Anaheim has recruited a diverse group of citizens--from mobile food vendors to religious leaders to doctors--in a grass-roots effort to ensure that this year's U.S. Census counts most of its citizens.
For every resident counted, Anaheim will receive about $2,000 over the next 10 years. In the past, the money has been used to fund school projects, community center constructions, road improvements, library projects and graffiti removal.
Anaheim is paying particular attention to advertising the census and its importance because officials believe Anaheim's residents were undercounted in 1990. It is estimated that the count was off by about 7,300 people, translating into about a $1.5-million loss in state and federal funds.
For this year's census, the city has invested $106,000 into averting a similar slip-up.
They've hired a public relations agency and produced public service announcements and fliers in Spanish and English. Pencils and posters carry the census message: "Your community is counting on you." But perhaps most importantly, the city has recruited about 30 community leaders to help out with the effort.
With census forms being mailed out next week, and with the April 1 Census Day deadline looming, leaders have proven essential, said Mary McCloskey, Anaheim's deputy planning director. They helped brainstorm how to reach Anaheim's diverse population and, more recently, have begun to get the message out.
"We're very bullish on getting an accurate count," said Amin David, president of Los Amigos, a group made up of Latino activists. David said Latinos fear providing the Census Bureau with personal information that could be misused or handed over to immigration authorities. But Latinos were undercounted in 1990, and David said he doesn't want that to happen again.
Los Amigos has recruited volunteers and begun educating leaders in the Latino community. A doctor who runs a medical clinic, union representatives and local food vendors have all begun handing out fliers assuring residents the INS cannot access their personal information.
Linda Dunlap is organizing another group anticipated to pose a challenge: Anaheim's motel residents. Dunlap worries that many motel residents will get missed because they don't have permanent addresses. She plans on targeting 10 motels by handing out promotional material and fliers in the coming weeks.
The Census Bureau in Fullerton has also said it will make census forms available for those who don't receive one in the mail.
Jimmy Gaston, minister of Christ's Church, has run workshops training other community and religious leaders, but he also plans to take the message to his own congregation.
"It's absolutely important," Gaston said. "It's like giving a $2,000 gift for filling out a form."