DENISON — The city manager and mayor here think Denison, which saw an official 13 percent population jump in the last decade, is actually, for real, folks-on-the-ground, hearts-beating-in-the-city-limits-at-bedtime now larger than Carroll. Maybe.
“I think we’re real close,” Denison Mayor Dennis Fineran said in an interview a few days ago during the Cinco de Mayo celebration in his city’s Washington Park.
According to the Census, Denison’s population is now 8,298, up 959 people from 2000. Census data list the population of Denison at 42.1 percent Hispanic, the demographic driving the growth.
Carroll is at 10,103, down three people from 2000.
But Fineran and Denison City Manager Kevin Flanagan — the latter who expressed his view in the Denison Bulletin — said Denison could very well be over the 10,000 threshold. In fact, Fineran thinks it is.
“I think we missed quite a few people,” Fineran said.
In Denison, Fineran says the actual Latino population is no doubt larger than the Census count and that the city of 8,298 may in fact be majority-minority already.
“We’re right close,” he said. “If we’re not, we’ll be there in a few years.”
And this undercount is not because of undocumented Latinos, he said.
“Gosh no,” Fineran said, adding that he’s talking about Census-countable people.
Fineran said many Latinos just don’t trust the government enough to even fill out Census forms because of their experiences with corrupt police and government officials in Mexico and Central America.
Fineran went to high school with Steve King.
He likes King, too — as well as the 5th District Republican congressman’s wife, Marilyn.
“I know him, and I voted Republican for him at least,” the Democratic mayor said of the 2010 elections.
But during the interview the blunt-spoken Fineran said King would be wise to tone down some of his rhetoric on immigration — for the sake of the increasingly diversifying city of Denison and the Republican Party itself.
“I think he could possibly ease up a little bit on the Hispanic community because we’re almost half and they’re not all illegal, I’ll tell you,” Fineran said.
King has a history of making provocative statements about immigration.
For example, in July of 2006, King went to the House floor to display the model of a wall the Kiron Republican said he personally designed for the U.S. border with Mexico and likened illegal border crossers to farm animals.
“We need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top or put a ladder there.” King said in displaying his design. “We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”
Western Iowa is still safe territory for King demographically. But changes are occurring, and what King says as a representative of the GOP has impact beyond Iowa, Fineran said.
“Here in eight, 10 years they (Latinos) will have the authority to vote somebody out like that,” Fineran said.
Remember his words …
In an interview in Spencer, Iowa, before the 2008 election, King said, “I’ll just say this, that when you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected president of the United States — and I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam? And I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the ... the radical Islamists, the ... the al-Qaida and the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11.”
And then in November of 2009 he wrote a column saying this: “As president, he has virtually stopped talking about defeating Osama bin Laden.”
King, needless to say, ought to get out of the business of making predictions.