BURRELL TWP., Pa. — State police have charged an Indiana County man with assault, saying he attacked two teenage census workers.
According to police reports, 18-year-old Austin Kwisnek and a female juvenile were collecting data for the U.S. Census when Timothy Cowan chased them from his property on Hebenthal Lane in Burrell Township.
Police said Cowan, 43, proceeded to follow the workers’ vehicle down the road after they left.
At one point, the workers’ vehicle went off the side of the road and Cowan went up to Kwisnek’s window and grabbed him by the shirt and neck, police said. According to the police report, Cowan then threatened to punch the girl in the face and used “vulgar” language toward her.
Archive for May, 2010
Many readers have suggested that during these NRFU operations MyTwoCensus should provide a place strictly for workers to vent their frustrations, whatever they may be. I will start taking the best e-mail that I receive each day, publish it here, and hopefully readers will also vent a bit in the comments section. Here’s the inaugural e-mail:
In the past week, I have been told that:
1) NRFU is winding down and our CLD’s should wrap everything up by:
2) That I must complete enumerator progress reports on a daily basis [In the past week, CLs have received 5 different versions w/varying rubrics to track enumerator progress in this new paperwork about paperwork].
3) That my top priority should be:
a) completing/submitting EQ’s
b) completing/submitting binders
c) completing/submitting D-308′s
d) calling new enumerators, only to inform them I have no work for them but they can come to CLD meetings to get their min. hours each week. (I am also required to observe them in the field and then have them share a binder w/one of my regular enumerators, even though remaining EQ’s in my CLD are few and far between.)
4) That my other top priority is to complete various forms of paperwork about completing tasks listed in 3)a-d every day and submit all information to the LCO w/in 24 hours of the date completed.
5) That I am not authorized for overtime, and should delegate more work to my CLA. Also, that my CLA is not authorized to sign anything that needs to be signed and submitted in order too accomplish task 4).
I also found out that CLs in earlier operations were making $2.00/hr more.
Although I realize that I am “guaranteed” up to 40 hours each week, I make $1.50 more than my enumerators and am expected to take on a level of agita that almost makes unemployment more attractive than a weekly paycheck.
UPDATE: I have word that the New York regional office is up in arms over this photo. Please note that I received it from a college friend who does NOT work for the Census Bureau. I don’t want anyone to be falsely accused/needlessly fired over something that they didn’t do…
423 West 127 Street, New York, New York
Multiply this by the 494 local census offices around the country…and know that this happens on a daily/weekly basis.
Pittsylvania County, VA– The 911 Communications Center in Chatham, VA got a call around 4:17pm Friday about someone held a gunpont. The caller reported that a United States Census Taker had been held at gunpoint against her will at a residence located in the Keeling community. Shaken and upset the victim stated she had been released unharmed after a period of about thirty minutes.
The call led investigators to the home on Casey Circle. Officers identified the suspect as Carl William Weaver, who was not there when they arrived. Weaver was located and arrested near his residence without incident.
During the arrest, deputies found a concealed handgun on Weaver. He was transported to the Pittsylvania County jail and charged with Abduction and Kidnapping, carrying a concealed weapon, brandishing a firearm and public intoxication. Weaver is being held without bond.
OK, everyone, I am using this board to try to find some answers about the state of PBOCS (paper-based operations control system) across the US. As of this week (yesterday and today), is the PBOCS system working in your area? How have technical glitches harmed 2010 Census NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations? What have you heard from your higher-ups about 2010 Census operations for the coming week? I know it’s like beating a dead horse in that I’ve discussed these issues over and over again, but it seems like in many places the problems have still not been corrected, so let’s get some reports from the ground. Please state your approximate location in the comments section. Thanks!
In a memo sent last week to all of its employees, the Census Bureau took a huge swipe at the first amendment of the US Constitution, the right to freedom of speech. The contents of the letter were as follows:
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social network sites have become more common and popular, it is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their employer in a public forum. Please be aware that you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that is protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, you must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government, when you are writing in your personal capacity.
These rules apply to all employees, as well as those who are professional writers and reporters, so please keep these considerations in mind before writing and publishing or posting an article or other writing about the census or your work as a Census Bureau employee.
