Dallas Leaders Fear Census Undercount

Consultant says count is actually ahead of 2010, despite coronavirus pandemic that ruined promotion plans

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Dallas city council members voiced concerns Monday about a possible severe undercount of residents in the 2020 census.

They spoke about ways to improve the numbers quickly, before the new September 30 deadline imposed by President Donald Trump. The count was to end October 31.

The more people there are the more federal money an area receives for transit, roads, health care and education. The census also determines political representation. Dallas leaders believe an extra seat in Congress rides on a complete count of the local population in this census.

A Dallas city council briefing Monday included numbers provided to the city by consulting firm Alpha Business Images as of July 31.  

Dallas City Council District 2 had the lowest completion rate of just 47.93% of the estimated population. The citywide completion average was 54.4%.

Council Member Lee Kleinman said the firm should be replaced.

“Is there financial consequences? Is there going to be the opportunity to select another? I mean, right now we need to be changing horses, or add a vendor,” Kleinman said.

Alpha Business Images was hired in March by Dallas County to promote a complete count for all the cities in the county including Dallas. The city of Dallas contributed $1 million to the effort.

Sophia Johnson who runs the firm said the numbers are actually ahead of 2010, even though coronavirus ruined many of the plans the firm had for promoting the census earlier this year. Person to person promotion was replaced with virtual efforts. Johnson said the effort pivoted quickly.

She provided NBC 5 with a July 7 letter that she sent to Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia. It claims the Dallas and Dallas County response rate is ahead of 2010. 

City officials said Dallas County extended the Alpha Business Images contract last week.

“I don’t believe the characterization of the vendor failing is fair. We as a team are working collaboratively with the County,” Dallas Chief of Staff Kim Tolbert said.

Councilman Casey Thomas, who leads a City of Dallas Complete Count Committee, also defended Alpha Business Solutions.

“It’s really unfair, in light of the pandemic, and what’s going on, to expect the vendor to perform the same way they would under regular conditions. They’ve been very receptive to me and any concerns that I’ve had,” Thomas said. “They’ve done a lot of work.”

But Sophia Johnson was not online for the virtual City Council Committee meeting to defend herself when her work was discussed Monday and Kleinman was not the only member who wanted to know why.

“I don’t think there’s any excuse for the vendor not to be here quite frankly, and I think it’s important for us to know what they’ve been doing up to this point,” Councilman Jaime Resendez said.  

Johnson and the city staff members involved with the effort said there is still time to promote the 2020 Census, but time is running short and it is urgent to spread the message.

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