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 June, 2010

Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves says that operations are winding down; Mass #layoffs ahead at the #2010 #Census

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

We knew this day would come. Yesterday, Robert M. Groves tweeted and blogged that 2010 Census operations are winding down.

Groves wrote, “As of Sunday, we have completed and checked-in about 44 million enumerator forms for this operation of the approximately 47 million; we’re at about 93% complete in this operation. We are somewhat ahead of schedule and certainly under-budget.”

My first (snarky) comment is that its not hard to be under-budget when you are given a $15 billion blank check that is more than triple what your predecessors had to work with in 2000.

My second, realistic comment, is that there are still 3 million households that have not been counted. With the end of operations looming near, this invites fraud on many levels, as individuals will likely be pressured by their higher-ups, all the way through the chain of command back to Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland to get forms completed come hell or high water.

Subtly, Dr. Groves also warned of mass layoffs in the coming days. He wrote;

However, for many we will have to say our goodbyes. It is to them that this entry is dedicated –

You were among the best labor force for a decennial census in decades; you brought to the census family the strongest set of skills and intelligence, the best work experience, incredible flexibility, and a strong devotion to serving the American public by devoting your talents to the 2010 Census. On behalf of the full Census Bureau family, I thank you for your service to the country, and I wish you well in the next steps in your careers. I hope some of the experiences you had during this massive, complicated, messy effort will provide knowledge that makes you a better employee in your next endeavor. Thank you again.

Also, please say a warm and fuzzy goodbye to Obama Administration job creation statistics that were inflated by Census Bureau hires!

Crew leader shot and killed in #Baltimore

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This is a tragedy. H/t to Carol Morello of The Washington Post for the following:

A Baltimore man who was working for the Census Bureau has died after being shot while dropping off a co-worker — the first killing of a Census worker on the job this year.

Spencer Williams, 22, died Friday after being shot June 7, according to Baltimore police. He was found inside his car, resting in the median near an intersection, and had multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Williams was a crew leader responsible for a group of census takers doing follow-up visits to the homes of people who did not mail in their questionnaire by April. Census Bureau spokesman Steven J. Jost said Williams was returning home after driving a co-worker home at the end of the day and was considered to still be on the job. Police and Census officials said the shooting is not believed to be related to the agency’s work.

Since follow-up house calls began in late April, there have been 252 incidents in which Census workers have been harmed or threatened, including 11 times when shots were fired at them and 86 times when they were threatened with such weapons as guns, axes and crossbows.

Let’s hope the person who did this is caught and brought to justice.

New #Census report from the Inspector General…

Monday, June 14th, 2010

It’ s only four pages and the last part of the report consists of recommendations based on problems highlighted earlier. Please post your comments below. Given how critical this report is, we can only imagine how scathing the next full report from the Inspector General will be.

http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2010/OAE-19893-01.pdf

MyTwoCensus analysis:

1. Respondents are facing additional burdens because questionnaires are not being handled properly. The report doesn’t go far enough in criticizing the Census Bureau for creating a system whereby sensitive data is just laying around for long periods of time , thereby compromising the data’s confidentiality.

2. As has been discussed in recent weeks on MyTwoCensus.com, there are no guidelines that state whether enumerators can use the Internet to determine proxy information. A memo was sent out about this a couple of weeks ago, informing field workers not to use the Internet, but it is unknown whether this memo reached everyone. Either way, it was sent way too late in the operation to be effective as most enumerators are likely already set in their ways of tracking people down.

3. That 1/3 of interviews were proxy interviews is an unacceptably high figure.

4. Enumerators should never have to give out their personal phone numbers unless they are being compensated by the government or have this written into their contract as part of their job description.

Daily Sound Off: Are Census Bureau officials getting bonuses based on performance?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This came in through our submission form:

I would sure like to see a story on who in the census office are getting bonuses and for what.

Out of the Matteson Office 2526 we have been given deadline dates by the LCOM John Mathis such as one a week ago, then one today, etc.  In a meeting with the LCOM, someone from the RCC Chicago office, brought up these dates John seemed to change his mind on the dates.  Someone else then asked if anyone is getting bonuses for completing early.  The RCC guy said “Who said we are getting bonuses?”

I think any bonuses if they exist for finishing early are only going to cause more bad census data as we are rushed to meet dates that are falsely imposed.  The website says this part of the operation should end in early July.

