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 May, 2010

Teens answering the door for 2010 Census enumerators

Monday, May 31st, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received a number of angry complaints from readers’ whose kids, in their teens, have completed their 2010 Census forms on behalf of their parents when enumerators come to the door. In Colorado, the media has picked up on this as well:

Watch the video HERE…

It started with a knock at the door, only April Stark says she never knew it.
She was in the lower level of her house and says she came upstairs to find her son Zach talking to a stranger… who was asking about their family.
Zach says the U.S. Census worker asked if he could come inside which was a little unnerving.
Zach says, “I didn’t want to let him in my house ever since my brother’s ipod was stolen by a guy that came to work for awhile in our house.”
Zach says he also was uncomfortable because he didn’t know the answers to all of the questions.
Zach says, “yeah… some of them I had no clue.”
The Starks don’t understand why the worker talked to Zach when he knew that April was home, too.
Zach says, “When I turned to go find my mom… he said, anyone 15 years and older can answer these questions so you can just stay here and answer them.”
April says, “He informed me that he was doing nothing wrong and that he was legally allowed by the Census Bureau to ask anyone over 15 these questions.”
April says she later called the local Census office and workers were sympathetic, but said the rules are the rules. Anyone 15 and older is considered qualified to answer questions of the household.
Deb Muehleisen, a partnership specialist with the Denver Regional Census Center says the census taker made some mistakes.
Deb says, “I would have felt the same way to find a stranger sitting in my living room with my child there so that was inappropriate of that census taker to ask to come inside.”
Muehleisen says the policy of questioning teens was decided by Census officials in Washington.
She adds, “I can share that concern with our team. As a matter of fact, I’m having a regional meeting on Monday and I’m happy to share that concern.”
April says she’s making a point to tell friends and family about what happened…hoping the word will get back to Uncle Sam so ten years from now… young teens can’t be targeted just adults.
We’re told the last day for census takers to be going door to door is July 10th.
Officials say the local office has completed about 50% of its work.

More shadiness and wastes of money in 2010 Census advertising campaign (this time by the City of Chicago)

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Update: After speaking with the Census Bureau’s public information office, I want to clarify that this is not federal money but Chicago’s money that has allegedly been spent improperly.

I’m not sure how I missed this piece from the Huffington Post when it originally came out on 5/19, but I am now investigating the claims laid out here:

The cronyism, corruption and shady contracts continue to emanate from the Todd Stroger administration, as a new and yet all-too-familiar scandal involving US Census contracts is emerging Wednesday.

With a few hundred thousand dollars of federal grants left to publicize the census, Stroger’s spokesman Eugene Mullins told the Chicago Tribune that he and deputy chief of staff Carla Oglesby awarded contracts to eight publicity firms to spread the word. So far, so good.

But all of the firms — like Oglesby’s own PR firm, which is now under investigation — were awarded contracts of $24,995, five dollars less than the amount that would require County Board approval.

And, of course, as a little digging from FOX Chicago revealed, it gets worse. (Scroll down for video of the FOX investigation.)

Nearly all of the companies receiving contracts were incorporated just days before the contracts were issued.

One business was run by a convicted felon, and listed a vacant lot as its business address. One business appears to be a modeling agency. Two of the contractors submitted nearly identical invoices, and gave the same unlisted phone number.

The contracts were all paid up-front, before any services were rendered.
Story continues below

And, the Tribune writes, “leaders of the Cook County Complete Count Committee, appointed by Stroger to conduct census outreach, said they were unaware of the contracts.”

How did Mullins respond?

When asked about the contracts on camera by FOX, Mullins was silent. Anchor Jeff Goldblatt said on air that “he called me late tonight, a profanity-laced phone call” in which he “basically threatened to sue” for “defamation of character.”

Mullins gave an on-the-record quote to the Tribune: “Either we can spend the money the best we can or it goes back to Washington,” Mullins said.

Both Mullins and Oglesby, who signed off on all the census contracts, are themselves involved in other Stroger administration scandals.

After Stroger’s defeat in the February primary, the lame-ducked Cook County Board President gave Mullins a $10,300 raise — despite a pay freeze that had been on the books for months.

And Oglesby is only recently back at work after a five-day suspension for steering a similar $24,995 contract to her privately-owned public relations firm, CGC Communications.

According to Finance Committee chairman John Daley, “All of this is under review by the inspector general.”

Here’s the video from Fox:

Kevin Drum responds to LA Times op-ed

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My former Mother Jones colleague, Kevin Drum, has written a response to the recent LA Times opinion piece that suggested illegal immigrants shouldn’t be counted in the 2010 Census since they can’t vote.

