THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Houston, Texas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 2, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
Magnolia Multi-Service Center Houston, Texas
11:40 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you for that wonderful welcome, and thank you, Marta, for the wonderful work you're doing here. I enjoyed my tour, I enjoyed shaking hands with all the folks who work here and the people who are taking advantage of all your services. And I'm glad to be here. Mr. Mayor, you can be proud -- and I know you are -- proud of this center and the others like it in this city.
I'd like to thank all the members of Congress who are here from the Texas delegation, and a special thanks to Representatives Maloney and Sawyer for coming from Washington with me today, and for their passionate concern to try to get an accurate census.
I thank the Texas Land Commissioner, Garry Mauro, for being here; and the members of the legislature -- Senator Gallegos, Senator Ellis, Congressman -- Representative Torres --and others, if they're here, the other city officials; Mr. Boney, the President of the City Council; Mr. Eckels, the County Executive Judge; Rueben Guerrero, the SBA regional administrator. If there are others -- I think our Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Mallett, is here who is from Houston. I thank you all for being here.
Before I say what I want to say about the census, I think, since this is the first time I have been to Texas since the fires began to rage in Mexico, that have affected you, if you'll forgive me, I'd like to just say a word about that. The smoke and the haze from these fires has become a matter of serious concern for people in Texas and Louisiana, and other Gulf states. It has gotten even further up into our country. And, of course, the greatest loss has been suffered by our friends and neighbors across the border in Mexico. Now, we are doing everything we know to do to help -- both to help the people of Mexico and to stem the disadvantageous side effects of all the smoke and haze coming up here into the United States.
I had an extended talk with President Zedillo about it. And, or course, here we had the EPA and Health and Human Services and FEMA monitoring the air quality. We're working very hard with the Mexican government to help them more effectively fight these fires. We provided more than $8 million in emergency assistance to Mexico since January, with four firefighting helicopters, an infrared imaging aircraft to detect fire hot spots, safety, communications, and other firefighting equipment for over 3,000 firefighters. Over 50 experts from our federal agency have provided important technical advice, and tomorrow, our Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, and our AID Administrator, Brian Atwood, are going to Mexico to see these fires firsthand and to see what else we can do in consultation with Mexican officials.
I think that we will be successful, but this has been a long and frustrating thing. As you probably know, we've had extended fires over the last year in Southeast Asia as well and in South America. This is a terrific problem that requires change in longstanding habits on the part of many people in rural areas in a lot of these countries, but it also is a function of the unusual weather conditions through which we have been living. And we're going to work on it.
Now, let's talk about the census. Since our nation's founding, the taking of the census has been mandated by the Constitution. How we have met this responsibility has changed and evolved 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 to talk about the newest changes that we propose to make, and how important it is to your work and your community. That's why we're here -- so that we can put a human face on the census and its consequences.
We do this every 10 years. The first time we had a census, Thomas Jefferson, who was then the Secretary of State, actually sent federal marshals out on horseback to count heads. We relied on this system of sending workers out to count our people household 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 we finished counting, we'd have to start all over again for the next census.
In 1970, therefore, we started counting people by mail. For three decades now, Americans have been asked to fill out census forms 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 of reasons, millions of people -- literally millions of people -- did not send their 1990 census form back. For the first time, the census in 1990 was less accurate than the one before it. Before that, the census had become increasingly more accurate.
We know now that the census missed 8 million Americans living 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.) The number of people not counted in Los Angeles -- in Los Angeles alone -- was enough to fill a city as big as Tallahassee, the capital of Florida. The census missed 482,738 in the state of Texas; 66,748 of them here in Houston.
Now, if we are really going to strengthen our country and prepare for this new century, we have to have a full and accurate picture of who we are as a people and where we live. We rely on census statistics every day to determine where to build more roads and hospitals and child care centers, and to decide which communities need more federal help for Head Start or federal training programs, or for the WIC program. Marta and I just visited your WIC program here in this center and we saw a baby being weighed and measured. The baby liked being weighed more than it liked being measured. I don't blame him. (Laughter.)
