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 December, 2009

Lookout on Capitol Hill tonight…

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

The following report comes from the Wall Street Journal: A joint town hall hosted by the GE Hispanic Forum and Telemundo takes place this evening on Capitol Hill where a discussion will be held on the impact of the 2010 Census on Hispanics as well as a Telemundo-sponsored effort, Hazte Contar! (Be Counted!), to increase awareness among Hispanics about participating in the once-a-decade count. There will also be a reception recognizing a bipartisan group of Hispanic lawmakers.

Send us YOUR stories! (Yeah, we’re talking to you, the 1.4 million Census Bureau employees!)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Are you a Census Bureau employee with an ax to grind? If so, please submit your stories (with as many details as possible) to MyTwoCensus @ MyTwoCensus.com!

Thanks!

The MyTwoCensus Team

Letter To The Editor: Census Bureau Ignores Fingerprinting Problems And Focuses on Name Checks

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The following letter, from David Allburn of National Fingerprinting, comes in response to our recent post that features questions about why felon/presumed murderer Thom Gruenig was working in a supervisory role for the 2010 Census answered by the Census Bureau:

To The Editor:

Did you notice that your questions about FINGERPRINT comparisons were answered with statements about NAME-CHECK comparisons?

The Census Bureau made the two statements that “No criminal record was found,” and “He was not in their criminal database.” Those statements ask us to assume that he was not ANYWHERE in their criminal database, most especially not in the FBI “fingerprints” database. It is not evident at all from the investigation report you published, whether the FBI had actually compared Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints to the fingerprints of felons, no matter what the names were.  The questions to ask should have included these, for which I proposed what the carefully considered Census answers might be:

1.  ”What would normally have happened at the FBI side if Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints were determined by the FBI automated equipment to lack sufficient image quality to enable print-to-print comparison?” [Answer: A name-check is done instead, and Census relies upon that.]

2. “Is there any record entry maintained at Census or at the FBI, by them or by their contractors, that shows whether the aforementioned image quality test was passed or failed, either by a direct data description or by a reliable indirect indicator?” (…such as an indication that the fingerprint query defaulted into the name-check process by returning a TCR number.) [Answer: If a TCR is returned, that indicator is probably retained by either FBI or Census or their contractors somewhere.]

3. “If due to ‘normal procedure’ Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints may not have actually been compared with others in the FBI file, is there any process by which new prints can be taken of assured-adequate quality and re-submitted to assure AFIS acceptance and comparison?” [Answer: If Mr. Gruenig were to be booked after our background check, presumably pursuant to a new criminal allegation, his prints would likely be routinely sent by the booking law enforcement agency to the FBI for comparison, and re-sent however many times necessary to assure the fingerprint check was actually accomplished to reveal whether any previous forensic-purpose prints on file matched his.]

4. “If a disqualifying record were thereby exposed and reported, would Census have the same confidence in the fingerprint portion of its background check process as previously asserted?” [Answer: Yes, but our confidence would be higher for those prints that passed the quality check at the FBI side.]

5. “if there were a way to assure that fingerprints submitted with insufficient quality to support an actual FINGERPRINT COMPARISON did not result in a default-hire as may have occurred in the Gruenig case, and such a way could be instantly and simply incorporated into the current logistical process, is there any reason why Census would not adopt it?” [Answer: Census routinely considers all helpful proposals according to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.]

6. “Would Census reveal whether an internal investigation was done to determine if Mr. Gruenig’s prints were rejected for quality reasons, and whether or not there actually were matching prints in the FBI file after all? [Answer: The Census Bureau considers personnel records confidential and does not reveal their contents.]

7. “Would a Freedom-of-Information Act request limited to whether Mr. Gruenig’s prints got a TCR result from the FBI allow a FOIA response?” [Answer: Consult the answer to #5 above.]

8. “If it were to be revealed by other legal means that there was a TCR returned by the FBI in Mr. Gruenig’s case, and that he indeed did have matching prints on file with the FBI under a fake name different from the one he gave on his Census employment application, …. (question left to be finished by MyTwoCensus.)

