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It's almost time for a national head count: The 2020 census ramps up
 garris23  / 

ST. LOUIS — Before the 2020 census is launched in January, a number of issues will need to be resolved: the possibility of a citizenship question, use of the internet as a primary reporting method in some communities and campaigns to disrupt the count.

The decennial census is a monumental task to produce an official count of the U.S. population, as well as track demographic changes within the nation. it will determine the number of representatives each state will have in Congress and allocate billions of dollars in federal funds.

The U.S. Census Bureau is required to deliver its head count to the president by Dec. 31, 2020.

Ramp-up has already begun. A census office has been opened in Kansas City to serve as a hub for field staff support and data collection in the area.

The Census Bureau began recruiting workers nearly eight months ago for office and field supervisors, clerks and census takers. Workers will report to 248 census offices nationwide.

“When you think about the census, and the magnitude, it is a major deployment of individuals on various operations over about a 20-month timeline,” said Marilyn Sanders, regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, during a conference about the upcoming census Friday in St. Louis.

Beginning this fall, hundreds of thousands of workers hired by the bureau will begin compiling a complete and accurate list of addresses for each living quarter in the country according to the U.S. Census Bureau website.

In Missouri, the count will be complicated by its rural geography, limited broadband access and seasonal flooding. The state forfeited approximately $1,200 in federal dollars for every resident who was not counted in 2010, according to estimates by The George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

Households will begin receiving invitations in March to respond to the census either online or by telephone. If a household fails to respond to several invitations, the bureau will send a paper questionnaire to be returned by mail.

If the bureau does not receive a response to the paper questionnaire, census workers, called enumerators, will begin visiting households to conduct an in-person survey.

The 2020 census will not be the first time the bureau offers the option to respond online — residents could respond to the short form census online in 2000 — but this is the first time it will be the primary reporting method.

On Friday, Sanders acknowledged that some households will not be able to respond online due to a lack of, or limited, internet access. Households have until August 2020 to respond before enumerators begin visiting unresponsive households.

If those visits fail, too, households become “proxy eligible,” meaning enumerators can collect information from a knowledgeable person outside the home.

Sanders was less direct about the possibility of a citizenship question on the census form.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided the bureau should include a question about a resident’s citizenship status on the 2020 census. Democrats in Congress criticized the move as a political ploy to discourage responses from legal and unauthorized immigrants. It is now before the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on the issue in late June.

Sanders said at Friday’s conference the citizenship question was the “elephant in the room,” but regardless of the ruling, she said the bureau would do the job mandated by the Constitution and “count everyone once, only once and in the right place.”

Thomas McAuliffe, director of health policy for Missouri Foundation for Health, told the audience at the conference Friday that whether the citizenship question was included in the census or not, it created the illusion that the bureau had an agenda beyond counting the population.

“We are fighting against some of the hard-to-count communities already having apathy, skepticism and a barrier to participation,” McAuliffe said. “That is a reality, and we are going to have to work at it.”

Federal law prohibits the bureau from releasing personally identifiable information, including citizenship status, collected from residents during the census until 72 years after the information was collected, according to the bureau website.

The Census Bureau has acknowledged that distrust of government is a barrier to a proper count. The 2020 census will be the first conducted since the widespread use of social media and so-called “fake news.”

In March, Ron Jarmin, deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau, told Reuters that the bureau anticipated disinformation campaigns and requested help from big tech companies to combat any threat to the count.

Sanders said the bureau’s public information office would use social media to identify any misinformation that attempts to disrupt the count.

“Of course that is on everyone’s minds, and we are preparing for it,” she said.

During the 2010 census, approximately 9% of Missouri’s population lived in “hard-to-count” communities. These are locations where the self-response rate to the census was relatively low.

In 2010, at least 75% of households mailed back their questionnaires, requiring more costly and difficult in-person follow-up to secure the remaining quarter of the population.

By comparison, approximately 16% of households in Illinois and 10% of households in Kansas were located in hard-to-count communities.