The WIC program is just one example. The Congress, with all the fights that we've had over the last six years, we've had pretty good success in getting a bipartisan majority to continue to put more money into the WIC program, because people know that it makes good sense to feed babies and take care of them and provide for them when they're young. But the funds, once appropriated, can only flow where they're needed if there is an accurate count of where the kids are. So, ironically, no matter how much money we appropriate for WIC, unless we actually can track where the children are, the program will be less than fully successful.
Now, more than half of the under-counted in the last census were children. A disproportionate number of under-counted Americans were minorities. That means some of our most vulnerable populations routinely are omitted when it comes time to providing federal funds for critical services. An inaccurate census distorts our understanding of the needs of our people, and in many respects, therefore, it diminishes the quality of life not only for them, but for 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 should follow the National Academy of Sciences' recommendations to use statistical sampling in the next census.
Scientists and statisticians are nearly unanimous in saying that statistical sampling is the best way to get a full and fair count of our people for the 2000 census. It is estimated that if we use good statistical sampling, supplemented by what are called quality checks, where you go out into selected neighborhoods and actually count heads to make sure that the sampling is 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 nearly 300 million people by then, only 300,000, as opposed to 8 million in the 1990 census.
Now, as far as I know, nobody in this room had anything to do with coming up with this proposal. All of us just want an accurate count. Whatever the count is, wherever the people are, this is not a political issue, this is an American issue. But the people who know what they're doing tell us that this is the way we should do it. There is no serious dispute among the experts here.
It is, therefore, I think, quite unfortunate that some in Congress have so vociferously opposed sampling, because improving the census shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's not about politics, it's about people. (Applause.) It's about making sure every American really and literally counts. It's about gathering fair and accurate information that we absolutely have to have if we're going to determine who we are and what we have to do to prepare all our people for the 21st century.
In Texas, I would think every Republican would be just as interested as every Democrat in seeing that every Texan is counted so that this state does not lose another billion dollars, or maybe two or three billion dollars by then, in under-counting in ways that will help you to meet the challenge of your growing population and to seize the opportunities that are out there for all of you.
So that's what we're here for. And all the folks on this panel, I want to thank them in advance for their willingness to be here, because I'm basically just going to listen to them now, give you what I hope will be a fuller picture of what the consequences of this whole census issue are in very stark, clear human terms. But remember, it's not a political issue, it's a people issue. Nobody has got an ax to grind for any method; we should all want the most accurate method. And when it's all said and done, all we should want is to have everyone of us properly, accurately, fairly and constitutionally counted.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Well, as I said earlier, everybody here, around this panel, has a different perspective on the importance of the census. And I would like to hear some specific illustrations now about how the census is used and why the accuracy is important. And maybe we should start with Dr. Craven and with Dr. Kendrick -- if you could start.
DR. CRAVEN: Hi, I'm Dr. Judith Craven and I'm President of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast here in Houston. We're a 75 year-old organization. We're the fourth largest in the country in terms of dollars raised, last year raising over $64.6 million, to deliver back to the community for health and human services.
Traditionally, we have been one of the major funders of community planning and analysis. And it's essential, as we try and leverage that $64 million that we raised, to be able to go back to not-for-profits, to complement for the government as funding, that we have accurate data in order to distribute those dollars to those that are most in need -- and in a fair and equitable way.
In addition to that, we're very concerned about how the community looks so that we can be able to deliver the very best services possible to meet the uniqueness of each one of those communities, whether it has to deal with language, culture, background, a whole understanding of what the needs are in our community.
THE PRESIDENT: So this is very important because -- so what 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, to tell you where the problems are, and secondly, to know how much to give.
DR. CRAVEN: How much to give and how we can leverage what's already being done by the government, and making sure that government dollars have come in an equitable amount to leverage and maximize the resources here to deliver those services.