Of course, the above is an interrogation, not an interview. And it may turn out that Mr. Gruenig’s prints indeed got compared with the FBI print collection and turned up with no matches. Such a result would impugn Alaska’s reporting system, not Census Bureau procedure. But such close questions is necessary when jousting with a skilled PR department that carefully chooses its words such as providing NAME-CHECK answers to FINGERPRINT-CHECK questions.

I am glad that MyTwoCensus will “soon get to the bottom of this.” Can’t wait.

David Allburn

MyTwoCensus Investigation Into Why Alaska Felon/Murderer Worked For Census Bureau In Supervisory Role

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Last week, we discovered that Thom Gruenig was a convicted felon in Alaska turned Census Bureau Supervisor turned murderer, so logically we wanted to know why in the world the Census Bureau hired him…After five days of waiting for an official response from DC headquarters, we finally got one…

Here is the official statement from the Census Bureau followed by the official answers to questions posed by MyTwoCensus.com:

“We are saddened to learn of this tragic event. Following established
procedures, Mr. Gruenig’s name and fingerprints were submitted to the FBI
for a background check and he was not in their criminal database.”

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Q:    What can you tell us about Thom Gruenig and his employment by the
Census Bureau

A:    Like all 2010 Census employees, after passing an FBI background check
based on his name, social security number and birth date, Mr. Gruenig
submitted two sets of fingerprints that were matched against the
FBI’s criminal database. No criminal record was found. Mr. Gruenig
was then hired in March 2009 as a field operations supervisor for the
Census Bureau in Fairbanks, Alaska. He worked with remote Alaska
Native villages in preparation for the 2010 Census.

Q:    Did the Census Bureau know about Mr. Gruenig’s prior criminal record?

A:    No. As with all census applicants being considered for employment,
Mr. Gruenig’s name, social security number, birth date and
fingerprints were submitted for an FBI criminal background check. He
was not in their criminal database.

Q:    Do you still have confidence in the background check system?

A:    Yes. The FBI’s National Name Check Program is considered the
preeminent investigative determination for pre-employment vetting and
background investigation.  More than 70 federal and state agencies
have confidence in the FBI’s service. The program utilizes criminal
data submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies.  Based
upon Census Bureau results gathered over the last ten years, FBI name
checks failed to identify less than half of 1% of criminal records.

Q:    What criminal activities would disqualify an applicant for Census
employment?

A:    A conviction for the offenses below will likely disqualify an
applicant for employment. However, this list is not all-inclusive;
there may be additional types of offenses for which a conviction
depending on the date, severity, and nature of the offense, may
render an individual unsuitable for hire.

·  manufacturing/sale of any controlled substance
·  breaking & entering
·  burglary
·  armed robbery
·  embezzlement
·  grand theft
·  violent crimes against person or property (includes assault,
battery, kidnapping, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, murder,
arson)
·  crimes against children
·  sexual offense (includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct,
sexual assault, rape, statutory rape)
·  weapons charge (includes carrying concealed weapon, possession of
illegal weapon, sale of firearms)
·  terrorism
·  voter fraud/voter registration crimes
·  identity theft

Q:    Approximately how many people will likely undergo background checks?

A:    For total 2010 operations, name checks will be requested for
approximately 3.8 million applicants. Ultimately, about 1.36 million
applicants who successfully pass the FBI name check will be hired and
will undergo an FBI fingerprint check.

Philly’s Growing For The First Time In 60 Years!!

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Watch out world, Philly’s on the rise…this after Boston’s challenge of Census Bureau estimates was recently approved…From Philly.com:

Good news, Philadelphia!

After decades of population loss, the city has stopped shrinking, according to revised Census Bureau estimates delivered to the city earlier this week.

On Monday, the city received a letter from the Census Bureau raising the 2008 population estimate by about 93,000.

In October, Philly challenged the bureau’s 2008 estimate of the city’s population, which the bureau had set at 1,447,395. It was the first time that the city had challenged the bureau’s estimates since a challenge program began earlier this decade.

The new estimate of Philadelphia’s ’08 population is 1,540,351 people, 4,220 higher than what even the city had believed. The difference came from the bureau’s having more accurate counts of those living in prisons, nursing homes and college dorms, said Gary Jastrzab, the city’s deputy director of city planning.

The city’s population peaked at more than two million people in 1950, then began a 50-year decline.

