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It's census-taking time ... in about 16 months

Grand Cities leaders sent a clear message last week: No rock will go unturned in search of human beings. Even if they need to hire Molstad Excavating to overturn that rock, Mayors Mike Brown, Grand Forks, and Lynn Stauss, East Grand Forks, promis...

Ryan Bakken
Ryan Bakken

Grand Cities leaders sent a clear message last week: No rock will go unturned in search of human beings.

Even if they need to hire Molstad Excavating to overturn that rock, Mayors Mike Brown, Grand Forks, and Lynn Stauss, East Grand Forks, promised that it will be flipped. That's because it soon will be census-taking time. By soon, I mean that the numbers are due in 16 months. That's 1½ winters from now.

That may seem like a long time to you. But it's never too soon to start counting ourselves because money is involved. Big money.

Census officials say every person is worth about $1,000 per year in federal aid. With a census taken every 10 years, each documented one of us is worth about $10,000 to our community. Even radio talk show hosts and Packers fans are worth $10,000, although there is some question whether they're actually humans.

"If we don't put our full effort forward, we have to live with those results for a long time," said Brown, who is an unofficial census-taker of sorts by counting his slaps on the bottoms of newborns he delivers.

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Understandably, the mayors want to make sure all of their constituents are counted, so roads can be repaired, fire protection can be provided and, perhaps, a water fountain can be placed in the Red River downtown.

So, they held a kickoff rally that announced the forming of the Complete Count Committee, headed by Gary Malm, a former Grand Forks County commissioner and a prodigious beard-grower.

Maybe the mayors fear that locals will follow the lead of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has vowed not to fill out the census form. Bachmann, a conservative who makes Dick Cheney look like Karl Marx, says the census is another government intrusion on her life.

She makes a good point because the census asks 10 very probing questions. Here's a sampling of them: Name? Gender? Age? Race? Paper or plastic?

OK, so some of us may have to study up before filling out the form. But it will be worth it. Besides, we could be fined $5,000 if we don't fill it out, as Bachmann risks. Plus, we'd risk the wrath of our two personable mayors, who have never met a person -- or a federal grant -- that they didn't like.

Besides, Stauss' burg especially can use the dough. Minnesota Gov. Tim Notplenty has cut state aid to cities such as East Grand Forks for two very noble reasons -- to hold down taxes and to bolster his chance of landing the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

The census-taking starts in February. Rumor has it that the mayors won't allow students at UND and Northland College to leave campus for spring break until they've completed their census form. The rule is that people need to register in the state where they reside more than half of the year, so they don't want the students sneaking back to their hometowns and taking their $10,000 windfalls with them.

That's also the reason that the airport and southern border of the city limits will be staked out to ensure snowbirds don't escape before listing themselves as being from North Dakota or Minnesota, rather than Arizona.

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Whether we're college students, retirees or professional homecoming dance chaperones, we can all agree that it's nice to be wanted, even if it's only because we're worth $10,000.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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