THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||June 2, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
Magnolia Multi-Service Center
11:40 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you for that wonderfulwelcome, and thank you, Marta, for the wonderful work you're doinghere. I enjoyed my tour, I enjoyed shaking hands with all the folkswho work here and the people who are taking advantage of all yourservices. And I'm glad to be here.Mr. Mayor, you can be proud -- and I know you are -- proud of thiscenter and the others like it in this city.
I'd like to thank all the members of Congress who arehere from the Texas delegation, and a special thanks toRepresentatives Maloney and Sawyer for coming from Washington with metoday, and for their passionate concern to try to get an accuratecensus.
I thank the Texas Land Commissioner, Garry Mauro, forbeing here; and the members of the legislature -- Senator Gallegos,Senator Ellis, Congressman -- Representative Torres --and others, ifthey're here, the other city officials; Mr. Boney, the President ofthe City Council; Mr. Eckels, the County Executive Judge; RuebenGuerrero, the SBA regional administrator. If there are others -- Ithink our Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Mallett, is here who isfrom Houston. I thank you all for being here.
Before I say what I want to say about the census, Ithink, since this is the first time I have been to Texas since thefires began to rage in Mexico, that have affected you, if you'llforgive me, I'd like to just say a word about that. The smoke andthe haze from these fires has become a matter of serious concern forpeople in Texas and Louisiana, and other Gulf states. It has gotteneven further up into our country. And, of course, the greatest losshas been suffered by our friends and neighbors across the border inMexico. Now, we are doing everything we know to do to help -- bothto help the people of Mexico and to stem the disadvantageous sideeffects of all the smoke and haze coming up here into the UnitedStates.
I had an extended talk with President Zedillo about it.And, or course, here we had the EPA and Health and Human Services andFEMA monitoring the air quality. We're working very hard with theMexican government to help them more effectively fight these fires.We provided more than $8 million in emergency assistance to Mexicosince January, with four firefighting helicopters, an infraredimaging aircraft to detect fire hot spots, safety, communications,and other firefighting equipment for over 3,000 firefighters. Over50 experts from our federal agency have provided important technicaladvice, and tomorrow, our Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, andour AID Administrator, Brian Atwood, are going to Mexico to see thesefires firsthand and to see what else we can do in consultation withMexican officials.
I think that we will be successful, but this has been along and frustrating thing. As you probably know, we've had extendedfires over the last year in Southeast Asia as well and in SouthAmerica. This is a terrific problem that requires change inlongstanding habits on the part of many people in rural areas in alot of these countries, but it also is a function of the unusualweather conditions through which we have been living. And we'regoing to work on it.
Now, let's talk about the census. Since our nation'sfounding, the taking of the census has been mandated by theConstitution. How we have met this responsibility has changed andevolved over time as the country has grown in size and population,and as we've learned more about how to count people. Today I want totalk about the newest changes that we propose to make, and howimportant it is to your work and your community. That's why we'rehere -- so that we can put a human face on the census and itsconsequences.
We do this every 10 years. The first time we had acensus, Thomas Jefferson, who was then the Secretary of State,actually sent federal marshals out on horseback to count heads. Werelied on this system of sending workers out to count our peoplehousehold by household, person by person, for nearly two centuries.But as the population grew and people began to move more frequently,this process became increasingly both inefficient and ineffective,even as it became progressively more expensive. By the time wefinished counting, we'd have to start all over again for the nextcensus.
In 1970, therefore, we started counting people by mail.For three decades now, Americans have been asked to fill out censusforms that come in the mail and send them back for processing. Now,we know that this method, too, needs to be updated. For a variety ofreasons, millions of people -- literally millions of people -- didnot send their 1990 census form back. For the first time, the censusin 1990 was less
accurate than the one before it. Before that, the census had becomeincreasingly more accurate.
We know now that the census missed 8 million Americansliving in inner-cities and in remote rural areas. We know, too,interestingly enough, that it double-counted 4 million Americans,many of whom had the good fortune to own two homes. (Laughter.) Thenumber of people not counted in Los Angeles -- in Los Angeles alone-- was enough to fill a city as big as Tallahassee, the capital ofFlorida. The census missed 482,738 in the state of Texas; 66,748 ofthem here in Houston.
Now, if we are really going to strengthen our countryand prepare for this new century, we have to have a full and accuratepicture of who we are as a people and where we live. We rely oncensus statistics every day to determine where to build more roadsand hospitals and child care centers, and to decide which communitiesneed more federal help for Head Start or federal training programs,or for the WIC program. Marta and I just visited your WIC programhere in this center and we saw a baby being weighed and measured.The baby liked being weighed more than it liked being measured. Idon't blame him. (Laughter.)