THE PRESIDENT: This is an important point because it's something you almost never hear, that because of work of United Ways all over America, and because of the way they work, and because of the generosity of the American people, if the census is inaccurate, it has an indirect, bad effect on private investment in people, in community needs, as well as on government investment.
DR. DESVIGNES-KENDRICK: Yes, good morning, I'm Mary desVignes-Kendrick, Houston Health Director and the immediate past president of The National Association of County and City Health Officials, which represents 3,000 local health departments throughout the country. By boss is Mayor Lee Brown, and he did say it was okay for me to be here today. (Laughter.) And he didn't ask me to tell him what I was going to say, so I do appreciate that.
Mr. President, as a pediatrician who provides services in this clinic to young children and also in seven other clinics throughout the city, when I see patients, it is understanding that they live within a community where the nutritional issues, educational issues, financial issues, and environmental issues will impact their health.
Accurate census data is critical to public health. It is not possible for us to do public health without it. It gives us the denominators for calculating birth rates, death rates, disease incidents and prevalence within the community. So any national, state, or local data that you hear about, such as the adolescent birth rate has decreased by X percent -- this is generally based on denominators supplied by the census. For us to target interventions in a population, to know whether we're having any impact, to measure that impact, it is very important to have accurate census data.
Within the cities we measure birth, death, and disease outcomes. We are able to say five years ago the death rate from respiratory diseases was this, now it is this. We are able to look at the level of appropriately immunized children now compared with several years ago. The same thing with TB, AIDS. We use this data for us to identify where to place our school-linked clinics, where to have increased family planning or prenatal care services. And this community is one of the communities where, as with our other clinics and multi-service centers, we use this data to make decisions on how to use resources.
We use data regarding where our medically indigent are located within our community so that we can target resources. We use the child poverty rates for Texas and for Houston also, because we know that access issues, we know that nutrition issues, whether individuals are going to school or not because of fear -- we use that kind of information to target what we do.
Assessing racial disparities in health, socioeconomic status factors, environmental issues, and also looking at occupational disease, injury, and disability. And also something that the Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did, which was very helpful for us in public health, was they began for one of the first times to include real public health categories in the day-to-day collected, so that also allows us to assess work force capacities.
We certainly use census data for sampling frames. All of the surveys that are done within the city -- and Dr. Klineberg is also going to speak to that -- we need accurate data.
For policy-making if we expand the child health insurance program to cover families with Y type of income, we need to know how many children we will be covering and what that impact is. We cannot do public health, I cannot see children, none of our staff can do the job that we need to do if we are unable to look at what our present health status is, where we need to go, whether those interventions help, and to use it in a way that targets our resources so that we can more efficiently use those.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Maybe we could be a 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 Gilbert Moreno, the president and CEO of AAMA, which is the Association for the Advancement of Mexican-Americans.
And just briefly, Mr. President, AAMA is headquartered here in this East End area where we do primarily three things -- education, social services, and community development. And in that arena we pioneer an alternative education. We run the largest charter school in the state of Texas. It's now going to celebrate 25 years, and the Sanchez Charter School is considered one of the best in 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 built a low-income tax credit project, the first in this neighborhood in 30 years. And so we're real proud of some of the accomplishments at AAMA.
I just want to give you a little backdrop very briefly about certain demographics and the impact that the census will have, primarily on Hispanic Americans. There are now 269.8 million Americans, as of probably this second. And again, you know, the census says there is a death every 14 seconds, a birth every 8 seconds. So probably right now we've got a young Latina girl -- the odds are she's named Selena -- being born here at this medical center down the road.
But again, Hispanics comprise about 11 percent of the population nationwide, and the interesting thing is, over the next 50 years, Hispanics and Asians will provide almost half of the country's population growth. And so, again, those statistics are going to be very critical. The next five censuses are going to really have a dramatic impact.
Hispanic Americans are expected to triple in the next 50 years, comprise almost 100 million residents. And interestingly, those populations are located in five of the six largest states of this country. Those five states comprise 170 electoral votes, 63 percent. In fact, there is another 8 states that have large Hispanic populations and Hispanics may hold the key to the future to the electoral college and the presidency.
