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, 2010

West Virginia: Addresses Skewing Census

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The following report comes from the Charleston Daily Mail:

by Billy Wolfe
Daily Mail staff

CHARLESTON, W.Va.–Census workers in West Virginia will make more door-to-door visits this year than officials initially thought because of confusion resulting from the statewide addressing and mapping project.

The new system was meant to standardize rural addresses by assigning a physical street address to every home in the state. The project is a result of post-Sept. 11, 2001 guidelines requiring better security and emergency response.

But while the new system assigned an address to every home, it didn’t put a mailbox in front of each residence. Many residents who have a new physical street address under the system still get their mail at a post office box.

But in many cases, the U.S. Census Bureau used those new addresses to mail out census forms.

That resulted in some census forms being sent to non-existent mailboxes. Postal carriers would then discard those forms as undeliverable mail.

Those addresses were then listed as “non response,” meaning a census worker will have to get the information in person at a later date.

“What I guess was not fully anticipated was how (the addressing and mapping project) would affect the census,” said Anthony Galante, manager of the Charleston census office.

“There has been some confusion where it looks like we have addresses, but there is no mail delivery,” he said. “It’s all going to fall into the no response follow-up portion.”

He doesn’t know how many people failed to get their census form as a result of the address changes, but said his office has received “a great deal” of complaints from Roane and Wayne counties.

The confusion might be one reason why West Virginia is lagging behind the national average for mail participation in the 2010 census.

As of Thursday, West Virginia was showing a 63 percent participation rate for mailing back the forms. The national average was 71 percent.

All of West Virginia’s bordering states were boasting higher mail participation rates than the Mountain State.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: My Mad Men moment…What 2010 Census ads should have said…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’m a few years behind the rest of the world as I only recently started watching Mad Men, the hit TV series about the world of advertising. The show got me thinking about many things related to the 2010 Census ad campaign. Rather than advertising with “Portrait of America” themes, Christopher Guest nonsense, and other ads that seem to be unclear, unpointed, and uninteresting flops. Why not go straight to the numbers? The simple ad campaign I would have created for the Census Bureau would have gone as follows:

Cost to mail back your census form: 42 cents.

Cost to send a Census Bureau employee to your house if you fail to return your form: $57.

Amount of federal money at stake if you aren’t counted: $1,333.*

Total amount of available funding that you are community should get its fair share of: $400 BILLION.

2010 Census – Mail it back and Participate.

(Back in February, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost told readers of this blog — see the comments section — that the Census Bureau and Draftfcb were in the process of creating a 2010 Census ad competition for the public to compete in…clearly that never happened!)

*The Census Bureau uses the term $400 billion for the total amount of money at stake. $400 billion divided by 300 milli0n people (an approximation of America’s population) is $1,333 per person. Some estimates determine that it is about $3,000 per person missed. Shelley Lowe of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office said of the per person figure, “We don’t calculate that, but other organizations have attempted to.”

Three Reasons Why New York City May Be Undercounted…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The following tidbit comes to us from Kelly Virella of CityLimits.org:

Off-the-Books Housing
Nearly 40 percent of the new housing created in NYC from 1990 to 2005 years is illegal, much of it in residential basements and attics. The Census Bureau found a lot of those residents—if not most of them—and sent them the forms, but many families probably never received them. “There are many households where the landlord sorts the mail,” says Stacey Cumberbatch, the city’s 2010 Census coordinator. “If I get a form for my illegal tenants, I may not give it to them, wondering how anyone knows they live in the basement.”

Off-the-Books Tenants
Some of New York’s public housing residents and voucher holders don’t want the New York City Housing Authority to know that a cousin, friend or partner lives with them, because telling the truth would jeopardize their leases or vouchers. They fear—despite NYCHA assurances to the contrary—that reporting their household headcount will create a paper trail leading to their eviction. “We need to get the message out that it’s safe to participate in this activity,” says Tony Farthing, director of the Census Bureau’s New York Regional Office. “No one will take your apartment away from you.”

Off-the-Books Work
An estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants live in New York City, and fear—despite the Census Bureau’s denials—their participation in the census will lead to their deportation.