As a Federal employee and a hard-working member of the Census Bureau, you have important responsibilities and obligations to the public which impose some limits on you that do not apply to persons in the private sector. Please be mindful of these responsibilities, even when engaging in personal activities such as blogging and posting on web sites.
These restrictions on writings and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to uphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census information subjects you to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.
*The last part of the letter was underlined, not put in bold, but I put it in bold to illustrate a point.
Just like other government officials and people who work in the private sector, Census Bureau employees are subject to confidentiality laws. However, this does not mean that the government has the right to threaten employees, particularly whistleblowers, as they have in this situation. The Census Bureau must make clear what workers’ legal obligations are and what are simply the goals of the Census Bureau’s management and public relations team who benefit greatly from problems being kept quiet and unreported.
Unemployment figures are likely higher than the government claims, simply because so many Census Bureau employees have been hired, fired, re-hired, re-fired, etc, etc etc for each Census Bureau operation. Here’s the full story from John Crudele at the NYP:
You know the old saying: “Everyone loves a charade.” Well, it seems that the Census Bureau may be playing games.
Last week, one of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks.
The worker, Naomi Cohn, told The Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department.
Below, I have a couple more readers who worked for Census 2010 and have tales to tell.
But first, this much we know.
Each month Census gives Labor a figure on the number of workers it has hired. That figure goes into the closely followed monthly employment report Labor provides. For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs.
Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.
One hour! A month! So, if a worker is terminated after only one hour and another is hired in her place, then a second new job can apparently be reported to Labor . (I’ve been unable to get Census to explain this to me.)
Here’s a note from a Census worker — this one from Manhattan:
“John: I am on my fourth rehire with the 2010 Census.
“I have been hired, trained for a week, given a few hours of work, then laid off. So my unemployed self now counts for four new jobs.
“I have been paid more to train all four times than I have been paid to actually produce results. These are my tax dollars and your tax dollars at work.
“A few months ago I was trained for three days and offered five hours of work counting the homeless. Now, I am knocking (on) doors trying to find the people that have not returned their Census forms. I worked the 2000 Census. It was a far more organized venture.
“Have to run and meet my crew leader, even though with this rain I did not work today. So I can put in a pay sheet for the hour or hour and a half this meeting will take. Sincerely, C.M.”
And here’s another:
“John: I worked for (Census) and I was paid $18.75 (an hour) just like Ms. Naomi Cohn from your article.
“I worked for about six weeks or so and I picked the hours I wanted to work. I was checking the work of others. While I was classifying addresses, another junior supervisor was checking my work.
“In short, we had a “checkers checking checkers” quality control. I was eventually let go and was told all the work was finished when, in fact, other people were being trained for the same assignment(s).
“I was re-hired about eight months later and was informed that I would have to go through one week of additional training.
To all of the enumerators and other workers out there, let’s here your stories in the comments section about how people respond to the race and ethnicity questions…
Dedicated to Census Bureau Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost: 2010 Census payroll problems acknowledged and additional assistance to be given to employeesMonday, May 24th, 2010
Though the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications (and Spin Doctor in Residence) Steve Jost denied problems with the Census Bureau’s payroll system in comments he posted on this blog, Ryla, a firm contracted by the government to handle telephone complaints and questions about Census Bureau operations, has now acknowledged its own payroll problems for its employees. This is a true victory for MyTwoCensus.com and its loyal readers, as this issue likely would not have received the attention it deserves without your assistance. Let’s now hope that the Census Bureau follows suit in addressing payroll problems that have been widely reported by this site’s readers. Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the following:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kennesaw-based Ryla Inc. is working to improve its pay processes after some of the 1,300 census workers the company employs complained they were not getting checks on time or were shorted work hours.
Ryla spokeswoman Karen Clay said the pay problems have occurred in spurts and the company is paying employees as quickly as its officials are notified. She did not know the exact number of people affected, but said it is small.
“There were some hiccups in our own processing in payroll,” Clay said, declining to be more specific. “Any payroll discrepancies are actively being worked on.”