“For the first time in nearly 60 years, we can demonstrate that Philadelphia’s population is growing, not declining,” Mayor Nutter said.

He said that the new estimates highlighted the importance of the 2010 Census, which will have legislative and fiscal ramifications for the city.

“City, state, and federal [representation] are all affected by the census figures because of required redistricting,” he said.

The city would get more funding from the federal government if it could prove it was growing, Nutter said.

CQ Politics: Reapportionment In Focus

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Here is a comprehensive feature article from CQ Politics about the reapportionment that will result from the 2010 Census (click HERE for full article):

The once-a-decade process for redrawing the map of the House of Representatives has two distinct parts with similar-sounding, multisyllabic names. Redistricting, the drawing of the lines within each state, is the second part. Reapportionment, deciding how many House seats each state will have, comes first.

There’s likely to be much more suspense about Part 2 than about Part 1. Although the governors, state legislators and probably some judges will be fighting over congressional district boundaries for much of 2011 and 2012, how many seats get assigned to each state will be decided formally, relatively straightforwardly, by the end of next year, based on the results of the 2010 census.

But the outcome, in broad terms, is not in doubt. As in every reapportionment since World War II, more seats will be awarded to the Southern and Western states, and taken away almost exclusively from the states of the Midwest and Northeast.

The power shift will not be as great as it was over the latter half of the 20th century, when the population surges in the Sun Belt eclipsed the modest growth in the Rust Belt because of a variety of factors: technological advances — air conditioning, first and foremost — that boosted the appeal of life in the warm-weather states; changes in the American economy, especially the decline in manufacturing in the nation’s northern half; the rapid increase in the Hispanic population; and the growth of the retirement and tourism industries that favored the temperate climes and expanses of the South and West.

Based on the most recent detailed population projections from the Census Bureau, the nonpartisan Election Data Services Inc. (EDS) — a consulting firm in Manassas, Va., specializing in political demographics — projects that a dozen seats will be reassigned next year, with eight states gaining some strength in the House and 11 states losing some.

Twelve seats were shifted after the 2000 census; the reapportionment upheaval was significantly greater after the 1990 census (19 seats moved) and the 1980 census (17 seats). The seat-shift projection may change at the end of the year, when the Census Bureau will release new populations of the 50 states based on estimates made this summer.

Not only will the reapportionment signal the start of redistricting, it will also inform the early strategizing about the 2012 presidential election, because each state’s strength in the Electoral College is equal to the size of its total congressional delegation: House members plus senators.

Priority Values

For an event of rather momentous political consequences, reapportionment hardly captures the imagination of the average American. It begins with a national population head count that few people give more than a few minutes’ notice every 10 years. And it concludes with the application of a formula for apportioning seats that only someone with a doctorate in statistics can love, or truly comprehend.

Using forms mailed to every household in March, and follow-up interviews with people who don’t return those forms, the Census Bureau will seek to determine the precise populations of each state on April 1. The secretary of Commerce, who oversees the agency, has until Dec. 31 to announce those population counts. (In 2000, the job got done three days before the deadline.)

The totals provide the raw data for reapportionment based on the “method of equal proportions,” which Congress has used since 1941 to divvy up House seats among the states. The formula is actually used to parcel out only the 385 seats that remain after each of the 50 states is assigned the one seat it is guaranteed under the Constitution.

The rest of the seats are handed out based on statistical “priority values” assigned to each additional seat that a state might get. In as close to plain English as the formula will allow, these priority values are calculated in a two-step process that requires dividing a state’s population by the square root of the product of the number of seats it’s already been assigned and that number plus one. The priority numbers are then rank ordered: “State A” will get an additional seat if its priority value for that seat is greater than any other state’s. The seats are disbursed to states based on these rankings until all 435 have been awarded.

The reason at least a handful of seats get transferred each decade is that reapportionment is a zero-sum game: The size of the House was fixed at 435 seats in a law enacted 80 years ago. The fact that the number of House seats has stayed the same even as the population has soared means a vast increase in the number of constituents represented by most House members. The average district population in the coming decade will be about 710,000 people, 10 percent more than in this decade and 24 percent more than in the 1990s.

