My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Archive for April, 2009

The Insider’s Guide To Training For The 2010 Census

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

With hundreds of thousands of Americans working for the Census Bureau, we at MyTwoCensus are surprised that there haven’t been more first-hand accounts of life on the job appearing throughout the blogosophere. Yesterday, we were able to read a great behind the scenes account of life training for the 2010 Census on Ryan’s Ridiculous Real World blog. Here’s Ryan Pope’s interesting and thought-provoking post:

By Ryan Pope

Last week I completed my training to become a Quality Control Lister for the US Census Bureau. What this means (in English) is I am now qualified to spot-check and verify address lists already compiled by the Bureau by physically canvassing neighborhoods and entering the appropriate information into my nifty four thousand dollar handheld computer. This may sound simple enough, but as is so often the case, the training I underwent last week turned out to be something of an adventure.

My training took place in the rec room of a family planning/continuing education center and computer lab in Oceanside, and I trained with 22 other people who likewise passed the test to qualify for Census work. The training started with our CL (crew leader) informing us that we were training for Phase One of the Census, (which basically consists of gathering address information for neighborhoods throughout San Diego county) and that we would complete our training by Thursday. Unfortunately, he told us, it was unlikely any of us would be called out into the field because Phase One of the Census was scheduled to be completed by Monday, thus the only way we would put our training to use would be if someone contracted swine flu and called in sick because they couldn’t finish canvassing their assignment area. After receiving this bit of good news, our CL informed us that training would consist of him reading a giant manual to us verbatim, and that this was unavoidable because the Census Bureau wanted to make sure all its staff received the exact same training. Thus we were essentially being paid $16.50 an hour to sit in a room and listen to a written description of how to do something we would never end up doing in the first place.

You would think this would put people at ease during the training session since, in all likelihood, they would never be called upon to perform the tasks being discussed in class. Much to my dismay I found the exact opposite to be the case: several people in my class were practically freaking out and asking question after question about what to do in different situations. For example, we had one ten minute class discussion on what to do if there’s a big scary dog barking in the yard of a house you need to canvass, and what to do if there’s a medium sized dog that isn’t barking but looks like he could be mean sitting in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and what to do if there’s a small sized dog that is yapping aggressively at you in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and what to do if there’s a a small sized dog that isn’t yapping AND a big sized dog that isn’t yapping in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and so on and so forth. Admittedly, some of the concepts being covered were difficult to grasp, like how to determine the proper code for different residences and enter the information properly into the computer (for example, an apartment complex is coded differently than a group of condos), but these people were totally going overboard.

The questions really got out of hand once our CL distributed handheld computers for us to train with. We were supposed to have one HHC (handheld computer) per student, but it just so happened that after we all finished being fingerprinted on the first day, my CL’s Supervisor showed up and whisked away 18 of the devices, leaving us with four for the entire class to share. For some reason I am yet to understand, my CL chose to assign each of these computers to four of the oldest people in the class. Since these septuagenarians can barely use a cell phone, they were totally lost at sea: a group of chimpanzees would’ve been more tech savy than these people. Thus after every single step of the training, one of these geysers would shout, "WAIT, how did you get that!" or "My screen doesn’t look like that, I think my computer’s broken," or "Where’s the ‘on’ button?" They always asked these questions with a certain amount of panic and desperation in their voices, as if they were asking for directions to the exit of a burning building. They were totally tense and stressed out about using the computers before we even got started, and their intuitive skills (in terms of technology) were for shit, thus there wasn’t a single time all four of them were able to follow along and successfully complete the next step without any assistance. As you can imagine, this made for some riveting action for those of us who did not have handheld computers and had to just listen and try to follow along while the greatest generation suffered a nervous breakdown. The thing is, this wasn’t really their fault; they were all nice people who just didn’t feel comfortable with new technology. My point is this was easily predictable and thus could’ve been easily prevented. Unfortunately, once we started trying to guide the four blind mice through the lesson, we couldn’t stop because the Census Bureau training had to be followed verbatim.

