Abilene preparing to get accurate count for 2010 census
Abilene preparing to get accurate count for 2010 census
Saturday, January 3, 2009

The federal government allocates about $300 billion each year based on census data. The census is also used to determine the number of seats each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives and the boundaries of each district for the state Legislature.

"So many things hinge on census data," Boisvert said. "So it's important to get an accurate, complete count."

Boisvert is the coordinator for Abilene's Complete Count Committee, and she's organizing efforts to count every person in Abilene as of census day, April 1, 2010. The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years to provide for fair, equitable representation in Congress. The U.S. Census Bureau says the goal is "to count everybody, count them only once and count them in the right place."

Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald is chairman of the local Complete Count Committee, which includes representatives from the U.S. Postal Service, Abilene, Taylor County, United Way, Meals on Wheels, local colleges and universities, Development Corp. of Abilene, the Black Chamber of Commerce, radio and television stations, Dyess AFB, Abilene ISD and other businesses and nonprofit organizations.

A four-hour workshop for about 100 people is scheduled for Jan. 29 at the Abilene Civic Center for planning and training.

Jaime Ruiz of the Dallas regional office of the U.S. Census Bureau said that at the peak of activity, the bureau will open 51 offices in Texas and hire about 75,000 census workers for the three-state region of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

There will be an estimated 310 million people in the U.S. on census day. The census is one of the largest operations of the federal government. Some census takers will be equipped with hand-held computers with GPS systems.

Census workers must complete an application and pass a test. Boisvert said there will be eight testing dates in January in Abilene at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas.

Offices have been opened in Amarillo, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Georgetown, Houston, Midland, Plano and San Antonio.

Boisvert, a resident of Abilene for about six years, is a graduate of Arlington High School and Abilene Christian University. Before moving to Abilene she was an economic development specialist in Mesa, Ariz., and during the 2000 census she worked for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Since March 2008 she has been conducting research on previous census efforts in Abilene. She said that there was little work done here to increase awareness and participation in 2000 and that city leaders "thought the 2000 census wasn't as accurate as it could have been.

"We plan to get more people involved and make sure we get the best count possible," she said.

Address verification is under way with help from Workforce Solutions, Industrial Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, West Central Texas Council of Governments and the Texas Midwest Community Network.

Boisvert said that businesses and nonprofit organizations use census data and that the data help determine location of roads, schools, hospitals, shopping centers and housing developments.

The shortest census form in U.S. history (seven questions printed in multiple languages), according to Boisvert, will be mailed in February and March 2010. Census takers will visit addresses from which no form is returned.

Boisvert said special efforts will be made to reach typically undercounted segments of the population, including non-English speaking people, lower income people, renters and newly arrived immigrants.

She said some people consider the census an invasion of privacy "so our message is it's easy, safe and important." The U.S. Census Bureau says it does not ask legal status, and the bureau wants to count citizens and noncitizens. The Abilene count will also include college students who reside here.

By Garner Roberts  Special to the Reporter-News