Five census tracts in Boone County, all within or surrounding Columbia, are considered hard to count due to low response rates. Two of those tracts also contained a 20% or higher percentage of households with either no home internet subscription or only dial-up internet, a potential barrier to responding to an online census questionnaire in 2020, according to the bureau’s website.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

Art in the Park showcases veteran's artistic talents
 Quinn Malloy  / 

Photography had been a hobby for Don Jourdan long before he was drafted and sent to Vietnam to work as an air traffic controller in the Mekong Delta.

It was there that picking up his camera became more than just a diversion — it became a way for him to forge relationships, which have lived on in his memory for nearly 50 years.

“Any time I could get away from the army, I would go downtown to see my people,” Jourdan said of the Vietnamese he befriended. “It was my home, and there were all these people I loved, so as soon as I got off duty, I’d catch a jeep downtown.”

Jourdan estimates his hundreds of wartime photographs could stack up as high as his chest. At Art in the Park this weekend, Jourdan was able to share a sample of his collection for the first time.

The 61st annual Art in the Park festival began Saturday at Stephens Lake Park, drawing hundreds of local artists and thousands of visitors from around the state. The festival will continue Sunday, giving attendees the full weekend to wander through booths featuring locally-crafted goods such as ceramic mugs, as well as paintings and sculpture work.

The Veteran’s Art Pavilion is located at the eastern edge of the festival, next to the footbridge that crosses Stephens Lake. It was established last year, with the intention of providing a platform for professional and amateur art work by local veterans. The Columbia Art League accepted applications for this year’s exhibition up until April 19. The selected artists boast a diversity of styles.

Taylor Boyce, Columbia Art League’s assistant educational director, was responsible for organizing the Veteran’s Art tent this year. She said she was impressed by the quality and variety of submissions, which underwent a thorough evaluation process before being accepted for the exhibit. The judging committee for the Veteran’s tent was made up of fellow veteran artists, Boyce said.

“These are people who are very knowledgeable of art and know what is good, what is not good, what will work, what won’t work,” Boyce said.

Jessie Schwartz, a portrait artist based in Springfield, Missouri, is showing several paintings of his preferred genre, chromatic pop. His style incorporates non-traditional colors and large brushstrokes, and usually features Schwartz’s favorite musicians or athletes. He said he enjoys the fact that those public figures often evoke fond memories in the minds of viewers.

“They’ll start sharing a memory with whoever they’re with or whoever else is in the gallery and then that person shares and it goes on and on,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz is relatively established in Missouri’s fine arts community; he exhibited at Art in the Park last year. In 2018, he was inducted into the United States Veteran Art Association.

Displaying their work in the Veteran’s Art tent means something different for each participating artist. While Schwartz appreciated the chance to showcase and potentially sell his artwork, Jourdan relished the opportunity to share his experience of war with the public.

“Going through the photos was emotional for me,” Jourdan said. “Mostly crying when you’re happy, remembering the people and places that colored that experience.”

Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.

Judge says Missouri clinic can keep providing abortions

ST. LOUIS — A judge issued an order Friday to keep Missouri’s only abortion clinic operating over the objections of state health officials, delivering abortion-rights advocates a courtroom victory after a string of setbacks in legislatures around the U.S.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer said Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic can continue providing abortions despite the Missouri health department’s refusal to renew its license over a variety of patient safety concerns. He said the temporary restraining order was necessary to “prevent irreparable injury” to Planned Parenthood.

With the abortion license set to expire at midnight Friday, Planned Parenthood pre-emptively sued this week and argued that the state was “weaponizing” the licensing process. Planned Parenthood said that absent court intervention, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

The clinic’s license will remain in effect until a ruling is issued on Planned Parenthood’s request for a permanent injunction, Stelzer’s ruling says. A hearing is set for Tuesday morning.

“Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement. “We have seen just how vulnerable access to abortion care is here — and in the rest of the country.”

Republican Gov. Mike Parson said in a written statement that state regulators still have “serious health and safety concerns regarding Planned Parenthood’s abortion facility in St. Louis.”

Parson’s administration drew support from Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein, who backed a 2017 state law requiring unannounced annual inspections of abortion clinics. Klein said abortion-rights advocates are trying “to play the victim and blame others for their deficiencies.”