The Census in Canada: Francophones lie about their English skills

Monday, May 31st, 2010

After reading the following article from the Montreal Gazette about francophones conspiring to reply to the 2006 census that they don’t speak English, I am thankful that the only efforts to manipulate the 2010 US Census :

OTTAWA — Thousands of francophones across Canada are believed to have lied about their ability to speak English in a seemingly co-ordinated attempt to manipulate the 2006 Census in order to guarantee federal funding of programs for French speakers.

Statistics Canada has taken the unusual step of posting a warning on its website to caution users that the data on bilingualism rates for francophones outside Quebec may not be reliable. The suspected cause is an anonymous French-language e-mail that circulated widely across Canada prior to the census encouraging francophones to say they could not speak English even if they could. The e-mail went on to say that this would ensure that the federal government would not cut services to francophones.

The resulting statistics showed for the first time an inexplicable decrease in the number of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English, reversing a long trend of increasing rates of bilingualism for francophones outside Quebec.

The number of bilingual francophones in Ontario, for example, has been on the rise by between one and three per cent in every census since 1991. However, in 2006 the number fell to 88.4 per cent from 89.4 per cent in 2001 — an unexpected drop of one percentage point.

Jean Pierre Corbeil, a chief specialist in the language statistics section, said they have studied the trend reversal and the e-mail appears to be the only factor that may have produced this aberration to the trend. (more…)

The Census in India…

Monday, May 31st, 2010

If you think enumerating 300 million people is hard, imagine what it’s like to enumerate 1.2 billion people in a developing country. This is the task that India is currently trying to perform. While there isn’t much backlash over the act of participating in the census (which is a responsibility of civil service workers rather than people hired specifically to work as temporary employees of the census), there are some issues over how caste, the old school Indian class system, should be factored into this count. I’ve been reading about this issue for about a month now and discussing it with Indian friends. I was waiting for the right moment to mention it here, but now that the Associated Press has written about it, it seems to be the appropriate time:

NEW DELHI — Bollywood’s biggest star has an answer ready if census workers ask about his caste: “Indian.’’

“My father never believed in caste, and neither do any of us,’’ Amitabh Bachchan wrote in his obsessively followed blog.

Comments like Bachchan’s are common in modern India, which prides itself on how it has transcended some of its most rigid traditions — and those beliefs are being heard more often as the government debates whether the national census should delve into caste.

But Joseph D’Souza doesn’t believe such talk for a moment.

“There’s a lot of lip service to saying ‘I’m an Indian first,’ and ‘I don’t believe in caste,’ ’’ said D’Souza, a prominent campaigner for dalits, as India’s “untouchables’’ at the very bottom of the caste system are now known.

“When it comes to sharing power, to interaction, to sharing social status, low-caste Indians are very much marginalized,’’ he said, arguing the census could provide firm data about the vast divisions.

India’s census, being held in stages over the next year or so, delves into the wealth, living conditions, and other personal details of the country’s 1.2 billion people. But still undecided is one question — “What is your caste?’’ — that has infuriated much of India’s elite, energized caste-based political parties, and left in doubt millions of government jobs and university slots.

The debate has also made very clear that caste, the Hindu custom that for millennia has divided people in a strict social hierarchy based on their family’s traditional livelihood and ethnicity, remains a deeply sensitive subject. (more…)

Daily Sound Off: Instant Termination

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

On 5/28 at 8:43 PM we in the Brooklyn Central LCO 2223 received frantic calls to turn in our binders and EQs as there was no more work… how could this be when some of us had more than 20 addresses where we had not yet counted the people? How could this be when friends of ours were being hired to BEGIN their jobs with the Census bureau? We have been working tirelessly for three weeks and now this? Can someone please tell us what is going on?

Strange incident of the day: Local news crew captures homeowner’s confrontation with 2010 Census worker

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

This is from KOB.com, an NBC affiliate in New Mexico:

Atlantic City census office on chaos over Crew Leader’s decision to follow the rules…

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Here’s an interesting story from the Press of Atlantic City that raises many issues that have previously been discussed on MyTwoCensus.com:

U.S. Census Bureau officials said Friday that confusion over how to count shore residents has made it pull at least 20 canvassers out of Brigantine after a local crew leader resigned in protest.

Debra Dunham, who recently moved to the city from Minnesota, submitted her resignation Thursday and said she was ordered to expedite the counting of residents there even if it meant not following procedures to get accurate numbers.

“The motto from the local census office is ‘Git-r-done,’” she said Friday.

