State execs tout census benefits, urgency to Flint in E-Town Hall

By Tom Travis

Three of Michigan’s four executive elected officers, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson came to Flint this week to highlight, with local officials on hand,  the importance and convenience of completing the census and the  benefits it brings to local communities.

Originally planned to be open to the public,  last minute changes were made to make the Census Town Hall closed to the public with online viewing only.

The full Facebook video of the E-Town Hall can be viewed here:

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley hosted the Genesee County 2020 Census “Be Counted’ E-Town Hall in Flint with Nessel, Gilchrist, and Benson along with Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh and Burton Mayor Duane Haskins.

With the recent pandemic of corona virus spreading around the world, Michigan Gov.  Gretchen Whitmer changed the census town hall to closed to the public and made it online only. The public was still able to ask questions directly to the panel of officials via social media.

(front row l to r) Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. (back row l to r) Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh and Burton Mayor Duane Haskins. (Photo by Tom Travis)

In a press release, Secretary of State Benson stated, “The health and safety of the people of Flint and all Michiganders is top of mind. To help protect public health and slow the spread of the virus, we will no longer be hosting public gathers that bring people together in close quarters.

Benson emphasized, “our mission hasn’t changed: We want every person to understand the importance of completing the 2020 census.”

Benson announced that the public could begin responding online to the 2020 Census.  Benson said, “Households in areas that are less likely to respond online will receive paper questionnaires as well.” 

The 2020 Census “Be Counted”  E-Town Hall video posted here answers many questions about the census survey.

Before the filming began Neeley, Nessel and Haskins spoke about the importance of the census with the press and took questions.

“We are in a crisis and in the midst of an international pandemic. A state of emergency has been declared by our government,”  Nessel said. “When you think about the resources that come from our federal government into our state for things like crises like this, and roads, and health care services, what are those things based on? Well it’s based on census numbers and what we know about our population numbers. And those numbers are determined by the census.”

She continued, “So, If you’ve ever wondered if it’s really that important if you fill out a census form? Absolutely! It’s more important than you’ve ever contemplated.”

Before the filming of the ‘Be Counted’ E-Town Hall Mayor Neeley, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Burton Mayor Duane Haskins spoke about the importance of the 2020 Census.

“So we are asking everyone, especially if you’re at a place where you spend more time at home and online, that when you receive the census information in the mail, please remember there’s nothing more important you can do to have adequate funding coming in from the Federal Government to our state than filling out and completing the census survey.”

Nessel noted that the present crisis of coronavirus shows us how significant the census and specific population numbers are for funding and resources. “For instance this morning we were in communication with the CDC and Federal Department of Health and Human Services,”  she said,  “and one of the things they look at for how many tests will be sent to a particular area has to do with the vulnerable populations.”

Nessel asked, “How many people in your state or city are seniors or elderly? Well, how do we know that? How do we know how many people 65 and older are there in a particular area? It’s through the census survey. And if we don’t receive the proper number we’re not going to get the proper amount of funding or resources from the federal government.”

Nessel pointed out that when the state faces situations like this in the future [referring to the corona virus pandemic],”If we under count, we are going to be massively under served and won’t have the opportunity to have the services and funding that will be needed.”

Haskins recalled that in the 2010 census Burton population number came in at 29,999. Burton’s 2010 census can be viewed here. Haskins said that missing the 30,000 mark in the population count cost the city of Burton millions of dollars that could have been used in improving roads, public safety, local schools, senior citizen care and a host of other essential services.

Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh speaks from the back row. Sitting in the front row is Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Gilchrist talked about the simplicity of completing the census survey. “The 2020 census form includes nine questions and takes less than 10 minutes to complete – but those 10 minutes will benefit Michigan for the next 10 years.”

When the group moved to a closed session, not allowing the public inside, some members of the public present for the town hall complained. Gud Marketing (gü was contracted by the State to film and record the town hall.

Güd Marketing staff, Carole Tuckey, informed EVM staff that during the filming four members of the public came into the lobby requesting entrance to  but were denied. Tuckey said those four members of the public were very upset and some becoming quite angry to the point of having Flint Police called.

EVM Assistant Editor and Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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