So can you find out what bonuses are offered to census management and for what?  Then we can start writing our congress people to abolish them.  The only bonus I think should be for getting a complete and accurate count of all people and where they lived on April 1st.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Is Florida already gearing up for a challenge to its 2010 Census figures?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

First, here’s some background: States and municipalities have the power to challenge census results. For instance, just this year the Census Bureau admitted that its numbers were faulty for a number of locales around the country and eventually adjusted the totals, immediately effecting how federal funds were/are distributed. A few days ago, Microsoft released a press release stating that it is now operating a software system for the state of Florida that will help the state identify areas where the Census Bureau may have screwed up and failed to count people.

(Check out the site here at myfloridacensus.com)

site note: maybe I should sue Microsoft/the state of Florida for infringing on the mytwocensus name with myfloridacensus? any lawyers out there want to advise me on this one?

The press release states the following:

“The Florida House of Representatives is making one final push over the next month for its state residents to be counted in the 2010 Census, through its MyFloridaCensus (http://www.myfloridacensus.gov) website and Web-based application. MyFloridaCensus is an innovative component in Florida’s overall effort to ensure a complete count of residents during the ongoing 2010 Census, supplementing door-to-door canvassing, which ends nationwide July 10.”

Ostensibly, if Florida doesn’t like its total population count as identified by the Census Bureau, it will happily use data collected through myfloridacensus.com to fight the Census Bureau in its challenge. Does this mean that the stage is already being set for yet another bloody recount in Florida, this one to take place in 2011, ten years after the last one rocked the nation and changed the course of history?

Citizen Journalists: Census Bureau employees completing forms at fast food locales when residents are not around

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Examiner.com, a citizen journalism site that I wrote a couple of pieces for about the 2010 Census, published the following story from Houston. Is this going on elsewhere too? Thanks to Stephen Dean in Houston for the following:

While stopping in for a quick sandwich, people are seeing what they call suspicious behavior by US Census Bureau ‘enumerators’ throughout the Houston area.
Workers are opening up personal census questionnaires and then filling in box after box, sometimes seeming to fill in every entry on some forms.   Other times, the workers are seen opening up the forms and erasing entries and then marking in new entries.
In one northwest Houston fast food restaurant, a security guard who was on his lunch break spotted what looked like a group of census workers feverishly filling in other people’s forms so he confronted them.   He also called an investigative reporting team.
The man said it didn’t seem right that these door-to-door census workers would be filling in personal questionnaires without the citizens being present.  He said it defeats the entire purpose of having enumerators going door to door to get an accurate count.
When he confronted the workers off the West Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) at Victory, he said one worker answered that census workers had to finish filling in the forms because citizens weren’t doing it.
But the security guard, who asked that his name not be divulged, said it seemed as though as many as a dozen of the Census workers had gathered in that restaurant to fill in forms so that they could shorten their workday by making fewer actual door to door trips.
He said he felt the 2010 Census would be inaccurate if workers are handed a stack of addresses to visit and they instead filled out the forms themselves without ever knocking on the doors.
The man wondered if it was happening elsewhere.
Sure enough, a woman in The Woodlands notified the investigative reporting team on the KPRC Local 2 Facebook page that she saw the exact same thing happening near her home, and what she overheard was troubling to her.
The woman wrote in her Facebook message,
These census workers were talking about a coworker who was making up information about the people they were trying to contact rather than actually doing the job to accurately document the information.”
She wrote that it seemed like these workers, at the Whataburger on Sawdust near I-45 in The Woodlands, had no plans on turning the person in.  They just seemed to be lamenting the fact that they were working with a deadbeat.
For that witness as well, it raises flags about the accuracy of the 2010 Census.   She wrote,
I use the census from years ago to help me with my genealogy research.  Overhearing that conversation did not make me happy to know that the information might not be accurate.”
The investigative team sent hidden camera crews into both restaurants and found the groups of census workers, sitting in the exact places that the tipsters described.
On the westside, hidden cameras were rolling as 8 different workers arrived in separate cars and started spreading out personal census forms on the tables. (more…)

Key White House staffer admits Harris Corp. failed the American people

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Peter Orszag is the White House’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Below are excerpts of a June 8 speech delivered to the Center for American Progress, courtesy of the Federal Times.

