State Watch

Chicago mayor calls in ‘census cowboy’ to increase response rate


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is deploying a “census cowboy” throughout the city as part of an effort to compel more residents to take part in the 2020 U.S. census.

Lightfoot introduced the horseman on Monday during an event in which she emphasized her concerns about the low response rate inside the city. The mayor said just 55 percent of city residents have filled out the form. The census plays a significant role in the allocation of federal funding throughout the country. 

“When I was a kid, I loved the ‘Batman’ TV show. And when the city of Gotham had a real difficult challenge, one of the things the mayor there did is he called out and he sent out the distress signal to Batman. So, we are doing something similar for the census,” Lightfoot said, before donning a lime green cowboy hat and “calling out the census cowboy.” 

A man riding a horse then gradually strode, accompanied by the tune of “Old Town Road,” up to the lectern where Lightfoot was speaking. 

“So if you see the census cowboy coming to your neighborhood, that’s not a good thing. That means you’ve got to step up and do your part and make sure you fill out the census,” Lightfoot said. 

She added that the cowboy would travel to 10 separate communities in Chicago where census response rates are at their lowest.

“It’s time to giddy up. Let’s do this Chicago,” she said. 

Lightfoot has repeatedly voiced fears about census participation during the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this year, she called for the Trump administration to delay the 2020 census, arguing that there is “not enough bandwidth” to conduct the count while responding to a health crisis. 

In early July, she also launched a citywide competition in an attempt to compel its 50 wards to take part in the census, according to ABC 7, a local news station. The station noted that Monday’s event was held in the city’s West Side, which has a census response rate of just 40 percent. Illinois as a whole, meanwhile, reportedly has a response rate of 66 percent. 

“The West Side communities need more resources. There’s no disputing that. How do we get more resources? One easy way: fill out the census,” she said. 

The “census cowboy” is Adam Hollingsworth, a 33-year-old former boxer who went viral in May after riding his horse to anti-racism protests following the police killing of George Floyd. Hollingsworth, who has been dubbed “dread head cowboy,” is expected to ride his horse through communities in South and West Side wards, where response rates are the lowest, according to the Chicago Sun-Times



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