John Armor
The Town The Census Forgot
By John Armor
Apr 18, 2010 - 7:10:46 AM

NORTH CAROLINA This is more or less an open letter to Robert Groves, Director of the Census Bureau.

Dear Bob,

Can I call you Bob? I feel I know you since you’ve been all over the TV explaining that the screw-ups that have occurred in your Bureau about operations and cost will all be resolved. Well. here’s another screw-up for you to put on your plate.

The Census has a rule that it will not mail Census forms to Post Office Box addresses. As a general rule, I understand and support that. There are probably more than a million people in the US who use P.O. Boxes to cheat on their spouses, run investment scams, sell useless or non-existent products on the Internet, etc. However, every rule has its exceptions.

We live in Highlands, North Carolina. The summertime population grows to about 25,000 every year. But the permanent residents are only about 3,000 Americans, plus about 500 Mexicans. Because we are a small town, the Post Office by its own rules does not deliver to anyone’s home, except a handful of folks who live so far out of town they qualify for RFD. We say they live 20 miles south of nowhere. RFD, in case you don’t know, stands for Rural Free Delivery.

After four weeks of seeing your cute but annoying ads for the Census, and not having a form sent to us, we found out by accident that we weren’t going to get any forms mailed to us because of your anti-Box rule. Now, missing 3,500 people doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

However, there are other towns just like us. Maybe you should pull out your company phone book, and look up the number for the Postmaster General. Give him a call. Ask him how many small towns there are in the nation where almost no one gets their mail delivered except to the Post Office.

If there are 1,000 such towns, then you are missing 3.5 million people. That’s a significant number. Plus, our demographics are not the same as everyone else. Half of us are retired. The other half are young people with kids, trying to make do and survive. Our town has the demographics of Brazil.

Now, I know you have hired a whole bunch of people in localities across the nation. I know you’ve hired some locals in Highlands. They are supposed to have "special knowledge" of their areas. Haven’t any of them told their supervisors about the P.O. Box problem here and elsewhere?

The alternative to mailing forms and getting them back by mail, is sending people out to every house. Again, local knowledge is your friend. Most of us live at the end of long, gravel roads. Ours, for instance, goes a half mile from the nearest paved road to our house. That’s a fur piece as we say. Only people who are lost, Jehovah’s Witnesses, workmen, UPS drivers and personal friends make that trip.

Do you have a clue how much time and money will be wasted by your Bureau to visit every house in Highlands? And you’ll have to budget for multiple visits, because all of us drive into town every day to run errands and get our mail. (Remember, it comes to the Post Office.)

Do we have addresses? Why yes, we do. So, fire, police and ambulances can reach us in emergencies, all of us have actual street addresses. I’ll bet your local people could get those from the Emergency Network. Then, you could mail our forms to the Post Office, and cross reference the reported addresses with the Emergency list.

Just trying to help you run an efficient, effective Census. And, you could have added a question on the form whether the respondents were American citizens. I have my copy of the Constitution handy, and it says the legitimate purpose of the Census "enumeration" is for reallocating the seats in Congress, every 10 years. I sort of had the impression that Members of Congress were only supposed to represent legal residents. (Except in California, and parts of a few other states.)

Cordially,

Your so-far uncounted fellow citizen at the end of a gravel road,

J. Armor, Esq.



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