The last time the federal government tried to count the number of people in Philadelphia, only 56 percent of city residents returned their U.S. census forms - far below the national average of 67 percent, according to Mayor Nutter.
With the count set to begin again next year, a decade later, the mayor is aiming for a significant boost in participation.
"We have to demonstrate this is a city on the move and it's growing," Nutter said yesterday as he announced the launch of a new city awareness campaign about the forthcoming count.
At stake are billions in federal dollars that flow to states and cities based on census figures. "A decline in population means less money for all of us," the mayor said, noting that findings by the U.S. Census Bureau would affect Philadelphia for decades to come, including by determining representation in Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature.
Two years ago, Philadelphia was surpassed in population by Phoenix and became the nation's sixth-largest city.
To encourage census participation, Nutter also signed an executive order yesterday stating that no city worker can ask anyone about their immigration status, and that all Philadelphia residents are entitled to medical, mental-health, police, fire, and other city services.
The executive order was meant to reinforce a Police Department policy that bars officers from asking about an individual's immigration status.
The formal name of Philadelphia's census-awareness campaign is "Philly Counts!" It will be headed by Patricia Enright, who until now has served as Nutter's deputy chief of staff and communications director. She will remain on the city payroll in her new position as executive director of Philly Counts!