The WIC program is just one example. The Congress, withall the fights that we've had over the last six years, we've hadpretty good success in getting a bipartisan majority to continue toput more money into the WIC program, because people know that itmakes good sense to feed babies and take care of them and provide forthem when they're young. But the funds, once appropriated, can onlyflow where they're needed if there is an accurate count of where thekids are. So, ironically, no matter how much money we appropriatefor WIC, unless we actually can track where the children are, theprogram will be less than fully successful.
Now, more than half of the under-counted in the lastcensus were children. A disproportionate number of under-countedAmericans were minorities. That means some of our most vulnerablepopulations routinely are omitted when it comes time to providingfederal funds for critical services. An inaccurate census distortsour understanding of the needs of our people, and in many respects,therefore, it diminishes the quality of life not only for them, butfor all the rest of us as well.
That's why we have to use the most up-to-date,scientific, cost-effective methods to conduct an accurate census.That's why -- to go back to what Congressman Green said -- we shouldfollow the National Academy of Sciences' recommendations to usestatistical sampling in the next census.
Scientists and statisticians are nearly unanimous insaying that statistical sampling is the best way to get a full andfair count of our people for the 2000 census. It is estimated thatif we use good statistical sampling, supplemented by what are calledquality checks, where you go out into selectedneighborhoods and actually count heads to make sure that the samplingis working, that we can cut the error rate to a tenth of a percent,or that, in the next sample we would miss, out of a country of nearly300 million people by then, only 300,000, as opposed to 8 million inthe 1990 census.
Now, as far as I know, nobody in this room had anythingto do with coming up with this proposal. All of us just want anaccurate count. Whatever the count is, wherever the people are, thisis not a political issue, this is an American issue. But the peoplewho know what they're doing tell us that this is the way we should doit. There is no serious dispute among the experts here.
It is, therefore, I think, quite unfortunate that somein Congress have so vociferously opposed sampling, because improvingthe census shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's not about politics,it's about people. (Applause.) It's about making sure everyAmerican really and literally counts. It's about gathering fair andaccurate information that we absolutely have to have if we're goingto determine who we are and what we have to do to prepare all ourpeople for the 21st century.
In Texas, I would think every Republican would be justas interested as every Democrat in seeing that every Texan is countedso that this state does not lose another billion dollars, or maybetwo or three billion dollars by then, in under-counting in ways thatwill help you to meet the challenge of your growing population and toseize the opportunities that are out there for all of you.
So that's what we're here for. And all the folks onthis panel, I want to thank them in advance for their willingness tobe here, because I'm basically just going to listen to them now, giveyou what I hope will be a fuller picture of what the consequences ofthis whole census issue are in very stark, clear human terms. Butremember, it's not a political issue, it's a people issue. Nobodyhas got an ax to grind for any method; we should all want the mostaccurate method. And when it's all said and done, all we should wantis to have everyone of us properly, accurately, fairly andconstitutionally counted.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Well, as I said earlier, everybody here, around thispanel, has a different perspective on the importance of the census.And I would like to hear some specific illustrations now about howthe census is used and why the accuracy is important. And maybe weshould start with Dr. Craven and with Dr. Kendrick -- if you couldstart.
DR. CRAVEN: Hi, I'm Dr. Judith Craven and I'm Presidentof the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast here in Houston. We're a75 year-old organization. We're the fourth largest in the country interms of dollars raised, last year raising over $64.6 million, todeliver back to the community for health and human services.
Traditionally, we have been one of the major funders ofcommunity planning and analysis. And it's essential, as we try andleverage that $64 million that we raised, to be able to go back tonot-for-profits, to complement for the government as funding, that wehave accurate data in order to distribute those dollars to those thatare most in need -- and in a fair and equitable way.
In addition to that, we're very concerned about how thecommunity looks so that we can be able to deliver the very bestservices possible to meet the uniqueness of each one of thosecommunities, whether it has to deal with language, culture,background, a whole understanding of what the needs are in ourcommunity.
THE PRESIDENT: So this is very important because -- sowhat you're saying is, when United Way funds are distributed,private funds --
DR. CRAVEN: That's correct.
THE PRESIDENT: -- you need the census, first of all, totell you where the problems are, and secondly, to know how much togive.
DR. CRAVEN: How much to give and how we can leveragewhat's already being done by the government, and making sure thatgovernment dollars have come in an equitable amount to leverage andmaximize the resources here to deliver those services.
THE PRESIDENT: This is an important point because it'ssomething you almost never hear, that because of work of United Waysall over America, and because of the way they work, and because ofthe generosity of the American people, if the census is inaccurate,it has an indirect, bad effect on private investment in people, incommunity needs, as well as on government investment.