Census officials said their attempts to blanket the area more thoroughly with enumerators was misunderstood as trying to take shortcuts, and so reduced a group of 50 counters to 30 to erase the misconception.

Dunham sent her resignation letter to the city’s offices and the media, and after her concerns were forwarded from the local office in Northfield to the regional office in Philadelphia, officials said they were changing their handling of the area’s count.

Regional Director Fernando Armstrong said his office was investigating Dunham’s allegations, saying all workers are expected to attempt contacting a house up to six times in order to get a complete number of residents.

He said his office spoke with representatives from the local office and instructed them that they should be proceeding with the count according to the normal procedures.

The practice of bringing in more workers, called “blitzing,” was being used because the shore region is notorious for having too few volunteers. But it is also an expensive process, since the bureau pays several workers an average of $18 an hour to canvass a small area.

“What the local office was trying to do was get as much of the shore area done by bringing people from other parts of their territory to get it done before the weekend when you have a lot of people coming to shore homes,” Armstrong said. “It was never the attention to not continue to do door-to-door enumeration.”

Armstrong said there were also concerns among workers that this was taking work away from them, which he said was not the intention.

Armstrong said the bureau needed workers so badly that they had rehired Dunham by the end of the day Friday.

The 30 counters remaining will continue knocking on doors through the weekend and into the middle of July, Armstrong said, both in Brigantine and throughout the region.

Native Americans criticize Census Bureau’s ability to count them

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Here’s the story from KBPS.org, a radio station based in San Diego:

ROBERT SMITH (Tribal Chairman of Pala Indian Reservation): I think it’s going to be inaccurate because they don’t cross every ‘t’ or dot every ‘i’ on the reservations. We’re scattered, we’re remote. I think if they would communicate more with the tribe they would have a better count.

Interesting Op-Ed from the LA Times…

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Though this issue hasn’t been discussed for a few months now, an op-ed in the LA Times questions why illegal immigrants are counted in the 2010 Census, thus altering Congressional apportionment, if they don’t have the right to vote.

Daily Sound Off: History of access letters

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

Our History of Access Letters

[Set against the background of a fill-in-the-blanks, multi-part, Census Form Letter, complete with Census seal, to use for locked buildings and gated communities]

We’re in an urban area.

My district has only apartments or condominiums. All of these have external control devices/call boxes, with the exception of one building that has a locked door and no identifying marks other than the street number.

I have been surprised by the the number of property management organizations and condominium owner’s associations that have actively impeded Enumerators in pursuit of the data. This includes posters from “management” stating “do not allow Census workers into the building” or stating “access to the building is only available by invitation of each individual condominium owner.”

Our LCO has offered an amusing stream of “access” letters aiming to help us gain access to the buildings to enable the sacred first visit in person.

Our Enumerators hit the streets on Apr 29.

First letter, May 13th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, toughest language “Please allow our Census Bureau employees to enter your building(s) or community to perform their official duties.”

Second “letter,” May 17th, , on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, text labeled as a copy of US Code, Title 13, Chapter 5 [sic], Subchapter 2, Section 223, substituting at the end “….(it goes on to describe the penalties).” for “shall be fined not more than $500.”

Third Letter, later in the day on the 17th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, placed the above Title 13 extract between an opener of “At the XXX Census Office, we have been experiencing a high number of apartment managers and other facility managers who do not understand their obligation to provide information to US Census workers.  Here is the official language from the document which gives you the authority and responsibility to provide this information to the sworn federal employee” and closing with the AMFO’s signature block, but no signature.

Fourth Letter, May 19th, essentially the third letter with the AMFO’s business card attached.

Fifth letter, May 20th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, essentially the third letter but with the full text of sections 223 and 224, i.e., containing the full language on fines.

Sixth Letter, May 21st – Fifth Letter retracted, revert to Fourth Letter

Seventh Letter, May 23rd, on copy paper, no Census Logo but with a mockup of the Census letterhead, similar to Fifth Letter but containing only section 223, with the text of the section within a ruled box.

Eighth Letter, May 24th, Seventh Letter retracted for “looking too official [sic],” revert to Sixth Letter, i.e., the Fourth Letter.

Ninth, and current, Letter. May 27th. on copy paper BUT it  is a copy of an RCC’s official letterhead paper, signed by the RCC director, dated “May 2010,” with text extolling the recipient to assist the Census and read the enclosed “Section 223, Title 13 [sic].”
On the reverse the top half is entitled “SECURITY/PROPERTY MANAGER INFORMATION SHEET.”
The bottom half is a photocopy of US Code Title 13, Census, Chapter 7 – Offenses and Penalties, Subchapter II -Section 223, from the United States Code Annotated.

