Denver kicks off census outreach, laying ground for big count

DENVER — To the strains of the West High symphony and choir and to the shouts of the Thomas Jefferson High cheerleading squad, advocates for the 2010 Census rallied metro-area residents at a kickoff celebration for the nation’s coming coast-to-coast constitutionally mandated once-per-decade body counting operation. The celebration was held at Denver Inner City Parish, an educational nonprofit in the heart of the city. The speaker roster and content of the talks made it clear that officials were making certain in particular to court members of Denver’s “hard to reach” Latino population.

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The event was part of the important groundwork the Census Bureau is orchestrating in order to collect the most accurate numbers possible. The actual Census work will begin in four short months. The Census is essentially a flier, a single sheet of paper with eight questions, said event speaker Deidra Garcia, President of DRG Construction Group. On the day it comes, fill it out and be done with it. Do it for your community!

Denver Councilman Paul Lopez, who is also one of the co-chairs of Denver’s Complete Count Committee, told the audience that it’s important that all residents are counted. He said it’s particularly important for members of the country’s “hard to reach” communities. The census, he said, provides the information on which all kinds of funds are allotted– federal funding for services to Denver Metro-area schools, hospitals, child care facilities and so on. The Census is not only important but also confidential.

“Not even the president of the United States can look at Census information,” Lopez said.

Garcia said the Census was designed to be easy to complete. Garcia explained that her own father had never filled out a census because he was under the impression that “the census was just to count those who were here illegally.” He didn’t think he needed to be counted because he was an American citizen whose family had been citizens for generations.

Misunderstandings about the Census come in all varieties, said Garcia. It’s just not that complicated.

Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally said she spoke about the Census at a Laos/Mong conference last week. This message needs to reach everyone, she said. At the conference, she said, she heard translators putting her words out to a broad community that needed to be more widely recognized as part of U.S. national culture.

As she watched signs about the census go up in the ten different languages at the conference, she said she “felt a finger poking my shoulder and a woman said thank you.”

Representatives attended from the offices of U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter.

“We’re here to make certain we have the correct information to help our constituents,” Perlmutter staffer Jeffery O’Neil told The Colorado Independent.

Tony Hernandez, director of the Division of Local Government and chair of the State of Colorado Complete Count Committee noted that while it is important for those involved to press the message with local communities, it was up to the public on an individual level to tell neighbors they needed to participate. It will affect all of our lives, he said. More than $2 billions at stake for Colorado alone.

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Joseph Boven

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