On the Closing of the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers . . . and Beyond

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The following press release represents the opinions of the Latino Census Network, not MyTwoCensus.com:
by the Latino Census Network (April 21, 2010)

The Latino Census Network has received a number of inquiries about the closing of the Census Bureau’s Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers. Members of the New York City Council have written to the Census Directors asking that these centers be kept open for an additional 30 days. Other have expressed surprise that these centers have closed.

The Census Bureau informs us that these centers had been scheduled to close on April 19th from the start. Because these were established through contracts with community-based organizations and other institutions through contracts, it would be difficult to extend these agreements at this point.

The Census Bureau’s focus now is on their Non-Response Follow-up (NRFU). Door-to-door census taking occurs starting May 1nd through June and early July 2010. Local census takers will visit households that did not mail back a census form. All census takers carry an official badge and a shoulder bag – both with the Department of Commerce seal – and a binder. During a visit, census takers will show ID and hand respondents an information sheet explaining that their answers are confidential. The census taker will complete the questionnaire, which should take about 10 minutes. If no one is home, a “notice of visit” will be left at the door inviting the resident to call the census taker to complete the form over the phone.

With the mail-in participation so close now to the 2000 Census rates at the national level, the Census Bureau no doubt sees this mail-in part of the process a success. It is expected that in the next week or so, additional Census forms will come in, making it possible that the 2000 participation rate will be matched. Given all of the factors that make this 2010 Census more challenging than the last (9/11, greater anti-immigrant sentiment, etc.), this level of mail-in participation is considered a success, at least at the national level.

Title 13, U.S. Code, requires that the apportionment population counts for each state be delivered to the President within nine months of the census date, by December 31. 2010. According to Title 2, U.S. Code, within one week of the opening of the next session of the Congress, the President must report to the Clerk of the House of Representatives the apportionment population counts for each state and the number of Representatives to which each state is entitled. Also according to Title 2, U.S. Code, within 15 days, the Clerk of the House must inform each state governor of the number of representatives to which each state is entitled.

The legislatures in each state are responsible for geographically defining the boundaries of their congressional and other election districts–a process known as redistricting–and more detailed census results are used for these purposes. Public Law 94-171, enacted by Congress in December 1975, requires the Census Bureau to provide state legislatures with the small area census population tabulations necessary for legislative redistricting. The Census Bureau must transmit the total population tabulations to the states by April 1, 2011.

Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/20/2010 09:52 AM

Subject:

PBOCS and NRFU

OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/14/2010 09:48 AM

Subject:

PBOCS

As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

fld.regional.directors@census.gov

Cc:

fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

Date:

04/08/2010 05:57 PM

Subject:

Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

    Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

—– Original Message —–
From: Barbara M LoPresti
Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
Brian,
In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
Thanks
Barbara


FYI: http://www.censusdiscriminationlawsuit.com/

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The above site provides details about the recent class action hiring lawsuit. Ah, America’s lawyers embracing technology to make a quick buck. Love it.

New Jersey city files lawsuit against the Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

It’s getting pretty trendy to file lawsuits against the Census Bureau. Here’s another one from New Jersey:

Irvington files suit against Census bureau

By Richard Khavkine/For The Star-Ledger

April 20, 2010, 5:10AM

IRVINGTON – Residents in an apartment complex of more than 1,700 households did not receive their Census forms, and township officials, fearing the loss of millions of federal dollars, have sued the Census Bureau alleging a breach of its constitutional mandate.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, seeks a court order compelling the agency to send a team of workers to the Maple Gardens apartments, a four-tower complex near Springfield and Maple avenues that is home to about 5,000 people.

According to recent estimates, the gated community’s residents could comprise as much as 9 percent of the township’s entire population.

“I’m very concerned,” Mayor Wayne Smith said Monday. “That is a glaring omission.”

Although its ostensible purpose is to count the population, the Census also helps policy makers determine how to disburse $400 billion in federal funding each year.

“Dollars tend to be commensurate with your population,” Smith said, alluding to federal funds that help pay for facilities and services, such as road construction projects, job training centers and schools.

According to the latest American Community Survey, which tracks demographic trends between Censuses, Irvington’s population dipped to about 56,000 in 2008, a 60-year low. The township, hit hard by foreclosures, had a population of 60,695 a decade ago, according to the 2000 Census.