DR. DESVIGNES-KENDRICK: Yes, good morning, I'm MarydesVignes-Kendrick, Houston Health Director and the immediate pastpresident of The National Association of County and City HealthOfficials, which represents 3,000 local health departments throughoutthe country. By boss is Mayor Lee Brown, and he did say it was okayfor me to be here today. (Laughter.) And he didn't ask me to tellhim what I was going to say, so I do appreciate that.
Mr. President, as a pediatrician who provides servicesin this clinic to young children and also in seven other clinicsthroughout the city, when I see patients, it is understanding thatthey live within a community where the nutritional issues,educational issues, financial issues, and environmental issues willimpact their health.
Accurate census data is critical to public health. Itis not possible for us to do public health without it. It gives usthe denominators for calculating birth rates, death rates, diseaseincidents and prevalence within the community. So any national,state, or local data that you hear about, such as the adolescentbirth rate has decreased by X percent -- this is generally based ondenominators supplied by the census. For us to target interventionsin a population, to know whether we're having any impact, to measurethat impact, it is very important to have accurate census data.
Within the cities we measure birth, death, and diseaseoutcomes. We are able to say five years ago the death rate fromrespiratory diseases was this, now it is this. We are able to lookat the level of appropriately immunized children now compared withseveral years ago. The same thing with TB, AIDS. We use this datafor us to identify where to place our school-linked clinics, where tohave increased family planning or prenatal care services. And thiscommunity is one of the communities where, as with our other clinicsand multi-service centers, we use this data to make decisions on howto use resources.
We use data regarding where our medically indigent arelocated within our community so that we can target resources. We usethe child poverty rates for Texas and for Houston also, because weknow that access issues, we know that nutrition issues, whetherindividuals are going to school or not because of fear -- we use thatkind of information to target what we do.
Assessing racial disparities in health, socioeconomicstatus factors, environmental issues, and also looking atoccupational disease, injury, and disability. And also somethingthat the Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did,which was very helpful for us in public health, was they began forone of the first times to include real public health categories inthe day-to-day collected, so that also allows us to assess work forcecapacities.
We certainly use census data for sampling frames. Allof the surveys that are done within the city -- and Dr. Klineberg isalso going to speak to that -- we need accurate data.
For policy-making if we expand the child healthinsurance program to cover families with Y type of income, we need toknow how many children we will be covering and what that impact is.We cannot do public health, I cannot see children, none of our staffcan do the job that we need to do if we are unable to look at whatour present health status is, where we need to go, whether thoseinterventions help, and to use it in a way that targets our resourcesso that we can more efficiently use those.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Maybe we could bea little more specific about what some of the specific repercussions,or have been, as a result of the under-count in the 1990 census.
Mr. Moreno, could you respond to that?
MR. MORENO: Yes. Let me introduce myself. I'm GilbertMoreno, the president and CEO of AAMA, which is the Association forthe Advancement of Mexican-Americans.
And just briefly, Mr. President, AAMA is headquarteredhere in this East End area where we do primarily three things --education, social services, and community development. And in thatarena we pioneer an alternative education. We run the largestcharter school in the state of Texas. It's now going to celebrate 25years, and the Sanchez Charter School is considered one of the bestin the country. We run one of the largest social services programs,working gang intervention, treatment, prevention, the entire gamut.We also -- our community development corporation just recently builta low-income tax credit project, the first in this neighborhood in 30years. And so we're real proud of some of the accomplishments atAAMA.
I just want to give you a little backdrop very brieflyabout certain demographics and the impact that the census will have,primarily on Hispanic Americans. There are now 269.8 millionAmericans, as of probably this second. And again, you know, thecensus says there is a death every 14 seconds, a birth every 8seconds. So probably right now we've got a young Latina girl -- theodds are she's named Selena -- being born here at this medical centerdown the road.
But again, Hispanics comprise about 11 percent of thepopulation nationwide, and the interesting thing is, over the next 50years, Hispanics and Asians will provide almost half of the country'spopulation growth. And so, again, those statistics are going to bevery critical. The next five censuses are going to really have adramatic impact.
Hispanic Americans are expected to triple in the next 50years, comprise almost 100 million residents. And interestingly,those populations are located in five of the six largest states ofthis country. Those five states comprise 170 electoral votes, 63percent. In fact, there is another 8 states that have large Hispanicpopulations and Hispanics may hold the key to the future to theelectoral college and the presidency.