(Please have a look through the MyTwoCensus.com archives to learn more about the Harris Corp. handheld-computer debacle that cost US taxpayers $800 million, not the $600 million that Orszag states below, because an additional $200 million was awarded to the contractors after their initial failure to create a usable product.)

Here’s what he said:

For example, the Census Bureau awarded in 2006 a $595 million contract to develop a hand-held computer for census workers to use this year. Two years and $600 million later, the project was canceled with nothing to show for it.

And census workers out there today still use pen and paper.

Clearly, we have massive room for improvement. Pursuing that improvement and closing the IT gap will help us create a government that is more efficient and less wasteful, and that is … more responsive to the American people.

Strange news of the day: Cross-dressing Census Bureau employee attacks disabled woman in Houston

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Read the article here for more details. Apparently the worker in question is now in a psychiatric hospital…

Census complicated in small towns

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Here’s a peek into rural America from mountvernonnews.com:

  • By Melissa Raines

  • June 11, 2010 10:33 am EDT

MOUNT VERNON — Some local residents have raised concerns about the way the 2010 Census is being administered. The constitution mandates a census be taken in this country every 10 years, counting every person living in the U.S. to determine representation in congress.

Some residents in the villages of Howard, Danville and Gambier have questioned why they never received their 2010 census forms in their mailboxes as they did in past census years.

“People were wondering why they didn’t get them,” said Howard resident Susan Rogers. Some residents said they thought they may have misplaced them, or that they were lost in the mail.

Rogers was one of several people who inquired at her local post office whether the forms had been delivered.

“I was told that they all came to the post office but they were all sent back because they didn’t have post office boxes on them,” Rogers said. “That’s a waste of taxpayer money.”

Residents in Danville and Gambier report they were told the same thing. A Knox County postal worker told the News as many as 90 percent of the forms received at the post office where he works were returned as “undeliverable” because they were not addressed with post office box numbers.

According to Kim Hunter, media team leader for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Detroit Region which includes Ohio, much of the Knox County area is classified by the census bureau as “update/leave” meaning forms are not mailed to homes but left at the door by an enumerator. The forms can then be mailed in or collected by a census employee.

Some residents interviewed by the News said their forms were left weeks ago at their doors in time to be returned by the April 16 deadline.

Malinda St. Clair of Martinsburg said her form was left at her door. “It was left a few weeks ago,” she said. Norma Simpson of Howard said hers was left as well.

Perhaps adding to the confusion, press releases the census bureau have released since April say residents with post office boxes will automatically have a visit to their home by enumerators to receive and complete their forms.

“Residents that normally pick up their mail from a post office box don’t receive a form in the mail but will be visited by a census taker beginning in May,” reads one release from April.

Michele Lowe, U.S. Census Bureau public information officer, referred to more information provided on the U.S. Census Bureau Web site while speaking by telephone to the News.

These releases repeatedly state that mail customers with post office boxes do not receive forms by mail, but instead receive a face-to-face visit.

An April 7 posting by the census bureau titled, “Some Reasons You’re Not Yet Receiving Your Census Form,” gives possible reasons for not receiving a form.

These include, “You have a post office box in a mailout/mailback area.” The reasoning given is that the census bureau does not mail to post office boxes. “The census is all about counting people where they live and sleep, so we must tie each form to a physical location. Post office boxes are not tied to specific housing units, so we can’t use them to send forms to specific housing units. One of our census workers will visit houses that rely on post office boxes between May 1 and July 10.”

Many of these households have already received a visit from an enumerator, which in some cases was unexpected. Several residents the News spoke with asked why they did not receive some kind of notice they would have an enumerator visit, and wouldn’t be receiving a form in the mail, which they would have preferred.

Jody Weiss of Gambier said she does not like to answer the door when she is not expecting anyone, especially when her husband is not home.

“How come I couldn’t just get the form in the mail and mail it back the way everyone else does,” Weiss asked.

Weiss said if she would have known she needed to call a toll-free number to request a form because she didn’t receive one at her P.O. box, she would have done so.

During a press conference last week, Dr. Robert Groves, director of the U. S. Census Bureaus spoke with journalists across the country via telephone, the Internet, and an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The News asked Groves if he felt the census bureau had done an adequate job of explaining to people in rural areas they would not receive their census forms mailed to their P.O. boxes, but would receive a visit from an enumerator.

‘’Looking back on the 2010 census, I think many of my colleagues and I agree that we could have done better at getting the word out to that population,” Groves said.

