Sunday, January 10, 2010

Census Time

The ten year census is upon us. With it come employment opportunities, always a plus. Also comes the decennial deluge of questions and misinformation.

The Census has Constitutional roots in Article 1, Sec. 2. Crafted in a time with slavery, and exempting "untaxed Indians", the Constitutional language is hardly an exact guide. Its original purpose was to apportion the members of the House of Representatives in Congress according to reasonably accurate population the members represented.

The debate over what this Constitutional "enumeration" ought to contain goes back to the beginning. The Census was Statute 2 of the very first Congress in 1790. This gives us a clue it is of great importance. Even then, the questions to be asked were debated. Livermore of New Hampshire complained that questions as to "profession" would be hard on his constituents, as many held more than one, changing seasonally. Sedgewick, of the more industrial Connecticut, wanted the questions to "extend further" and give a better picture of the economy.

I actually worked evenings on the 1980 Census in North Carolina, so though a bit dated, I have seen both sides. I hear the complaints of the right wing as to intrusive none-of-your-business questions. I understand the fear of residents whose legal status may be questionable. I strongly advise both: Fill out the form!

As to the first question, if you get the "long form" it will have questions about bathrooms, vehicles, all sorts of nonsense that you might consider none of the government's concern. The cover letter will tell you it must be completed under penalties of 13 USC 221. PLEASE go ahead and respond to the first ten or so questions (I have not seen the current questionaire) and if you choose, leave the nosy questions blank. It may well be a violation, but I have been unable to find any case where failure to complete everything resulted in criminal or even civil action. The Census Bureau itself describes the penalty section as "psychological encouragement".

On the second, one part of the Federal Government I trust is Census in this respect. They want numbers. The information, the names and addresses will be bundled into district info, but NOTHING you send Census will be shared with Homeland Security, ICE, INS, La Migra, whatever you want to call it.

It is very important that everyone gets counted. This Census result will determine each state's number of Congressmen, for instance, Texas will gain 2-3; California will lose at least that many. Also, the Census numbers will be used in determining grants and federal aid for all sorts of programs, everything from housing to education to health care, to public safety, to libraries, ad infinitum.

We know from reasonable "eyeball surveys" that San Angelo was under-counted in 2000. We lost tens of millions of dollars over a decade due to that undercount. We will not get another chance for ten years, we must make the best of this one. We want to count EVERYONE! You live under a bridge; I want you counted. You are "undocumented?"; on this I don't care, if you live here, I want you counted. Folks, on this states and even intrastate districts go to court and fight over which body gets to count prisoners, one group claiming they count where sentenced, another that they count where they serve the sentence!

Census has been a nuisance of some degree for at least as long as one forced the baby Jesus to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. Ours is considerably less troublesome than that of Mary and Joseph. Please follow their biblical example and respond to this Census. It is good for our city, and long run, good for you.


  1. Shortly after I posted this, I was watching "This Week" on ABC. George Will made a comment I thought worth repeating; "It used to be the voters picked their representatives, now the Representatives pick their voters". Too true, and worth repeating.

    I didn't get into the unholy mess redistricting has become, a topic to be more fully explored another day. While redistricting was the original Constitutional justification for the Census, realistically the Census is used for all sorts of Government functions. I wanted that understood and we all need as high a response rate as possible.

  2. Jim,

    There is no "long form." Only 10 questions. 10 questions, 10 minutes, 10 years is the tag line they are using. I have a copy of the questionaire, there are no "bathroom" or any other such questions on it. Those fears are unfounded.

    Please watch Gabriel Sanchez, the Regional Director of the U.S Census Bureau in the video "Census Bureau Opens" on

    He explains the process and the necessity of filling out this very simple form better than I can expound upon here. The questions are very simple, basic demographic information. As Gabe says at the end of the video "Fill that sucker out!"

    Ken Grimm
    Online content editor

  3. Oops, my bad. The "long form" I referenced has been replaced by what is now called the American Community Survey. Apparantly everyone will get the "Ten questions, ten minutes" form and some undefined number will also get the longer ACS. Years past as many as one in six households got the longer survey, it doesn't seem the ACS will be that frequent.

    In any event, I agree with Director Sanchez; "Fill that sucker out!".

  4. Yep fill out the form so we can get every Texan counted. If we show how heavily populated TX is, maybe Presidential candidates will actually campaign here next cycle.

  5. Yea! Public comment is solicited to give credence to these politically correct committees but is then outright ignored.

    Just like the “public meetings” held by city staffers are just an opportunity for career civil servants to promote their pet projects.

    In practice there is no difference between local Republicans and local Democrats. They just want to live off the sweat and labor of local tax payers and keep the status quo.

    Political opportunists, one and all!

  6. Anonymous of Jan. 27: I'm guessing you are actually responding to my "Viewpoints" article. No problem, at least you are following and responding.

    OK, city staffers DO use the meetings to promote "their" projects, BUT comment and input CAN make a difference. Stormwater, for one example, ended up being about half of what staff originally trotted out.

    I maintain, a few noisy citizens can make a difference, but for sure you won't if you stay home.