I was mildly surprised to find myself speaking at a Census Bureau event this morning. I was on a panel with Congressman Mike Castle and State Representative Joe Miro. I'm glad I wore my best tie.
The event was an Open House to celebrate the opening of the Local Census Office in New Castle County. This is the office from which Census preparations, and the actual 2010 Census count, will be run in Delaware.
I had not expected to speak. The Executive Director of the First State Community Action Agency was on the agenda, but she was not able to make the drive all the way north this morning due to the weather. I was planning to attend to show the flag for the Office of Management and Budget and in my role as head of the Census State Data Center program in Delaware.
I found out on arrival that they needed someone to speak from a local perspective so I "winged it," based on my knowledge of the Census and on some examples of Census data usage that I had pulled together for the other speaker.
It is interesting, if a little scary, to step up to a podium without having prepared much; I suppose it's what the politicians do all the time.
I decided to speak from my own experience of almost twenty years in state government. In all of those years, I've needed and used Census data. I can't see doing much of the work that I have done in Delaware without that data. The Bureau rightly points to the millions of federal and state dollars that are apportioned among different communities based on Census data. That alone is reason enough to want a complete and accurate count and for local government leaders to encourage their constituents to "be counted." But for many of us at the worker-bee level, Census data are more than just guides for federal spending; they are the information that we have to have in order to serve the people.
I didn't speak long, and I probably made some fumbles and stumbles, but it's nice to know that when I have a subject I know, and care about, I can get up and make a statement that doesn't leave me blushing with too much shame. In fact, part of what I had to say was used in the WDEL report on the event.
The News Journal was on hand as well, talking to the new Office's staff and learning about the new handheld computers that Census workers will use. The publisher of the bilingual newspaper El Tiempo Hispano was there as well. There may have been other media; if there were, I missed them.