Congress could pass military census fix

A 1 percent population slide for both Hopkinsville and Christian County, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimate, might not look like much on paper. From 2014 to 2015, Hopkinsville’s population was down by 294 — putting the city’s most recent estimate at 32,205. The county lost 656 with the new estimate at 73,309.

But for many reasons, the local drop is significant.

A community that’s declining in population will have a harder time recruiting new business, especially chain stores and restaurants. A population decline can also negatively impact funding for state and federal programs. And there’s the issue of pride. Hopkinsville dropped from seventh to ninth largest cities. That’s not the direction for progress.

As local leaders have preached for many years, Hopkinsville and Christian County must be aware of census methods that fail to count some Fort Campbell soldiers who have established homes in the community.

We knew this in 2010, during the last big census count, but issues related to military installations still have not been resolved.

There is a way to address the impact of military families the census, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul recently introduced legislation that would help civilian communities surrounding Fort Campbell. We support it.

Paul announced this week that he introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It would require the Census Bureau to count all deployed service members as residents in the area they lived before being deployed.

In 2010, the Census Bureau counted service members as residents of the home of record, which is the address they provided at enlistment.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, many soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen never get counted. Only 59 percent of Department of

Defense records had a home of record when the 2010 Census was conducted, Paul noted in a news release.

The other problem stems from a failure to account for career service members who establish roots in civilian communities surrounding military installations. The Army, for example, does not transfer soldiers as frequently from post to post as it once did. Rather than moving every two years, many soldiers stay four or five years, or longer, at one installation.

Paul’s amendment makes sense, and it would benefit Hopkinsville and Christian County. It would not have any adverse effect on the military. It’s only for census purposes and would not change any individual soldier’s tax records or voting qualifications.

This remedy is long overdue. It would improve the accuracy of the census and it would give communities like Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and Clarksville the credit they deserve for the military families that reside in them.

Kentucky New Era

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