So we know we have a big stake in our country. We're here 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 year 2000. And, again, that includes sampling. So we know if sampling is not allowed for, that cost may even rise another $700 million. So that's a staggering amount, yet at the same -- the repercussions are probably even greater, of the under-count.
Our organization is affected in, for example, Title I funds. We rely very heavily on that. As an example, recently we were able to put in a very sophisticated computer system for youngsters that need remedial education. We have a lot of youth that come to us with a 5th-grade reading level, 4th-grade math level, and they are even mixed with, say, a gifted and talented program. So you have great diversity and somehow you need the ability to train them on, say, computer technology.
And here's an example of how those funds are leveraged into that area. The low-income housing tax credit program is another huge program that's dictated by census -- the allocation of CDBG funds, 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 American Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology and the University of Houston. I want to welcome you to Houston. Before I make my remarks, could I please acknowledge the hard work of Senator Mario Gallegos, for his efforts in bringing you today, and ask the audience to give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
Your presence here today, Mr. President, is important for the following reasons. You're at a center that's located in the inner city. You're at a center that's located in the low-income area. You're at a center that's located in a predominately Hispanic area of Houston, an area where's there's a preponderance of immigrants. You're in an area where there's an unusual number of children. You're in an area where Spanish is spoken almost as much as English. In sum, sir, you're in an area that has all of the characteristics of a geographical component that has traditionally been under-counted in the census.
The traditional method of enumeration, of going house to house, has simply not worked, sir. That's why I was pleased to hear you endorse the statistical sampling technique, which will lead to, in my estimation, a better count of areas like this particular area where we're at this morning. And that's why I applaud your endorsement of that statistical sampling procedure.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
REVEREND CLEMONS: I want to just get back to trying to answer the question that you laid out as a result of what is the importance and what happens. If you look at a community like the Fifth Ward community, in which the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church happened to be in -- in the 18th Congressional District -- it's about five minutes northeast of downtown Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation -- 10 years ago -- actually, it was 14 years ago, when I got to pastor, I looked at the census. And then I looked at the 1980 census and the 1990 census. I'm talking about grass-root, and I was able to determine that I was pastoring a church in a community that 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 the inner city. I don't care how great I preach -- and I'm a good preacher. (Laughter.) So something had to happen to turn around that community.
So we involved ourselves in comprehensive community revitalization. It was at that time that I understood the necessity to have an accurate count and a comprehensive count of every individual within our community. We're appointed by the Governor to sit on the Texas Department Housing and Community Affairs Board. We were introduced on that board to markets revenue funds, introduced to low-income housing and tax credit programs and other programs out there. Currently, there's a bill in the House -- actually it's 979, and Senate bill 1251 -- that is to increase the private activity bond count. And by the way, I want to say thank you for putting into your budget for FY'99 the low-income housing tax credit increase. Thank you so very much on that.
But the very tools that are needed to bring about comprehensive neighborhood revitalization in hard-to-develop areas, in areas where people are traditionally under-counted, are actually the tools that are, in terms of amount of money, is calculated by the census. The low-income housing tax credit is $1.25 per capita; if we increase the capital on that it will be $1.75. That program alone has been one of the number one programs that do multi-family housing in hard-to-develop areas across this nation, not just in 5th Ward community. That is determined by the census.
The volume caps on private activity bonds not only deals with affordable housing, but waste disposal programs, it deals with other programs that are crucial to community revitalization. And if you buy into the idea that housing starts is the engine that drives the economy of America, then you can begin to see that the very count has a broad-range perspective of what happens to our economy as a whole. 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 a whole.
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 Wall Enterprises. We do marketing and advertising, public relations and demographic work, focusing on Asian markets and Asian media here domestically in the United States. Lack of an accurate count of, say, the Asian market in Houston means that if I go to a big corporation, I'd like to propose to do outreach or marketing to the Asian market in Houston -- they look at the census and go, well, there are hardly any Asians there. And I'll go back and bring other demographics, but the census is considered to be the bible for corporations looking to plan their business allocations for marketing and advertising.