Ryla, operator of one of Georgia’s biggest call centers, announced in February it was hiring the workers to handle calls for the 2010 Census. Pay is roughly $12-$15 an hour.
Another issue for workers has been pay stubs issued for $0. Clay said workers with those checks are employed by temporary agencies. Ryla pays the temp agencies, which then pay the workers.
The following opinions are those of a Census Bureau employee, not MyTwoCensus.com, and concern the letter below from Robert M. Groves::
Dear Robert Groves:
I am writing this editorial in response to a letter you wrote to all your local census office staff thanking them for their hard work and late hours dedicated to the census. I know that you will read this personally or someone on your staff will bring this to your attention. In your letter you assure us that you and Census Bureau employees at the highest level are focused on improving the Paper Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and its performance. As this website has pointed out, PBOCS still has outages and bugs in the system are not fixed.
In the past few weeks we have seen a huge backlog in processing questionnaires. When headquarters and RCC set strict production standards and goals without flexibility and evaluate offices strictly based on that what you will find is managers react and make wasteful decisions. The Census needs to stop a common practice of “throwing” bodies and resources at the problem in offices across the country. The staffing levels in some offices are now triple what the staffing authorizations originally allotted. Some offices are running three shifts 24 hours a day and those who are working 6pm to 6am are getting night differential pay. The number of staff in these offices has become simply impossible to manage effectively. The bureau may want to hire more staff in lieu of paying overtime. However keep in mind that there is a learning curve. Managers and supervisors can’t give new staff the same organized verbatim training. In some offices the NRFU operation is ahead of schedule, yet enumerators are still being trained as replacements when it is clear there is going to be no work. The most effective management decision is to find a balance using a marginal cost/benefit analysis: hire just enough additional staff to complete the task in a reasonable time, reward controlled overtime to your quality employees and spread out the staff. For example on Saturday May 15th our LCO was required to bring in ten staff for PBOCS over the weekend, even though most of the staff were not trained and the system couldn’t handle the users. So most of these employees sat around unproductively.
Also when production goals are set with no flexibility there is corner cutting and low quality work. When PBOCS doesn’t work and questionnaires need to be shipped we’ll just throw them in the box. When enumerators are held to strict production standards in hard to count areas we’ll simply resort to non-knowledgeable proxies or marking them as vacant or uninhabitable. (and remember vacant and uninhabitable units are difficult to be re interviewed in the quality control process) The Census Bureau’s quality assurance checks try to find low quality or falsified data however there are flaws. We won’t add housing units as we are supposed to and no quality assurance check that the bureau has can pick that up.
The solution is work smarter and more efficiently. If the Census fails to do this they will go over budget and run out of money. Most people will agree the crux of your staff are the enumerators and the clerks in the office who process questionnaires and payroll. We are the ones who are being paid the least amount of money and suffer the most from intimidation, constant demands of unattainable production goals and threats of being fired. Some of these forms of intimidation come from constant reminders that overtime is strictly forbidden. However if we don’t work fast enough headquarters and RCC staff will bring people in to take the food out of our mouths and pay the overtime to other employees either from other offices or even other regions. How demoralizing it must be to bring in people from other local census offices or even flying people across the country and putting them up in hotel rooms to help local census offices.
In these tough economic times, local census office employees like us may swallow their pride and work beyond their hours without claiming them simply because we want to be viewed as productive employees and keep our jobs. However when the Census ends the bureau is setting itself for another lawsuit from disgruntled employees. Your headquarters and regional census office staff must be more constructive in its criticism and not just threaten. The fact is your career census employees had ten years to get this right and didn’t. Now to blame local census offices for not processing work fast enough or to be inflexible in its deadlines is unacceptable.
I am proud to be part of this great endeavor, working for the 23rd census of population and have forged the greatest of friendship and camaraderie part of it as a result of the recession which has attracted a talented employee pool. Nevertheless I am disappointed in how we are treated by the regional census center and headquarters employees. I am simply asking that your career census employees treat the temporary employees with the respect and support we deserve and need in this tough time.