All of this would be somewhat amusing if it weren’t so timid, unprofessional and unproductive. It is on par with the Enumerator’s Manual suggestion about gain access to an access controlled building by tapping on the door glass with your keys.

What works for me….
When I first talk with property managers on the phone, they all seem to be reading from a script.
The script is along the line of “Our clients are very wealthy and very famous. They pay us great sums of money so they aren’t bothered. Further, we can’t have seasonal employees scampering down our halls.”
I then arrange for a meeting in person. Before the meeting I send a copy of the very first, timid, letter, telling them that this is just a draft of our first-level letter for them to examine. I then arrive at the meeting in _full_ business attire. The meetings have been short and the result has been access for our Enumerators.

In my briefcase I have the Ninth Letter copied on to heavy, white, laid bond paper, with a copy of §223 on a second page. So far it has staid in my briefcase.

[This is just one of twenty of more exercises where everyone in the field is saying "They've done this before, right?" and "Surely this isn't the first time the Census has encountered this situation."]

Strange incident of the day #1: Census worker bullied in Hawaii; Feds step in on side of worker

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

From Hawaii (full story HERE):

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

A federal census worker on the Big Island was arrested for trespassing after he unsuccessfully tried to get a Puna resident to accept census forms in March.

Now the federal government has filed court papers to take the case out of the hands of Hawai’i County authorities, saying the census worker was performing his federal duties and is immune from state prosecution.

According to documents filed in federal court yesterday, the incident took place March 10 after census worker Russell J. Haas arrived at a fenced residential lot in an unspecified Puna subdivision.

Haas said in a written report that the area is “inhabited by diverse variety of people, most (of whom) live there because of the privacy allowed by the jungle environment and crummy roads.”

Haas said there were no signs on the fence, so he rolled open the driveway gate and entered the property. He said he closed the gate behind him to keep “loose but not threatening dogs inside the fence.”

Haas said he walked about 10 to 15 feet onto the lot when a man came out of the garage and said, “Please leave the property.”

Haas said he identified himself and was wearing his identity badge around his neck, and told the man he wanted to give him his census questionnaire.

When the man again asked Haas to leave, Haas asked him to come to the gate and accept the paperwork, saying he would leave the material on the gate.

The resident said, “I’ll call the cops,” and Haas said, “Fine, I’ll wait by the gate,” Haas wrote in a report on the incident.

While Haas was outside the gate and speaking to the man about the importance and value of completing the census forms, the man reached into his pants pocket and a badge fell out “onto the driveway,” Haas wrote.

Racebox.org

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

This is an interesting (and extremely simple) web site that displays what the “race question” on census forms has looked like since 1790. It’s definitely worth checking out: Racebox.org

Daily Sound Off: The real problems with payroll

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

I work for the payroll department in my LCO.  I wanted to explain some things about how Census payroll works and why people are getting paid late.  I would appreciate if my name were left out of this, but feel free to publish some or all of the information contained below.

As you may know, in order to get paid for a day’s work a Census employee must submit a daily payroll form that we lovingly refer to as a “308.”  The 308 contains several redundancies to help catch potential errors.  For instance, the employee must mark both the date worked and the day of the week worked, and if these do not match the 308 will not be processed until the office can determine what date the employee actually worked.  The employee also must enter the number of hours worked and the times worked, and if these do not match the employee will be paid for the lesser of the two numbers.  Finally any expenses incurred must be explained and any over $5 must be accompanied by a receipt; in order to save taxpayer dollars we regularly reject claims for ridiculous things that the employee does not need to complete their assignment.

The reasons that we’re having so much delayed payroll come down to the problems with processing these time sheets.  First of all, as I mentioned before, if there are any errors with a paysheet, that sheet may be placed into a problem file to be dealt with later.  Ideally we deal with all problem 308s in their appropriate pay period, but the first three weeks of NRFU were not ideal.  You’ve heard of all the paperwork new employees have to fill out?  All of that has to be processed by the admin department *before* an employee can be paid.  Admin departments basically had to begin processing one to two thousand hiring packets plus five to ten thousand pay sheets starting at the end of the first day of training and be finished by the following Monday.  For many LCOs, that just didn’t happen.  That’s why we all put in overtime that week – to try to get as many people paid as possible.

Now, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to process paysheets, the thing about problem 308s is that some are very easy to deal with and some are very difficult, but almost none of them would exist if the employees themselves took the time to fill these things out right.  Everyone who works for the census was tested on the ability to read and count and everyone who works for the census was hired basically to enter information on forms, and filling out pay sheets does not require any skills beyond these.  And yet we continuously have problems with people who apparently cannot count to 40 – who either claim overtime with under 40 hours a week worked, or claim no overtime with more than 40 hours a week worked.  We continue having problems with people who apparently cannot glance at a calendar long enough to verify both the date and the day of the week.  So while we try to get these errors fixed, a large portion of the employees who are getting paid late are being delayed because they made mistakes on their paperwork that we cannot easily deal with.

Of course the other problem we’re facing is that we can’t process payroll that we don’t have.  I’ve heard numerous stories of FOSes and CLs who don’t submit 308s on time.  I understand from the Crew Leaders’ position that they have a lot to do, but most of our CLs get their 308s in on time.  The maybe 5% who don’t account for 90% of the phone calls we get from enumerators who have missed several days’ pay from their checks.

This is a personnel problem.  We simply don’t have a good way to motivate large numbers of temporary employees to do their jobs promptly and correctly.  Every job has its share of lazy or incompetent employees.  The Census does work to terminate these, but if we have to give each CL who brings payroll in late (or never) at least two warnings, that’s at least three weeks of delayed payroll before we can replace the person, which is why we’re getting stories from across the country of whole crews who haven’t been paid for two or three weeks of working.  Rumor around the office has it that the terminations for unsatisfactory performance are going to start coming fast and furious starting next week, although we’ve already got a decent pile going now.

Now, the admin department gets well over a hundred calls a week inquiring about missing hours or days.  In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases – including every single call I have personally handled – these hours or days are already processed and on their way to the employee on the next pay period.  I understand that it is difficult for many people, especially those whose only job is the Census, to have to wait three weeks instead of two to be paid for a particular day’s work.  Some people may be counting on being paid on time.  I think that the situation would have been helped immensely if we had issued a blanket disclaimer at training or even during the hiring process that it is normal for it to take up to four weeks to be paid for any particular day worked.  Somehow, people formed an expectation that a gigantic government bureaucracy staffed entirely by people with virtually no experience would be fast and efficient at handling paperwork, which makes me wonder if none of these employees who are calling us up or going to the media because their pay is a week late have ever tried to mail a letter or get a driver’s license.  Anyhow, we try to stay cheerful but a certain fatalism develops when all we can do is tell people, essentially, that their check is in the mail.

I can say that fortunately our department is now caught up with payroll on a weekly basis, and it is only when CLs or FOSes bring 308s in late that we process them late.  However, payroll is already on a delayed basis by design – so if I work on a Monday, that 308 gets processed by the LCO and “closed” the following Monday, which means that a direct deposit will be issued the week after that, usually on a Wednesday – a delay of up to 17 days.  So people who missed hours on their last paycheck were actually missing hours for the week of May 9-15 – which was basically the second week of actual work, and third week of employment, and at that point we had many but not all of our glitches ironed out.  By that point we had issued directives to FOSes and CLs about how and when to fill out and bring in 308s and started getting positive responses, which should be reflected in even fewer errors in next week’s checks.

However, the heart of this issue is actually in how the Census approaches the hiring process.  While the recruiting process stretches over two years, the hiring process is basically crammed into a week.  Queens LCOs had to hire 1600 – 2200 employees over the week of April 19th, for a training session that started April 26th.  This has obvious problems.  First of all, we were asking people – many of whom had taken the test months ago, in the fall or even summer – to drop everything and come in for training with a week’s (or in some cases, a day’s) notice.  This is pointless and disrespectful and also resulted in the loss of many promising candidates.  Basically, we weeded out everyone who had a job, or responsibilities, or the ability to plan, or the self-respect to demand to be treated courteously by an employer; then we hired whoever was left.  Certainly we found some people who were competent and hard-working and just down on their luck or hit by the economy, but the overall caliber of employees is lower than what it would have been if we had given people adequate notice or contacted them in a timely fashion after they took their test.

The second problem is, as I have said, the logistical difficulty of processing 2000 new hires at once.  If we had hired people on some kind of rolling basis we could have gotten their paperwork filed and their payroll started up before they had to start working.  If we had started hiring and taking care of administrative matters in, say, March or even April 1st, as most test-takers were promised, then we could have gotten people trained, processed, and into payroll before NRFU even began.  This would have eased the burden on admin, but also on NRFU and the people who had to get training sites for thousands of people all during one week.  This would also have reduced the number of people who were verbally hired but never contacted again, or who attended training but were never assigned a CL, or who were assigned a CL but never any work.

Also, there simply has to be a less resource-intensive way to handle payroll than having each employee hand a piece of paper to their CL each day, to be handed to the FOS each day, to be brought into the office each day, to then be audited by one clerk and then entered into the payroll system by another clerk and then sent to a different agency entirely for final processing.  We did payroll exactly the same way in the 2000 Census, and guess what?  We’ve had ten years and the internet since then.  We have secure banking, we have ebay, amazon, paypal (all of which, I realize, we also had in 2000).  Why can’t we have a server that the employee can log on to to enter their information; that the CL can log on to to approve the hours worked and digitally sign; that can automate the auditing process and eliminate the need for a separate data entry process?  I believe I was promised a paperless society when this whole internet thing started, so what gives?

In short, we in payroll are struggling to get everyone’s pay processed correctly and on time, but the system for doing so is incredibly inefficient, incapable of surviving the level of human error presented by barely-trained temporary Census employees, and compressed into a set of arbitrary and irrational time-frames that make actual prioritization of tasks or long-term planning impossible.  So some of us are doing the best we can, some people aren’t doing well at all, and are being fired ASAP, but ultimately I think we have to blame the planners.  There’s really nothing any of us on the ground can do to remedy the systemic problems that come from an unnecessarily paper-heavy and error-prone operation in which everything is rushed and the right hand never seems to know what the left hand is doing.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census work should be suspended for Memorial Day

Friday, May 28th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received numerous tips that Census Bureau offices will be open on Memorial Day and that enumerators will be out counting households. MyTwoCensus strongly disagrees with this decision to operate on Memorial Day for many reasons. First, Memorial Day is FEDERAL HOLIDAY, and the 2010 Census is a federal government operation. Second, Memorial Day is a time to show respect to veterans, living and dead. Third, Memorial Day is a time when not many people will be at home anyway. American tradition dictates that families and friends gather at parties that can be held in private, on beaches, in parks, and other public spaces. Enumerating on this day will likely be a major waste of time and money because few people will be at  home to answer their doors. Additionally, if all other federal workers receive Monday off, why should Census Bureau employees be held to a different standard?

Bob Barr claims Census workers can enter your home when you’re not around.

Friday, May 28th, 2010

This appears to be idiotic, plain and simple. Yet this Bob Barr fellow who is a former Congressman and now writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seems to believe what he’s writing, and he’s got a lot of comments in his comments section. However, it doesn’t make sense that someone looking to enumerate would want to visit an EMPTY household:

Census workers can enter your apartment in your absence

6:00 am May 26, 2010, by Bob Barr

Thousands of census workers, including many temporary employees, are fanning out across America to gather information on the citizenry.  This is a process that takes place not only every decade in order to complete the constitutionally-mandated census; but also as part of the continuing “American Community Survey” conducted by the Census Bureau on a regular basis year in and year out.

What many Americans don’t realize, is that census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.”  If the landlord of such apartment or other  leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.

That’s right — not only can citizens be fined if they fail to answer the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government under the guise of simply counting the number of people in the country; but a landlord must give them access to your apartment whether you’re there or not, in order to gather whatever “statistics” the law permits.

In fact, some census workers apparently are going even further and demanding — and receiving — private cell phone numbers from landlords in order to call tenants and obtain information from them.  Isn’t it great to live in a “free” country?

Daily Sound Off: The Chicago Enumerator

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

May 26, 2010

I am an enumerator/Census taker in Chicago and this is my story of working for the U.S. Census Bureau over the past month.

My CLD has never had enough address binders for each of the approximate 15 enumerators working for it.  During training, some binders were split up, while a lucky few got a whole binder, me included.  However, the majority of my addresses were in a federally subsidized Section 8 building, where office staff refused me access and would not return my crew leader’s calls. The lower income families residing in this building need to be counted the most for funding, etc., especially since their housing is federally funded, but staff has been unfortunately uncooperative thus far.  I should have moved onto a new binder after the first week of work, but my CLD received only a handful more of binders during that first week and none since.

My CLD is now in the fourth week of work and has not received any new binders, despite my crew leader promising us new binders 2.5 weeks ago, at one point even telling us the day on which we would receive them!  At a meeting 1.5 weeks ago, she told us matter-of-factly that one of the reasons we weren’t receiving more work was because we had too many old EQ forms coming back with mistakes because she had failed to review them before she submitted them!  Forms are being corrected, addresses revisited, at what point have we submitted enough work to get new work?  Why are individuals who have finished their work forced to wait for others who have not?  Why are enumerators suffering for a crew leader’s mistakes?

