2010 U.S. Census participation pitched to Outer East Portland businesspeople

They’re saying a lot has changed, as the U.S. Census plans to count noses next year. Is the controversial group, “A.C.O.R.N.” still involved in the process? Some of what we learned may surprise you …

The local representative of the U.S. Census Bureau, Misha Pierce, says participating in the 2010 U.S. Census is more than a good idea – it’s the law.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Things have changed dramatically since 1790, when the first census was taken by U.S. Marshals on horseback; they counted 3.9 million people. Census 2000 counted more than 281 million people.

Members and guests of the Midway Business Association learned a great deal about today’s U.S. Census – and the upcoming count scheduled for “Census Day” (no fooling), April 1, 2010 – from local representative Misha Pierce.

Coming on board in January, Pierce said she’s been working in the Census’ regional office. “During he summer months, I’ve been out advocating for participating in the Census.”

It’s important to have an accurate count, Pierce told the group of 18 business people in attendance. “The federal government uses Census data when awarding states, congressional districts, and communities as much as $300 billion in funding. In some cases, just one completed Census form can bring an extra $14,000 into the community.”

Additionally, Census data determines how many congressional seats are awarded per state.

Data ‘to be kept private’
Participating in the Census isn’t optional, Pierce observed. “It’s required by law, mandated by the U.S. Constitution.”

Census works take an “oath for life” to keep information they collect confidential. “The Bureau doesn’t share your answers with anyone,” Pierce assured. A flyer she distributed noted that both an individual’s responses to questions – and their identity – are kept safe from prying eyes.

Quickie questionnaire
Ten questions in length, today’s questionnaire, Pierce noted, is one of the shortest in history.

“The 2010 Census questionnaire asks for name, relationship to head of household, gender, age and date of birth, race, and whether respondents own or rent where they live. They say its ‘10 questions/10 minutes’.”

For the first time, we learned, “group quarters” (such as dormitories, group homes, prisons, and homeless shelters) will be part of the initial “address canvassing” operation, with the hopes of providing increased accuracy and coverage in the final count.

2010 Census workers will conduct their address canvassing using a GPS-enabled handheld computer, according to information from the Bureau. The new technology allows census workers to pinpoint and upload coordinates for each structure containing living quarters into the Census Bureau’s master address file and digital maps.

The GPS coordinates will ensure that each structure is recorded within the correct block; location is important, since census data are the basis for the periodic re-drawing of congressional and state legislative districts.

U.S. Census representative Misha Pierce says the Bureau will again partner with local community groups to encourage participation in the 2010 Census. Richard Kiely of Home Run Graphics listens intently.

Partnering with community groups
“The Census Bureau is partnering with community associations to encourage everyone to participate in the 2010 Census,” Pierce said. “The bureau isn’t working with immigration and law enforcement agencies.”

In response to a question, Pierce said that “undocumented visitors” who complete and return the questionnaire will face no repercussions because of their participation. “For example, one partner is a woman doing outreach to a group of 75 undocumented farm workers. These partners help reach communities who do not trust government agencies.”

An attendee asked, “Is it true that the U.S. Census in partnering with A.C.O.R.N., the group that has been so unfavorably highlighted in the news?”

Pierce said she wasn’t aware of the group, nor the controversy.

However, our research on the U.S. Census official website turned up the “Partnership Program – List of 2010 Census Partners National Organizations That Have Signed Partnership Agreement Forms”

On the list:
35. Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

East Portland News queried the U.S. Census Bureau about this connection, and the bureau’s Stephen Buckner responded on October 11:

In response to recent developments, the U.S. Census Bureau has decided to sever its 2010 Census national partnership with ACORN.

Although the national partnership with ACORN was limited to just promoting awareness of the upcoming Census among ACORN’s members and the communities they serve, the Census Bureau judged that concern with the general public about ACORN had become a distraction from the goal of getting a complete count for 2010.  Census officials pointed to events this week with three local ACORN offices that might even discourage cooperation with the Census next year if the partnership agreement were not ended.

At no point was ACORN, or any other partner, to be involved in the 2010 Census operations and door-to-door collection activities next spring.  Only sworn Census Bureau employees conduct the census.

Census-taking a good-paying temp job
The Census Bureau is about to go into another round of recruiting, Pierce said. “It’s a temporary job – but a good, well-paying job. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. You can learn more about it on our official website.”

There’s a wealth of information on the U.S. Census Bureau’s official website; CLICK HERE to take a look.

New Portland planner introduced

The new East District Liaison from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainable Development, Christina Scarzello, says she’ll continue programs started by her predecessor, Barry Manning.

In other matters at the Midway Business Association meeting, we learned that Barry Manning, the East Portland District Liaison for many years has taken on new responsibilities at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainable Development.

Christina Scarzello stopped by the meeting and said she’s left the bureau’s environmental section to become East District Liaison.

“The ‘122nd Avenue Plan’ started by Barry Manning will continue,” Scarzello said. “We want to make the area a ‘20-minute Neighborhood’ – so we’re studying pedestrian and bicycle access, both on the main street and on side streets.”

In addition to surveying the area’s “hardscapes”, they’ll also be finding out more about community attitudes in the area. “The plan will evolve over time; with an aim toward creating a better sense of community and place.”

Meet with the association
The next Midway Business Association meeting is on October 13.

You’re invited to come learn all about this business group dedicated to helping neighbors and businesses improve the southern end of outer East Portland. This month: Michelle Wyffels, TriMet Community Affairs Specialist, will talk about service changes in the southern area of Outer East Portland.

Visitors are welcome and the presentation is free (but you pay for your own lunch). Their meeting runs from 11:45 AM until 1 PM at Bill Dayton’s PIZZA BARON Restaurant on SE 122nd Ave., just south of Division St. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE!

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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