As time wore on I started to people watch and observe the other folks in the room. I’ve always found it interesting to observe how group dynamics work, and it didn’t take me long to breakdown our class into three distinct groups. For our training session, all the people in sitting in the front formed group one. They were all the brown nosers and constant participators who dragged our training session on painfully slow with their illogical butt-kissing (who sucks up during training for a job they’ll never be required to perform?) and question asking (in retrospect I should thank them since we were all being paid by the hour). One lady in this group was working particularly hard to let everyone know that she was deeply engrossed in the material and following along, so much so that she’d answer every question our trainers asked us before anyone else had a chance. It didn’t take me long to dub her "the TA."

I sat in the second row with the second group of people. We were the laid-back mildly intrigued people who followed along but weren’t above having side conversations or cracking jokes, or making sarcastic comments about the butt smoochers in the front. I was fortunate to be seated next to two friendly ladies on my left who enjoyed a good laugh, so we kept ourselves entertained by trading quips about the training material, our classmates, and the whole training charade we were being put through. Unfortunately I was considerably less blessed with the person to my right, a middle aged math who hadn’t bathed for a longtime (if ever) with a penchant for eating stinky foods (the first day he had chilly cheese fries for lunch, while on the second day he opted for the healthier option and ate three friend burritos…when I offered him a piece of gum for fear that anymore rank breath might singe my eyebrows and cause irreparable damage to my vision, I was politely rebuffed…he explained to me he didn’t want any sugar-free gum since he didn’t trust artificial sweetners!) and close-talking. Although he really was a nice person, he was constantly confused during our training sessions, so he’d repeatedly lean in close to me to ask me what page we were on, or to see which answer I’d circled in our workbook, or to ask me a question about how to operate the handheld computer. This made for an extremely long day since sitting next to this fellow required me to harnass all of my mental faculties and powers of concentration simply to resist the urge to vomit.

The colleague ot my right really belonged with the third group of people. These were the people in the back row who, by and large were either disinterested or hopelessly confused. This wasn’t really their fault because there was so much talking going between the trainer at the front, the butt kissers and question askers in the first row, the joke tellers and laughers in the middle row, and all the people having side conversations throughout the room, it was practically impossible for the people in the back to follow the lesson and understand what was going on.

This was too bad for the people in the back because they missed some truly hilarious moments. One such event was when our trainer explained that while canvassing a neighborhood, we should always walk to the right. "Whatever you do, don’t turn left!" The Census Bureau gives you this instruction because they want you to make sure you locate and map every single residence; thus they want you to go in one direction, however, you could just as easily choose left as that direction. Anyway, the funny part was the example our trainer gave to demonstrate this actually required you to turn left to walk around an obstruction in the road before continuing to canvass. However our trainer refused to concede this point and instead gave a complicated (and inaccurate) demonstration of how she was able to walk and turn and keep the houses on her right without ever turning left. It was like watching Derek Zoolander make a left turn by spinning in 270 degrees to the right.

However the funniest thing we heard during our training was from our other trainer. While we were all looking at a map together, she was explaining that north will always be marked in the same direction on all maps. Naturally someone in the front row asked a question about this, to which she responded, “I know, it can be confusing. I used to live in New York so it took me awhile to get used to where north is out here since it’s the opposite out there, but just remember, on all maps north will be the same direction.” My colleagues in the second row and I scratched our heads in amazement, did she really just say that? Was she really suggesting that in New York north is a different direction than in California? What, is Canada below the US out there but above it here? We were in stitches. We finally figured out that she was referring to the direction of north in relation to the water (i.e. is the ocean on your left or your right?) but it came out funny.

Other funny moments were the result of reading the training materials verbatim. The best was when we were instructed to identify a vacant mobile home space as a residence if we observed any evidence of “permanent grass or permanent dirt.” Who the hell knows what “permanent dirt” is? Naturally when one of the folks in the front row asked this question, our trainer didn’t have an answer.

However I think my favorite part of the entire training were the acronyms. The US Census Bureau has an acronym for fricking everything. As we got further and further into the training, the number of acronyms grew, and so we started to see sentences like this one, "Remember, during QC canvassing, after performing DBQ on all HU’s and OLQ’s in your AA, DV will begin ASAP. If it does not, immediately contact your CL at HQ." Laughing to myself I imagined using these acronyms on poor unsuspecting residents: "Look, I need to determine if this is an HU or an OLQ for my AA to complete QC for my CL at HQ, so give me the information ASAP you SOB!"

