GUEST COMMENTARY: 2010 Census: Be heard, be counted

Sunday, March 14, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Every day, businesses make decisions about where to create new jobs and maintain existing employment. How do we make sure they get the best possible information about investing in Columbia and Boone County?

Each year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to local, tribal and state governments for all kinds of services. How can we make sure citizens in Columbia and Boone County get their fair share?

Every 10 years, the balance of power in Congress is subject to change, depending on a state’s population. How can we increase the potential that Columbia and Boone County voices will continue to be heard?

The answer to all of these questions is in our own hands. Each one of us can make sure we’re counted during the 2010 U.S. Census. Households everywhere will start receiving census forms in March. All we have to do is take 10 minutes to answer 10 simple questions … and return the form!

In 2000, our local response rate was about 70 to 71 percent which, in our book, is a grade “C.” The Census Bureau associates low mail-response rates mainly with: lower incomes, unemployment, foreign birth and discomfort with English, rented living quarters, lower education levels and frequent moves. We know we can do better than that.

Earlier this year, we convened the Columbia/Boone County Complete Count Alliance to educate the community and encourage everyone to take part in the census. The group includes trusted, credible people with strong links to organizations, networks, churches, businesses, schools, colleges and the university and social service agencies. All of us are working to spread this message, especially to groups that historically are under-counted.

We’ll close with a few tips.

  • When a Census form arrives at your home, make sure everyone who lives there is counted, including relatives and nonrelatives.
  • College students are counted where they live most of the time, whether that’s in a dorm, an apartment or other setting.
  • Send the form back to the Census Bureau. If they don’t get your form in the mail, expect to receive another survey or a personal visit from a census worker.
  • By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s responses with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.

To learn more and see a sample form, go to and click on the 2010 Census button. And remember that the Census Bureau is still hiring census takers. Call them toll-free at 866-861-2010.

Most importantly, remember that your ability to live in an area with good jobs, a strong service network and a strong voice in Congress is in your hands. Let's have a complete count. It's good for Columbia and all of Boone County.

Ken Pearson is the presiding commissioner for Boone County. Darwin Hindman is the mayor of Columbia.

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