“It’s a tough message to get out because it’s scattered throughout the entire country, and there are people with postal boxes who are living next door to people who get their mail delivered there,” he continued.

“So how to get the message out in a non-confusing way is a challenge that we could have done better in 2010, I admit.”

The director explained the bureau’s policy of not mailing census forms to P.O. boxes. (more…)

What is the legality of Census Bureau employees contacting real estate agents?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Here’s an article that discusses this matter.

How many Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints have been filed by 2010 Census employees? 376

Friday, June 11th, 2010

As of June 2, when I asked the above question to Michael Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, I was told the following:

There have been 376 formal EEO complaints filed for the 2010 Decennial.

I expect this number to rise significantly as people are terminated by the Census Bureau and no longer fear retaliation at their local census offices.

In Nebraska, workers are shifted between Omaha and Lincoln at a tremendous cost to taxpayers

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The Omaha World-Herald has taken on an issue that I have written about extensively in recent weeks. How does the Census Bureau justify the costs of workers traveling large distances and putting them up at hotels while local workers get paid to sit idly or are terminated?

A waste in U.S. Census operation?

By Christopher Burbach
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Census Bureau has brought in more than 30 out-of-town workers to conduct door-to-door surveys in Omaha, even though some Omaha census employees say they don’t have enough to do.

The Census Bureau expects to spend $42,311 on hotel rooms and food for the workers, who are from Lincoln and other Nebraska locations, said Russ Frum, assistant regional census manager in Denver.

He said there are “about 38” such workers. The Census Bureau expects to pay for 315 hotel room nights. That would work out to about eight nights per employee. Most started June 4. They’re scheduled to leave Friday.

The workers, known as enumerators, are knocking on doors to collect census data at households that did not mail back a 2010 Census form. They’re trying to catch people at home to ask them the census questions in person, or on the telephone. It’s what the census calls “nonresponse follow-up.”

Frum and an Omaha census official, Jackie McCabe, said the expense is justified. They said data collection was behind schedule in some areas, especially northeast Omaha.

“We have brought experienced people in to finish an area that did not appear was going to be finished on time,” said McCabe, local census office manager for Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties.

The out-of-town workers are Nebraskans, she said. Local managers had tried to find Omaha crews to complete the surveys in the areas that were behind, she said. (more…)

Daily Sound Off: Census software violates federal law

Friday, June 11th, 2010

This Daily Sound Off comes from Bob in Elgin, Illinois:

Until Tuesday I was the AMT (Asst. Manager for Technology) for the Elgin IL census office.

Around April 1st, a change was made to DAPPS (Decennial Applicant, Personnel, and Payroll System) so that it required us to ask employees for the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number to reset their passwords. This is a direct violation of the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, and placed me personally at risk of fines and jail every time I illegally requested this information of another employee. I immediately notified IT management of this issue, and opened a trouble ticket.

Despite my complaints, this issue was never fixed. A proper disclosure could have been added to the screen to be read to the employee. Or something other than SSN could have been used to verify identity. The system even asked new users 3 security questions (hobby,favorite color, pets name) when they first logged in, but these are NEVER used anywhere. Or we could have continued to reset passwords with no further authentication, since these users were all in the office and personally known. This was not a situation where passwords were being reset from remote requests over the phone or internet where verification of identity is an issue.

On May 4th, I was ordered by my area manager, Richard Earley (Chicago RCC) to do this in violation of the law, and threatened with termination if I refused to comply. I responded that he did not have the authority to order me to violate federal law.

On May 6th, Richard Earley stopped in our Elgin office, again ordered me to violate this law, and wrote me up twice on D-282 disciplinary forms. He indicated that he would provide me with copies of those forms, and indicate exactly what rules I had violated in refusing to violate the law, but never did either of these.

In late May a new NRFU Shipping application was rolled out to replace the severely performance limited PBOCS system. The new ship app was based on DAPPS, and had the same illegal SSN request to reset passwords. I immediately logged another trouble ticket to alert management of this issue.

Tuesday afternoon, June 8th Richard Earley again came to our office with a letter written by his staff ordering my termination, that he forced our local office manager to sign under threat of termination. Richard was the only one that spoke to me, terminating me on the spot, and walking me out the door. Although a D283 is required for termination, I never saw a copy of that form.