Overall the training went fine. I was very fortunate in the fact that both my trainers and the other trainees were extremely nice people. Still, after reading a lot of Kafka lately, I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of knowingly training to perform a job I would never be called upon to perform. Fortunately I passed the rigorous exam (I missed one question out of thirty, and to be honest, I’m a little upset by this because I can’t figure out which one I could’ve gotten wrong) at the end of training and thus certified as a Quality Control Lister. Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and someone will call in sick with swine flu and I’ll be called into duty. We can only hope.

Note: The following piece does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

Updates on Robert M. Groves

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

First, inside sources revealed to MyTwoCensus that the May 6 Senate confirmation hearing for President Obama’s Census director nominee Dr. Robert M. Groves has been pushed back to May 12.

Second, Federal News Radio has provided some interesting commentary about the possibility of the Census director serving for a fixed term:

Senate lawmakers are considering giving the Census director a fixed term appointment.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) says there is a pretty good chance the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will push for something similar to how the IRS commissioner works.

The IRS commissioner receives a five-year appointment in order to remain in place beyond one administration. The term would also be similar to those of other agency leaders: from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Carper made these comments yesterday during his subcommittee’s hearing on federal technology management. He says one of the reasons agency information technology projects have trouble is a lack of sustained leadership.

“The way we bring people in leadership positions for a relatively short period of time, a year or two and they are gone, and we have vacancies for sometimes extended periods of time feeds the lack of oversight and supervision, and maybe leads to change orders,” Carper said. “This idea of having literally on the eve of the Census for us to stop and start over again drives or contributes to this problem.”

A Hill staff member, who requested anonymity because the committee still is drafting the bill, says the idea of a fixed term appointment has been supported by many of the former Census directors.

“We are still getting feedback from Census experts and members of the statistical community so at this time no date has been set to introduce the legislation,” the staff member says.

President Obama on April 2 nominated Robert Groves to be the next Census director. The White House has not yet sent the nomination to the Senate yet to begin the confirmation process.

EXCLUSIVE: Former NYT Reporter Exposes Census’ Mishandling of Operations

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

By Laura Mansnerus

Well, the census job in Philadelphia is over. They hired way too many of us. We finished a couple months ahead of schedule. They trained people for a week so that they could work for two weeks. We all miss the paychecks we thought we’d have. The Census Bureau goofed. Does Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke know this? Probably not.

My census job was a total accident. This winter, I was on hiatus from my career in the dying newspaper industry, having left my job to take a fellowship that, of course, came to an end. When I regained consciousness, the whole publishing industry was staggering toward a cliff. Uh-oh.

In January, I was prowling on Craigslist — and the Census Bureau was recruiting for the address canvassing phase of the 2010 Census: Work 20 to 40 hours a week for 10 to 12 weeks.

And before long I was a “crew leader,” hired at $19.25 an hour to supervise canvassers, known as listers, who would be verifying every address in my district of Philadelphia. All over the nation, listers would be updating maps and address lists so the bureau would know where to send questionnaires for the 2010 Census. Fine.

I loved the prospect of spending springtime on the streets while putting off a hideous job search. Moreover, I tend to believe that the public sector does important things, even though I once worked for the E.P.A., one of the worst government agencies known to mankind. The census is a worthy undertaking. The Constitution told us to do it! So I walked into this job with a pretty sunny outlook.

The crew leaders started in March. We were told we’d be working into June. The official deadline for the address canvassing operation, I learned later, is early July.

In my chunk of Philadelphia, seven of us crew leaders were trained the first week, and the next week we trained assistant crew leaders. The third week, each of us would train about 15 listers. Then we would parcel out “assignment areas,” or AA’s, smaller districts with 300 or so addresses each, to the listers.

My supervisor, Ian Hemphill, said we would be all working all-out, full-time and furiously, because the Philadelphia region was behind schedule. It took me a week and a half to start wondering about this. The crew leaders and assistants had already knocked out a few assignment areas. Even fumbling with the balky software on our little hand-held computers, you could finish an AA in a day. My district had 90 AA’s left to assign. I’d have 15 listers.

“Ian, am I missing something?” I asked him when he called a meeting of the crew leaders. “I have 90 AA’s left, and they’re sending me 15 listers. That’s 6 per lister.”

“Oh, ho, I think your math is a little off there,” Ian said.