A Concerned Census Office Employee
Alright, now this is just baffling. Did no one really tell this enumerator you can’t have a dog with you? Especially one that’s supposed to be quarantined? This could have been much worse than it was, if the pitbull were just a little angrier or even if the victim had allergies. I really hope this is the case of one person acting out, rather than a reflection of a lack of proper training – the Census should definitely not allow anyone to work with their dogs while they’re out enumerating.
Here’s a video from St. Louis’ Fox 2:
A civil-liberties group in VA is asking for a federal investigation in the case of one enumerator who reportedly, after being told that the homeowner was unavailable, stuck his foot into a closing door, entered the home, and insisted to the homeowner’s son that he looked Hispanic (even after being told he is half-Chinese.) The civil liberties group is right that there are constitutional concerns regarding a government worker impinging on a home’s privacy in such a way. However, shades of gray have to be admitted. The enumerator is a government employee, yes, but in all likelihood he wouldn’t have been for much longer even if isn’t fired from this. Enumerator training obviously was not effective — but at what point is it his OWN error rather than that of his trainers? We could have a federal investigation into this guy, but we may have an easier time if we just fire one irresponsible guy.
From Charlottesville, VA’s DailyProgress.com:
Local group wants investigation into complaint of agressive Census worker
By TASHA KATES
Published: May 18, 2010
The president of a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group is pushing for a federal investigation into a report of aggressive behavior by a U.S. Census Bureau worker during a visit to an Albemarle County home.
In a letter John W. Whitehead mailed Tuesday to U.S. Rep Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, he writes that the worker may have violated Fourth Amendment rights by entering a family’s home without permission. The worker also asked questions about ethnicities beyond what is required for the census, Whitehead said in the letter.
“For a government agent to enter a private citizen’s home without invitation and against the wishes of the resident not only indicates a trespass but raises grave constitutional concerns,” wrote Whitehead, who is with The Rutherford Institute.
Tony Jones, a Census spokesman, said the agency hadn’t heard of the incident before Tuesday. He said the employee in question still works for the Census Bureau and likely will receive more training.
“We certainly apologize if anyone has been offended by this particular census taker’s actions,” Jones said. “We strive every day to do a better job, and we promise to do better going forward.”
According to White-head’s letter, a census taker came to Susan Broadwa-ter’s home on May 10 to conduct the survey. Broadwater’s 19-year-old son said his mother was unavailable, asked the man to come back and started to close the door.
“The Census Bureau worker, insistent that the son answer the questions, stuck his foot in the door and illegally entered the premises of Ms. Broadwater’s home,” the letter said.
Whitehead’s letter said the worker “began to vigorously question” the teenager about his ethnicity. The employee reportedly told the boy that he looked Hispanic or Latino after being told that the teenager was half Chinese. The man told the worker that no one in the home was Hispanic or Latino, the letter said, but the employee continued to question him about the presence of Hispanic/Latino people in the home.
Broadwater didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment for this story. Jones said that enumerators receive a week of training, during which time they are told to only conduct the questionnaire in the doorway because of concerns about census worker safety.
When asked what census workers are instructed to do when they think a respondent is lying, Jones said enumerators are instructed to use the 10-question form as the script for the interview.
Jessica Barba, Perriello’s press secretary, said the Charlottesville office is getting a Privacy Act consent form from Broadwater so that the congressman’s office can start making inquiries to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the census.
Jones said census workers are supposed to identify themselves, show their ID badges and share the name and phone number of their supervisor with respondents before asking questions. Whitehead said if a census worker tries to enter a person’s home, the person should ask them to leave and contact police if the worker remains.
Anyone who has a complaint or question about the census may call the Charlotte-based regional census center at (704) 936-5300, Jones said.
The story is tragic and bizarre — after residents pointed a gun at a Census employee, attracting police to the area, a woman refused officers’ demands to lay down a shotgun she was carrying and was shot. It’s sad that an irrational fear of Census takers seems to have fueled gun threats yet again, and it’s even sadder that it had to result in the loss of a life this time. From Appeal-Democrat.com:
Woman shot, killed by Yuba City police
May 21, 2010 11:18:00 AM
A 67-year-old Yuba City woman was shot and killed by officers when she pointed a shotgun at them and refused to put it down, according to Yuba City police.
Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin was pronounced dead late Thursday at her home at 764 Mariner Loop in an affluent neighborhood on the city’s far south side.
Roger-Vasselin was the sister of the late Thomas E. Mathews, a Yuba County judge and district attorney.
“They shot her dead,” Roger-Vasselin’s distraught son said outside the house Friday morning.
“I think she was just startled” by late visits to her home, he said.
Before he could give his full name, a relative or family friend took him by the arm and led him inside, shutting the door.
Officers went to the Mariner Loop home after receiving a call at 9:04 p.m. about weapons being brandished.
A U.S. Census worker “had been confronted by residents who pointed a firearm at the worker and said they would not answer any questions and closed the door,” said police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey.
When two male officers arrived, 51-year-old Lionel Patterson answered the door, armed with a handgun, police said.
“As officers were dealing with the male, a female approached the door with a shotgun and ignored officers’ orders to release the weapon. As the female advanced on officers, she continued to point the shotgun at officers in a threatening manner and the two officers fired their service weapons, hitting the female,” police said.
Both officers fired their guns, said Pavey, adding she didn’t believe Roger-Vasselin or Patterson fired.
Both officers were uniformed and clearly identifiable as police, Pavey said.
Pavey said toxicology testing after an autopsy Friday morning will determine if alcohol or drugs were factors in the incident.
The officers have been placed on routine administrative leave while the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office investigates the incident.
A neighbor, Bob Dhaliwal, said he was in bed when heard people, including one woman, shouting and yelling, followed by five or six shots. When he came outside, officers with guns drawn had the male suspect on the ground, then took him away in a patrol car, he said.
“All I saw was him being arrested. I assumed he shot somebody,” Dhaliwal said.
Patterson lives at the same address. Pavey and neighbors said it wasn’t clear what the relationship was between him and Roger-Vasselin.
Dhaliwal and other neighbors said they didn’t know Roger-Vasselin well.
“She kept to herself,” Dhaliwal said.
One neighbor, who declined to give her name, described Roger-Vasselin “pleasant but reserved,” almost reclusive.
“She was much more social when she moved first moved in. The economy was better then,” the neighbor said.
Neighbors said they had also received nighttime visits from a female census worker.
Roger-Vasselin owned the house for about three years but rented it for about six months while she worked in Hawaii, returning to Yuba City six to nine months ago, the neighbor said.
When her mother, Lillian Mathews-Crumrine, died in 1998, Roger-Vasselin lived in Kauai, Hawaii.
When the former judge, Thomas E. Mathews, died In 2005, Roger-Vasselin was living in San Francisco. Then 63 and a regional membership executive at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, she was one four employees involved in an age- discrimination lawsuit against the Marriott Corporation.
UPDATE: The guy, Frank Kuni, is now in even more trouble. The local ABC affiliate’s website is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is after him too. From the story (for the whole article click here):
By DAVID HENRY
PENNSAUKEN, N.J. – May 21, 2010 (WPVI) – Action News has learned the Department of Homeland Security issued a search warrant in connection with the case of a convicted sex offender who got a job as a Census worker in New Jersey.
Those warrants are for two locations in connection to Frank Kuni, who is being charged with using a fake Social Security number in the application he filled out in March to get the Census job.
Pennsauken Police and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Investigations are also involved in the search warrant.
They are searching for laptop computers, false ID’s or any documents that would be able to prove he used false identification. They have already confiscated numerous laptops and large sums of money.
This case came to light earlier this week, when Action News reported that Pennsauken resident Amy Schmalbach recognized Kuni from the NJ State Police sex offender registry.
Here’s a story that came out of of Jersey earlier. A registered sex offender allegedly used an alias to get past a name background check for enumerators, got fired when he failed his fingerprint checks, and went on to impersonate a Census employee with a badge and bag (MyTwoCensus has written extensively on how easy it’d be to do this). Luckily, an informed mother recognized him from an internet database. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has allegedly impersonated an enumerator. We hope these cases are far and few in between. From Philly.com:
Mother recognizes Census worker as sex offender
By Darran Simon
Inquirer Staff Writer
Amy Schmalbach doesn’t answer her door when she’s home alone with her toddler son. But she opened it for a U.S. Census Bureau worker on May 4.
