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Live-Blogging the Census One-Year Kickoff

By Ed O'Keefe

The Eye is attending the U.S. Census Bureau's National Partner Kick-off at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, marking one year until Census Day 2010. Updates throughout the morning.

12:10 p.m.: Wrapup: As the meetings wrap and participants prepare for a networking lunch, Census officials note this is the first time they've hosted this type of event in Washington to bring together national partners. Roughly 250 people attended this meeting, representing a small sampling of the tens of thousands of national and local groups that will help the Census boost participation and erase concerns about the count.

11:32 a.m.: Congressional Oversight: Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) chairman of the House subcommittee with oversight of the Census, will tell audience members later today that "We need to know what’s happening in your communities and how we can help you. We will also depend on you to expose any attempts to misinform or deceive the public by those who are attempting to suppress the count." Reinforcing the message of Census Bureau officials, Clay says that "We have heard time and time again about sinister tricks to dissuade immigrants from completing their census forms. As trusted voices, you can speak, and people will listen to you. Let your communities know that the census is confidential and they need not fear their government. That the information they provide to the census bureau is protected by law. And if anyone shares it, the violator is subject to imprisonment."

"The subcommittee will continue to work to make sure that resources are targeted to the hardest to enumerate areas, including Asians, Latinos, African Americans and emerging markets. We will continue to monitor the recruitment, hiring and training process to ensure that those communities that are hardest to count have enumerators from within their own communities. We will hold regular oversight hearings to examine every aspect of the 2010 census to make sure the bureau stays on track and is working with its partners to reduce the undercount. Finally, we will closely monitor the selection and appointment of the next census director."

11:29 a.m.: Handheld Computer Demonstration: The Eye just got a demonstration of the handheld computers that address canvassers will use to verify each address nationwide. We'll try posting video of the demonstration later.

10:54 a.m.: Partner With Us: Here's a link to "Partner With Us," the online home for the bureau's partners. It includes all the tools any group would need to help the bureau get the word out and boost participation.

10:24 a.m.: Media Partners: Representatives from BET, World Journal (North America's largest Asian publication) and Univision, Telemundo and Azteca America have presented or hinted at their plans to talk up the Census among their niche audiences. Telemundo President Donald Browne showed the audience his network's "Hazte Contar" campaign, while Azteca's Armando Guzman showed off his network's "Porque tu vales – dejates contar" campaign -- both designed to increase trust and participation in the Census. Nielsen's Don Lowery reminded the crowd of the Census' big impact on corporate America: "Without the Census, there is no Nielsen. It’s vitally important to us," he said, since Nielsen ratings data is based on Census data about American households.

9:40 a.m.: Who's in Attendance?: Representatives from media companies including BET, Univision, National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Nielsen Company and Fundacion Azteca America that will help spread the word through public service announcements and other efforts; representatives from national organizations including Goodwill Industries, Asian American Justice Center, National Congress of American Indians, Voto Latino and NAACP, who will also spread the word among their members.

9:35 a.m.: Address Canvassing Starts Next Week: Census Associate Director Arnold Jackson reminds the crowd that next week "We will begin to deploy 140,000 field workers to conduct address canvassing," meaning the bureau "will utilize the 150 offices we’ve opened and the millions of dollars of technology and infrastructure we have bought and tested all rolls out.”

Jackson tells the crowd that "We have one year to convince populations that may approach 18 to 20 percent who are cynical about the Census that this is a good thing to do. That’s where you come in. I’m sure that you know better than I that there are respondents who are easy to count. There are others who just need a little awareness. However it’s the 18 to 20 percent who probably don’t want to participate that we will only reach with your assistance."

The bureau will publish census guides in 59 languages. Bilingual questionnaires (English and Spanish) will be mailed to 13 million households.

“A superb census will come about only if we get to those who today, don’t plan to participate," Jackson said.

9:20 a.m.: Gary Locke's First Public Appearance: The commerce secretary made his first appearance as commerce secretary here this morning, saying he arrived in Washington from Seattle at 3 a.m.

“Instead of going to the Department of Commerce this morning, I came here,” he said to applause. “This is my very first stop in my official duty as secretary of commerce.”

"We’re going to make sure that the Census Bureau has the independent leadership it deserves and the professional oversight that Americans demand," Locke told the crowd at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.

Locke stressed that the bureau depends on volunteer organizations, including the various corporations and civil rights groups gathered today to learn more about next year's plans.

"Any information collected by the Census Bureau is absolutely confidential," he reminded attendees. "Please let people know that the 2010 Census is very simple. 2010: ten questions, ten minutes. Completing the census form will be very very easy. For every Census form returned in the mail, it will save the federal government more money down the road."

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 30, 2009; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Overheard  
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