“Wellllll, I have 90 AA’s, divided by 15, and that’s 6.”

“Let’s get our terms straight here. Six per what? Six per day? Per week?”

Another crew leader, a quiet young guy headed for graduate school, entered the conversation: “SIX … for … the … rest … of … the … entire … operation.”

We could finish the whole thing in a week. Given some slow listers and half-functioning computers, it would take two weeks. But Ian was not persuaded. We all went home.

Wait, I said to myself. The Census Bureau was about to screw a bunch of barely employed people. They had been told they would work until June. They wouldn’t. Worse, this is the agency charged with sophisticated demographic analyses for government and business throughout the nation — no, the world — and with 10 years’ planning time the people running it didn’t know how long it takes x listers to verify y addresses? I had a supervisor who couldn’t divide 90 by 15?

I went to Google News. All around the country, newspapers were running friendly features as address canvassing started in their communities. The Census Bureau, as many of these reporters had copied from its press releases, hired 140,000 people to verify 145 million addresses. Ooops. So they were doing this everywhere. They hired one person for each 1,000 addresses. In Philadelphia they had hired one per 2,000 or so addresses. How long could that take?

The next week, while our listers were chewing through AA’s, Ian trained a second wave of listers who would serve (if needed) as replacements. Meanwhile, we were encouraged to fire people wherever possible. I did not fire anyone. I got two more listers. I got 19 in all, though one was fired because he had failed the security check. (When the local Census authorities learned this, he was already on the job — your federal security clearance dollars at work! — so I had to confiscate his computer and badge immediately while we were out on the street. But that’s another story…)

They people who were hired were top scorers on the same test I had taken. Some had not worked for months and were hugely relieved to have jobs, any jobs. They took their mission very, very seriously. We got lost in discussions about how to treat houses that appeared to be abandoned or buildings that might be divided into illegal apartments, even though our supervisors did not want us to spend much time on concerns like this.

The listers were in their second week on the job when the AA’s dried up. My big crew leader map was plastered with check marks. The listers had put in their first full day on April 3, and most were on their last AA’s when the crew leaders were summoned to headquarters on April 15. The assistant manager for field operations, a mild sort named Wayne Wolfgang, who seemed to be trying to do the right thing, announced, “There’s rumors out there that we’re running out of work.” Not true, he said. “We have a lot of opportunities to move people around. We still have work for everybody.”

Since the crew leaders had been instructed not to open our mouths at this meeting, we didn’t. The office manager distributed a memo from the regional director, Fernando Armstrong, stressing the importance of meeting deadlines. Attached was a warning about driving safely, and anticipating hazards like black ice and moose. We were supposed to pass these out to our listers. And we did! You’re out of work, but if you had any, you should watch for moose on Washington Avenue!

Ian wanted us crew leaders to tell people, “We will find you work.” I ventured, “I’m telling them, ‘we might find you more work.’” Ian got mad. “No! We WILL find you work!”

Nothing materialized, though. Listers who needed to reopen their unemployment claims asked if the Census Bureau would provide letters to certify that they were out of work. No, The Census Bureau wouldn’t do such things.

Many people had passed up other temp jobs or even quit jobs to take jobs with the Census Bureau. “What am I going to do?” said one middle-aged woman whose other job was passing out samples at a liquor store a few hours a week. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, six or seven times. She gave me phone numbers of a couple market research firms that convened focus groups.

Others just wandered away. A few called or visited the office to deliver a piece of their minds. This was to be avoided at all costs. Keep them away from us, the last text message from Ian said. It also said, “Congratulate Listers [sic] on a quick accomplishment of their mission. Stress the positive. Stress the value of a period of federal employment with the possibility of recommendations.”

Today was my last day. I turned in the equipment I’d gathered up from listers, and on the way out of the office I saw Wayne Wolfgang. I asked him a question: “Why did the Census Bureau hire 20 people, including me, to do 97 AA’s?”

“Well, that was the number he was given by headquarters,” he said.

There was no mistake. We finished early. So what?

Wolfgang, apparently looking for congratulations until the end, said, “Did it ever occur to you that we’re efficient?”

“No,” I said.

