Census Road Tour Hits Berkeley Monday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday January 09, 2010 - 08:26:00 PM

Berkeley will become a part of the 2010 Census outreach Monday when the Census Portrait of America Road Tour arrives in the city to encourage residents to participate in the nation's once-a-decade population count. With the third-lowest response rate in Alameda County in the 2000 Census—70 percent—city officials believe Berkeley can do better. The city is currently working with community leaders, minority groups, schools and institutions of higher education to make that happen. 

Oakland's census rate was 65 percent and Emeryville 59 percent. Alameda County’s overall response rate was 72 percent. The City of Berkeley is also coordinating with other local governments, including the Alameda County Complete Count Committee, to conduct outreach campaigns at public events, boards and commissions, churches, UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District. 

The city is making a concerted effort to reach out to communities that usually shy away from taking part in the census, such as students, immigrants, minorities and the homeless. The city is working closely with UC Berkeley to make sure that all dormitory and co-op residents participate. 

An accurate head count means more federal dollars for Berkeley, including much-needed funding for city planning, emergency preparedness, affordable housing support, Community Development Block Grants, road construction and emergency food and shelter programs. 

More than $300 million in federal aid gets distributed nationally each year based on census population data. 

Sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau, the road tour, which will continue over the next four months, will be part of the largest civic outreach and awareness campaign in American history, stopping at more than 800 events nationwide, including local parades, festivals and major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. 

Although America's growing and increasingly diverse population poses a challenge for the Census Bureau, the ultimate goal is to try and get as many people as possible to complete and send in the 10-question census forms when they get mailed out March 15. Tour attendees will learn about the 2010 Census, view a sample census form, learn how the collected information is used, and contribute stories and photos to the Portrait of America project. Berkeley is expecting more than $4.6 million of federal funding in 2010. Berkeley public schools also benefit from population-based funding. Political boundaries from the city to Congress are also drawn up according to the census results. 

The 2010 Census form will not have any questions on citizenship or legal residency status, and the law prohibits federal agencies and courts from accessing individual responses. 

More information on the outreach campaign is available at Census.gov 

or at the city's website

The Road Tour will be in Berkeley on Monday, Jan. 11, from 4:30–6:30 p.m., at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza at Shattuck and Center streets.