Ten questions will determine how much funding Pleasanton will receive for social services and transportation, whether or not a business decides to invest locally and will help city leaders shape policies to serve their constituencies.
The questions comprise the 2010 Census and will be mailed out here and across the country in March. The U.S. Census Bureau has been preparing for the big count, which only happens once each decade, for some time, and a local office representing Alameda County was opened in October in Pleasanton.
Community representatives, faith leaders and elected officials gathered ths week at the office, located off Koll Center Parkway, celebrating the Pleasanton office with an open house, where the importance of all community representatives working together to get the word out was emphasized.
Karen Koistinen, who is the manager of the Pleasanton office, said this is one of the largest civilian efforts conducted by the federal government other than a military operation.
"It's mandated in our Constitution to be done once every 10 years," she said. "It wouldn't take more than 10 minutes to complete and it can be mailed back or dropped off. It's one of the simplest forms we've had in many, many years."
"It means a tremendous amount to the community," Koistinen continued. "This is how federal funding is allocated to every community across the United States. So think of any federally funded program -- No Child Left Behind, school lunches, the funding for community roads, improvements, developments -- this is all how it is allocated. It's very important for our congressional districts as well. They will redraw the district lines based on population."
While many residents are expected to fill out the form, there are bound to be some people who won't -- either because they don't recognize the importance or out of fear. Lia Bolden, a senior partnership specialist with the Census Bureau, said some residents won't want to fill out a form for fear the government will find out they have too many people living in one home.
County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who is the chair of the Alameda County Complete Count Committee and gave some remarks at the open house, said he used to be one of those people who was afraid to fill out the form because he didn't want his personal information being shared, but he recognizes the importance of it now.
"This is safe," Haggerty said. "People can be counted even if they are recent immigrants. A total of $2,200 per year is given each year for every person counted. So, if you miss 500 people, that's $1 million."
Census data is also a driver of business to a local region. Companies often look to demographics to decide where to open a new store, Koistinen said.
Just as important as the financial implications is the social effect.
Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti used city parks and programs as an example. It was through Census data that the city realized it needed to provide not just baseball and soccer fields for residents but also courts for cricket, a popular game played in India, he said. Data also showed offering Tai Chi classes would be an interest to Dublin's growing Asian population.
To carry out the Census count in the local area, 50 workers are currently staffed at the Pleasanton office and Koistinen said 1,200 people will be hired in March to visit homes and collect Census information from those who didn't mail back their form. The form is expected to arrive in mailboxes between March 15 and 17.
The count is expected to create a number of temporary positions. Most of the field assignments, according to Koistinen, pay $22 per hour and range from 20 to 40 hours a week. Workers will also strive to reach populations who are challenging to count such as the homeless, people living in nursing homes and those incarcerated in prison.
Once the forms are collected, they will be sent to a national processing center and the goal is to present the data to President Obama by Dec. 31, Koistinen said. The data will then be posted on the Census Bureau website for the public to view, as is done currently with the 2000 Census.
The Tri-Valley Complete Count Committee (representing the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore to work with the Census on local outreach) is hosting a meeting from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday at the Shannon Center in Dublin, 11600 Shannon Ave. The meeting is for faith-based groups, social and health agencies, and other nonprofit organizations that interface with hard-to-count constituencies in Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton.