Durham Mayor Bill Bell
  • Durham Mayor Bill Bell

I did a double take yesterday when my cell phone rang and I was greeted with, “This is Mayor Bill Bell…” In fact it was Bill Bell, and for a second, I thought he was actually on the line. No such luck—just an automated message sent out via the county’s reverse 911 system to persuade Durham residents to fill out their 2010 Census forms.

We ran a story this week on efforts in Durham to urge more census participation, as well as the fact that while many don’t participate because they lack awareness, others just choose not to because they don’t trust the way the government will use the information, or were offended by the word “Negro” in the race question. (In related news, see the video of Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, apologizing for the use of the word “Negro. At this Web site, Color of Change is leading a campaign to retire the word from the form.)

Kevin Davis of Bull City Rising also weighed in today on the use of the emergency alert system to deliver a robo-call about the U.S. Census.

For more interesting reading on the U.S. Census, visit a recent study by the Brookings Institution on the role census counts play in federal funding, and see the Institute for Southern Studies’ research, released this week, on the challenges our recession poses in an accurate count.