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.

Daily Sound Off: Contender for Worst Local Census Office

Today’s Daily Sound Off comes from Georgia:

From a contender to the title of “The Worst LCO in the Nation”

Well, it looks like the U. S. Census finally got the PBOCS software working. The solution, reduce the number of users from 10 to 2. This means it will take 5 times longer to key the volumes of returned enumerator questionnaires that have been stacked into boxes waiting for a clerk to key them.

While we are on the subject of questionnaires I would like to explain the process in our LCO (local census office), Macon Georgia.

!. Enumerators turn in their completed questionnaires to their crew leader who reviews them for completeness and then initials showing his approval. Enumerators are experiencing a large number of irate people that do not want to participate and have discovered it is easier to call the residence vacant of cannot locate than it is to try and get the information. No one likes to be chewed out and in a way I don’t blame them. A large percent of the population don’t trust the Census and wish to be left alone.

Residents are handing the Census envelopes they received in the mail to the enumerator and telling them to leave. These envelopes are not being mailed but are being thrown into boxes. At least if they were mailed, the people might be counted.

2. The crew leader brings them to the office where clerks log the receipt of “X” number of questionnaires.

3. Then they are given to clerks for review of completeness. We have about 30 clerks on three shifts doing this. Those that fail are returned to the crew leader for rework. The return rate is about 50% because Crew leaders are not reviewing, just initialing, and sometime not initialing. What company would pay for this amount of poor performance and then pay more to the same people to do the work again and even worse allow it to continue?

4.  Once the clerk begins keying another 20% of the forms are pulled out to be returned to the crew leader because the clerks did a poor job of their review. Another 20% to 30% of the questionnaires are sent to Data Collection office with incomplete information

5.  Where are the managers and supervisors? What are they doing about it? Well last month, the Area Manager took over the office but after two weeks she could not make a difference even with the assistance of three RT’s so they assigned another area manager who left two RT’s with us and one is acting LCOM (LCO manager) after firing the LCOM.  The acting LCOM can barely speak English and neither knows enough to do anything but contribute to the turmoil. They think the solution is to see how many people they can make miserable by denying them food and drink in their work area and not allowing them to leave except for a two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. They must raise their hand when they need more work or have to go to the bathroom.  Next there is a field operations manager who has 3 office supervisors and 7 field office supervisors to help her. All are poorly trained and most are not supervisor material, The solution is to add two more Field Office Supervisors (both have less than 30 days experience) to supervise the office operations supervisors. To the Census, more is usually the solution not accountability for their actions. The same people that did poor work during Address Canvassing, and Group Quarters are still being paid to make a mess of Non Response Follow Up. These RT’s will not listen to those managers that years of supervisor experience and know how to solve the problem.  We probably will soon have a new set of RT’s and another Area Manager because nothing is improving.

6. Finally there is shipping of the questionnaires. The Census Bureau with their infinite wisdom decided to take some strain off the PBOCS by moving shipping to a DAPPS based program. This seems like a good idea but in doing so removed the checks and balance that PBOCS had which prevented questionnaires from being shipped without being checked-in. Now any questionnaire can be shipped. What a mess we are going to have.

Conclusion:

Management is the source of all problems within the Census; i.e., I should say the lack of management and it starts at the top. The U.S. Census has grown to be a management nightmare and will need serious restructure if it is to survive. All the public relations, TV commercials, nor increased spending can cure the festering sores.

I sense that these problems are common place throughout the nation. With all the problems that have come to light, we are previewing the Death of the Census because the problems will ultimately make 2020 Census impossible. How can the Secretary of Commerce keep a straight face when he presents the results to President Obama on December 31, 2010?

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17 Responses to “Daily Sound Off: Contender for Worst Local Census Office”

  1. Another Anonymous Says:

    LCOs of RCC: Kansas City, MO.

  2. pranita veeria Says:

    Not even close……..the LCO’s under the ARCM in Metro New York. This imbecile can’t even give a conference call without mistakes

  3. Bobby J Says:

    Census worker arrested for trespassing in Hawaii:
    http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/articles/2010/05/29/local/local02.txt

  4. exFOS Says:

    And I thought RCC Phila was bad. Moron Area Manager and LCOMs run everyone over, treat them like cattle, and keep firing those who are competent. It is a gigantic bad joke. More enumerators will get hurt from the pressure to keep harassing them over and over.

  5. PM Says:

    nya nya… told ya so. Instant-Manager-Quick is a bad recipe whether it’s milk or water you add. That guy in CO who got canned for pointing out the backbiting had it right. Absolute CYA-by-making-someone-else-look-bad-pettiness.

