In The Story of Kennett, Joan Holliday and I focused on what people are doing to make Kennett better while not getting into the“whys” and philosophies of what makes Kennett great. I believe the two forces that drive our continuous improvement are “the people” who want a better life for themselves and their children, as well as “the democratic process” we live under that stresses life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This wonderful experiment that was started 234 years ago,just a few miles up the road in Philadelphia, provides a government of, by and for the people. We see how it plays out in Kennett and for the most part it has been all good.
This past year we have been challenged with an attempt to overturn a free and fair election; an assault on the capital, plus the pandemic. I would like to think these things are mostly behind us. But one red flag is that there are over 100 new bills in legislatures across the country trying to make it harder to vote. With no history of real voting fraud and only 6 out of 10 citizens actually voting; this is not a good sign.
There is one example of what we have done this past year as citizens that no one seems to have recognized. It is the local heroes that put their lives on the line to work for the Census and count the over 5,000 people in our area who didn’t get their census forms filled out.
The US Census is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which states: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States... according to their respective Numbers.
In 2019, I applied to work for the Census and became the 2020 Kennett District Census Supervisor with about 30 enumerators to train and deploy for what was a formidable task. 750,000 people came together in America to count all of us.
It was really hard because by the time we started going door-to-door in Kennett we were in the middle of a pandemic, and this was the first Census to be done by computers. Plus, the leaders in Washington were in a fight to shut us down a month early and not count everyone.
We lost some of the Enumerators because they didn’t have the technical skills. Most of our training was done on line. Then we lost a lot more to the pandemic, when we found out we would be going door-to-door with COVID in the air.
The Enumerators, who went door-to-door,seemed to fall into three categories: 1) The pandemic wasn’t real. 2) The pandemic was real and I thought I might do this safely but it is just too much and I quit. 3) I know this is dangerous but someone needs to finish the count and it might as well be me. .
We were disciplined using social distancing and wearing masks. It did look like we dodged the bullet, as by the time we were shutting down our region, we hadn’t reported a case of COVID. But the mentality was “Don’t ask; don’t tell, see your personal doctor.”I’m sure there were some cases because at the end of the year the Blood Bank of Delmarva tested my blood and found I had had COVID.
In September, my worst fear was realized. Keeping the Enumerators safe was Job Number One. We had made it through with a few dog bites and fender benders but the homes had been inviting, especially most of the Hispanic homes where residents really enjoyed being surveyed. It was what it meant to be an American.
On this Saturday afternoon a household really didn’t want us coming around on their property and they hit the Enumerator with water from a garden hose and escorted him off the property physically, pushing him to the ground and breaking his Census computer case. There were six witnesses outside who saw it all.
The State Police were called and they were great. Outside of missing a couple days of work the Enumerator was OK. Five months later when it got in front of a local Magistrate the verdict was “not guilty” by the judge. He felt all sides had learned something from the incident. That wasn’t quite true as afterward the young man who pushed the Census worker to the ground said something to the witness, his neighbor, that made you know he didn’t learn anything of value from the experience.
Otherwise, the Census in our area went pretty smoothly. We even got the house that didn’t want to be counted recorded by going back and talking to the neighbors. What does make me sad is we never were able to say “Thank You” to these Enumerators and workers who spent months through the pandemic of 2020 executing Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution.
Thank you for your service 2020 Census workers, on behalf of the people of Kennett and Chester County. Thank you for making the Constitution work.