So we know we have a big stake in our country. We'rehere to do what we can. And I guess the census is very critical.The cost is staggering -- $4 billion is what's expected in the year2000. And, again, that includes sampling. So we know if sampling isnot allowed for, that cost may even rise another $700 million. Sothat's a staggering amount, yet at the same -- the repercussions areprobably even greater, of the under-count.
Our organization is affected in, for example, Title Ifunds. We rely very heavily on that. As an example, recently wewere able to put in a very sophisticated computer system foryoungsters that need remedial education. We have a lot of youth thatcome to us with a 5th-grade reading level, 4th-grade math level, andthey are even mixed with, say, a gifted and talented program. So youhave great diversity and somehow you need the ability to train themon, say, computer technology.
And here's an example of how those funds are leveragedinto that area. The low-income housing tax credit program is anotherhuge program that's dictated by census -- the allocation of CDBGfunds, transportation, so there's so many areas that we are impacted.We can't be left out anymore. We need a critical census county.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Mindiola.
DR. MINDIOLA: Thank you. My name is Tatcho Mindiola,Mr. President. I am the Director for the Center for Mexican AmericanStudies and Associate Professor of Sociology and the University ofHouston. I want to welcome you to Houston. Before I make myremarks, could I please acknowledge the hard work of Senator MarioGallegos, for his efforts in bringing you today, and ask the audienceto give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
Your presence here today, Mr. President, is importantfor the following reasons. You're at a center that's located in theinner city. You're at a center that's located in the low-incomearea. You're at a center that's located in a predominately Hispanicarea of Houston, an area where's there's a preponderance ofimmigrants. You're in an area where there's an unusual number ofchildren. You're in an area where Spanish is spoken almost as muchas English. In sum, sir, you're in an area that has all of thecharacteristics of a geographical component that has traditionallybeen under-counted in the census.
The traditional method of enumeration, of going house tohouse, has simply not worked, sir. That's why I was pleased to hearyou endorse the statistical sampling technique, which will lead to,in my estimation, a better count of areas like this particular areawhere we're at this morning. And that's why I applaud yourendorsement of that statistical sampling procedure.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
REVEREND CLEMONS: I want to just get back to trying toanswer the question that you laid out as a result of what is theimportance and what happens. If you look at a community like theFifth Ward community, in which the Pleasant Hill Baptist Churchhappened to be in -- in the 18th Congressional District -- it's aboutfive minutes northeast of downtown Houston, the fourth largest cityin the nation -- 10 years ago -- actually, it was 14 years ago, whenI got to pastor, I looked at the census. And then I looked at the1980 census and the 1990 census. I'm talking about grass-root, and Iwas able to determine that I was pastoring a church in a communitythat was declining in population and not increasing in population.And unless something happened, and something happened drastically,individuals were not going to leave from the suburbs to come to theinner city. I don't care how great I preach -- and I'm a goodpreacher. (Laughter.) So something had to happen to turn aroundthat community.
So we involved ourselves in comprehensive communityrevitalization. It was at that time that I understood the necessityto have an accurate count and a comprehensive count of everyindividual within our community. We're appointed by the Governor tosit on the Texas Department Housing and Community Affairs Board. Wewere introduced on that board to markets revenue funds, introduced tolow-income housing and tax credit programs and other programs outthere. Currently, there's a bill in the House -- actually it's 979,and Senate bill 1251 -- that is to increase the private activity bondcount. And by the way, I want to say thank you for putting into yourbudget for FY'99 the low-income housing tax credit increase. Thankyou so very much on that.
But the very tools that are needed to bring aboutcomprehensive neighborhood revitalization in hard-to-develop areas,in areas where people are traditionally under-counted, are actuallythe tools that are, in terms of amountof money, is calculated by the census. The low-income housing taxcredit is $1.25 per capita; if we increase the capital on that itwill be $1.75. That program alone has been one of the number oneprograms that do multi-family housing in hard-to-develop areas acrossthis nation, not just in 5th Ward community. That is determined bythe census.
The volume caps on private activity bonds not only dealswith affordable housing, but waste disposal programs, it deals withother programs that are crucial to community revitalization. And ifyou buy into the idea that housing starts is the engine that drivesthe economy of America, then you can begin to see that the very counthas a broad-range perspective of what happens to our economy as awhole. And it's far beyond who happens to be the elected official,it has more to do with the financial well-being of our country as awhole.
THE PRESIDENT: What about the business community? Ms.Joe, would you like to talk about that?
MS. JOE: My name is Glenda Joe. My firm is Great WallEnterprises. We do marketing and advertising, public relations anddemographic work, focusing on Asian markets and Asian media heredomestically in the United States. Lack of an accurate count of,say, the Asian market in Houston means that if I go to a bigcorporation, I'd like to propose to do outreach or marketing to theAsian market in Houston -- they look at the census and go, well,there are hardly any Asians there. And I'll go back and bring otherdemographics, but the census is considered to be the bible forcorporations looking to plan their business allocations for marketingand advertising.