“I figured this is a government worker, I’m safe,” said Schmalbach, 33, who had misplaced her survey and got a visit from a worker.
Schmalbach spoke briefly to the man, who said his name was Jamie, on the porch of her Pennsauken home. He looked familiar, wore a badge, and carried a dark bag with the census logo. He asked for names and birthdates, and whether Schmalbach and her husband rented or owned.
Toward the end of the interview, she recognized him: She had seen his face on the state’s sex-offender Internet registry. She remembered his many aliases – including some outrageous ones – such as Phanton Flam, Toot Flynn, and Jamie Shepard.
Schmalbach checked the sex-offender registry site after he left, found the man, and told her neighbors and Pennsauken police. The next day, officers arrested Frank J. Kuni, a registered sex offender in Pennsauken, who had used the alias Jamie Shepard to get a job as a census worker, Pennsauken police said.
Kuni, 47, was being held Monday in the Camden County Jail on charges of false representation and impersonating a public official, authorities said.
“If I had not recognized who this person was, none of my neighbors would have, and I believe he would have continued to go door to door,” Schmalbach said.
Police credited a quick-thinking resident concerned about Kuni with helping the investigation.
A census official said someone named Jamie Shepard working in the Camden area passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check. He had been hired in late April, completed four days of training April 30, and was terminated May 5. Kuni had visited more than one Pennsauken home, police said.
The census official confirmed Shepard failed the background check but could not say why.
A sex-crime arrest or conviction would preclude someone from working as a census worker, said Fernando E. Armstrong, director for the Philadelphia region.
Kuni had served about four years in prison for endangering the welfare of a child in November 1996, burglary, and other crimes. He assaulted one victim and had inappropriate contact with two other victims he knew, according to a state website.
There are 3,168 registered sex offenders listed on the state’s Internet registry. Camden County has 324, Burlington has 130, and Gloucester has 70.
Armstrong said workers are fingerprinted at the start of the four-day training. The checks usually flag arrests or convictions in training or shortly afterward.
The census hired some 600,000 workers in the last week of April for the home visits, which started on May 1, Armstrong said.
“When you are looking at 600,000 people going through this check, you can understand that it doesn’t always work the way it should,” he said.
Here is the how the hiring process works:
Applicants must pass a written test and a check of their Social Security number and date of birth, among other things.
Then, new hires take an oath and get fingerprinted on the first day of training. Fingerprints are sent within a day to an Indiana census center.
If the background check finds something, regional offices get electronic messages that someone should be removed, but not the details.
The order trickles down to a field supervisor.
But Schmalbach wants the census to clear workers before they receive any materials and credentials, which happens on the last day of training.
“I know that they’re not going to catch every bad guy even by doing the fingerprinting,” she said this week. “But I think a great amount of people, who have bad intentions or want to do some harm, would be precluded from doing so if these background checks are done before they give out the materials.”
To see the list of registered sex offenders in New Jersey, go tohttp://www.state.nj.us/njsp/info/reg_sexoffend.html
A Washing ton Post article by Ed O’Keefe a few days ago quotes Census Bureau director Robert Groves as stating that the 2020 census is unimaginable without some kind of internet option. And I don’t disagree, it would be utterly ridiculous not to have that, seeing as it’s pretty ridiculous right now this second. All the wasted paper, extra man hours, and needless bureaucracy got tiring before it even happened. Was the internet’s popularity really in doubt by the end of the 2000 Census?
Census Bureau hopes much of 2020 count will take place online
By Ed O’Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
How will Americans use the Internet in 2020? Will we all use cellphones? Will we still have snail mail?
Experts at the U.S. Census Bureau are asking those questions in preparation for the 2020 count, even as temporary workers are knocking on doors to complete the 2010 Census.
Final answers won’t be needed for about eight years, but the team hopes to keep costs below the $14.7 billion budgeted for the 2010 Census and to make it possible for at least some Americans to answer questions via the Internet.
“None of us can imagine doing a 2020 Census without an Internet option,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. Although he’s overseeing the current census, most of his tenure will be tied to 2020 preparations — and he’s pushing for a more efficient operation with fewer people.
