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Town Square

Which one of us is 'Person 1'?

Original post made by dolores ciardelli, editor of Danville Express, on Apr 1, 2010

The 2010 Census is being tallied today - and that's no joke. "The Census must count every person living in the United States on April 1, 2010," read my form. Today the Danville Express received a report that national participation mailing back the Census was 52 percent and seven of the nine Bay Area counties hit that mark, with San Francisco and Alameda falling below. Now the census workers have to make personal calls on those households that didn't return their forms.

I would like to make a suggestion for the 2020 Census. Put a due date on the envelope. When I receive bills I open them to see if the amount looks right, if it's PG&E I immediately turn off the heater/air conditioner, then I make note of the due date, and set the bill aside to be paid later.

Yes, I still have my bills snail-mailed to me, and, yes, I still handwrite a check, put it into an envelope with a stamp, and drop it into a mailbox. I'm doing my part to keep U.S. Postal workers employed. It has come to my attention that younger folks do all of their bill-paying online, and many do not even know what a "check register" is. But I enjoy sitting at my kitchen island once a week with a cup of tea, gazing out at the garden, and communicating with my utility companies, etc.

The Census envelope warned in huge lettering "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW" but it didn't say when. The "message from the Director, U.S. Census Bureau" asked me to "Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today." But that was rather vague. I need a deadline; that's why I went into journalism. The message went on to tell me how important the Census is, which I fully understand. The results decide the number of representative each state has in Congress, plus they determine allocations for children, the elderly, road and other needs.

I think each of us should be required to answer more questions. If you're going to go to all of the trouble to do a Census of every single person living in the United States and make it a law to respond, then why miss this opportunity to really get a handle on the population? Here was a chance to ask each and every household things like, oh, I don't know, perhaps how many televisions they own, how many miles they drive a week, if they believe in universal healthcare, or if they give a blankity-blank about Sandra Bullock's cheating husband. Then we wouldn't have to depend on polls.

Of course Libertarians are already opposed to the basic data being collected by the Census. Although it only asks for sex, race or ethnicity, names and ages of people in a household, if you own your home and contact information, they feel this is TMI and urged people to just fill out the number of people in the household and send it back.

The main problem I saw with the Census was the numbering of people in a household. A choice had to be made as to who is Person 1, Person 2, Person 3, etc., all the way down to Person 12. I live in a two-person household so the Census took even less than the estimated 10 minutes to fill out. However, at least one of those minutes was spent musing over whether my husband or I were "Person 1."

Jim is a year older than I am so perhaps he is Person 1. Our utility bills are under his name. But our magazines are addressed to me, even the Economist although he usually reads it more thoroughly. I think I know how my mother would have filled it out. I definitely know how my father would have filled it out. I didn't want to hurt Jim's feelings by relegating him to the Person 2 position. But alphabetically, by first name, I am Person 1. After deliberating all these twists and turns I finally decided that since I was the one filling out the form, I was Person 1. Although, wouldn't it have been more polite to put the other person first? Too late.

The Census forms and instructions carried telephone numbers and addresses to contact with questions as well as the Web site [Web Link www.census.gov/2010census] to learn more about it, including the privacy policy and date protection.

What I like best about the Census was the fact that the form could not be filled out online - it had to be done with a pen, then put into an envelope and mailed. Sitting in my kitchen looking out at the garden.

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