Census to count on your help

U.S. census officials are seeking the help of the county and cities as the federal government prepares for its decennial push to count everyone in the country.

More than $400 billion is at stake nationwide as a result of the census — $4 trillion over 10 years. Money is apportioned according to population.

More than money is involved, according to the bureau. Census data about who lives where gives local governments information that helps them make decisions, such as where to build schools, hospitals and roads.

In addition, census information dictates redistricting, from congressional districts to county supervisor districts. Boundary chan-ges would not take effect until after the 2010 elections.

Michael Rodriguez of the Census Bureau told the county Board of Supervisors this week that the federal government wishes to work with local governments.

Supervisors agreed to help “raise overall awareness and ensure a full and accurate census” by setting up a Web site and generally promoting outreach, among other things.

The form for citizens to fill out this year is shorter, with 10 questions ranging from name and address to race.

Eric Greening, a resident who often speaks at supervisors’ meetings, objected to the inclusion of a racial category on the census form. He called it a “hidebound concept.”

“It doesn’t sit right to ask people those sorts of questions,” Greening said. The racial category of “other,” he added, “seems like an insult.”

Supervisor Frank Mecham agreed. “The way I answer all these is ‘American.’ ”

Karen Swack of the census says it will be testing for about 500 new positions for San Luis Obispo County in December and January, with the majority of the hiring taking place in the spring.

“We want to canvass every neighborhood,” Rodriguez said.

Nationally, the bureau expects to employ 150,000 people for the count.

Interested individuals can obtain additional information on www.2010censusjobs.gov or call 866-861-2010.