    We have someone who helps local officials get elected (no conflict of interest here!!).. but blames a clerk in the office when RCC calls to ask about something his manager lost track of in the first place. An AM who rats to the LCOM about someone doing what she condoned by doing herself before, and her RT who feeds her ammo for it. An AMFO who bullies and barks at people- like when one tried to use an open computer- “You can’t use that! Those are only for OUR staff!!!”… while the ones in recruiting are locked to ‘her’ OOS- WHO’S STILL OUT OF THE OFFICE FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE, and specifically told someone not to tell what they were taking from inventory.

    Out of control, they both ordered and made up kits that just got dumped anyway. Waste like this in a company, and there’s the door…

    They fire enumerators for going back and forth to get the results they’ll fire them for not getting in the first place, one tells me. Effective management kills both ways!

    They ran out of 283s in a heartbeat.

    A couple people just quit from there, a few got canned, and a few are ready to sue- and what was heard to be the WORST return rate in the country (NRFU).

    Duh, wonder why.

    Except for most of the office, plus many at RCC, plus NPC— there are just a few real winners who got in with the whole boatload and really ruin it- Census is in the main good people just trying to get along well for a good reason, but some prime idiots slip in with the cattle call, they mess the whole pot up. Most of us are great people to be around- and they’re the ones getting burned out.

    If these geniuses would quit playing bigmouth (they even stick each other in the back, privately… hahaha) and really learn how to work WITH people, maybe we’d see Census do its best.

    They’re missing All My Children while here anyway.

  6. Census CL Says:

    I have to say that maybe we got lucky here. The management quality is all over the place but in my LCO there are no incompetents.
    Everything is reactionary at almost all levels. Its like we are inventing everything each day. I my region it is not unusual to see every office doing things in completely different ways.
    The US Census Bureau committed to the hand held computer (HHC) idea for all operations and when that didn’t pan out nobody was able to put the pieces of a new system together. Instruction and procedure manuals have huge holes in them. Questionnaires (EQs), reports, even physical objects are just supposed to appear or disappear to wherever they need to go. The only official training for office clerks is for recruiting, the only operation not affected by the changes/loss of the HHC system. All other training for clerks was on the job using hastily written “job aids” or created on the spot by the LCO.
    There is no actual official tracking of any EQs. The offices wont know if any are missing until they check in the assignment binders at the very end of NRFU. What happens then? I guess we send people back out again. They just came up with a local process that requires the offices to enter in EQ ID numbers into an excel spreadsheet at three different points in the office. With all the movement back and forth and in and out of the office, it cant be a reliable record. They haven’t even explained how it will help us. It is just another gesture made because the system is flawed and there isn’t the time, or money at this point to fix anything.

  7. end the census Says:

    Census CL said, “Everything is reactionary at almost all levels. Its like we are inventing everything each day. I my region it is not unusual to see every office doing things in completely different ways.”

    VERY TRUE!!!!

  8. anonymous Says:

    EQs thrown into boxes? Is this the reason why my entire apartment building (myself included) mailed in our Census forms the day after we received them, then a couple of days ago, an Enumerator is leaving NV notices on our doors! I called the LCO and the Enumerator, both said we were listed as “no response”. Is this what really happened? Did our EQ just get thrown into a box somewhere or just not get scanned or entered into the database?

  9. Another Census Worker Says:

    In the LCO I work in, if the enumerator is handed the envelope containing the Census questionnaire, the enumerator is to politely ask if they can open the envelope. If the enumerator finds out the questionnaire is complete, say “Thank you very much!” and leave. Later on the enumerator is to copy the data from the Census questionnaire to the EQ, attach the questionnaire to an Info-comm, and hand it all in. Easy!

  10. Another Census Worker Says:

    Assignment binders should be checked in when all the EQs in it have been completed. Every night, I compared my binders against EQs remaining. I quickly caught situations where I didn’t update the binder.

  11. INFO-COMM in my pants Says:

    Another census worker: Don’t tell anyone, but when I get a completed form handed to me I open it up, transcribe the answers to the EQ, and destroy the completed form. No fuss and no extra paperwork. What’s the sense in filling out extra paperwork? Even better, for the first couple weeks we were told — when given a completed form — to ask the respondent all the questions anyway. Even though they just gave us all the answers in writing. Idiots.

  12. anonymous Says:

    Census CL June 1: “There is no official tracking of any EQs”!!!!