“Who knows what they missed in the rest of the township?” said township attorney, Marvin T. Braker, adding, “You can’t exclude that many people. It’s just fundamentally unfair.”

The suit also seeks an extension of the April 16 deadline to mail in the forms.

A Census spokeswoman said the agency has contingency plans to help it account for large swaths of populations that might have been missed, such as that cited by the township. One possible solution would be to set up a Census station in the buildings’ lobbies.

“One way we try to cover all bases would be to set up a table in the lobby,” said Yolanda Finley, who had not seen the suit and could not comment on the township’s allegation that no forms were mailed to the complex. “There are all kinds of arrangements made to count in a building that size.”

Smith, though, said he was skeptical.

“I’m not assured that what they’re going to do is going to be enough,” he said. “Whatever they need to do, they need to do more, because they made the mistake.”

According to the Census Bureau, it costs 42 cents to obtain a mailed-back Census form. Getting a household’s responses in person if residents have not mailed back the form costs upward of $57.

The township’s Census response rate is currently 44 percent, below the nation’s 69 percent rate, according to the bureau’s most recent figures.

Finley said that residents who had not received Census forms could call (866) 877-6868 to have one mailed.

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Census Bureau Hiring

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The following New York Times editorial concerns the class action lawsuit that we reported on last week. For many months now, MyTwoCensus.com has criticized 2010 Census hiring practices. Here’s the editorial:

The Census Bureau is hiring a million or more people to assist with the 2010 count. It is temporary work, but it pays well. With national unemployment at nearly 10 percent, it looks like an excellent opportunity. That is unless you are one of the nearly 50 million Americans with any arrest or conviction on record.

A new class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of applicants who say they were unfairly turned down for census jobs based on an opaque screening policy that relies on F.B.I. checks for any criminal histories. Those checks are notoriously unreliable. A 2006 federal report found that half of them were inaccurate or out of date.

The Census Bureau is vague about what makes someone ineligible. In Congressional testimony, it suggested that it is excluding people who have been convicted of crimes involving violence and dishonesty. The bureau’s Web site seems to say that applicants whose background checks turn up any arrest — no matter how trivial, distant in time, irrelevant to the job — receive a letter advising them that they can remain eligible only if they produce “official court documentation” bearing on the case within 30 days. Incredibly, the letter does not identify the alleged criminal activity. Applicants must prove eligibility, even if they don’t know why they were flagged.

Official court records are often unobtainable for the millions of people whose convictions have been sealed or expunged or for people who have been arrested and released because of lack of evidence or mistaken arrest. This problem falls heaviest on black and Hispanic communities where stop-and-frisk policies and indiscriminate arrests are common.

The hiring problem is not limited to the Census Bureau. After 9/11, Congress required port workers to undergo F.B.I. background checks to keep their jobs. Last year, a study by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers, found that the government had mistakenly denied credentials to tens of thousands of those workers.

States and cities are wisely revising employment policies. The federal government needs to develop a fair and transparent screening system for job applicants and a more effective appeals process. Congress must also require the F.B.I. to verify the criminal records — and find missing data before issuing background checks.

Chaos at Eastern Washington Census Office

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

From the Tri-Cities Herald in Washington state (which was my local newspaper when I worked the grape harvest at Pacific Rim winery):

4 census managers announce resignations

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writer

Most of the managers at the Kennewick census office quit last week, but the interim manager said the vacancies shouldn’t affect completing the local 2010 Census.

Ford Carlberg, interim local census office manager, said the office had four resignations last week. He said he couldn’t discuss it further because it is a personnel issue.

However, he said, the local office is on schedule with the 2010 Census.
Dave Donaldson of Finley, who was an assistant manager at the Kennewick office, said he, two other assistant managers and the office manager quit last week.

Donaldson, who was in law enforcement for 22 years, said he has been a supervisor before and had never experienced the lack of support and concern for employees that he did with the regional census center in Bothel.

Donaldson said he enjoyed working with the other employees at the Kennewick office, and felt like they were doing a good job. But the local office would be given last-minute changes to procedures, sometimes without enough time to implement them, he said.

The regional census center was concerned about the numbers but not about quality and doing the job right, Donaldson said.

Donaldson said he hopes the local census work isn’t negatively affected by the resignations.

