Cathy L. Lacy: Census tells more than population |

Cathy L. Lacy: Census tells more than population

Today, April 1, is Census Day. It marks the culmination of years of planning for the largest peacetime domestic mobilization our nation undertakes.

The census is more than simply a one-day tally. It is a complex process made up of multiple operations that build from one to the other. Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it will provide information leaders need to make planning decisions to manage future growth.

Beyond that, it is a civic responsibility that impacts all of us where we live — in small communities, populated urban areas, mountain towns, Native American reservations, resort communities, college and university campuses, military bases and other places.

The United States has conducted this count 22 times since Thomas Jefferson presided over the first census in 1790 and the data is important. It helps decide how more than $400 billion annually in federal funding is allocated and helps determine congressional representation. In addition, Congress has passed many laws that depend on census data including the Veterans Benefit Program, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, and the National Affordable Housing Act.

Because so much relies on Census results, we have focused on ensuring that every resident understands what is happening and why they should participate.

In preparation for today, employees and dedicated volunteers have canvassed at community events, knocked on doors in hard-to-count neighborhoods, stood at information tables in grocery stores and spoken with local media. Our supporters have left no stone unturned in their efforts to mobilize Americans to complete their forms.

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Our response rates will reflect all our hard work. We understand that, although the census is a national count, it is conducted locally.

We have partnered with community groups to explain the census and to answer a range of questions. We have worked hard to recruit our Census work force from cities, towns and neighborhoods throughout our region so that they can go to work counting their own neighbors — a best practice that makes it more likely that residents will cooperate when our staff comes to their doors.

All of this effort has gone into convincing you to do something very easy — answer our brief census questionnaire. So this day, we're asking you to take 10.

Ten minutes to answer the 10 questions on the 2010 Census form.

The few minutes it will take to fill out the form will be felt by your community, state and nation throughout the next decade.

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