  13. Princess Says:

    There most certainly is checking of EQs sent via DAPPS. The EQs are checked in to PBOCS. Then, instead of being checked out for shipping in PBOCS, the D-1173 data is converted into a spreadsheet. Before being cleared for shipping, the ID on each EQ is matched against the spreadsheet and highlighted (digitally). We found 6 particular missing EQs out of more than 35,000 this way.

    As for Crew Leader reviewing. . . yeah. A big problem is the poorly written manuals, which do not explain the rationale for recording data and which fail to answer questions that routinely come up. For instance, the manual indicates H3 is reserved for blank label EQs and for EQs with “incomplete” addresses, such as physical descriptions only. There are two schools of thought about entering address corrections–where there is a label, the label is indeed “complete,” but the label is wrong. Some people put these changes in H3, which some clerks diligently erase and recopy into the Notes. Or the reverse. Or. . . in snowbird country. . . what’s the answer to this? The snowbird’s “usual home” is in a southern state, but they are found at their northern home (which prior to retirement was their usual home) on April 1. Some people swear they are to be classified as a proxy for their northern home. Other people insist they are to be considered a “household member”–with which other people disagree since then you end up with “vacant-seasonal,” pop = 0, and a respondent who is a member of the HH who lived their on April 1. Another version treats them as an in-mover.

    These are the kinds of questions the manual should, but does not, answer. What about pop count anyway? If another name or two pops up in the H1 question, I think they are added to the count, which is defined as the number of persons “listed” on the questionnaire, not the number of entries in Question 1. What if Question 7 has a “sometimes lives elsewhere” checked Y for some HH members? I think they are still included in the population count (they are “listed”) but what, if anything, is actually done with Question 7 information? It may be that the system has enough redundancy it doesn’t matter. . . so then does it matter if there are errors in the EQs? Who knows?

    One clerk was diligently putting the horizontal bars on I’s during office review, while others were equally diligently erasing them in the CI entries, based on an interpretation of the EQ instructions–which include CI as allowable entries, and which are printed in a sans-serif font. They interpreted the printing font to be integral to the instructions, rather than relying on the manual handwriting standards.

    But chill. This is why God invented statisticians.

    I do agree that heading down to the town hall to chat up the lady in the assessor’s office and get property ownership info is a lot less viable than using web searches when you’re dealing with a region with more than a few hundred people. I can also see the PII issue. If the search were to be done using a Census computer (although we can access only authorized parts of the internet)this would potentially allow digital association between the Census and personally identifiable information to leak into the outside world. If the search were to be done by a worker using their own computer, well, this could be observed or otherwise monitored. I had the same thought about internet searches while working on a MaRCS case today, but I understand the rationale. . . after all, we are also dealing with a work force that gets tripped up over horizontal bars on the I’s.

    Oh, the census forms in envelopes? Yes, they do go into a box. They will be dealt with after the NRFU EQs are processed and, yes, matched. Not to worry.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    It must just be our office, but we have the largest workload in our RCC and we have completed, by far, the most EQ’s and better yet, have no backlog what-so-ever. We are a very well run office with people who take pride in their work and are very well trained. Maybe we got lucky, but I think it is more the proactive attitudes of everyone in our office that sinply rolls with the punches and still manage to stay onn top of everything.

  15. anonymous Says:

    Princess, glad your office is checking EQ info.

  16. Fusion85 Says:

    Well i want to talk about the Admin Dept in the Macon LCO. This a depart that is not right at all. You have a Manager that changes peoples times with out them knowing. Only because she doesn’t like them. When employees who really do work. Those are the ones who are fired for no reason. You have and OOS that is a complete Jackass & Racist(in every sense of the word). He has told employees that they are nothing, and will not be nothing because of there education. And the acting LCOM, RT’s, and Dept Managers, when told about this… Do nothing but laugh and look stupid. These are the people who is running a office. They fire an OOS for a picture that was taking(so they say in office). But when i looked at the people u really can tell that it was in the office.

    They talk training on security issues but nobody is really train on it. Because the man that is suppose to be doing the trains, be playing game on his computer all day. So how are we as employee suppose to know the rules… The Management team as a hold is SORRY as hell, all but One. There is only one OOS in Admin The everybody love. That is Miss T. Gordon. She is understanding to the needs of the people and she is easy to talk to. But the other mangers talk about her behind her back like she is some kind of dog.. They can take lesson from her. On how to treat people.

  17. Census Today Says:

    That’s the truth!