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2010 census: Drive revs up for the count

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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The U.S. Census Bureau is using tour buses to drive home the point that it’s best to be counted. The bureau launched the traveling show in early January, sending out the vehicles to criss-cross the nation with the message. Locally, Placer County has been coordinating closely with the Census Bureau on the count since last spring, according to Mary Herdegen, senior management analyst with the county. “Last April the Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the Placer County Complete Count Committee,” Herdegen said. “Its purpose is to educate residents about the importance of participating in the census.” As part of the effort, the county is enlisting the participation of local nonprofits and developing a Web site. “The idea is to share information and the importance of the census with as many organizations as possible to get the word out to their communities,” Herdegen said. At the Sacramento office of the Census Bureau, media specialist D’Anne Ousley said the road tour is part of a grassroots effort to take the message directly to residents. Twelve vehicles, each assigned to a specific region, will spend 100 days visiting cities and towns within their sector. “It’s interactive information — each of the vehicles has the latest technology, Web blogs, videos,” Ousley said. “They’ll spread the word about the importance of the census and how easy and safe it is to take part.” Northern California is part of the Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska region. The tour bus started at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco last Monday and will end up at the Seattle’s Space Needle in April. The bus will make a stop in Sacramento for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, Ousley said. It’s unlikely Auburn will see a visit from the vehicle. “It will go to places where people aren’t necessarily inclined to fill out the census or maybe have safety concerns or don’t speak the language,” Ousley explained. Last spring, a preliminary census project canvassed neighborhoods to obtain all the residential addresses in the nation. The census questionnaire will be mailed to all those addresses March 14. “The decennial census is a complete count — it is not a survey,” she said. “The Constitution says it must be done every 10 years, in the years that end with zero.” The form has 10 questions. They’re easy to complete and they don’t ask about financial information or citizenship. “It is one of the shortest forms in history — name, address, how many people living in the home, their ages, dates of birth, race and relationship to each other,” Ousley said. “The head of the household fills it out for everyone living at the address.” If you complete the form and return it, you’ve filled your responsibility and won’t hear anything further. But those who don’t return the questionnaire will get a knock on the door from a Census Bureau representative. The process is a huge undertaking. “It’s one of largest peace-time mobilizations our government does,” Ousley said. “Peak operation is during the non-response follow-up. During that time, each census office has between 1,000 and 1,200 workers. Census offices in Sacramento, El Dorado Hills, Stockton, Redding and Elk Grove share the duties for Northern California. Workers sent out into neighborhoods will be clearly identifiable. “Every census worker will have an ID badge with the census logo on it,” she said. “Every census worker will have black canvas bag with the U.S. Census logo on the side. Each worker will have notice of confidentiality.” If you have any doubt, you will get a phone number of the local census office, or you can call law enforcement for verification. “We let law enforcement know the workers are there,” Ousley said. The Census Bureau handles the information that is collected confidentially. “We don’t share it with anyone — no other agency including immigration or the FBI,” she said. “We compile it and are legally obligated to deliver the statistical information to the president of the United States by Dec. 31, 2010.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com ---------- 2010 Census For more information on the 2010 census including a look at the questionnaire and job opportunities, see 2010census.gov The U.S. Census Bureau is still hiring canvassers. Workers are especially needed for the difficult-to-reach areas. The preference is to hire people who actually live in those neighborhoods. For more information on employment, call (866) 861-2010.