Laura Mansnerus was an editor and staff reporter at The New York Times for 22 years. She was a 2007 Soros media justice fellow. She is also a no-longer-practicing lawyer.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

Worker Safety: Response from the Census Bureau

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Last week, I posed questions about worker safety at the Census Bureau after I read articles about Census Bureau employees who were attacked by dogs, facing people with shotguns (assuming the enumerators were trespassers), and two employees who were so lost for eight hours that a search involving the armed forces was needed to find them. I wanted to know what type of safety training was received by run-of-the-mill Census Bureau employees during their four days of paid training before they are thrust into their jobs. Here is the response I received from Stacey Gimbel, a public affairs specialist from the Census Bureau’s Headquarters:

The safety of our employees is of the utmost importance to us, so much so
that we instill safety information in our employees from the get-go in
trainings, manuals, and even safety reminders in their first pay stubs.

ALL employees working in the field on the 2010 Census receive training and
detailed information on steps they can take to protect themselves in a
variety of settings.  For example, we provide safety instruction on
encountering pets and other animals, how to avoid or handle vehicular
accidents, and general guidelines on personal safety while walking alone.
Additionally, employees are instructed to contact their supervisors if they
consider an area too unsafe to work in.

Because the safety and well being of our employees are of the utmost
importance, we have taken all manner of precautions to ensure our employees
are as safe as possible while working for us.

Like all federal agencies, the Census Bureau regularly reports information
on work-related injuries of employees to the Department of Labor.  The
information can be found on the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration’s Web site.
http://www.osha.gov/dep/fap/fap-inj-ill-stats.html

Census Through The Back Door

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Another partisan fight may soon take place over who should run the Census Bureau as former Clintonista Census Director and current Columbia University professor Kenneth Prewitt is now back on the federal payroll, this time as a consultant for the 2010 headcount. Will Prewitt’s presence get lost amongst this week’s grumblings from the GOP or will it become a consistent Republican talking point?

Remember folks, Census Director-designate Robert M. Groves’ confirmation hearing is only 1 week away (May 6), so bring out the popcorn as this could potentially get nasty…

Check out the full report from The National Journal:

GOP Protests New Census Consultant

By CARRIE DANN

Former Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt will become involved with the 2010 decennial count as the agency’s part-time consultant, the Commerce Department confirmed today. Prewitt, a Clinton-era appointee who ran the bureau from 1998-2001, was widely considered to be a frontrunner to return to the post in advance of next year’s population count but withdrew his name from consideration earlier this year.

President Obama nominated another former bureau official, Robert Groves, earlier this month to fill the post instead. Now a professor at Columbia University, Prewitt will work “a couple days a week” with bureau officials to troubleshoot problems that arise as the nation’s largest peacetime mobilization effort gets underway, said Commerce Department spokesman Nick Kimball.

House Republicans, who have raised concerns that the potentially controversial headcount will be unduly influenced by the White House, have drafted a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to object to Prewitt’s “back door entry” to the bureau without going through the Senate confirmation process. Democrats scoffed at the complaint, pointing out that it is hardly uncommon for former federal officials to offer expertise on a part-time basis. “Considering former Secretary [Carlos] Gutierrez used [Prewitt] as a consultant, too, you have to ask why the Republicans are in such a tizzy,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. Groves’ Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for May 6.

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Posted in Accountability, Jobs, Management | 5 Comments »

Census Bureau’s Lame Attempt To Be Hip

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The MyTwoCensus team is as familiar with Baywatch as anyone else, but today’s U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature, a quotidian PR blurb blasted out by the Census Bureau (presumably nobody reads it except us…) was distasteful at best and statistically inaccurate at worst. Here’s the press release:

THURSDAY, APRIL 23: “BAYWATCH” AT 20

Profile America — Thursday, April 23rd. It may be hard to believe, but the television show “Baywatch” was first aired 20 years ago today. The program, set on a California beach for its first 10 years, and for its final two years in Hawaii, centered around a group of lifeguards, featuring David Hasselhoff and a cast of good-looking young men and women. “Baywatch” became a very popular show, especially overseas, and it is estimated that more than a billion people in 142 countries saw the program each week. The plots had the lifeguards deal with earthquakes, shark attacks, and even serial killers. Most lifeguards concentrate on saving people in trouble in the water. In the U.S., some 3,600 people drown each year. You can find these and more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at www.census.gov.

