Monday, May 04, 2009

Making Census?


Commentary

by Angelo Falcón

The campaign to unveil plans for Census 2010 has produced the first official sign that it is now serious: the Census 2010 mug. Once the mug is out it is clear that it is show time for the crew out in Suitland, Maryland. It is, the mug announces, "in our hands" (whether this means that it is the Census or the mug that is in our hands is not all that clear, however).

Planning for Census 2010 has been plagued by more drama than a reality TV show. There were the management problems last year with the handheld computers' contract, there were the untimely withdrawals of Governor Richardson and then Senator Gregg from the Commerce Secretary nomination process, then there was the pullout of Ken Prewitt from his nomination as Census Director (he's now, however, a consultant with the Bureau), and, well, it just goes on and on. With all this going on, it made making sure that Latino community concerns were being addressed somewhat of a challenge.

As the Census Bureau continues to forge ahead with their plans for Census 2010 --- getting thousands out in the field to verify addresses, hiring hundreds of partnership specialists, finalizing its communications plan, and so on --- the fact that Census Day, April 1, 2010, is less than a year away is beginning to sink in hard. On March 30th, the Bureau held its National Partnership Briefing in Washington that pulled together its various stakeholders, with the highlight being the presence of the spanking new Commerce Secretary, former governor Gary Locke. And now that there is a Commerce Secretary, the expectation that the confirmation of the new Census Director, Robert Grove, will soon follow.

Now the news is filled with stories of mayors and governors announcing Census 2010 initiatives, especially the organizing of Complete Count Committees, throughout the country. In the process, the country is being educated about the importance of the Census in terms of the local distribution of over $300 billion in federal funding and the central role it plays in the redistricting process that determines political representation at the local, state and federal levels of government. There is also much speculation about which states will be gaining and losing seats in the House of Representatives as a result of Census 2010. There is, in other words, a Census 2010 buzz throughout the land.

But the challenges to a successful 2010 Census continue to pop up. As we report below, the Census Bureau's massive communications contract looks like it is in trouble. But even closer to home, some influential Latino evangelical leaders are calling on the undocumented to boycott the 2010 Census to put pressure on the Obama Administration to press for comprehensive immigration reform this year. And the Census Bureau keeps trying to avoid seriously addressing the problem of their having one of the worse records of Latino hiring in the federal government. These are all issues we will be addressing in detail in future issues of the Latino Census eNewsletter. Unless, of course, they decide to cancel Census 2010 after all of this drama.

Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) and is Chair and Founder of the Latino Census Network. He also serves as a member of the Census Advisory Committee on the Hispanic Population and of the National Steering Committee of the Census Information Centers (CIC) Program. He can be reached at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.

Article reprinted with permission from the National Institute for Latino Policy.
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