It works the same way -- I also run a couple of Asiannon-profits -- if foundations and corporations look at the census andit says, Asians are counted as so many here and no more, then wedon't get an allocation of funding to our non-profits, which isimportant.
In 1980, our community grew stupendously after the fallof Saigon and the Immigration Reform Act of '63, I think -- '65?Thanks, Doctor. But basically it exploded here. There only about1,000 Chinese and Japanese Americans here in the 1950s. Today thereis almost a quarter million in the Texas Gulf Coast area. They'renot getting counted because they're new Americans, and they don'tanswer the census, and they live in extended-kin situations, extendedfamilies. We're only sending one census per family when there mightbe two or three families living together. I mean, there are somereal cultural barriers here that I don't think that we've been ableto address. And I do know that anyone who is my business that has todepend on the kind of demographics that come out of the census, we'reat a disadvantage and it's difficult for us to get across to folksthat the under-count is a reality.
THE PRESIDENT: If I might say -- this is a problem --this particular problem she has mentioned is a bigger problem withAsian Americans than with any other minority group, but it is also ageneral problem in the work that we're trying to do around thecountry in revitalizing the inner cities.
If you look at the American unemployment rate now, whichis about 4.3 percent -- it's the lowest it's been since 1974 or '73,something like that, now -- and when I became President, theconventional theory among economists -- we had these huge arguments,I remember, after I was elected in '92 and before I took office, andwe got everybody down around the table at the Governor's Mansion inLittle Rock and talked about this -- conventional economic wisdom wasthat if unemployment dropped much below 6 percent, you would haveterrible inflation, the economy would be in bad shape, and we'd haveto run it back up again.
Well, the American people have proved that that's notso, through high levels of productivity and technology. But then youask yourself, well, how can we keep this economy growing now that --if the national unemployment rate is down to 4.3 percent? How can wegrow the economy without inflation? The obvious answer is, go to theplaces where the unemployment rate is still higher, where people willwork for competitive wages, and where they can create markets becausethey do have money to spend if people invest it there.
So you see this also in Hispanic communities in placeslike Los Angeles, where we've put together a $400 million communitydevelopment bank to go into these neighborhoods and make small loansto entrepreneurs to start businesses. You see it in these communitydevelopment banks we've put up in New York and elsewhere.
In New York City the unemployment rate is still almost 9percent, so obviously there is an enormous opportunity there forgrowth. And a lot of the unemployed people in New York are Hispanic,African American, Asians, people from the Caribbean, not counted. Soyou go and you say, well, make me a loan and I'll go start this kindof business, and there are this thousand many people in myneighborhood and in my market area. And somebody picks up a censusand says, no, there are not, there are only half that many.
So this is a free enterprise issue as well, because I'mconvinced that we have an opportunity that we've not had in 30 yearsto really crack the unemployment and the under-employment problem andthe lack of business ownership in inner cities throughout thiscountry, but to do it, even if you have generous and sympatheticbankers and a government program that says you're supposed to targetlow-income areas, you've got to know what the market is.
So it's a problem -- the one you said is not justspecific to you and here, it's a huge general problem throughoutAmerica that an accurate count would help. So it actually, Ibelieve, would help us to keep the growth of the economy going andhelp us to lower the unemployment rate further by knowing whereinvestment capital could flow.
Let me just ask -- and I guess I'd like to start withDr. Klineberg because he started the Houston area survey -- howpossible do you think it is to get an accurate survey, and what doyou think -- what steps need to be taken? And what arguments do youthink we could make to the skeptics who say no statistician with acomputer can compete with people going around door-to-door andcounting heads?
This is a -- you know, it's kind of like -- it's not aeasy argument to win. You know, the average person -- you just comeup to somebody and say, we're here to figure out how many people arein this room. Would you think it would be better to have an expertlook in the room and guess or have somebody walk up and down the rowsand count? So we've got to figure out how to -- we've got to winthis argument with average American people who aren't used to
thinking about these sort of things. And we have to prove that wecan do it. So maybe we ought to talk about where we go from here.But, Doctor, would you like to say a few things?
DR. KLINEBERG: Sure, thank you. I am Professor StephenKlineberg, Professor of Sociology at Rice University. And let me
just touch on a few point about how we use the census and whyaccuracy is important, not so much for service delivery, but for thework of sociology, of political science, of the effort that all of usare making to understand what is happening in America and the changesthat are going on.