Carlberg said the census has a practice of training others in the office to take up tasks if someone is unable to continue. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has regional technicians, including Carlberg, who are trained to fill in at needed positions.

Now that the deadline to return the census forms by mail has passed, officials are set to begin follow-up work in the region on May 1 with about 1,200 employees, also called enumerators, Carlberg said.

Currently, the office is hiring and training those enumerators, he said. Training likely will be during the weeks of May 3 and May 10 as the office gets a better idea of what will be needed.

“We don’t know yet what the specific workload will be,” Carlberg said.
The mail-in response rates provide an estimate, but the official data from the national processing center won’t be available until the end of the week, Carlberg said.

Benton County has a preliminary participation rate of 73 percent as of Monday with the cities of Kennewick at 70 percent, Richland at 75 percent and West Richland at 76 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Franklin County, the participation rate was 71 percent as of Monday. Pasco had a participation rate of 71 percent, which already is 2 percent more than the overall 2000 Census participation rate for the city.
The Kennewick office staff is dedicated, Carlberg said. “We will get the number right,” he said

Read more: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/04/20/983127/4-census-managers-announce-resignations.html#ixzz0liuodnsx

MyTwoCensus files Freedom of Information Act request to better understand Census Bureau tech failures

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting the records of all technical and information technology glitches, failures, and errors that involved the Census Bureau and its technology systems from January 1, 2006 through the present. This includes everything from e-mail systems going down to fingerprint scanners not working properly to the recent paper-based operational control system failure. Most important to me are items pertaining to the 2010 Census. I would appreciate if you started with the most recent failures and worked your way back. These should include every piece of technology that the Census Bureau uses at field offices as well as at headquarters in Suitland.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com, governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

In Focus: How your $timulus package money is being $pent by the Cen$u$ Bureau

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

H/t to Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporting outlet Pro Publica for sharing the following data with us. Here are some screen captures that depict how your taxpayer dollars are being spent (…interestingly, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost’s former boss Carolyn Maloney represents New York City and the areas where $125,000,000 in stimulus money is headed in communications contracts!). The amount of money being spent on partnership support is particularly disturbing as I have received multiple reports of partnership materials being DISCARDED by the palette!

NYTimes ad critic analyzes 2010 Census ad campaign

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Below is Stuart Elliot’s commentary as he answers readers’ questions about 2010 Census ads. Will the Census Bureau and Draftfcb threaten to take away the New York Times’ contract because Stuart was somewhat critical of the ad campaign?

Q: (Reader)

Just this morning, as I was reading NYTimes.com, I was struck by the short films that the U.S. Census is running to help persuade people to return their census forms.

Usually I ignore any and all advertisements online, but I found these fascinating because they present people who have reasons (good or less good) for mistrusting the government as encouraging citizens to participate. Who is responsible for the films?

A: (Stuart Elliott)

The films are part of a Web series, called Portrait of America, which features “real people expressing their reservations about participating in the Census and then overcoming them once they examine the form,” says Wally Petersen, a spokesman for DraftFCB in Chicago, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

The DraftFCB New York office created the Web series in its role as the lead agency for the Census campaign. “More than a dozen agencies produced more than 400 pieces of marketing communications” to encourage participating in the Census, he writes in an e-mail message, adding that the work is “targeting multiple audiences” in terms of races and ethnicities and appears in 28 languages.

Q: (Reader)

Something about those ubiquitous U.S. Census television ads has me scratching my head: the closing call to action. On screen invariably is the phrase “Census 2010” while the voice-over announcer invariably says “2010 Census.”

This strikes me as a weird inconsistency, not what one usually sees in a presumably well-considered, well-heeled campaign. In other words, “Huh?” What can you find out?

A: (Stuart Elliott)

Back we go, dear reader, to Mr. Petersen, who offers this reply in another e-mail message: “The formal name, ‘United States Census 2010,’ is a mouthful and sounds too bureaucratic. Lots of brands have nicknames. Look at Mickey D’s, for McDonald’s; B.K., for Burger King; and the Shack, for Radio Shack.”

“Saying ‘2010 Census’ simply functions as a short and memorable nickname,” Mr. Petersen concludes.

NRFU Operations (and thus troubles) begin

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Census forms are now due back and non-response follow-up operations are starting across the country. With some 600,000 workers (or more) on the job right now, there are bound to be problems. If you know of anything that is out of the ordinary, please don’t hesitate to contact MyTwocensus.com!

Anonymous Census Bureau Official: Major Nation-wide IT FAILURE at the Census Bueau

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The following piece comes to us from a Census Bureau official from the Mid-West region who has requested anonymity but has had her identity verified by MyTwoCensus.com. Her discussion of a major week-long IT systems failure has effected every Census Bureau office across the country and demonstrates how disgraceful operations are being handled (and subsequently covered up, as MyTwoCensus has requested information about this failure numerous times yet has not received any responses from the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office):

I have a problem in my local census office. The problem is 493 of those offices across the nation are having the same exact problem. You see, in November and December 2009 when I first started at the Census Bureau, one of my first assignments was assisting in a system load test known as the Decennial Application Load Test (or DALT for short). DALT simulated the conditions of every census office employee logging on at the same time across the nation and what would happen. This was my first taste of our federal tax dollars hard at work. As is typical of any large scale government program the whole system went kaput; users couldn’t log-on and applications crashed.

The Bureau’s contingency plan was to limit users and ask offices to spread out their staffing. We started to run an evening shift which meant paying night differential (an additional 10% pay) to our night employees.  One application of concern was PBOCS the Paper Based Operational Control System that was unveiled in January 2010 to complete the rest of their field operations. The system was developed after the Census decided to nix the Harris Corporation as their contractor. The PBOCS system was used to check out assignments into the field, make assignments to enumerators, check work into the office after completion and check out for shipping. In February 2009 after the two big snowstorms that hit Washington DC the same thing happened. The Bureau’s contingency plan for PBOCS was to limit users to four per local census office and remove functionality they didn’t deem was mandatory.

In the last few weeks we are experiencing many more problems as we near non-response followup the most massive operation of the decennial census. Some of PBOCS problems include but are not limited to:
* individual census reports (ICRS) from group quarters enumeration that PBOCS claims are missing for shipment.
* daily progress reports that are outdated or showing the wrong numbers
* numerous system crashes where work is lost or has to be rescanned
* wrong or missing work being selected for reinterview

At the beginning when these problems started, the RCC pointed fingers at the local census offices accusing them of not using the system or processing the work properly. However when several offices reported the same issues the blame then shifted to the software.

To further complicate things is the divide that also occurs between the local census office employees and the the regional census center and headquarters staff. The headquarters and regional census center staff are mostly career employees. The local census office employees are temporary Schedule A hourly employees. Although both are referencing the same procedures in the same manuals the local census office employees are the ones who are doing the grunt work (the enlisted men per say). The RCC and headquarters staff (the commissioned officers) manage and oversee but do not realize the difficulties and nuances because they are not out there getting their hands dirty.

The LCO employees are finding that the PBOCS system actually will not update the report numbers or sometimes show the wrong numbers. The RCC and headquarters are lead to believe if the work doesn’t show in the system as completed then it is not completed. However when the reports don’t show the quotas are being met the career census employees usually get on the phone to threaten the temporary employees and even sometimes terminating their employment.

This weekend is the third weekend PBOCS has gone offline. On Wednesday April 14 it was announced PBOCS was to go down at 8pm (actually went down about 5pm) and will not be back up until Monday morning April 19th. We are somewhat relieved to hear through the grapevine that the RCC and headquarters will be more lenient and readjust their production goals for the entire nation. However I think that much of the intimidation and harassment will occur again so that the career census employees can cover their asses and recover any of the money they were probably paying in overtime for programmers to fix this crap piece of software. This is all the while they tell the temporary employees at the LCO that overtime will be strictly prohibited.

The career employees at RCC and headquarters hold the temporary LCO employees accountable for mistakes they [RCC and headquarters] made in the ten years they had to prepare since the last decennial. But who is held accountable at the highest levels when a multi-billion dollar piece of software doesn’t work and they constantly have to fix it? I hope the Inspector General and my congressmen are reading this because PBOCS is government waste at its finest. How ironic it is happening in the nearing days of the largest operation of the decennial census.

