Good morning. Thank you for joining me today to discuss an issue of great importance the City of Atlanta… Census 2010
My fellow Atlantans, the 2010 Census is a powerful tool that will have a direct impact on every neighborhood in this City. The data collected through the Census will help give us insight into who we are and what we need to continue to prosper and thrive. We need every single person in Atlanta to accurately answer the Census form and help shape the future for our City, possibly, for generations to come.
An accurate Census count helps ensure that Atlanta receives its fair share of more than $400 billion in federal funds to provide our residents and business-owners with the quality of life they expect and deserve. Census data helps leaders – like the members of the Atlanta City Council and the Fulton County Commission – make decisions about where to allocate resources. It helps elected officials plan for schools, adequate housing, better roads, public transportation and health care and medical services. It helps determine what services are needed for working families, our children and seniors.
The Census also helps us understand who we are as a City. We are a city rooted in the rich historical legacy of the American South, and we are a diverse, international, cosmopolitan melting pot. As you know, people in our great nation often move from one city or community in the pursuit of new opportunities: better schools, better jobs, a chance for a better life. People from other countries are also drawn to Atlanta for these same reasons.
These shifts in population must be tracked to ensure we have the necessary political representation. The Census results help determine how many seats states will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and help draw districts for the state legislature. That’s why it is essential that everyone in Atlanta – both citizens and noncitizens – participate and be counted in the Census.
Recognizing the critical need for an accurate Census count, many other states have poured considerable resources into helping local counties and cities spread the word about the importance of full participation. I have made an accurate Census count a top priority of my administration and want to share with you how I will be working with elected officials, community and faith-based leaders, and grassroots organizations across the City to make sure that happens.
Today marks the first day of the “Atlanta Counts” campaign. For the next eight weeks, I along with a broad-based coalition of Atlantans, will visiting and reaching out to citizens in neighborhoods across the City - from Buckhead to East Atlanta to Cascade - to make sure everyone in the City knows about and feels comfortable participating in Census 2010.
I’ll be talking to residents at town hall and neighborhood planning meetings, and at their places of worship about the importance of the Census. Working with city council members, county commissioners, state legislators and a host of community and business leaders, we’ll be providing information and answering questions at those meetings.
We have also created a “Complete Count Committee” – comprised of Atlantans from across the City who have volunteered to help us ensure an accurate account. Some of these folks are here today, and I want to personally thank them for their service to our City.
Make no mistake – I know that getting an accurate Census count with limited resources will be a tough challenge. That’s why I have committed to personally raising funds to help with this effort.
I know that for many people in our City, the Census may seem like another government form that comes around every 10 years. And many people – especially those new to our city or country – may have concerns or fears about speaking to a Census official or filling out the form. Due to a “crisis of trust” in government, it will be a challenge to get some people to feel safe enough to participate.
That’s why we’ll be working with partners like the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and Center for Pan-Asian Community Services to make sure that everyone in Atlanta understands that by law, the Census Bureau can NOT share the information it collects with any other government agency. We’ll be going from neighborhood to neighborhood to explain that all Census bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the information they collect or face fines up to $250,000, imprisonment, or both.
We’ll be partnering with the faith leaders in our community, who provide spiritual guidance and hope to our residents and have earned the trust of their members through years of neighborhood outreach. My partners in this effort and I will be personally visiting mosques, synagogues and working with faith-based leaders in our community like Rev. Jim Ellison of Atlanta 1st United Methodist Church, Rev. Eric Thomas of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church and Rev. Winston Cobb of Cobb Christian Ministries to make sure their congregations hear the word about the Census.
The Atlanta Counts campaign will be a partnership among government, business leaders, faith-based groups and grassroots organizations who, through their results-oriented work in our communities, have earned the trust of some of our City’s most vulnerable members. For example, we’ll be working with an array of homeless services providers, including the Gateway Center, to make sure every person in Atlanta is counted, including those who’ve lost their homes dues to a recent job loss or illness. Our grassroots efforts will seek to reach those in our City’s hardest-to-count Census tracts.
We’ll be reaching out to our City’s talented, future leaders. We know that many of our local students – from Georgia Tech to Georgia State to the Atlanta University Center – get their information online and from social media sites. That’s why, today, we’ve launched www.atlcensus2010.org. And we’ll be using channels like Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with Atlanta on the ground level during our Atlanta Counts campaign.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the important role of our friends in the media in this effort, because getting the word out to citizens about the Atlanta Counts campaign is critical to its overall success. I am grateful for your presence today and continued interest in covering Census 2010.
In order for Atlanta to obtain the resources it so vitally needs, we must all play our part in the Atlanta Counts 2010 Census campaign. Please let your family, friends, co-workers and community members know about the Census and encourage them to participate. A brighter future for the City of Atlanta will be our reward for making sure that “Atlanta Counts.”
Thank you for your time today. Now, I am going to ask Ruthie Arnette with the U.S. Census Bureau to say a few words about some important dates pertaining to the Census.