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The Brief: March 8, 2010

Counting, apparently, is not quite as easy as it seemed in school. With the primaries over, cities and counties are turning their attention to the upcoming U.S. Census.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION

Counting, apparently, is not quite as easy as it seemed in school. With the primaries over, cities and counties are turning their attention to the upcoming U.S. Census.

The upcoming census forms are due on April 1, and the results of the effort will determine how $400 billion per year gets to communities to fund everything from hospitals to highways. In Texas, there's also the likely addition of three or four new Congressional seats, which should make for a bloody redistricting battle — the fight for re-drawing district lines.

So for every locality, every person really does count, and newspapers seem to be doing their best to spread the news.

While Texas expects to see big jumps in population and legislative representation, rural parts of the state worry there will be significant decreases and want to ensure they don’t lose any more funding than they have to. Many areas have stressed participation in immigrant communities, where the needs may be great, but could go underfunded if the populations don’t fill out their forms.

The Houston Chronicle carried a plaintive cry for participation, pointing to the $1,700 loss for each person who doesn’t participate. The editorial tried to put things in perspective for those who don’t intend to fill out a form:

“In fact, you end up sending your tax dollars to other states like Oklahoma, Colorado or, God forbid, California or New York. Your tax dollars are collected annually from your income and the sales of products you've purchased, but determining where those tax dollars get spent will be done using data collected from the 2010 census. Wouldn't you rather our tax dollars return home to our communities?”

The Lubbock Avalanche Journal announced there would be a series of stories on the importance of the census. They emphasized the potential economic boosts to the community, and the dangers if West Texas should be undercounted.

In the Austin American-Statesman, there's concern about the homeless population in Austin — approximately 4,000 people or half a percent of the population, while the San Antonio Express-News emphasized the benefits to the unemployed.

And in Lufkin, The Daily News highlighted efforts within the Hispanic community to reassure immigrants that participating in the census won’t incur any new questions about immigration status, let alone deportation.

I'll stick with easier math.

CULLED

More elections? Today is the last day to file for local offices around the state, particularly city council races. The May elections probably won't garner too much statewide attention — in Sherman, the focus is on getting more than one person to file for the various positions that can't sit empty.
• Vroom! On Friday, the Department of Public Saftey announced a new set of proposed rules to help poor Texans with driving debts. Since 2003, those with Class C misdemeanors must pay additional penalties. Thousands of Texans haven't been paying, and they've wound up losing their licenses and even going to jail. The new rules would allow low-income drivers to pay a reduced fine.
• NASA will always have the support of little kids, even as it struggles to find allies in Washington. Texas has fought for back-to-the-moon projects, but the state may not have as many political allies as it needs to support super-expensive programs. Losing the program could cost as many as 11,500 jobs in the Houston area.
"I get the feeling that no one is going to be writing checks until there is a damned good sense of where (the incoming chairman) wants to take the party. I know I won't be writing any." — County Judge Nelson Wolff on the Bexar County Democrats' ability to raise money and pay debt since the incumbent chair was ousted.

MUST READ

•  Mr. Justice Green? — The Texas Tribune

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