We do a survey now -- we've done it for 17 years --of arepresentative, random sample of Harris County residents reached byrandom phone numbers and then a random adult chosen in each randomhousehold, asking people, in essence, how do you see the world, whilethe world has changed. And Houston is at the forefront of thedemographic revolution that has occurred in this country.
But one of the ways in which we are -- we try todiscover what kinds of bias are we finding in our surveys, because wereach households with -- stable households with working telephones,in essence, and then we take only one adult per household. We relyon the census. The census is the only place you can go that is -- isthe bible, as Glenda Joe said, is the basis for knowing what sort ofa bias we have in these surveys.
And then the other point, of course, is that the UnitedStates is undergoing probably the greatest demographic revolution inits history. We are watching a shift from a nation that had beenbasically an amalgam of European nationalities into becoming anamalgam of the world. And the new immigration is transforming thiscountry. And the Houston -- along with Miami, Chicago, New York, LosAngeles -- is at the forefront of that change. And it's, of course,the newest Americans, the poorest, the ones least likely to speak thelanguage, that have the background of experience where governmentscannot be trusted, where anyone wants -- wanting to know who you areand what you're doing here, and where you live -- and you try toavoid as much as possible. These are the people who are most likelyto be under-counted. And so it is critical for those of us seekingan understanding of what is happening in America and what is the newAmerica that's emerging to have as fully accurate a count aspossible.
How to get that accuracy? Statistics have been aroundnow for a very long time. We know a great deal about it, as youindicated at the beginning. There's virtual unanimity among theexperts in this field that it does work, but no margins of error thatallow you to draw inferences back to the basic population to know whoare the people who did not fill out those census forms, and we needto know that. We need to -- this is the only source we have thatallows us to say with any degree of certainty, this is who we are,this is who we have become, this is where we live, this is what thenew America is turning out to be.
REVEREND CLEMONS: Mr. President, you asked a questionof where we go from here, and I think that you've shown greatleadership and partially you've answered that question by leadingthis idea of random sampling -- statistical sampling. I think thatthat is the first step to make sure that we get that in. I'mthankful to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is thecongressperson of the 18th Congressional District, who has intervenedinto that lawsuit, along with Mayor Lee Brown and others. But Ithink that certainly that's the first step that we must do, is tomake sure that we get that as a tool for us to go into the 2000census.
Along with that, it's important that as we try tobalance the budget, that we do not cut the necessary funding neededto do a real comprehensive study and come up with a short form-onlystyle sampling, but make sure that we include in the test -- the longform as well -- because most of the education, the job activityinformation is on the long form. And so it's very important that notonly that we count everyone, but that we have an understanding abouteveryone we count.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you another way, because thisis where I think -- obviously, I'm here in part because I was --because I wanted to come here to illustrate the importance of thecensus. I'm also here in part, to be candid, because the outcome ofthis battle is not clear. We all know that. That's why CongressmanSawyer and Congresswoman Maloney came all the way from Washingtonwith me today.
And suppose I got all of you and I put you in a van, weall got in the van, we drove across town, and we stopped at a littlereal estate office. The people had never had any contact at all withthe census except they always filled out their form -- or we stoppedin a service station, and we met a couple guys that -- they neverthought about this issue for five minutes. They're not consciousthat it affects them at all -- how can we convince ordinary citizensin all the congressional districts, whether they're represented byRepublicans or Democrats, without regard to party, that statisticalsampling will give them a more accurate count than hiring 6 millionpeople to go door to door? What can you say that is consistent withthe experience of ordinary working Americans that will make themunderstand that?
DR. MINDIOLA: Mr. President, if I were you I would tellthem this story. Most Americans, I think the vast majority ofAmericans go for medical checkups. And during that process, they doa blood test. But when you go get your blood test, the doctor or thenurse does not draw 100 percent of your blood out of your body. Theydraw a sample. And based upon that sample -- (laughter) -- and basedupon that sample, they can tell your cholesterol level, whether youhave too much acid in your blood, et cetera, et cetera. And I thinkin those common, everyday terms, the average American citizen shouldbe able to understand the validity of sampling, because that's acommon, everyday experience. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That may go down in history as theDracula theory of the census. (Laughter.) That's pretty good,though.
Go ahead, Marta.