Is recently convicted felon/hip-hop artist Chris Brown an ideal 2010 Census spokesman?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

At first glance, it sounds like someone who beat up his pop-star girlfriend (Rihanna) wouldn’t be the best PR spokesman for the Census Bureau, but maybe I’m out of touch with who America’s youth views as role models these days. Does anyone else out there find it disturbing that hip-hop artist Chris Brown is out there promoting the 2010 Census? In 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault of singer Rihanna and was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service:

New York City Council Wants 2010 Census Extension

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Will this be another effort of New York City Mayor Michael “Third Term” Bloomberg trying to avoid regulations and change them to meet his favor?

From Blackstarnews.com:

On Monday, April 19 at 10 AM in Council Chambers, the Committees on Community Development, Governmental Operations and Civil Rights will hold a joint hearing on NYC’s Census 2010 efforts and a resolution sponsored by Council Members Vann and Brewer. The resolution calls upon the U.S. Census Bureau to extend and/or reopen its April 15 deadline for accepting “mail-in” census forms and to keep both its Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted Sites open for an additional 30 days.

In New York City, only 56 percent of households have returned their census form to date. New York City has a uniquely hard-to-count population because of its large immigrant population, diversity in housing and areas of concentrated poverty. Brooklyn is performing the worst of the city’s boroughs with a response rate of only 51 percent.

There have been several reports of households receiving multiple census forms, receiving the form late or receiving no form at all.

With school year winding down, college students lack census forms on campus

Friday, April 16th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com wonders what other college towns that are dependent on students are also lacking forms…See this report from Indiana:

Indiana State students among those awaiting census forms

Spring semester ends in three weeks

Sue Loughlin The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University students will complete spring semester in three weeks, yet residence hall students still have not been counted in the 2010 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau has taken longer than expected to provide the census forms to the university, said Tara Singer, ISU’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing. “I believe there was just an underestimation of forms needed” for the community’s college students, she said.

A similar problem has occurred at Indiana University.

ISU has 2,999 students living in 10 residence halls and 382 students living in University Apartments, she said.

Those students will be counted as Terre Haute residents.

While there’s been a delay, Singer expects the university will receive those forms very soon. “Yes, we think we’ll get them [students] all counted on time” before they leave at the end of the semester, she said.

She does expect to have the forms by next week, when ISU will conduct floor meetings in residence halls to distribute the forms and ask students to complete them at that time.

ISU does have a representative on the Terre Haute Complete Count Committee. “We want to have our students counted because they spend approximately 10 months a year here in Terre Haute,” she said.

ISU has taken an active role in trying to make students aware of the importance of the census through posters, electronic communication and student organizations, she said.

ISU has not caused the delay, Singer said. “We’ve been ready.”

Terre Haute public affairs director Darrel Zeck, who leads the Complete Count Committee, said he recently learned about the insufficient number of census forms to count the college students.

Zeck said he was relieved to learn Thursday that ISU will get the forms soon.

Meanwhile, Rose-Hulman does have its census forms for students and distribution to fraternity presidents was to begin Thursday night, said Tom Miller, Rose-Hulman dean of student affairs. Rose-Hulman has 1,100 students living on campus.

The forms also will be distributed to students in residence halls, Miller said. “Everything is in order.”

Having ISU and Rose-Hulman students counted is critical for Terre Haute in its ability to qualify for various types of federal funding, Zeck said. While he’s relieved, he believes it’s “unacceptable” there was a shortage of forms to begin with.

Cindy Reynolds, an assistant regional census manager in Chicago, said that it was her understanding a staff member had contacted ISU and “any problem has been resolved.”

While initially there were not enough forms, there should be enough now, Reynolds said.

Hipsters respond: Don’t blame us for low response rates…blame the Hassidic Jews!

Friday, April 16th, 2010

In response to my postings about hipsters failing to complete their census forms in Brooklyn, a hipster blog has refuted these claims and has instead shifted the blame for low response rates to the neighboring Hasidic Jewish community — yet also notes that the 2010 Census forms were mailed out during the week-long Passover holiday:

Stop Blaming Hipsters for the Census

Census copy.jpg

Hey NPR, next time you run a piece entitled “New York’s Hipsters Too Cool for the Census,” you should maybe do more than talk to three people in a record store?

