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Look for Your Census Questionnaire & Be Counted!

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Census Bureau Director, Robert Graves visited the home of James Madi son our nation’s fourth president and the primary author of the constitution, according to a press release from Graves’ office. Graves stressed in the closing paragraph his obl igation is to “ensure that we get it right.” I agree that we should get it right, however everyone feels that way but does not behave that way.

In the beginning we were counted but not invited to participate as counters. In many parts of the country we outnumbered the people doing the counting yet when money was returned to the states, counties and ci ties the counters received and controlled all of the funds. As the years rolled by we have gained the right to count ourselves while the money still comes back to those who control the states, counties and cities. However wi th the responsibility to have the citizens count themselves shortages have plagued the states, counties and ci ty governments but not the responsibility of providing services to these uncounted people.

To tackle this problem census budgets were increased to make extra efforts to reach and educate all citizens on the importance of “getting it right with an accurate count.” The census staff has hired outreach workers to comb the neighborhoods of these hard to reach citizens. They put millions of dollars into elaborate television ads and everywhere they think people are looking or reading. They start months in advance of the questionnaire being mai led out to you. Before the education process administrators know who is likely to respond, by race, sex and income to the questionnaire in the greatest numbers and who or where people will not respond, creating an undercount for that government.

The governments want to get it right because it means dol lars into their budgets to provide required publ ic services to the citizens they represent and to others who will represent them in elected positions. Over the past forty years I have had an interest in the census data and how they spend the money to get the word out and how government and businesses use thi s information. Thi s year has caught my attention because the census people started early by spending millions of dollars to educate a population that they know will return the questionnaire, while wai ting to the last minute to reach out to the hard to reach populations.

As always the community has to argue, fuss and fight with the census staff to get assistance so “we can help get it right.”

This has happened locally in Riverside and San Bernardino counties but has been corrected. The problem with this approach to a long standing issue is they always wait until the last minute to do what should have been done when the campaign is first launched. They cast disparaging remarks on this population for being poor, uneducated, not caring and parasites on society, yet these same gatekeepers of funds do nothing to engage this community in building up their businesses. For example, one of the local gatekeepers told my staff members the only thing we wanted was advertising dollars. Yet he was going to spend advertising dollars in another media to reach the population that lives in the neighborhoods we serve, whi le he sends press releases for us to print for free.

The thing that got me was he says it is about money whi le they col lect, allocate and spend our money with each other and never offer one minute of time without getting paid.

Now this is an issue for local elected offi cials to investigate because their staff members are doing them a disservice. I would suggest the Riverside County Board of Supervi sors si t down wi th their staff and ask what happened and what i s going on.

They already know that certain groups and populations do not trust the government because of past experiences. Some employees of other departments wi thin our government have misused information collected thus creating distrust but not the census department.

In my opinion, census workers in the field can be trusted because they try to get local workers to go door to door. It is gatekeeping bureaucrats that create tension and mistrust.

Having said that, I still want to extend my personal invitation to all our readers to fill out the census questionnaire that came in the mail this week and mail i t back in. It is important to our community and as for our government in the two counties, it will amount to close to one billion dollars for these areas:

social services for needy families, medical care for the underserved, land use development, public safety and education. If we are not counted it means underfunding of these services when we seek out assistance. It also means that when businesses get ready to expand we will not be a part of their consideration. The same is true for Blacks who consider going into business with you in mind.

So mail your 2010 Census questionnaire so we can move forward regardless of how we have been treated in the past.

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