MS. MORENO: Well, my concern is very basic. And by theway, I'm a city employee so I have two of my bosses here. But animportant factor in any census is fear of participation in thecensus. And I think that, particularly in our Hispanic population,while INS has always been a major factor, now with the way thatimmigration reform is, it is more of a fearful -- especially withimmigration, the world forum, the changes in the state Medicaidprograms. So it's important that we make it comfortable for thepeople to fill out the census and to -- and one of the most importantthings that we have to do is we have to utilize the Hispanic media.Not just one Hispanic media, because we have several stations,several television stations, radio stations, and such that cater todifferent Hispanics, because we have -- we're Hispanics, but thereare countless numbers of Hispanics. So I think it is important thatwe not put it in all public service announcements that come in at2:00 a.m. in the morning, but to do it -- and for that we have to payfor the programs, for the educational part of losing the fear offilling out that form is very important, not only for Hispanics andfor any minority.
And another thing that I have concerns is, is that weneed to hire people from the minorities, for instance Latinos andAsians and African Americans to be part of the personnel that doestake the census, so that they can communicate better with each of thehouseholds that they're going to go visit.
So mine is very basic, but it's a very important issue,I think.
THE PRESIDENT: Gilbert.
DR. MORENO: I think that transportation ultimately isone of the most impacted areas, and, boy, in Houston if you'resitting in that rush hour traffic, you're going to have our vote --because you're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in 100 degreeweather.
THE PRESIDENT: So you'd make a practical argument.
DR. MORENO: It is. Houston, as you know, is the fourthfastest growing city in sheer numbers. Dallas is third. The townsin south Texas are growing at an incredible rate, and they're stackedon a very poor highway that links those cities.
THE PRESIDENT: We're trying to build you one, though.
DR. MORENO: Yes, exactly. It's dangerous to drive toSan Antonio to Houston on a Sunday night because the traffic is juststacked.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, one of the things that I findworks sometimes is the analogy to political polling. I mean, mostpeople understand that a poll taken before an election is astatistical sample. And sometimes it's wrong, but more often thannot it's right. And there you may only sample a thousand people outof millions of voters. I mean, there are ways to do this, but I justthink -- I wish you would all think about it because, again -- theother point that I think is important that a lot of you have pointedout is that a lot of people you can send all the forms to their houseand they either won't or can't fill out the forms.
And we know that in some cases, almost -- and maybe evenwithout an attempt to deceive, people have gotten census forms ifthey have a vacation home or two homes, so that ironically, the mostover-counted people tended to be upper-income people who would be theleast likely to benefit from a lot of these investments, and theymight have innocently filled out the forms twice, not necessarilywanting to be over-counted, and just done it.
So I think that that's -- the other thing is point outthat people are moving all the time, and sometimes people aren'thome, and sometimes somebody is home and somebody is not, which meansthat even if you thought sending out 10 million people to physicallycount the other -- how many people did you say we were, 268 millionof us -- it may not be physically possible to do. So that even ifyou could do it, even if we could put 10 or 15 or 20 million peopleon the street for a couple of months, it might do no more of anaccurate job than a very good sample.
The only place I know that probably got a good headcount recently -- well, you may have seen the press -- where theyhave a much more controlled society, where people don't get to movearound on their own -- is Iraq, where they shut the whole countrydown for a day -- you remember that? Nobody moves, everybody stayshome, kids have to play in front of their house, just stay there.That doesn't seem to me to be a practical alternative for us.(Laughter.)
MS. JOE: I just think that in order to take care ofboth problems, getting people to answer the census, and getting folksto agree that statistical sampling is the way to go, whatever is intheir vested self-interest and outcomes, is what we have to begin tomake sure people understand.
Older Americans, who are tired of paying property taxesto send other people's kids to schools, they have another idea aboutwhat's in their vested self-interest. And if there was some argumentto be made that an accurate accounting of the children is going tobring more money of some sort into their school districts, that isthe kind of argument an older person who is tired of property taxescan understand. And so for each market, whatever is in their vestedself-interest I think is the way to probably approach it.
REVEREND CLEMONS: I think Glenda makes an excellentpoint from the standpoint of -- one of the reasons why minorities --Hispanics, perhaps African Americans, which there are a considerablenumber of those individuals in the 18th Congressional District --would be reluctant to answer that is because the information is goingto be used to do harm, rather than used to do good. And so as longas there as a mind-set that the more I let big brother see, the morehe is going to intrude into my life to do harm -- because there'sthis cynical idea about what government does to minorities.
When you look at the Tuskeegee study and what happenedas a relation to that -- so why would I allow government to intrudeinto my personal life. In fact, I don't even want you into mypersonal life. And to the degree that we can turn that around andshow them success stories, like what occurred in the Fifth Wardcommunity -- in just 10 years the Fifth Ward Community RedevelopmentCorporation has built over 100 houses. The Pleasant Hill DevelopmentCorporation has built the first four-story elderly housing facilityin the history of that community, 165 units. The State Farm is doinga facility on the corner of Lyons and Lockwood, an old abandonedthere, 6,000 square feet of retail space with 35 units ofmulti-family housing, right there on the spot.