It sure seems like crew leaders, others in supervisory positions, and those working in offices are putting in plenty of hours dealing with the mess and confusion of the 2010 Census, wasting taxpayers’ money, but many enumerators are barely able to put it any hours, when we are the ones supposed to be collecting data that IS the Census!  The work is not filtering down to us at the bottom of the bureaucracy.  I haven’t worked in the field for a week now, every week I have worked fewer and fewer hours, never near the 20 hours per week I was told to expect during training.  The most hours I ever put in was for training, inadequate training at that!

My crew leader decided to hold an additional training session after the second week to demonstrate common mistakes we had made on our EQs, when they could have easily been corrected if she had actually reviewed them like she is supposed to!  In fact, she said she was instructed to start writing enumerators up for mistakes, when they are the result of inadequate training and crew leader oversight!  I would also like to note that my crew leader chooses to meet during meal times at a McDonalds crowded with crack heads, not the most appropriate environment.

It is apparent that my crew leader is poorly trained and cannot answer many questions posed to her about Census policies and procedures.  Another example of this: Pay.  My crew leader signed off on several pay sheets I had filled out for training where I claimed 30 miles, which is what I drove round-trip to and from work.  I subsequently received a call from my LCO informing me that I was not allowed to claim those miles.  I talked to a supervisor, who informed me that if she signed off on those miles, she could be terminated from her job.  I told her that my crew leader had seen the miles and even said I would be reimbursed for them, and the supervisor at my LCO told ME to inform HER that enumerators can only claim mileage from home to work (which it turns out is IN the Enumerator Manual) and that it would be trouble for me if the pay sheets with 30 miles were submitted!  It was extremely inappropriate and strange to be threatened with responsibility for the termination of a LCO supervisor and the implication of my termination as well!  Once again, because of my crew leader’s severe ineptitude and inadequate training, the little guy at the bottom of the hierarchy gets the stick, thanks federal government.

The supervisor at my LCO told me that my pay sheets with the mileage would have to be sent back by courier to my FOS so that I could redo them.  Of course my FOS never received them.  I called the LCO supervisor again and at first she could not find any record of what had happened to my pay sheets.  She then discovered that someone had approved the miles!  For what she previously made out to be a serious violation of procedure, she laughed about it and seemed to want to chit chat with me.  I felt like she may have been drinking that night I talked to her.  Apparently, no one knows the mileage enumerators can claim and are approving reimbursements they shouldn’t be, wasting more taxpayer dollars!

My crew leader instructed us during training not to keep the duplicate copy of our pay sheets because they would be mailed back to us.  I double-checked this, unfortunately with the same supervisor at my LCO that I mentioned previously.  She also explicitly instructed me to submit both copies together.  However, one of my family members also working as an enumerator said everyone in her CLD was keeping their pay sheet copies.  I checked the Enumerator Manual and it explains that the copy is to keep.  I called Payroll to see what they had to say about this conflicting information, and the guy I spoke to advised me to keep the copy, but that the issue was up to crew leaders’ discretion!  Clearly, no one is aware of their own policies!  Surely, I have the right to keep the copy of my original work records!  I just keep the copy now, since there is no one clear directive.  This is just one instance of several, where I have received contradictory information from my crew leader or LCO versus what is written in the Enumerator Manual.  This whole operation is either incredibly inept, corrupt, or both.

Today, in the fourth week of field work, I called my LCO to ask when/if we are getting new binders, after being promised them for at least 2.5 weeks now.  The woman I spoke to said I shouldn’t be calling the LCO and that I should ask my crew leader, meaning that I must not step out of line in the hierarchy.  I explained that my crew leader and FOS clearly do not what is going on and do not have answers to my questions, so that was why I was calling the LCO.  She said it was too bad that was my situation, but that she could do “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING” for me.  I quote.  I asked if she was not allowed to give me information regarding the issuance of new binders, but that did not seem to be the case.  She just refused to give me any information and told me she had talked to my FOS earlier in the day.  Don’t step out of line if you are on the bottom, know your place, and don’t ask questions if you work for the Census!

I am stuck talking to those directly above me who also know nothing.  I called my FOS today and she said she didn’t think we would be getting new binders.  She said we could be reassigned to another FOS, but she would check to make sure and call me back.  She always sounds sleepy and bewildered, I will probably have to call her back instead and lord knows if she will be any more informative.  I have been waiting for at least 2.5 weeks now, barely getting any hours in, on the promise of new binders, only to hear that there may not be any coming, and that my only chance for more work is to be reassigned four weeks in!

Two months and 20 hours per week I wish!  I was depending on this job for extra income this summer and it has amounted to barely anything, just waiting and hoping for work, rather than actually working, and trying to keep tabs on others’ incompetence.  Thanks for paying me to be trained for a job I barely even got to do federal government! OUTRAGEOUS.  The 2010 Census is such a poor reflection on the U.S. government, can’t we do better than this?

