The Recorder – Census results show slight decline in county population
Franklin and Berkshire counties could be at the center of conversations about parliamentary and legislative redistricting this fall following population changes indicated in the 2020 U.S. Census.
State Rep. Paul Mark, who played a big role in promoting census turnout last year, said Friday he was finally happy with the results of the 2020 data. He said data “ more complete” should be shared on September 30 and discussions on redistricting could follow in October.
“I was very pleased to see that Greenfield has shown some growth, the decline in Franklin County has been less than we expected, and the statewide numbers are much better. than we thought,” said Mark, D-Peru. “Especially with COVID, there was a real concern that the numbers in Amherst, Cambridge and Boston would be much lower due to the evacuation of student populations. It appears that the schools and communities have done the best job possible to ensure that they have an accurate count of the student population.
While Massachusetts’ population has grown, Berkshire and Franklin counties have actually decreased in size since 2010. Berkshire County has seen an approximately 1.7% decline in population since 2010, and Franklin County a decrease of 0.5%. These population shifts could have a noticeable impact on legislative representation in Congress and in the states. Congressional districts will need to be redrawn to maintain a district population of 781,000 – an increase from the previously required 727,000.
Mark said the implications of redistricting based on population changes “are quite serious”.
“We have a county of approximately 71,000 people that needs to fit into multiple representative districts, multiple senatorial districts, and possibly multiple congressional districts,” Mark said. “The trick here is how do we maximize the voice of our county residents in Boston and Washington? … As we look to the future, however, the region – Franklin County and Western Massachusetts – we really need to leverage whatever we can do to ensure that by the time the census of 2030, we will show some kind of growth.”
Mark said it was important for Franklin County to focus on “what makes us unique, what makes us special, and what makes us an attractive place for people to move or stay.”
“While I wish the census, the way it worked, wasn’t this competition over who could get the most people, there is an element of that,” Mark said. “And while we don’t want the nature of our community to change, we need to keep growing and keep building toward the future.”
Mark also recognized a number of people who moved into western Massachusetts counties from metropolitan areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, after census results began being collected.
About half of cities in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area saw population declines, with the largest drop, of 7.25%, being in Conway.
Conway’s population decreased by 136, a number the city plans to challenge with the U.S. Census Bureau. Selection committee member Philip Kantor noted that federal and state funding allocations are determined by population numbers and that it will be “pretty catastrophic”
“When you have a 7.2% drop in population, that corresponds to a similar drop in government revenue,” Kantor said. “It’s very unfortunate. If the number holds, it’s not good for the city’s financial future.
He said city officials were collecting data so they could make a compelling case to the federal government.
“There’s no one in town, in city government, who thinks that number is accurate,” Kantor said. “We understand that sitting down with the Census Bureau with only our thoughts and opinions won’t get us very far.”
Kantor said he believes postcode limits and the method of counting could be to blame for the steep population decline.
“We have about 100 or more families in Conway, although they live within the city limits, their zip code is in a nearby town,” Kantor said. “One of the system’s flaws is its inability to recognize it from afar.”
He noted that the census is a massive undertaking for the government and mistakes are entirely possible.
“We can see how very complicated, very nuanced, and very complex the work of calculating population is,” Kantor said. “We can see how mistakes can be made without bad intention. … People try to do their best.
The largest local increase in population would have been in Wendell, with a 9% increase in population.
However, Wendell City Clerk Anna Wetherby said that may have changed since the census data was collected. According to that data, Wendell reported a population of 924, up from 848 in 2010, but Wetherby said it’s possible its population is currently closer to 905.
“People have left town and we’ve had several deaths over the past year,” Wetherby said. “At the time they were doing the census, that was probably a good guess.”
She said it’s possible the decline in population since the census was tied to the wave of home sales across the country. Wetherby said there was a noticeable number of vacant homes in Wendell.