Daily Sound Off: North Carolina problems not fixed…
This comes from North Carolina:
I started my Census work on April 27, 2010. At first, I was notified that my first week of Census work would be training and would be help near my home in Etowah, NC. At the last minute that was changed to a somewhat distant location in Asheville, NC. The classroom instruction included complicated Census-taking requirements and presented quite a challenge with all the bureaucratic details from how to properly fill out time sheets (blue ballpoint pen only, times stated in quarter-hour increments and hours in 0.25 decimal blocks) to literally hundreds of pages of instructions. Even for me, a person with graduate degrees, this was a formidable amount of information to absorb. The last day of class was to use what is referred to as Address Assignment (AA) books which listed the addresses to be Enumerated. Howvere, the books were not available due to “computer problems”. So, no instruction in the use of the AAs could be done. The first experience with the AAs was the following week when we were actually performing the Census Enumeration.
Before we started Census work we all had to be fingerprinted. That is good and I have no problem with that security measure – except that I have read that convicted felons were accepted as Census-workers in spite to the figerprinting. A few days later I was notified that the quality of my fingerprints were unacceptable and that I needed to go to the Local Census Office (LCO) in Asheville to be re-fingerprinted. Of course, I was paid for my time ($11.50/hr) and mileage ($0.50/mile) to drive from my home to Ashville and back. As I came to find out a good percentage of my classmates also had to be refingerprinted.
When I started performing my Census work, instead of working locally, I was assigned to an area about 30 miles from my home. Again receiving time and mileage compensation to and from my house.
Every day we were all required to turn in our time-sheets for the previous day at the meeting place 30-miles from my home. An interesting aside is that even if one did not work on a given day they were required to turn in a timesheet for the prior day. In doing so they then needed to turn in a time sheet the next day for, perhaps, just the time and mileage incurred to turn in the time-sheet the previous day. This could prove to be a form of perpetual motion.
You have undoubtedly read or heard about the problems in paying the Census-workers. In spite of statements to the press by a Ms. Carla Gay of the Asheville LCO, payment errors were commonplace, not isolated instances, and, as best I can tell were NOT, in many cases, due to employee errors. Even if they were, Ms. Gay’s comments to the Press were unacceptable and just go to point out how complicated the time-sheet protocol was and what a lack of management experience she has.
Since many people took Census work due to dire financial situations, the paycheck error produced severe hardships. Those people who managed to reach the Regional Office in Charlotte were told that emergency checks would be sent by Federal Express to their home – allegedly at a cost of $25 per check! According to conversations I’ve had with Representative Heath Shuler’s office in Washington, Rep. Shuler has started an investigation in this but one example of mismanagement. I’m not optimistic that his investigation will go anywhere.
One problem I encountered early on in the Census was the lack of respondents that were home when I stopped at their residence. We were told in no uncertain terms in class, to seek out a “Proxy” – a neighbor to garner whatever information we could about the residence we were supposed to enumerate. We were further told that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES were we to know on any neighbor’s door to obtain Proxy information. The neighbor has be be outside on the street to approach them. Several weeks later when we were admonished for not competing more Enumerations we were questioned as to why we did not knock on neighbor’s doors to obtain Proxy inputs. We were then told we WERE supposed to know on doorrs. When we were permitted to do so our success rate increased appreciably.
Throughout the Census process I and others I spoke to were constantly asked by people we contacted why we were there since they had mailed in their Census Questionaires and, in many cases, had also been visited by other Census-workers. In my own case I mailed in my Questionaire before April 1 and yet, while I was out performing the Census a Census-worker visted my home to complete a Census.
I receive all my mail at a USPS PO Box. Toward the end of March was read a small notice posted in our Post Office that PO Box-holders would NOT receive Census forms. In my case I had to go to the local library, not the Post Office, to obtain a Census Questionaire. No PO Box holder I sebsequently spoke to ever knew that they would not receive a Census Form if they had a PO Box. A month or so ago another notice was posted in our Post Office that, if you had a PO Box and wanted a Census form you could call an 800-number to have one mailed to you!
The last week presented a fiasco as far as Census Enumeration assignments were concerned. I was asked (on short notice) if I could perform Census work in some remote and distant locations (Cashiers and Highlands). This was fine with me, after all I WAS being paid time and mileage.I appears that many people were being sent to these areas and since the Census was clearly in a panic mode, several people were asked to deliver their completed Census form to the Asheville LCO. Again time and mileage for all.
A few weeks ago, for reasons I don’t know, we were informed to immediately turn in all Census forms and data, completed or not. Two days later materials were redistributed to we were told to continue our Census Enumeration.
One recent assignment I accepted was to drive to a “Wendy’s” in Cashiers, NC and wait for other Enumerators to turn in their forms so that I could drive them to the Asheville LCO. A sat there for about four hours, doing nothing. A census Crew Leader was already at “Wendy’s” and it appeared that if the LCO management could have waited aother hour after the first back of Questionaires were brough in the Crew Leader could have delivered all the Questionaires to Asheville. As it was, I made one trip and, supposedly, one hour later the Crew Leader made another one.
In taking to other Census-workers, it appears that my experiences were commonplace. The so-called Management for the 2010 Census is most definitely Reactive, not Proactive. Have they learned nothing from previos Census? Apparently not. I frequently encountered what I would call “panic management” with telephone calls informing me that so task had to be performed ASAP. I will stress that at no time was I subjected to pressure to enhgage in these assignments. But is was clear that panic as the motivation.
The above recounted episodes so upset me that I called Representative Heath Shuler’s, Senators Kay Hagan’s and Richard Burr’s offices in Washington. At Senator Burr’s office I spoke to, Bryan, a staff member who informed me that the Senator has received number calls and had written a letter to Robert Groves, the Director of the 2010 Census. Ryan further informed me that Groves’ response addressed some issues but didn’t really provide satisfactory answers. In response to my question whether Dr. Groves (he is a Ph.D and a University of Michigan Professor), LuAnne Holifield (who, as far as I can determine, is the heard of the Asheville LCO) or Carla Gay could be fired, Ryan was pessimistic, saying that is is virtually impossible to fire anyone in Government employment. Besides, Groves was appointed, not hired.
Although I would never condone nor participate in violence to resolve issues such as this, I’ve come to understand and appreciate what would lead people to consider such acts. The feeling of the lack to power and the arrogance toward those who are suposedly there to serve us, the taxpayers, in infuriating.
As a side note, I recently had a brief meeting with Ms. Holifield. Her lack of any courtesy and just plain rudeness was disgusting.