As enlightening as it is to learn that 3,600 people drown every year, why is the Census Bureau using this morbid statistic to direct traffic to their homepage? It is very difficult to find drowning statistics when one reaches the Bureau’s home page, even after using the search function. When we were finally able to obtain drowning data, we learned that the statistic that 3,600 people drown every year in America is wrong. The 2009 Statistical Abstract of the United States indicates that in 2004-2005 (here’s a large PDF with the data), the last years that this data is available, 3,308 people died by drowning. Thank you Census Bureau for keeping your statistics inaccurate and using Baywatch-related fear tactics to encourage 2010 Census Participation…

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Posted in Census Bureau, Press Releases, Public Relations, Statistics | 1 Comment »

The First 2010 Census Protesters: Viva La Revolution!!!

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Today, MyTwoCensus has learned about the first people to officially protest their own participation in the 2010 Census. Just yesterday, we wrote how there is very little that the U.S. Government can do to punish individuals who fail to complete their 2010 Census forms, which, in this case, is the American Community Survey that has been mailed to approximately 1 in 40 households.

Thanks to Tulsa Oklahoma’s Channel 6 News for first reporting this:

TULSA, OK — The U.S. Census Bureau is surveying Tulsa neighborhoods to confirm where to send questionnaires for the 2010 census.

But some people are wondering why they’re already getting census forms in the mail.

Forms are landing in mailboxes almost a full year before the census officially starts.

Geraldine and Lincoln Higgins are not usually rebellious, but they say they’re not going to fill out the census form they got in the mail.

“I don’t think the U.S. government needs to know how many people live in this house,” Geraldine Higgins said. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.”

They are not planning to answer the more than 100 questions on the American Community Survey, which asks about their house, finances, what languages they speak and the state of their health.

What made Geraldine Higgins mad was that it said the law required her to answer.

“I’d like for them to come arrest me,” she said. “I’m 75 years old. What are they going to do with me?”

The Census Bureau says she isn’t going to be arrested but she does have to answer.

Dennis Jordan, Census Bureau Regional Director: “The 100 year census, the 2010 census and the American Community Survey, both have been determined to be so important that Congress has authorized them to be mandatory,” said Dennis Jordan, regional director of the Census Bureau. “Each household is required to fill them out.”

The survey is not the 2010 census. The American Community Survey goes out continuously and over a decade every home will get one.

The questions provide the government with more timely information than the once-a-decade census that in 2000 asked many of the same questions on a long form.

“We’re not doing that anymore,” Jordan said. “Everyone in the 2010 census will get a short form, 10 questions, takes about 10 minutes and the information we used to get on the long form will be collected with the American Community Survey.”

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Posted in Accountability, Statistics | 1 Comment »

Crime but no punishment…

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Federal law requires participation in the census, and failure to respond to the 2010 Census can result in a $100 fine. Providing false answers carries a more hefty $500 fine.

However, MyTwoCensus is willing to go beyond saying that these punishments are rarely enforced, as it seems that they are NEVER enforced. At least they haven’t been in our lifetimes…

In an April 14 conversation between MyTwoCensus and Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner, we learned that “The Census Bureau is not a law enforcement agency. We try to make Americans understand the importance of completing the census, but we don’t try to enforce those penalties.”

If you fail to participate in the census, don’t lose sleep over it because the the Attorney General won’t have an armada of prosecutors and U.S. Marshals chasing you down…

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Posted in Accountability, Census Bureau | 20 Comments »

Backlash Against Boycott

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

After a nationwide group of Latino clergy, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (NCLCCL), announced they were urging a boycott of the 2010 Census, panic spread that this one boycott could trigger mass civil disobedience efforts. The NCLCCL’s “Stand up, but refuse to be counted in the 2010 U.S. Census” message garnered significant media attention in recent days, though apparently the support isn’t as widespread as they would have liked it to be. Other Latino advocacy groups have started to preach a counter-message, encouraging people to participate in the census, citing that an accurate count is good for America. The NCLCCL is planning a rally for this Saturday (4/25) in Newark, New Jersey. MyTwoCensus will be providing in-depth coverage of the event.

