On Monday, Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference to introduce a measure aimed at promoting the United States census among Chicago residents: a “census cowboy.”
The “census cowboy” made his first appearance as Lightfoot explained that he was her “superhero” to call in when things got out of hand, the way the mayor of Gotham City frequently phoned Batman to assist in the classic television show.
“A fan of Batman, Lightfoot said she was sounding a ‘distress signal’ like the one used to summon the caped crusader by Gotham Police officials to call on the social media star, the Dreadhead Cowboy,” WTTW Chicago reported.
The scene was nothing short of bizarre, with Lightfoot donning a bright green cowboy hat to summon her mounted savior.
This is legit one of the most insane things I’ve seen in Chicago history pic.twitter.com/XyKQMVZxzw
— Trenton Hassles Carmelo (@TrentonHassles) July 13, 2020
The “Dreadhead Cowboy” is actually a Chicago fixture, per the news network. His real name is Adam Hollingsworth, and he breeds horses in nearby Will County, bringing them into the city to teach young people on the city’s impoverished south side about the practice. He also offers horseback riding lessons, and functions as something of a goodwill ambassador to the city government, appearing as part of marches and protests.
Most recently, Hollingsworth led one of Chicago’s Black Lives Matter marches that took place following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Now, Hollingsworth will be in charge of promoting census compliance in neighborhoods where few residents have answered the mayor’s call to fill out the official paperwork.
“If you see the Census Cowboy coming to your neighborhood, that’s not a good thing,” Lightfoot said.
“Hollingsworth will be ‘compensated for his time, however, he is not being paid by the city,’ according to mayoral spokesperson Pat Mullane, who said World Business Chicago would pay the newly renamed Census Cowboy,” per WTTW.
Chicago is, more importantly, struggling with a shocking spike in gun violence — an issue that should probably demand the mayor’s full attention — but without a strong response to the census, the city’s federal funding is in jeopardy, and Chicago is only at around 55% compliance, according to WBEZ.
“The areas with response rates below 30% include four census tracts in the New City community on the South Side, including three nestled together in the Back of the Yards neighborhood,” the network says. “Two more such areas are found in the Little Village neighborhood. And the Englewood, South Chicago, and West Englewood communities each have an area where the response has been below 30%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.”
“To every community where your responses are low, please step up,” Lightfoot said.
She also referenced President Donald Trump in her press conference, speculating that he’d enjoy seeing a major drop in population, particularly in minority communities.
“Don’t let them win,” Lightfoot said. “We win by making sure we are counted.”
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