Census forms sent to Sammamish have wrong cities

March 30, 2010

By Ari Cetron

The upcoming census left out Sammamish — at least on the forms sent to Sammamish residents.

The arrival of the forms last week perplexed residents, as they got their census forms in the mail and found that they were addressed to Redmond or Issaquah.

City Manager Ben Yazici dashed off a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau expressing frustration.

“Why, when it’s bound to create confusion and concern, is the incorrect city listed on the questionnaire?” he wrote in the letter dated March 18. “It would seem that using the correct city name should be manageable.”

The problem, however, may actually lie with the U.S. Postal Service. Census officials say they’ve been working with the postal service for the past year. During that period, postal employees told them how best to address the millions upon millions of surveys they sent out.

“It was worked out on a national level,” said Al DeSarro, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Western Region.

He acknowledged that the postal service worked with the Census Bureau to decide which city’s name to use. The issue, he said, has cropped up across the country.

In some areas, DeSarro said, the primary city name might not be the one most useful for routing the mail. Using an adjacent city can sometimes help the mail to move more quickly and cheaply.

For its part, the Census Bureau says there’s nothing to worry about.

All of the forms have a bar code on them, and that bar code includes a person’s correct address, said John Saul, office manager for the Bellevue Regional Census Office, which covers Sammamish. Federal funding, which is sometimes based on population, follows the bar coded addresses.

“That’s what’s going to get the funds to the right places,” Saul said.

Locally, the issue also happened in parts of Bothell and Kenmore, Saul said.

He suggests that if people are concerned, they should wait until December, when census data is released. When that happens, they could check the numbers for Sammamish as a whole to see if they make sense.

Saul said there is no way to double check that an individual house was included in the right place. Census information about an individual cannot be released for 72 years after the census, even to the person who filled it out.

Although the information is embedded in the bar code, Saul urges concerned residents to correct the form by simply scratching out the wrong city and writing in Sammamish.

“I don’t think it would hurt,” Saul said.

Ari Cetron: 392-6434, ext. 233, or samrev@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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