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Posted in Immigration | No Comments »

Census Bureau over-hired, pulled back on job offers

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Colorado Springs Gazette just reported on of the Census Bureau’s most serious blunders to date, revealing that job offers for potential employees were rescinded, but only when those who thought they were new-hires showed up for their first day on the job. One wonders, how widespread is this bureaucratic nightmare? Here’s the report:

Thinking she’d secured a better gig, Colorado Springs resident Janet Seville quit her $10-an-hour, part-time job at a building company last month.

But when she showed up for her new job last week, she learned it was all a big misunderstanding.

With unemployment in Colorado Springs at a 21-year high, it was a tough break for the 65-year-old divorcee.

Seville thought she had secured a full-time, temporary position at the U.S. Census Bureau making $13.25 an hour.

But Seville said she and nine other applicants were turned away. She said officials told the applicants the Census Bureau had hired too many people.

“They gave it to us and took it away,” she said. “I just thought it was horrible. I mean, how can they do that? They just blew it off like it was nothing. I mean, they apologized and said we would get paid for one hour for showing up, and for mileage and travel time, but that’s just not good enough.”

Seville went to the media. She went to Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office.

With the country in the middle of a recession, Seville said, she has few financial resources and isn’t sure what she’ll do if she can’t find another job soon.

Her previous employer filled her position quickly but agreed to let her come back as a substitute, which she did over the weekend.

Seville said she doesn’t expect anything to change now, but she wants people to know about the effect a bureaucratic mix-up can have.

A Census Bureau official said the situation is more of a misunderstanding. The bureau hired about 140,000 people nationwide for temporary jobs to get ready for the 2010 Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone who lives in the country.

With that many people, and given the demands of the work, there’s bound to be turnover, said spokeswoman Deborah Cameron. Seville was among a group of people on a list as possible replacements when some from earlier waves of hiring departed, Cameron said.

“That training class (Seville attended) was actually designated as a replacement training class, so all people there knew that it was possible, they were in a pool as someone who could replace in terms of carry-over, and they could be used now or they could be used a little bit later,” Cameron said.

Seville said she and all the other applicants had good reason to believe they were following up on firm job offers, not just another step in the application process.

She said there was no paperwork recording the job offer, just a phone call March 14 with orders to show up April 1. That was later delayed to an April 16 start date.

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Posted in Accountability, Census Bureau, Jobs | 7 Comments »

Australia’s Paperless Census

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Australian government has invested a significant amount of money in creating a do-it-yourself, web-based eCensus, that will save not only the environment, but millions of taxpayer dollars as well.

This makes us wonder, why isn’t America a technological leader when it comes to implementing new census technology? Is it because lawmakers like to see taxpayer money redistributed within their districts to Census Bureau field workers? Is it because lobbying efforts from private firms like Lockheed Martin that have won contracts to work with the Census Bureau?

Here are some highlights from the article about Australia’s superior headcounting technology:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has virtualized its server infrastructure to form its own private cloud with the potential to host the 2016 eCensus thus avoiding a $9 million outsourcing contract.

In 2006, the ABS introduced the option of either completing the Census on the traditional paper form or electronically via the Web-based eCensus, which provides the potential for improved data collection and faster processing of the results.

The ABS chose IBM to develop and support its eCensus program because of “IBM’s expertise in Web-based solutions and scalable infrastructure”, but that is changing with the advent of virtualization technology which has provided the opportunity to host the application in house, according to the ABS director of servers, operating systems and storage, Tony Marion

According to the ABS, eCensus information is encrypted at all times while in the system and even IBM does not have the keys required to decrypt the data, but running it in-house would reduce the perception of secure information being managed by a third-party.

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Posted in Accountability, Technology | 1 Comment »

Salute to Northwest Arkansas

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

NWANews.com, a news conglomerate for Northwest Arkansas, is the first news outlet to receive MyTwoCensus.com’s Golden Enumerator award. In the past week, their crime watch section has reported two 2010 Census-related incidents of interest to us:

At 9:36 a.m. Tuesday, a man on Grisham Drive was knocking on doors in the neighborhood; he had paperwork and was writing things down. An officer determined he was a census worker.

At 4:25 p.m.Tuesday, a caller reported that a Census Bureau worker was bitten by a dog on Newquay Lane.

This final bit of information about a dog attacking a Census Bureau employee is particularly interesting, as MyTwoCensus still seeks information from the Census Bureau to determine the number of injuries and deaths of field workers while on the job…

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Posted in Accountability, Jobs | No Comments »