session, which ends Friday. Local and private bills are almost always considered in the final days of the session.