It works the same way -- I also run a couple of Asian non-profits -- if foundations and corporations look at the census and it says, Asians are counted as so many here and no more, then we don't get an allocation of funding to our non-profits, which is important.
In 1980, our community grew stupendously after the fall of Saigon and the Immigration Reform Act of '63, I think -- '65? Thanks, Doctor. But basically it exploded here. There only about 1,000 Chinese and Japanese Americans here in the 1950s. Today there is almost a quarter million in the Texas Gulf Coast area. They're not getting counted because they're new Americans, and they don't answer the census, and they live in extended-kin situations, extended families. We're only sending one census per family when there might be two or three families living together. I mean, there are some real cultural barriers here that I don't think that we've been able to address. And I do know that anyone who is my business that has to depend on the kind of demographics that come out of the census, we're at a disadvantage and it's difficult for us to get across to folks that 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 with Asian Americans than with any other minority group, but it is also a general problem in the work that we're trying to do around the country in revitalizing the inner cities.
If you look at the American unemployment rate now, which is about 4.3 percent -- it's the lowest it's been since 1974 or '73, something like that, now -- and when I became President, the conventional theory among economists -- we had these huge arguments, I remember, after I was elected in '92 and before I took office, and we got everybody down around the table at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock and talked about this -- conventional economic wisdom was that if unemployment dropped much below 6 percent, you would have terrible inflation, the economy would be in bad shape, and we'd have to run it back up again.
Well, the American people have proved that that's not so, through high levels of productivity and technology. But then you ask yourself, well, how can we keep this economy growing now that -- if the national unemployment rate is down to 4.3 percent? How can we grow the economy without inflation? The obvious answer is, go to the places where the unemployment rate is still higher, where people will work for competitive wages, and where they can create markets because they do have money to spend if people invest it there.
So you see this also in Hispanic communities in places like Los Angeles, where we've put together a $400 million community development bank to go into these neighborhoods and make small loans to entrepreneurs to start businesses. You see it in these community development banks we've put up in New York and elsewhere.
In New York City the unemployment rate is still almost 9 percent, so obviously there is an enormous opportunity there for growth. And a lot of the unemployed people in New York are Hispanic, African American, Asians, people from the Caribbean, not counted. So you go and you say, well, make me a loan and I'll go start this kind of business, and there are this thousand many people in my neighborhood and in my market area. And somebody picks up a census and says, no, there are not, there are only half that many.
So this is a free enterprise issue as well, because I'm convinced that we have an opportunity that we've not had in 30 years to really crack the unemployment and the under-employment problem and the lack of business ownership in inner cities throughout this country, but to do it, even if you have generous and sympathetic bankers and a government program that says you're supposed to target low-income areas, you've got to know what the market is.
So it's a problem -- the one you said is not just specific to you and here, it's a huge general problem throughout America that an accurate count would help. So it actually, I believe, would help us to keep the growth of the economy going and help us to lower the unemployment rate further by knowing where investment capital could flow.
Let me just ask -- and I guess I'd like to start with Dr. Klineberg because he started the Houston area survey -- how possible do you think it is to get an accurate survey, and what do you think -- what steps need to be taken? And what arguments do you think we could make to the skeptics who say no statistician with a computer can compete with people going around door-to-door and counting heads?
This is a -- you know, it's kind of like -- it's not a easy argument to win. You know, the average person -- you just come up to somebody and say, we're here to figure out how many people are in this room. Would you think it would be better to have an expert look in the room and guess or have somebody walk up and down the rows and count? So we've got to figure out how to -- we've got to win this argument with average American people who aren't used to thinking about these sort of things. And we have to prove that we can 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 Stephen Klineberg, Professor of Sociology at Rice University. And let me just touch on a few point about how we use the census and why accuracy is important, not so much for service delivery, but for the work of sociology, of political science, of the effort that all of us are making to understand what is happening in America and the changes that are going on.