“The easiest way to reduce costs in the census is to reduce manpower,” Groves said. “To the extent that we can reduce the number of census worker visits in 2020, we’re going to save a lot of money.”
Groves and his colleagues think they should wait until 2017 or 2018 to finalize plans on the Internet option to avoid making a technologically obsolete decision.
Lawmakers might force the bureau to move faster: Bills moving through the House and Senate with bipartisan support would require Groves to present plans on how to test and implement an Internet response option within six months of the bill’s passage. The agency’s inability to test and use expensive handheld computers for this year’s count has led some critics to question whether it can make a decision in the next 10 years. Groves dismissed those concerns.
“We can do this. I’m very optimistic,” he said.
In addition to cutting labor costs, allowing Americans to answer decennial census questions on the Internet would help cut the bureau’s costs for postage, printing and paper and could get data to the agency faster. Most especially, Groves said, “our guess is the Web will really be great for those people who are difficult to contact in person who are at home very infrequently,” thus reducing the need for door-knocking census takers.
But “we won’t go to 100 percent Internet, because it won’t work,” Groves said. A Web-only effort would make it harder to count those in rural areas or illiterate people, so the agency would continue to rely on paper questionnaires, in-person interviews and maybe telephone calls, he said.
Internet options will be tested in the next 10 years with the annual American Community Survey, which tracks demographic and economic statistics. Although details are sketchy, Groves said he expects the agency to send the questionnaire in paper format with an Internet address and code allowing people to submit answers online. Confidence in the online option might increase if respondents can first review the answers in print, he said.
Canada did something similar in 2006, and 18.6 percent of respondents replied online, said Mark Hamel, manager of the 2011 census for Statistics Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Every Canadian household received a paper form with a secure access code, and the agency used a computer network with double encryption similar to the security features used for online banking, he said.
“Everything indicates that we’re going to be able to more than double our online responses in 2011,” Hamel said. “We demonstrated that the data collected online is much cleaner than it is on paper, because when people answer online, we can make sure that they’re answering the questions that are appropriate for them.”
During address canvassing operations in Fall 2009, MyTwoCensus learned that individuals were flown from North Carolina to New York and from Georgia to Florida to assist with 2010 Census operations. In the midst of the recession, when unemployment was ridiculously high and people could be hired very easily in ANY part of the USA, the Census Bureau felt it necessary to pay the travel costs, hotel expenses, per diem, salaries, and food costs of workers who were not working where they lived. MyTwoCensus has received anonymous tips that this wasteful practice is still taking place. Please let us know in the comments section if you know where and when this has occurred. Thanks!
MyTwoCensus Editorial: For the sake of employees, tell the truth about how long NRFU operations will lastThursday, May 20th, 2010
MyTwoCensus has received confidential reports from multiple Census Bureau officials that non-response follow-up operations in many parts of the country are winding down. By law, the Census Bureau can only contact non-responders three times in person and three times by phone — even though MyTwoCensus is currently investigating whether additional illegal contacts are taking place.
Because of the Census Bureau’s computer failures, the 2010 Census may be coming in over-budget (apparently $15 billion wasn’t enough cash…). Since the Census Bureau doesn’t want to take yet another scolding from the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, they may try to abruptly end the 2010 headcount ASAP.
With half a million workers on the streets during this large-scale operation, there is significant amounts of confusion about how long jobs will last. Lying to Census Bureau employees, who very well may lose their jobs within the next one or two weeks (by the end of May) is not the answer. Yes, these jobs are temporary, but working through the end of July meant an additional two months of security and stability for many individuals employed by the Census Bureau who may have quit lower paying jobs to take on these positions. Additionally, it seems to be that thousands of individuals went off unemployment to take their Census Bureau jobs. These people should not have been told that they would have 6-8 weeks of work if they really only have 4 weeks of work.
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information. The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers. They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers. Nice try. There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDERSocial Networking and Census EmploymentAs personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, itis not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and theiremployer in a public forum. Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information thatis protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs oroperations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, youmust be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of theBureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when youare writing in your personal capacity.[...]These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took touphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential censusinformation subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.