Regional Director: Change the label; then throw out information

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The below e-mail is from the New York regional director Tony Farthing to his staff. Note his quote “Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.”

From:  
To:  
cc:  
bcc:    

Date:  
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 05:17PM
Subject:  
Fw: Picture of boxes in NY with “Recycle” on them

Hi Folks:  as you can imagine, in this day and age we have all kinds of people in our offices who are looking to take photos of anything, and even record conversations outside of the offices between Census employees.   At all times, you need to be careful about what you say…you need to say the right things and say it in a way that it cannot be misinterpreted.   Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.

Be advised that whenever anything is to be recycled from a Census office…nothing should be placed in boxes out of the street and left unattended.   At all times Census workers with ID should be guarding this until it is picked up by the approved company.

We need everyone’s cooperation with this…..and unfortunately, and fortunately, this is the most watched census ever…..from those that want to help us, and those who take enjoyment out of finding the smallest flaws and broadcasting them.

Please be diligent in your upholding and enforcement of Census procedures and Title 13 materials….including the appearance of what could be Title 13 materials even if they are not.   If it is a box that says Census on it, the antennas go up automatically.

Feel free to take a look at the link below which pretty much sums up the reason for my email!

Tony Farthing
Regional Director

Ed O’Keefe: 113 attacks against Census Bureau employees

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

From Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post:

More than 113 census takers have been the victims of assaults or attacks since April 1, the U.S. Census Bureau said late Wednesday.

In response to inquiries by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Census Director Robert Groves said the bureau’s temporary workers knocking on doors to collect information have faced 29 threats involving a gun, four robberies and three instances of being held against their will or carjacked. Six workers died in car accidents and one was killed while off duty.

The Census Bureau hired about 635,000 people to follow up with people who did not return questionnaires by the end of April. The process is more than half completed, and is scheduled to continue into July.

Bureau officials did not return requests for comment Wednesday night and did not provide comparable figures from the 2000 Census. Twenty-one census workers died on the job between 1998 and 2009, according to agency figures.

Local news reports have revealed some of the incidents, including a census worker carjacked by a 14-year old and a California incident thatresulted in the death of a woman.

Aides said Maloney requested the information to determine whether news reports were accurately reflecting a trend or merely focusing on a few incidents.

“These acts of violence against census enumerators are tragic, especially when you consider these temporary workers were only trying to do their job making sure their neighbors are accurately and fairly counted in the Decennial Census,” Maloney said.

The attacks come as the agency announced stricter hiring rules on Wednesday after a registered sex offender using an alias got a job as a census taker.

Washington Post: Stricter hiring rules at the Census Bureau

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

In response to recent incidents and pressure from lawmakers, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves has made hiring rules more tough. MyTwoCensus has for more than a year exposed holes in the Census Bureau’s hiring plan and fingerprinting procedures, so this shouldn’t come as a major surprise. However, this action may further fuel the class action lawsuit against the Census Bureau. Here’s the latest from Ed O’Keefe and Carol Morello of The Washington Post:

The Census Bureau is adopting stricter rules for screening new hires after a registered sex offender using an alias got a job as a census taker, the bureau’s director said Wednesday.

Robert M. Groves said that from now on, applicants whose name, age, gender and Social Security number don’t all match background records will be held up for more investigation instead of being sent on for FBI fingerprint checks. Applicants whose fingerprints are not legible, as sometimes happens with older people whose ridges have worn down, will not be hired until their identities and backgrounds can be checked.

And when there is any “evidence of criminality” by a census worker, Groves said, there will be swifter invention to get them off the streets.

“These three things are good things to do,” said Groves, speaking at a Fairfax event that aimed to encourage Asian Americans to open their doors to census takers and answer their questions. “People should know that the person coming to your door won’t harm you.”

In early May, a woman in Pennsauken, N.J., who was home alone with her toddler son, opened her door to a census worker who asked for the names and birth dates of everyone residing there. Thinking he looked familiar, the woman checked the sex offender registry site after he left and recognized the man under a different name than the one he had given her.

Census officials said the man had passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check and was fired in the first week of May, apparently after he had visited the woman’s home. The man was charged with using a fake Social Security number in his census application.

In a separate incident, a census worker in Indiana was charged with raping and beating a disabled woman in early May when he allegedly returned to the house after first visiting on an official call as a census taker.

The Census Bureau has hired about 635,000 people to make house calls to people who did not send in their census forms by the end of April. This phase is more than half completed, and is scheduled to continue into July.