"Census says, stand up and be counted"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:53 PM
"You count, and they want to count you - and your kids.That was the message for ferry commuters Wednesday, as the Census 2000 Road Tour rolled into the Winslow terminal.The Bainbridge commuters are very delightful people, considering the hour of the morning, said Melannie Cunningham of Tacoma, local publicist for the $8.2 billion federal nose-tally.We've touched about 4,000 people this morning, and we haven't even done the car (holding area), she said.The Census 2000 bus is one of a fleet of 12 vehicles now traveling the nation's highways, making stops at markets and shopping malls, transit hubs, schools - wherever we can get that U.S. Census logo in front of people, Cunningham said. She and islander Bruce Barto manned an information booth throughout the morning runs, passing out literature and trinkets and explaining the census program. The message, they said, was generally well received.Some people are like, 'where's the form? I want to do it now!' Cunningham said.In fact, census forms will appear in island mailboxes in two to three weeks. Federal officials hope that by April 1 - national Census Day - most will have been filled out and returned. From April through early July, canvassers will hit local neighborhoods on the trail of any households that have failed to respond.If people don't want us to come to their door, they should send the form back, Cunningham said.Most households will receive the seven-question census short form, seeking simple demographic information on the age, gender and race of residents. Officials are emphasizing the need to tally the nation's children, a group believed to have been undercounted in the last census.About one in six homes will receive a long form, which includes two dozen more questions, asking everything from how one gets to work in the morning, to whether or not the home has indoor plumbing.Census data is used for the allocation of federal funds, local business development, school planning, and any other sphere in which the question of who lives where comes into play.The Census Bureau hopes to improve on its 1990 effort, which saw anemic mail returns - 67 percent - among the worst in the history of the program. Even on Bainbridge Island, large pockets of the island apparently went untouched, and thus uncounted, by the census.They kept running across all kinds of people who never received a form or were never contacted, said Jack Swanson, one of three census recruiting assistants on Bainbridge. Nobody knows why.Census officials are counting on a significant boost in mail returns, in part through publicity programs like the Census 2000 Road Tour.We hope we can get it up to 75 percent, at least, in this area, Swanson said. We'd like 80 percent. We'd like 100 percent.Assuming some degree on non-participation, Swanson and others continue their effort to recruit a local pool of canvassers. So far, about 300 islanders have taken the application test for a census job, with perhaps another 200 expected to give it a shot during March.About 100 applicants are expected to be hired for canvassing jobs paying $10.75 per hour, plus 32.5 cents per mile. The whole approach is to have local people counting local people, Swanson said. They're pouring tons of money into it.Testing on Bainbridge Island is ongoing throughout March. Times and locations are listed in the Review calendar, with more information available by calling (888) 325-7733."