We do a survey now -- we've done it for 17 years --of a representative, random sample of Harris County residents reached by random phone numbers and then a random adult chosen in each random household, asking people, in essence, how do you see the world, while the world has changed. And Houston is at the forefront of the demographic revolution that has occurred in this country.
But one of the ways in which we are -- we try to discover what kinds of bias are we finding in our surveys, because we reach households with -- stable households with working telephones, in essence, and then we take only one adult per household. We rely on the census. The census is the only place you can go that is -- is the bible, as Glenda Joe said, is the basis for knowing what sort of a bias we have in these surveys.
And then the other point, of course, is that the United States is undergoing probably the greatest demographic revolution in its history. We are watching a shift from a nation that had been basically an amalgam of European nationalities into becoming an amalgam of the world. And the new immigration is transforming this country. And the Houston -- along with Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles -- is at the forefront of that change. And it's, of course, the newest Americans, the poorest, the ones least likely to speak the language, that have the background of experience where governments cannot be trusted, where anyone wants -- wanting to know who you are and what you're doing here, and where you live -- and you try to avoid as much as possible. These are the people who are most likely to be under-counted. And so it is critical for those of us seeking an understanding of what is happening in America and what is the new America that's emerging to have as fully accurate a count as possible.
How to get that accuracy? Statistics have been around now for a very long time. We know a great deal about it, as you indicated at the beginning. There's virtual unanimity among the experts in this field that it does work, but no margins of error that allow you to draw inferences back to the basic population to know who are the people who did not fill out those census forms, and we need to know that. We need to -- this is the only source we have that allows 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 the new America is turning out to be.
REVEREND CLEMONS: Mr. President, you asked a question of where we go from here, and I think that you've shown great leadership and partially you've answered that question by leading this idea of random sampling -- statistical sampling. I think that that is the first step to make sure that we get that in. I'm thankful to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is the congressperson of the 18th Congressional District, who has intervened into that lawsuit, along with Mayor Lee Brown and others. But I think that certainly that's the first step that we must do, is to make sure that we get that as a tool for us to go into the 2000 census.
Along with that, it's important that as we try to balance the budget, that we do not cut the necessary funding needed to do a real comprehensive study and come up with a short form-only style sampling, but make sure that we include in the test -- the long form as well -- because most of the education, the job activity information is on the long form. And so it's very important that not only that we count everyone, but that we have an understanding about everyone we count.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you another way, because this is where I think -- obviously, I'm here in part because I was -- because I wanted to come here to illustrate the importance of the census. I'm also here in part, to be candid, because the outcome of this battle is not clear. We all know that. That's why Congressman Sawyer and Congresswoman Maloney came all the way from Washington with me today.
And suppose I got all of you and I put you in a van, we all got in the van, we drove across town, and we stopped at a little real estate office. The people had never had any contact at all with the census except they always filled out their form -- or we stopped in a service station, and we met a couple guys that -- they never thought about this issue for five minutes. They're not conscious that it affects them at all -- how can we convince ordinary citizens in all the congressional districts, whether they're represented by Republicans or Democrats, without regard to party, that statistical sampling will give them a more accurate count than hiring 6 million people to go door to door? What can you say that is consistent with the experience of ordinary working Americans that will make them understand that?
DR. MINDIOLA: Mr. President, if I were you I would tell them this story. Most Americans, I think the vast majority of Americans go for medical checkups. And during that process, they do a blood test. But when you go get your blood test, the doctor or the nurse does not draw 100 percent of your blood out of your body. They draw a sample. And based upon that sample -- (laughter) -- and based upon that sample, they can tell your cholesterol level, whether you have too much acid in your blood, et cetera, et cetera. And I think in those common, everyday terms, the average American citizen should be able to understand the validity of sampling, because that's a common, everyday experience. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That may go down in history as the Dracula theory of the census. (Laughter.) That's pretty good, though.
