in espanol
mission statment
board of directors
reports to congress
contact us

Wednesday, June 28, 2000
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Karen Kucher

San Diego Census Efforts Get Credit for Census Respone

San Diego County political and community leaders told census officials yesterday that coordinated outreach programs helped boost the region`s mail-back response of census forms to 71 percent -- up from 68 percent a decade ago.

Two dozen programs, supported by nearly $400,000 in state grants, were launched to target minority populations, the homeless, low-income people and the elderly about the importance of returning census forms.

Community organizations provided census information in churches,
barbershops, libraries and parks to reach residents who historically have been undercounted. Posters and pamphlets were translated from English into dozens of languages to get the word out.

Members of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, who held a two-hour public hearing at the downtown headquarters of the San Diego Association of Governments, seemed particularly intrigued by a street-theater program put together by the city of Chula Vista.

The theater troupe put on skits, in Spanish and English, in eateries, trolley stations and laundries -- with actors emphasizing that census data is confidential and cannot be shared with immigration or law enforcement agencies.

"That`s a novel idea, to role play the census out for people," board member Joe D. Whitley, an Atlanta attorney, said after the meeting. "I applaud Chula Vista for coming up with a great idea."

Public testimony gathered in San Diego and other cities will be included in a report the eight-member bipartisan board submits to Congress on the implementation of Census 2000.

Gilbert Casellas, a co-chairman of the committee, said officials initially had expected a decline in the percentage of people completing and returning census forms nationally. He called San Diego County`s response "an extraordinary achievement."

The mail-response rate nationwide was 65 percent, while California`s was 67 percent. Information gathered from census forms is used to redraw boundaries for schools and legislative districts and is used to make decisions on how to spend federal money.

The monitoring board has heard some complaints during its public hearings, including criticism that the hiring of census workers was disorganized and that outreach to migrant workers was blocked by farmers and ranch owners in some areas.

Several speakers yesterday suggested work on the census begin earlier for the 2010 count and that local census offices be given more authority to address local communities` needs.

"I don`t know why this doesn`t start two or three years in advance," said Augie Bareño, a census coordinator with California`s Chicano Federation.  "We condense everything and it gets crazy."

Bareño also suggested the census advertise on Mexican radio stations to target Spanish-speaking residents and consider using private contractors to recruit and hire census workers instead of making them federal employees.

Board member David W. Murray, a Georgetown University professor, said he hopes communities take advantage of connections made during the census project to encourage disenfranchised residents to get involved in civic life. That kind of community mobilization could be an important legacy from the 2000 census, he said.

Yesterday`s public testimony comes at a time when census workers are heading out for another phase of community canvassing.

For the next three weeks, up to 1,500 census workers in San Diego County will be visiting newly built houses that did not appear on census address lists and following up on forms that were returned blank, said King Bishop, a manager of the downtown San Diego census office.

"We are asking the public to bear with us on this operation," Bishop said.

The U.S. Census Monitoring Committee will accept written comments about the census process through July. Comments can be submitted to Karen Lamphere, SANDAG census coordinator, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101.

to Web ...
People, not statisti...