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For the week of Feb. 9 through Feb. 15, 2000

Putting the Postal Service on the carpet

The following memo, dated Jan. 14, 2000, was put out by Robert Edstedt, marketing manager of the Spokane District of the U. S. Postal Service:

There is to be no lobby display of any kind for the Census. Lobby displays could be posters, boxes, tables, etc.

There are several motives to this, one being the interception of questionnaires, resulting in less postal revenue. The Census Bureau cannot "collect" mail in our lobbies.


The following letter, dated Feb. 3, 2000, was sent by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, to U.S. Postmaster General William J. Henderson in reaction to the above memo (a spokesperson for Crapo said the Spokane postal district covers Idaho):

Recently, an issue was brought to my attention that has potentially significant adverse consequences for the people of my home state of Idaho. Post office officials across the state of Idaho have been notified of a prohibition against the displaying of any Census Bureau materials in post office lobbies.

According to a Jan. 14, 2000, memorandum, a copy of which is attached, "[t]here is to be no lobby display of any kind for the Census." This prohibition even includes placing posters on a community information bulletin board. The implications of such a policy on Idahoans and citizens living in communities across the country, particularly those in rural areas, are dramatic.

Everyone agrees on the importance of an accurate census. In President Clinton's State of the Union address he states that "...since everybody in our community counts, we've got to make sure everyone is counted in this year's census." I could not agree more.

One of the sharpest criticisms lodged against the Census Bureau concerns the accuracy of its data. Rural populations are frequently undercounted. As one of the nation's most rural states, Idaho suffers serious consequences when its rural residents do not get counted.

The Census Bureau estimates that at least $182 billion in federal funds will be distributed annually throughout the country based on formulas using census information. A total of 165 federal domestic assistance programs rely on census data to determine distribution and availability of monies. It affects funding flowing to schools for special education, Native American education, support services for severely disabled children, Medicaid funding, and transportation and infrastructure monies. This is just to name a few. Communities in Idaho and every other rural state should not be penalized through undercounting.

In neighborhoods across Idaho, the post office plays an important role. It is more than just a mail distribution center, it is an integral part of the community. This is why the recent Postal Service announcement regarding Census displays in post offices was particularly troubling. In many parts of Idaho, this means that the key community information center cannot provide residents with facts about an issue that directly impacts all aspects of their lives.

Only an accurate 2000 census can assure that all residents, no matter where they live, receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Please consider reexamining this policy and joining the effort to show that everyone counts.


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