Sure, as Brian pointed out last week, Williamsburg’s response rates are super low. But check out the actual data available on the Census 2010 Map. The Census return rates for the “hip” parts of Williamsburg are about on par with those for the rest of the city. It’s the Hassidic areas that have a super low rate of return (see screenshot above). Which the NPR story mentioned, kind of, at the end of the piece, after focusing on those crazy kids with their “wacky bikes” and “ironic mustaches.”

So yeah, some of us are lazy assholes who haven’t mailed their forms in yet (like, ok, I *might* have just mailed mine in this morning). But come on – we’re no more lazy than the rest of this city.

UPDATE: Aaron Short, over at A Short Story blog, points out that one reason the Hassidic return rate might be so low is because the forms were mailed out during… Passover.

So what we’re saying is that it’s nobody’s fault, really.

pio@census.gov STILL DOWN!

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The Public Information office is still bouncing e-mails back to us….and this has gone on since Monday! Is there an IT department at the Census Bureau? Is anyone being held accountable for this? Some answers please!

Does this lawsuit against the Census Bureau have legitimacy? Perhaps

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

H/t to former MyTwoCensus editor Emily Babay for informing me of the following lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau for its hiring practices. The Philadelphia Inquirer brings us the following:

Phila. woman at center of census lawsuit

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Paying $17.75 an hour, U.S. Census jobs, though temporary, are attractive in an economy where unemployment is stuck at 9.7 percent. But the Census Bureau’s screening policies, designed to safeguard the public, end up discriminating against minorities, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That’s because the bureau has set up an “arbitrary barrier to employment” for any person with an arrest record, “no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job,” the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, says. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is named as the defendant.

The national suit, filed by Outten & Golden L.L.P. in New York and a coalition of public-interest organizations, seeks class-action status on behalf of those turned down for a job if they were arrested and not convicted, or convicted for an offense irrelevant to the job.

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s top priority is the safety of both our workforce and the American public,” Commerce Department spokesman Nicholas Kimball responded. “Americans must be confident that, if . . . a census taker must come to their door to count them, we’ve taken steps to ensure their safety.”

Kimball declined to comment on the suit.

One of the two lead plaintiffs, Evelyn Houser, 69, of North Philadelphia, thinks she is qualified to fill one of the 1.2 million census positions. That’s because Houser worked for the census before, in 1990.

“What’s the difference between then and now?” she asked in an interview Tuesday. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

The difference, said her lawyer, Sharon Dietrich with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, is the government’s cumbersome screening process.

Computers kick back any application with an arrest record, requiring more documentation, but the Census Bureau doesn’t make it clear what documentation is required, Dietrich said.

The discrimination occurs because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans exceed those of whites, the suit says. Compounding the problem, it says, is that one in three arrests do not lead to prosecution or conviction, yet the bureau’s system does not readily distinguish between arrests and convictions.

“The processes are screening out any kind of criminal case, no matter what,” Dietrich said.

“If you were arrested years ago for a minor offense, you are asked to comply with the same burdensome process as if you had been released from jail last week after committing a murder,” she said,

Plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Miller, of Outten & Golden, estimates that as many as one million applicants may have been caught up in the process, with tens of thousands unfairly deterred or excluded from employment.

In 1981, Houser was a 39-year-old mother raising four children on welfare and food stamps. Her monthly check was several days away, but she was out of food when, going outside to take out the trash, she found a check next to the Dumpster.

“I went home and told my kids, ‘God sent me a piece of paper that says we’re going to eat tonight.’ ”

Houser shouldn’t have done it, but she tried to cash the check. She was arrested. Instead of being convicted, she was placed in alternative rehabilitation program. Her record remains clean, Dietrich said.

In 1990, Houser got a job with the census. Last year, she decided to apply again and passed a qualifying test.

A month or so later, the Census Bureau sent her a letter, asking her for documentation. The way she read it, her fingerprints would suffice, so she had them taken and sent them in the next day.

The bureau rejected her because, it said, she hadn’t sent the right documentation. Dietrich called the bureau’s communications confusing.

Since then, Houser has been involved in a long appeals process, which culminated in the filing of the suit.

Houser, who lives in subsidized housing, estimated that 25 percent of her working-age neighbors are unemployed. They are “just existing,” she said. “It’s just survival.”

She’s helping her neighbors find a path to employment, Houser said. “I’m a little gray-haired old lady and I’m trying to lead them in a better way.”