While results of a new Zogby Interactive poll show that 87 percent of American adults intend to complete their census form, state and local government officials hope that Baltimore City residents are among those who plan to comply. At New Shiloh Baptist Church on Monday, Sen. Ben Cardin and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke of the importance of the 2010 census and the implications it could have in Baltimore City if the return rate improves from the previous census.

“We had the lowest turnout of any major city in the country in 2000,” Rawlings-Blake said. “That’s embarrassing but I know we can do better. We were at the bottom of the list last time; we want to be at the top of the list this time.”

The mayor acknowledged that many residents lack trust in the government to keep the information they release to the Census Bureau private, but emphasized that the forms are confidential and extremely beneficial.

“It means so much,” she said. “It means money for our community, strength in Annapolis, how City Council lines are drawn. We need people to understand that it’s important.”

The census count can make a difference in hospitals, daycare centers, schools, public transportation and other public services, said Fernando Armstrong, regional director for the Census Center.

For the first time, the forms are short and printed in English and Spanish but are also available in other languages. Armstrong hopes to receive as many forms back by Census Day , April 1,  as possible, but will continue to receive them after that date. However, they will use the information they receive by Census Day to determine which neighborhoods to target during neighborhood canvassing. A second form will be sent out to areas where there was a low turnout in 2000, which Armstrong said covers most of Baltimore City.

“The last week in April, first week in May, we will go door-to-door through July to neighborhoods to get those forms back that were not sent back,” he said. “We want to get people who know the neighborhood and get people who care about having a good census turnout in that neighborhood.”

Cardin underscored the significant role that faith-based leaders play in encouraging the community to complete and return the census and said residents who lack trust in government officials should be able to turn to their religious advisor instead. The most important thing faith-based leaders should be doing over the next few months, he said, is making sure everyone is counted in the census.

“It’s not a difficult form to fill out, but for those who need help we’ll provide the help,” Cardin said. “We want to make sure Maryland gets treated fairly.”