Census: 'Everybody counts'

US Census Bureau begins drive to collect data from all Alaskans

Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010

When it comes to money and voting districts, everyone counts.

Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press
Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press

That's a message the U.S. Census Bureau and its representatives have been trying to send with appearances at local meetings and a national campaign, and it's also one local leaders are espousing with a "Complete Count Committee."

"We want to be sure that we have, as much as possible, every segment of the community covered: every ethnic segment, every occupational segment, and, to the extent we can, every age and social interest segment," committee co-chair Bob Doll said. "We want churches, schools, business organizations, labor unions, cultural organizations; we want them all to be involved."

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, $400 billion in federal money is awarded to states and communities based on census data each year.

During the 10-year period between each count, that adds up to more than $4 trillion on projects such as new roads, hospitals and schools.

At an Assembly committee meeting in January, Eric Davenport, senior partnership specialist with the bureau, said that amount translates to $1,400 per person per year nationally.

"If we miss a family of four, that's $5,600. Since we do it (the census) once a decade, that's $56,000," Davenport said.

Census data also determines how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and determines the redistricting of state legislatures, county and city - or borough and city - councils and voting districts.

Doll reiterated the bureau's mantra that the census is "safe, easy and important."

The questionnaire has only 10 questions.

Davenport said a lot of effort goes into keeping information safe. "We are in effect an island within the federal government," he said of the census bureau.

Juneau's mail-in rate was 60 percent in 2000. That's 7 percent below the national average of 67 percent.

Alaska's mail-in rate was 56 percent.

Every person who does not return the mailed form has to be tracked down by a census employee, which costs time and money, Doll said.

The April 1, 2000 census recorded Juneau's population at 30,711. The 2008 estimate has it at 30,988, with an estimated population growth of 0.9 percent.

Alaska as a whole is estimated to have grown from 626,931 people in 2000 to 686,293 in 2008, an estimated population growth of 9.5 percent.

The co-chairs of the Complete Count Committee are Katherine Eldemar, Assistant to the President and CEO of SEALASKA, and Bob Doll, Juneau Assembly Member. Some of the committee's members are Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan, Juneau Reps. Beth Kerttula and Cathy Muñoz, Sen. Albert Kookesh, Rep. Bill Thomas, the United Way of Southeast Alaska, the Juneau Central Labor Council, the Filipino American Association of Juneau, the Juneau Filipino Community, the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the Chamber of Commerce, the Assembly, and the city and borough of Juneau.

The national count for 2010 launched Jan. 25 in Noorvik, Alaska. The official census day is April 1.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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