Pictured (from left to right): San Rafael Councilmember Kate Colin, Kristin Drumm (Senior Planner with the County of Marin), Cristine Alilovich (Assistant City Manager with the City of San Rafael), and Stephanie McNally (Strategic Initiatives Manager with the Canal Alliance)
What I’m Listening to – Local Natives: Dark Days (this song was on my Your Top Songs 2018 playlist on Spotify; I didn’t know I had listened to it so much)
What I’m Reading – El Llano en Llamas by Juan Rulfo (a collection of short stories by one of my favorite Mexican authors)
Today’s Buzz was inspired by ELGL Board Member Dan Weinheimer’s post about serving on the state of Colorado’s Complete Count Campaign Committee and ELGL new member Maria Garcia’s profile (she’s the Director for Census 2020 at the City of Los Angeles). These folks, like me, are working on preparing for the 2020 U.S. Census.
What’s the Census?
The Census is important–but so what? What exactly is the Census? And why is it important? Simply put, it’s a count of all people who reside in the United States. To be more technical, it is a decennial count of the population of the United States, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Carried out by the U.S. Census Bureau, the data collected by the Census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment) and is also used to distribute federal funds to local communities (shout out to CDBG). This data is also used locally in determining County districts, City Council districts/wards, school districts, and other boundaries.
The U.S. Census Bureau typically coordinates with state and local governments on various initiatives to ensure an accurate and complete Census count. In turn, state governments work with local governments (special district, counties, cities, etc.) to coordinate those efforts as well. While some states may be more engaged than others (I’m looking at you, California, Hawaii, Illinois, and Minnesota), governments across the U.S. are getting ready for Census Day on April 1, 2020. Here’s a general timeline from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighting Census activities and goals:
Census in Marin County
This past Friday, March 8, 2019, Marin County celebrated (yes, we celebrated) a kick-off of the Marin Complete Count Committee (Marin CCC), a local complete count committee jointly organized by the County of Marin, City of San Rafael, and the Canal Alliance (a local non-profit organization that supports our marginalized Hispanic/Latino community in San Rafael). The purpose of this committee is to organize, coordinate, and manage outreach efforts relating to all things Census 2020. The kick-off meeting was well-attended (I think). We had about 50 representatives from across Marin County who represented all kinds of communities, groups, subjects, interests, geographic areas, etc. These included the following: businesses, children aged 0 to 5, community-based organizations (or non-profit organizations), education, hard-to-count communities, homeless, law enforcement, legislature, libraries, media, neighborhood associations, older adults, people with disabilities, transportation, and others. Here’s a high-level breakdown of what the Marin CCC organizational structure will look like:
Through the leadership and guidance from my Assistant City Manager, the City has taken a lead role in ensuring the success of the Marin CCC. I’m one of the designated persons working on project management (day-to-day administration and operations) and I’m fortunate to have the help of peers at City Hall, as well as our partners from the County of Marin and Canal Alliance.
While Census outreach efforts are intended to include all Marin County residents, the Marin CCC’s outreach focus will be on hard-to-count communities. In California, the state’s Department of Finance created a California-focused hard-to-count metric modeled on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Hard-to-Count Score of past censuses. The California Hard-to-Count (CA-HTC) Index is based on multiple demographic, housing and socioeconomic variables correlated with an area being difficult to enumerate. Census tracts with higher CA-HTC indexes are likely to be places that will pose significant challenges to enumerate in 2020, while tracts with lower indexes should be easier to count. Depending on the CA-HTC Index threshold used to designate a census tract as hard-to-count or not (interestingly, the California Census Office doesn’t provide one), Marin County’s hard-to-count communities are the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael, as well as Marin City, an unincorporated community in southern Marin County. These communities are also segregated from the rest of Marin County, but that’s a topic for a future conversation.
Along with the kick-off meeting, we also launched a website: https://marincensus2020.org. While us City folk set up the website, we intentionally used WordPress to encourage and empower all of our stakeholders to participate in building the website and creating its content. There’s no gatekeeper who “approves” content. We did this to create an inclusive space and a “living” website (and probably to also delegate and share the responsibility of the website). We also intentionally did not use any one government site (i.e., our official City website or the County’s official website) so as to not create a barrier between residents and “government” (because government can be scary—or so the Census says).
Now that the kick-off meeting is done and over with, the real work begins. As part of an agreement between the County of Marin and the California Census Office, the County (in coordination with all Marin County cities) is preparing a Strategic Plan that outlines Census outreach activities. In exchange for reporting requirements (including the Strategic Plan), the County will receive $100,000 from the California Census Office to spend on outreach activities. This funding is part of a statewide program, where California invested $90.3 million “toward strategies and activities that will help ensure an accurate and successful [Census] count in California.” In the coming months, we’ll be working with our community partners (including those who attended our kick-off meeting) to organize, coordinate, and manage outreach activities. These are yet to be determined; the specific activities will be identified by Outreach Strategy Subcommittees, groups that will collaborate on subject matter-specific topics. This way, these subcommittees will tackle the unique needs of our hard-to-count communities and least-likely-to-respond individuals.