Go ahead, Marta.
MS. MORENO: Well, my concern is very basic. And by the way, I'm a city employee so I have two of my bosses here. But an important factor in any census is fear of participation in the census. And I think that, particularly in our Hispanic population, while INS has always been a major factor, now with the way that immigration reform is, it is more of a fearful -- especially with immigration, the world forum, the changes in the state Medicaid programs. So it's important that we make it comfortable for the people to fill out the census and to -- and one of the most important things 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 to different Hispanics, because we have -- we're Hispanics, but there are countless numbers of Hispanics. So I think it is important that we not put it in all public service announcements that come in at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, but to do it -- and for that we have to pay for the programs, for the educational part of losing the fear of filling out that form is very important, not only for Hispanics and for any minority.
And another thing that I have concerns is, is that we need to hire people from the minorities, for instance Latinos and Asians and African Americans to be part of the personnel that does take the census, so that they can communicate better with each of the households 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 is one of the most impacted areas, and, boy, in Houston if you're sitting in that rush hour traffic, you're going to have our vote -- because you're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in 100 degree weather.
THE PRESIDENT: So you'd make a practical argument.
DR. MORENO: It is. Houston, as you know, is the fourth fastest growing city in sheer numbers. Dallas is third. The towns in south Texas are growing at an incredible rate, and they're stacked on 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 to San Antonio to Houston on a Sunday night because the traffic is just stacked.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, one of the things that I find works sometimes is the analogy to political polling. I mean, most people understand that a poll taken before an election is a statistical sample. And sometimes it's wrong, but more often than not it's right. And there you may only sample a thousand people out of millions of voters. I mean, there are ways to do this, but I just think -- I wish you would all think about it because, again -- the other point that I think is important that a lot of you have pointed out is that a lot of people you can send all the forms to their house and they either won't or can't fill out the forms.
And we know that in some cases, almost -- and maybe even without an attempt to deceive, people have gotten census forms if they have a vacation home or two homes, so that ironically, the most over-counted people tended to be upper-income people who would be the least likely to benefit from a lot of these investments, and they might have innocently filled out the forms twice, not necessarily wanting to be over-counted, and just done it.
So I think that that's -- the other thing is point out that people are moving all the time, and sometimes people aren't home, and sometimes somebody is home and somebody is not, which means that even if you thought sending out 10 million people to physically count the other -- how many people did you say we were, 268 million of us -- it may not be physically possible to do. So that even if you could do it, even if we could put 10 or 15 or 20 million people on the street for a couple of months, it might do no more of an accurate job than a very good sample.
The only place I know that probably got a good head count recently -- well, you may have seen the press -- where they have a much more controlled society, where people don't get to move around on their own -- is Iraq, where they shut the whole country down for a day -- you remember that? Nobody moves, everybody stays home, 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 of both problems, getting people to answer the census, and getting folks to agree that statistical sampling is the way to go, whatever is in their vested self-interest and outcomes, is what we have to begin to make sure people understand.
Older Americans, who are tired of paying property taxes to send other people's kids to schools, they have another idea about what's in their vested self-interest. And if there was some argument to be made that an accurate accounting of the children is going to bring more money of some sort into their school districts, that is the kind of argument an older person who is tired of property taxes can understand. And so for each market, whatever is in their vested self-interest I think is the way to probably approach it.
REVEREND CLEMONS: I think Glenda makes an excellent point from the standpoint of -- one of the reasons why minorities -- Hispanics, perhaps African Americans, which there are a considerable number of those individuals in the 18th Congressional District -- would be reluctant to answer that is because the information is going to be used to do harm, rather than used to do good. And so as long as there as a mind-set that the more I let big brother see, the more he is going to intrude into my life to do harm -- because there's this cynical idea about what government does to minorities.
