[Mike in the News], [Recent Posts]
La Prensa - December 27, 2009
State Representative Mike Villarreal
It's easy, important and safe. That's what the Census Bureau wants you to know about next year's count of everyone living in the U.S. I couldn't agree more.
Next March, we should all receive census questionnaires at our homes. There are just 10 simple questions to answer. The following month, Census Bureau workers will begin to visit households that have not responded by mail.
Taking a few minutes to respond is easy, and it means a lot for our communities and our state. Since the last census 10 years ago, the population of our state -- and South Texas in particular -- has boomed.
That means we will receive more federal funding and more power in Washington, provided everyone is counted.
If we succeed, the federal government will send us back more of our tax dollars to invest in job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, emergency services and much more. As a member of the Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, I see many worthy investments from funding pre-kindergarten for more students to training more RN's. An accurate census will bring us more funding to make these kind of investments in ourselves.
Additionally, Texas will likely gain three or four more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The exact number -- and which communities gain the extra congressional clout -- will depend on the census results.
The census is also safe, especially if you keep a few things in mind. All census workers carry official government badges marked with just their name. Feel free to ask them for another picture ID to confirm their identity. Private information they collect is never published or even shared with other government agencies. They will never ask to enter a respondent's home, request a Social Security number, or inquire about legal status.
With the questionnaires coming soon, and so much at stake, we need to get to work to encourage Texans to participate. I have called on the Governor to establish a Complete Count Committee for the state, as 18 other states and many Texas cities have done.
I have also encouraged our state agencies to include census information when they talk to Texas residents. In particular, state agencies should capitalize on existing communications with the "hard to count" populations identified by the Census Bureau, including the elderly, children, minorities, renters and low-income individuals. For example, census information could be included with materials that the Health and Human Services Commission already mails to participants in public assistance programs.
I also urge local leaders and civic organizations to think about what role they might play in spreading the message about the census. The Census Bureau has prepared a number of resources and materials for outreach partners to download from its website, http://2010.census.gov/partners/
We all want to make sure our communities can prosper and accommodate a growing population over the next decade. Now we have an easy, important and safe way to take a step in that direction.
State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) is the Vice Chair of the House Committee on Redistricting. More information is available on his website, www.mikevillarreal.com.