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Cities Prepare Census Appeals

Cities and counties are scrambling to ensure the Census Bureau has addresses for every nook and cranny that could be considered someone's home, when Census forms are mailed in March.

New York City has 30 people going out to get proof that the Census Bureau missed addresses. New Orleans, where entire neighborhoods were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, recently put up shiny new street signs even on blocks that are deserted.

The Census Bureau invited 39,000 governments to check its address list and 11,500 accepted. They submitted additions and corrections and Census reviewed them, sent workers to visit them and rejected most of the requested changes. The final list of 134 million addresses includes 2.4 million new ones.

Now come the appeals.

"It's a busy time," says Joseph Salvo, director of the population division in New York's planning department. "The appeal period is really tight. We only have 30 days."

The city received its list 10 days ago. Others will be getting them through the end of the year.

For some cities, the challenge is to ensure makeshift apartments over garages or in basements are listed as separate addresses. For cities that enjoyed a housing boom, it's making sure every new unit is listed, even if it won't go up until next spring.

"People out there are looking for buildings the Census Bureau has missed," Salvo says. "We're going back and checking our own records, double-checking what we submitted."

Census rejected 40% of the 193,000 addresses New York City said should be on the list - 42% of them in Manhattan, where builders have created an average of 30,000 new units a year in recent years.

"It's a good problem to have," Salvo says, but he is "cautiously optimistic" that all addresses will be captured.

Philip Fulton, director of an independent appeals panel, has been spending hours on the phone helping governments figure out what documentation they should provide - from real estate tax rolls and utility records to building and occupancy permits and aerial photos.

"The large jurisdictions that have hundreds of thousands of addresses, their challenges may be in the thousands," Fulton says. "Jurisdictions that are small may challenge one or two."

What's so important about addresses?

A complete address list is the best way to count everyone where they live. The Census' count is the basis for everything from local political boundaries to congressional districts. It also guides the distribution of $400 billion a year in federal funds for schools, hospitals and other services.

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