The effort to mobilize an accurate 2010 national census came to San Francisco today.

San Francisco City Hall–and the Golden Gate Bridge earlier this morning–were the first steps on the U.S. Census Bureau’s road trip through the western states, designed to encourage participation and dispel worries residents may have about providing personal information to federal authorities.

A colorful noontime ceremony at City Hall included multicultural dance and drum troupes, and exhortations from Census Bureau and city officials asking residents to fill out and return a 10-question survey that will be mailed beginning in mid-March.

Census Bureau employees will be going door-to-door starting in May to try to count those who don’t respond by mail.

The answers will be used for a wide variety of purposes, including redrawing legislative districts and distributing billions in federal and state funds across the country.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu called it “an incredibly important campaign.”
City officials have claimed 100,000 San Franciscans were left out of the previous census in 2000, costing the city $30 million a year in federal funding.

“We are going to make sure that that does not happen again,” Chiu said.

Supervisor David Campos said it is often the “most vulnerable” residents in need of federal assistance that are the most likely not to be counted.

Campos insisted there is “no risk” to any person, including undocumented immigrants, in responding to the census.

By law, the Census Bureau is not allowed to share personal information with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement.

U.S. Census Bureau Regional Director Ralph Lee said the 10 census questions were “safe” and “easy” and would take about 10 minutes to complete.

Lee acknowledged that there were challenges to an accurate count in large urban environments with multiethnic populations such as San Francisco.

“What we strive for is 100 percent,” Lee said.

According to Adrienne Pon, director of the SF Complete Count Committee, the latest estimate for San Francisco’s population–based on 2008 data–is 808,976.

The SF Complete Count Committee, appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, is collaborating with the Census Bureau in getting the word out about the upcoming census.

Pon said her group is projecting about 810,000 residents this year, and she hopes to get them all to respond.

“Everybody’s got to take responsibility for getting their voice heard,” Pon said.

For more information on the 2010 census, visit www.2010census.gov.

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