And I'm just saying that all of that happens as a resultof people seeing that, and they want to be part of it. And then theysay, the census is not going to do me harm, but do me good.
Q Obviously -- political issues, this is not apolitical issue. It ought not to be politics. Politics ought to betaken out of it. There ought to be a way to be able to do that.There ought to be a way for the Republican friends in the Congresswho are suspicious and mistrustful to be brought on board in aprocess by which the statistical sampling part of the census is takencare of. There ought to be a way to point out that both Democratsand Republicans who are exaggerating the critical impact of anaccurate count.
An accurate count means that you will reach those peoplewho, if a census doesn't reach them and if they're not willing tofill out a census form, are not likely to be going to the votingpolls, they're not likely to be politically active members of thecommunity. Knowing how many are out there is not going to change thevotes in many different circumstances. This ought not and is not apolitical kind of issue, and there ought to be a way to bring inskeptics and bring the experts together and emphasize the fact thatthe accuracy of the count is something that everybody has a stake on.There ought to be a way to do that.
DR. DESVIGNES-KENDRICK: Looking at the privacy and theconfidentiality issues that a lot of us share in terms of howinformation is used, I think that the Census Bureau has done anexcellent job over the years of not violating those principles andthat, I think, is an important component that should be used, alongwith looking at the benefits of an accurate count. ThisMulti-Service Center funding that is now available from communitydevelopment funds for the third Multi-Service Center, the DenverCommunity Center, the Southwest Multi-Service Center here in Houston-- these are dollars that are based on accurate counts.
The services that are provided here that Marta alludedto earlier are based on having accurate information. If we candemonstrate that the information is used in a way that benefits thecommunity, that without that information, really community memberssuffer, we know that when we go into different communities whether wehave health educators going out, case managers going out, we knowwhat the numbers say and we know what we see. And there's thatdisconnect between when people come out because they are coming outfor a service, where not a governmental agency is providing it, etcetera, when people have a level of comfort and a level of support,they will be there. But when there's fear, there will not.
So if the data links service opportunities, resources tothe community that will benefit the community such as Magnolia righthere, this is a definite benefit for all of the people here -- thatit's not just linked to social issues, the educational issues, butall of the determinants of health.
Q Mr. President, we're about out of time, but we didwant to thank you tremendously for your visit to the East End ofHouston. This is a real historic visit. It's my understanding thatyou're the first President since FDR to visit and so --
THE PRESIDENT: Is that right?
Q Hopefully, it won't be that long again.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say one other thing. I wouldlike to close this -- thank you all for your participation, and thankall of you -- but I would like to close by putting this issue even ina larger context if I might just to close.
To me, having an accurate census is a big part of havinga strategy for racial reconciliation in America and building oneAmerica community that works. Why? Because if people feel they'reunder-counted and they don't get -- their children don't get the helpthey need, whether it's an education or health care or whatever -- itwill breed, inevitably, a sense of resentment, a sense of unfairness,a sense that people aren't really part of the mainstream and thefuture. And this is really important.
I know a lot of people think I'm obsessed with that, butI think the fact that we are growing more diverse as the world getssmaller is an enormous, enormous asset for the United States in the21st century if we really live together on terms of the quality andharmony and cooperation -- and if we're growing together not beingsplit apart.
But if you look at what I have to spend my time doing asyour President when I deal with countries around the world, how muchof it is dealing with people who are burdened down with groupresentments -- why were we all rejoicing when the Irish voted for thepeace accord? Because the Catholics and the Protestants had given uptheir group resentment to work together for a unified future.
What is the problem in Kosovo, a place that mostAmericans had never heard of before a few months ago? EthnicAlbanians and Serbs fighting over group resentments. What was Bosniaabout? The same thing. What is going on in the Middle East; what isthe dynamic within India now? It's just all in the news because ofthe nuclear test, where you have a Hindu party claiming that theHindus historically have been insufficiently respected and oppressedby the Muslim minority, and you have group resentments.
I mean, this whole world is so full of people'sresentments because they think that the group they're a part of isnot getting a fair deal from everybody else if they happen to bebigger or richer or whatever.
We have -- with all of our problems in America -- wehave slowly, steadily, surely been able to chip away at all of thosebarriers and come together. That, in the end, may be the largestissue of all about the census: can we succeed in building oneAmerica without knowing who we are, how many we are, where we are,and what kind of situation we're living in. I think the answer tothat is it will be a lot harder. And if we do it right, we'll be alot stronger.
Thank you all and God bless you. (Applause.)