In refusing to renew the license, Missouri’s health department cited “failed surgical abortions in which women remained pregnant” and legal violations, while insisting that it first needed to interview several clinic physicians who had been reluctant to talk. Planned Parenthood said two staff doctors agreed to interviews, but that others who are contractors or no longer work at the clinic would not talk.

The fight over the clinic’s license comes as lawmakers in many conservative states are passing new restrictions that take aim at Roe. Abortion opponents, emboldened by new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, are hoping federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in Roe.

Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted bills barring abortion once there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Parson signed a Missouri bill last week approving an eight-week ban on abortion, with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Alabama has gone even further, outlawing virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. None of the bans has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Sarah Felts said the St. Louis clinic continued to perform abortions Friday, including on patients who moved up appointments that had been scheduled for next week. The clinic also provides other services that were not jeopardized by the license dispute.

The number of abortions performed in Missouri has declined every year for the past decade, reaching a low of 2,910 last year. Of those, an estimated 1,210 occurred at eight weeks or less of pregnancy, according to preliminary statistics from the state health department.

Missouri women also seek abortions in other states. In Kansas, about 3,300 of the 7,000 abortions performed in 2018 were for Missouri residents, according to the state’s health department. Illinois does not track the home states of women seeking abortions.

An abortion clinic is located just across the Mississippi River in Granite City, Illinois, less than 10 miles from the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis. Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in the Kansas City area is in Overland Park, Kansas, just 2 miles from the state line. State figures show a handful of Missouri hospitals also perform abortions, but those are relatively rare.

Q&A: Possible closure of Missouri’s lone abortion clinic

ST. LOUIS — Missouri has at least temporarily avoided becoming the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

A St. Louis judge on Friday intervened on behalf of a Planned Parenthood clinic there that is at odds with state regulators who are refusing to renew the facility’s license to perform abortions. The license was set to expire effective Saturday.

A look at some of the key questions surrounding the potential closure of Missouri’s only abortion clinic:

How did it get to this point?

Missouri law requires an annual inspection of abortion clinics. The inspection in St. Louis was in March.

The health department cited several deficiencies, including “at least one incident in which patient safety was gravely compromised.” It also cited what it called “failed surgical abortions in which women remained pregnant,” and an alleged failure to obtain “informed consent.”

At a hearing before Judge Michael Stelzer on Thursday, Planned Parenthood attorney Jamie Boyer said the seven deficiencies have been “remedied,” but the license is threatened unless the non-staff physicians agree to be interviewed. Boyer said Planned Parenthood can’t force people who aren’t on staff to cooperate.

Assistant Attorney General John Sauer told the judge that any doctor who has performed an abortion should be made available for the investigation.

What does the judge’s Friday ruling mean?

The clinic can continue to perform abortions for now. The judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the state from taking away the clinic’s license to perform abortions. The license will remain in effect at least until the judge issues a ruling on Planned Parenthood’s request for a permanent injunction. A hearing is set for Tuesday morning.

Where else do Missouri women get abortions?

Some Missouri residents already must travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion. Closure of the St. Louis clinic would mean they might have to go farther, but not much: The Hope Clinic for Women performs abortions in Granite City, Illinois, 10 miles from St. Louis.

For people in the western half of the state, the closest option is Planned Parenthood’s Abortion Services clinic in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the state line.

About 3,300 of the 7,000 abortions performed in Kansas last year were for Missouri residents, according to Kansas’ health department. Information provided by the state of Missouri shows that at least 48 percent of Missourians who received abortions in 2017, the most recent data available, did so in another state. But the percentage is almost certainly higher because some states, including Illinois, don’t provide the data.

A small number of Missouri hospitals also perform abortions. Figures provided by the state show 62 abortions at hospitals last year — 52 of them at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. So far in 2019, 24 abortions have been performed at hospitals, 21 at Barnes-Jewish.

Are Missouri’s abortion laws restrictive?

Yes, and it recently became more so.

Parson signed a bill on May 24 that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.

Planned Parenthood said a state law requiring physicians who provide abortions to partner with a nearby hospital, which many hospitals have been unwilling to do, resulted in a Columbia clinic losing its license to perform abortions in 2018.