My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘Denver Post’

Public locked out of Census meeting in Denver

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Earlier this week, we reported that the media was locked out of 2010 Census-related meetings with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Now, The Denver Post reports that the public was locked out of the same meetings. For an organization trying to build its public visibility (and spending hundreds of millions of your tax dollars to do so), this makes little sense. Here’s the scoop from The Denver Post’s staff editorial:

We couldn’t help but notice the irony surrounding actions of new Commerce Secretary Gary Locke when he was in Denver last week for a meeting.

The secretary, speaking to a group that is working to raise public awareness about the importance of the 2010 census, actually closed the meeting to the public.

Sounds pretty counterproductive, if you ask us.

All but the opening 10 minutes of the gathering was off-limits to outsiders, ostensibly so committee members, appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper, would feel comfortable in speaking their minds.

Surely, there was a better way to solicit candid remarks than by shutting off access during a publicized visit by the commerce secretary.

Frankly, Locke’s visit was the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the very important but, sorry to say, unsexy issue of the 2010 census.

Opportunity lost.

Among the goals of Denver’s 2010 Census Complete County Committee: Achieve a 75 percent return rate of mailed surveys. Make every city resident aware of the census. And ensure every Denverite knows that information they provide the census will be kept confidential.

They are laudable goals. And there are some other good things going on where the 2010 census is concerned.

In a Q&A with The Washington Post published last week, Locke defused a couple of inflammatory issues by ruling out the use of sampling or estimating, in coming up with counts.

He also offered assurances that the count, which is integral to apportioning congressional seats, would not be politicized.

Furthermore, Locke talked about how the census would target specific populations, such as Hispanics or Vietnamese, and send them surveys in their native tongue in an effort to boost participation.

These are all positive developments. Too bad the commerce secretary didn’t see fit to let the people of metro Denver in on them.

Closing the doors on the media…

Friday, May 8th, 2009

One major problem with the U.S. Census Bureau is its extremely unfriendly attitude toward the media, which has more likely done much more harm than good. Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke kicked off a public relations tour with closed-door meetings, including one in Denver:

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke came to Denver on Wednesday to meet with the group charged with raising public awareness about the upcoming census and closed the session to the public and media.

Locke said he wanted to allow Denver’s 2010 Census Complete Count Committee to be frank about their problems and concerns.

“I just wanted to hear straight from them, as candidly as possible, their assessment of how things were going,” Locke told The Denver Post after the 45-minute meeting at the main Denver Public Library.

The committee was formed this year to develop a public-awareness campaign for the April 2010 census. It includes city government officials and community leaders.

“This is more of a briefing for the secretary to get a sense of where things are in Denver,” Kimball said. “So it’s not necessarily a big promotional event to draw attention to what’s going on.”

During his opening remarks, Locke talked about some of the national problems the census faces next year. He said independent reports have found hand-held computers malfunctioning and concerns that the bureau has not had time for dress rehearsals to uncover potential roadblocks.Locke blamed the previous Republican administration for the problems.

However, he told the group that Colorado appears to be in better shape than most states.

The media were allowed in the meeting for the first 10 minutes while Mayor John Hickenlooper introduced Locke to the committee and Locke made opening remarks.

After the remarks, the media were escorted out. Eric Brown, Hickenlooper’s spokesman, said the Commerce Department made the decision to close the meeting.

Locke was available for questions after the session.

Locke told The Post that committee members “were very complimentary of the collaboration between the regional office of the Census Bureau as well as local and state governments.”

Before the meeting began, The Post questioned why it was closed to the media.

Commerce Department spokesman Nick Kimball said the decision to keep it private did not conflict with the Census Bureau’s attempts to publicize the 2010 census.

Security supervisor Lorna McDermott controls entry to the meeting. The media were invited to cover opening remarks, and Locke answered questions afterward.