Senate Dems: Census Bureau should hire unemployed

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.) and three other Senate Democrats are urging the Census Bureau to target the long-term unemployed when making its 2010 hires. Here’s the full story from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau should look to the long-term unemployed when it staffs the 2010 census, a group of Senate Democrats said Wednesday.

The census “is providing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to put a good number of Americans back to work,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Census Bureau responded that “in these difficult times, we’ve made it a priority to hire reliable people who need jobs.” It said the agency has worked with the Labor Department to recruit people looking for work and has partnered regionally and locally with one-stop employment centers. The bureau said it has also worked with state and local governments to ensure that temporary census workers not lose certain benefits.

Schumer and three other senators wrote Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging that the bureau target the long-term jobless as much as possible when it temporarily employs some 1.4 million next year for the census.

“These jobless Americans are exhausting their unemployment insurance benefits in the weeks and months ahead, and the administration should do everything in its power to use federal employment opportunities to help them,” wrote the senators, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Census jobs, ranging from data processing to canvassing neighborhoods, are expected to pay between $10 and $20 an hour.

The senators said the Census Bureau should coordinate with the Labor Department to recruit people at unemployment centers.

Keeping Track of Snowbirds in the 2010 Census

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Here’s an important case study from the Detroit Free Press in Michigan about counting “snowbirds” in the 2010 Census (Click HERE for full piece):

Tips on how to fill out the residency information on 2010 census forms.

That’s the message from officials with state and local governments and area agencies on aging, who are trying to educate snowbirds about the importance of making sure they are counted as Michigan residents when census forms are delivered to households in late February and March.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who is heading the state’s census count effort, said the state estimates about 200,000 snowbirds were missed or not counted as Michigan residents in the 2000 census. He said the uncounted snowbirds contributed to the state’s loss of a seat in Congress and about $2 billion in federal funds over this decade.

Population counts also affect federal dollars that come to the state for hospitals, schools, senior centers, public works projects and emergency services.

“We have a better understanding of what Michigan will lose,” said Paul Bridgewater of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging. “That’s why we’re working harder this year to minimize the loss of the past.”

Billions in funding relies on snowbirds

Rosanne and William Bowker are among the metro Detroiters preparing to leave Michigan’s cold, snowy winter for Florida’s warm sun.

The Royal Oak couple became snowbirds about four years ago after William retired from Chrysler. The 65-year-olds plan to leave after Christmas for their Ft. Myers campground — complete with its own mailbox — for the next four months.

In past snowbird seasons, their neighbors collected their mail and their daughter sent it to them in Florida. But this season, they are having their mail forwarded by the Post Office.

That means they won’t get the 2010 census form that should hit their Michigan mailbox in March. Census forms are not forwarded by the post office because they are based on the residence, not the person, said Kim Hunter, a census bureau media specialist in Detroit.

Rosanne Bowker admitted she never thought about the census form. But after learning that an estimated 200,000 Michigan snowbirds were missed or not counted in the 2000 census, costing the state a congressional seat and about $2 billion in federal funds, she wants to be counted as a resident of her home state.

“I didn’t realize how important it was,” she said.

State, local and Area Agency on Aging officials said it’s critical that Michigan have an accurate tally of its population in the decennial count to receive federal dollars that are directly tied to population and to maintain political influence in Washington on issues such as the auto industry, health care reform and the Great Lakes.

Kenneth Darga, state demographer, said Michigan lost a congressional seat in the 2000 census by just 50,000 people.

“If a portion of our 200,000″ snowbirds “would have been counted, we wouldn’t have lost that seat,” he said.

Boston Defeats Federal Government In Population Count Challenge

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

From the Associated Press:

Boston has successfully challenged its U.S. Census Bureau population estimate.

The city won an argument with the federal government that Boston’s population was 620,535 as of 2008.

So far, eight municipalities have challenged their numbers, adding 22,295 to the Massachusetts population estimate.

Secretary of StateWilliam Galvin said today that Massachusetts now has an overall estimate of more than 6.5 million.

The 2010 Census in April will be critical if the state hopes to avoid losing one of its 10 House seats to southern and western states that have seen population growth.

The Population Estimates Program at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute assisted in revising Boston’s figures. And the Boston Redevelopment Authority provided specific data for the challenge that added 11,512 people to the city’s 2008 population estimate.