February 13, 2010 | Daily Tribune | Original Article

Census 2010 - Ten Questions crucial to the future

"If we have a successful 2010 Census count, we'll show up bigger and better and achieve more together," according to Mount Pleasant Mayor Jerry Boatner.

Just answering ten questions about your household could change your world - improve your streets, schools, medical services, childcare and elderly services, and impact economic growth in your hometown and area, according to federal, state, county and local officials.

Not a game show, an email scam, or a marketing ploy - it's the 2010 Census questionnaire, which the government uses as a data count guideline to award more than $300 billion in federal funds, every year, to states and communities. Since the U. S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years - the fund awards, according to census counts, surpass more than $3 trillion over a 10-year period.

Titus County Judge Sam Russell and Mount Pleasant Mayor Jerry Boatner talked with the Tribune this week about the critical importance of every citizen returning their census questionnaire and being counted.

Beginning this month through March, U.S. Government Census 2010 questionnaires are scheduled to mail or be delivered to every household in the country.

"The census is important to us in a number of respects," according to Judge Russell. "The two primary reasons - making sure people have equal representation where they live with their government, and, secondly, making sure that we get all the money we're entitled to because of the good census count."

Regarding local significance of the census count, Mayor Boatner said, "Every ten years it's important for everyone who lives in Mount Pleasant to step forward and be counted. Grants and shares of federal money are based on our population. I can assure everyone who lives here that counting them is important. The information you give the census is personal and will remain so. Recently some of the stimulus money we received to redo air conditioning and energy needs for the city was based on our population count, so it's important."

Population of Mount Pleasant, according to the 2000 census, was about 13,900.

"We feel that Mount Pleasant should exceed 15,000 in population," Boatner said.

The census population estimate for Titus County, based on the 2000 Census data, falls just under 30,000; "considerably under," according to Russell. "We should have at least 35,000 in Titus County, if not more."

Russell referred to a U.S. Supreme Court case called the "one man/one vote" law, which said that everyone is entitled to equal representation.

"The Census allows legislature at the federal, state and local government to realign districts to make sure everyone is equally represented. The significance of that, at the national level, is to determine whether or not we are entitled to additional members of congress. Or, if we've lost population, we may lose seats in congress. At the state level, it very well could realign our state representatives' district and state senate district. At the local level, we'll be required to look at particularly those offices that are elected by precincts - as in county commissioner, justices of the peace and constables - to make sure that none of those precincts are grossly unequal to the other in size.

"And at the local level, [the census data] lets us determine whether or not there are any concentrations of minorities that might necessitate a precinct being designated as a minority precinct, Russell said.

"So the bottom line to it is - if Texas has gained more members of congress - that puts us in a better bargaining position when it comes to legislation that affects the state, particularly in the area of appropriating money. And of course a lot of federal programs are determined, particularly when it is financial in nature, on the good count of people in the census. So if you have an area that has a big under-count, then it is costing you money, because a lot of those federal programs have money that flows to the state, and is dispersed by state agency."

The census is a count of everyone residing in the United States: in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. The count includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, both citizens and non-citizens.

Associated Press recently reported that some political groups and direct-mail fund raisers are attempting to raise money with mailers that use the term "census" in a way that alludes to the 2010 Census, but has nothing to do with the federal count.

Regional Census Center partnership specialist for Titus County region, Pat McCoy told the Tribune that the actual census questionnaires are distinct in several ways. "It will have a U.S. Government business reply envelope with it, and say U.S. Government 2010 Census on it. It does not refer to any political party, and, also, know that there are only 10 questions on the census questionnaire, and those questions are demographic in nature. It does not ask anything about political party affiliations."

House Democrats, last week, reportedly introduced legislation to require mailings marked "census" to clearly state the name and address of the sender, along with an clearly defined disclaimer that the survey is not affiliated with the federal government.

The federal government 2010 census questionnaire - reportedly one of the shortest census questionnaires in the nation's history - asks name, relationship, gender, age and date of birth, race, and whether the respondent owns or rents the home.

By law, the census information must be kept confidential for 72 years - released to no one about any one that completes the census questionnaire, or their respective household. According to the Census Bureau, every census worker takes an oath for life to protect the confidentiality of census responses. Violation would result in a jail term of up to five years and/or fine of up to $250,000. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual's answers with anyone, including welfare and immigration agencies, according to Bureau fact sheets.