Dennis Johnson is Kansas City regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. The region comprises Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas. 

Dennis Johnson is Kansas City regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. The region comprises Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas. 

 

1 What’s the biggest challenge for your office between now and Census Day, April 1?

The biggest challenge I see is in the form of education and motivation. The census process is reliant upon the cooperation of each resident to fill their census form and return it, or to cooperate with our local census takers. Our challenge is to communicate the importance of the census to every community and every resident so that they will willingly take part in this critical process.

2 This year’s form has just 10 questions. Why?

The primary reason is to get back to our roots of providing a complete and accurate population count for the nation, for each state and for every community. The short 10-question form will provide that information while keeping the time commitment short for each resident. Information that used to be collected on the 10-year census such as employment, poverty, and education-related topics is now collected by other methods such as the American Community Survey.

3 What if I fail to send in the form?

If we do not receive a form back from a resident by late April we will enlist the help of local census takers to visit those residents during May through July. We are currently recruiting thousands of census takers throughout Missouri and Kansas to help their neighbors be counted so that each community receives its fair share of representation and funding.

4 Why does the government need to do this?

There are three primary reasons:
1) For equitable representation in the federal, state, and local government. The number of representatives and the areas they serve are determined by the population of each state and each community.
2) $400 billion of federal funds are distributed to states and local governments based on census data each year.
3) The information generated by the census is used by government, business, faith-based organizations, schools and many other institutions for 10 years to plan, implement and monitor programs.

5 The country is getting bigger, and technology is getting better. So is the job getting easier or harder?

Some aspects of the job are easier, for example, technology allows us to communicate to our co-workers and partners quickly and efficiently. We have nearly real-time tracking of our progress and performance. On the other hand, we have a whole new generation of residents who are not familiar with the census and why it is important. Some of these folks are from different parts of the world where “census” and other government activities are not as safe and are not always positive. The process of educating and overcoming the fears of many residents continues to be a great challenge. The proliferation and use of the Internet by most residents is a blessing and a curse. The Internet is helpful to disseminate information about the census, but it can also be used to distribute false or misleading bits of information. Our goal is to make sure that all residents have access to helpful and accurate information and that everyone has the opportunity to be counted in 2010.