When you look at the Tuskeegee study and what happened as a relation to that -- so why would I allow government to intrude into my personal life. In fact, I don't even want you into my personal life. And to the degree that we can turn that around and show them success stories, like what occurred in the Fifth Ward community -- in just 10 years the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation has built over 100 houses. The Pleasant Hill Development Corporation has built the first four-story elderly housing facility in the history of that community, 165 units. The State Farm is doing a facility on the corner of Lyons and Lockwood, an old abandoned there, 6,000 square feet of retail space with 35 units of multi-family housing, right there on the spot.
And I'm just saying that all of that happens as a result of people seeing that, and they want to be part of it. And then they say, the census is not going to do me harm, but do me good.
Q Obviously -- political issues, this is not a political issue. It ought not to be politics. Politics ought to be taken 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 Congress who are suspicious and mistrustful to be brought on board in a process by which the statistical sampling part of the census is taken care of. There ought to be a way to point out that both Democrats and Republicans who are exaggerating the critical impact of an accurate count.
An accurate count means that you will reach those people who, if a census doesn't reach them and if they're not willing to fill out a census form, are not likely to be going to the voting polls, they're not likely to be politically active members of the community. Knowing how many are out there is not going to change the votes in many different circumstances. This ought not and is not a political kind of issue, and there ought to be a way to bring in skeptics and bring the experts together and emphasize the fact that the 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 the confidentiality issues that a lot of us share in terms of how information is used, I think that the Census Bureau has done an excellent job over the years of not violating those principles and that, I think, is an important component that should be used, along with looking at the benefits of an accurate count. This Multi-Service Center funding that is now available from community development funds for the third Multi-Service Center, the Denver Community 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 alluded to earlier are based on having accurate information. If we can demonstrate that the information is used in a way that benefits the community, that without that information, really community members suffer, we know that when we go into different communities whether we have health educators going out, case managers going out, we know what the numbers say and we know what we see. And there's that disconnect between when people come out because they are coming out for a service, where not a governmental agency is providing it, et cetera, 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 to the community that will benefit the community such as Magnolia right here, this is a definite benefit for all of the people here -- that it's not just linked to social issues, the educational issues, but all of the determinants of health.
Q Mr. President, we're about out of time, but we did want to thank you tremendously for your visit to the East End of Houston. This is a real historic visit. It's my understanding that you'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 would like to close this -- thank you all for your participation, and thank all of you -- but I would like to close by putting this issue even in a larger context if I might just to close.
To me, having an accurate census is a big part of having a strategy for racial reconciliation in America and building one America community that works. Why? Because if people feel they're under-counted and they don't get -- their children don't get the help they need, whether it's an education or health care or whatever -- it will breed, inevitably, a sense of resentment, a sense of unfairness, a sense that people aren't really part of the mainstream and the future. And this is really important.
I know a lot of people think I'm obsessed with that, but I think the fact that we are growing more diverse as the world gets smaller is an enormous, enormous asset for the United States in the 21st century if we really live together on terms of the quality and harmony and cooperation -- and if we're growing together not being split apart.
But if you look at what I have to spend my time doing as your President when I deal with countries around the world, how much of it is dealing with people who are burdened down with group resentments -- why were we all rejoicing when the Irish voted for the peace accord? Because the Catholics and the Protestants had given up their group resentment to work together for a unified future.
What is the problem in Kosovo, a place that most Americans had never heard of before a few months ago? Ethnic Albanians and Serbs fighting over group resentments. What was Bosnia about? The same thing. What is going on in the Middle East; what is the dynamic within India now? It's just all in the news because of the nuclear test, where you have a Hindu party claiming that the Hindus historically have been insufficiently respected and oppressed by the Muslim minority, and you have group resentments.
I mean, this whole world is so full of people's resentments because they think that the group they're a part of is not getting a fair deal from everybody else if they happen to be bigger or richer or whatever.
We have -- with all of our problems in America -- we have slowly, steadily, surely been able to chip away at all of those barriers and come together. That, in the end, may be the largest issue of all about the census: can we succeed in building one America 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 to that is it will be a lot harder. And if we do it right, we'll be a lot stronger.
Thank you all and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 12:35 P.M. CDT