In addition, our Chicago RCC has issued an edict that we can’t terminate anyone for performance issues, we have to demote them to a lower position. This has been done to other employees in my office, but was not done in my case.

According to the rules on this web site

http://www.osc.gov/pppwhatare.htm

Both my discipline and termination are illegal actions.

I have contacted several federal regulatory agencies, including EEO, OMB, OIG, and OSC and filed complaints as soon as I was disciplined.

In addition the census bureau owes a $1000 penalty to every employee that has been asked for an SSN to have their password reset (probably 5-10K people at a cost of $5-10M), according to the Privacy Act. And those responsible for this illegal system should be fined $5000 per the same law.

I would be more than happy to provide additional information on this issue, and would really appreciate it if you would publicize the census violations of the law.

The computer systems have so many bugs and performance issues, that I question that this census will produce a true and accurate count of our population.

Our RCC manages by intimidation and harassment. They have gone out of their way to create a hostile work environment for all involved in this operation. I don’t know if this is a local issue (IL, WI, IN) or national. In my 35 years of work history, I have NEVER seen so many illegal actions in a place of work as this one experience of working for my own government. I find it disgusting.

New estimates of Hispanic populations released by the Census Bureau

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

These numbers will be very important when Congressional reapportionment and redistricting come into play:

National estimates: <http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/>.
State estimates: <http://www.census.gov/popest/states/asrh/>.

Census workers save a life

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Yes, this is a watchdog site, so I don’t report all of the good news, but this story about Census Bureau employees serendipitously being in the right place at the right time is worth reading:

Census workers help rescue man

Two women acted quickly after realizing they were hearing desperate plea for help

By NOELLE PHILLIPS

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2010/06/10/1325378/census-workers-help-rescue-man.html#ixzz0qS2zLYN3

Barbara Westbrook and Debra Billings, two census workers, agreed Tuesday night to take one last assignment to knock on 10 more doors in a neighborhood off Columbia’s North Main Street.

When the two women knocked on the door of a Colleton Street home, they heard a man’s voice from inside. But a passing train prevented them from understanding what he said.

“We get all kinds of responses, from people telling us to go away, people who try to ignore us when we know they’re there,” Westbrook said.

The two women could have figured the man wanted them to leave and headed to the next address. After all, it was after 7 p.m. and they had nine more addresses to check before 8 p.m.

But they waited out the train and realized the man was calling for help.

“He said, ‘I’m hurt. I’ve fallen and I need help. Call 911,’” Westbrook said.

Billings, whose husband is a volunteer firefighter, used her cell phone to call 911. Then, the two women went to a nearby apartment complex to ask for help. Billings was not available Wednesday to talk about the rescue.

“She took him seriously and knew exactly what to do,” Westbrook said in praising her co-worker’s actions.

Neighbors removed the man’s screen door, then a teenage boy kicked in the front door.

“It was just like the movies,” Westbrook said. “He would run and jump up and kick at the door.”

Once inside, they found a man face down in a corner.

He had fallen while walking toward his television to start a movie, Westbrook said. He had been lying alone in a hot house for nearly 24 hours.

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2010/06/10/1325378/census-workers-help-rescue-man.html#ixzz0qS2qO9lo

Problems with the homeless census

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Before you criticize this post as coming from a partisan media outlet, TownHall.com, read its claims over for legitimacy, as it seems to be legitimate:

“”We identified concerns with … inconsistent handling of individuals who either (1) stated that they had already been counted, or (2) stated that they had an address,” the IG reported. “We observed 83 enumerations — at shelters, soup kitchens, food vans and TNSOL sites — carried out by 13 local offices. In over half of our observations, enumerators were inconsistent in deciding whether or not to recount individuals who stated that they had already been counted. We also identified inconsistent practices when respondents indicated that they had an actual residential address. In particular, some of these individuals were counted during SBE, while other individuals were told that they could not be counted because they were not homeless. The enumerators’ natural inclination to avoid duplication often contradicted the procedures in the Census GQE manual.”"

Click HERE to read the full article about potential double-counting in the homeless census.

Strange news of the day: Bat attack on census worker

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

From Marion Ohio: Bond is $100,000 for a man being held on a felonious assault charge after allegedly hitting a United States Census worker with a baseball bat.

Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves lies (again)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

UPDATE: For those people who are arguing in the comments section, Groves, in his prepared remarks, which can be found at the following link on page 1, stated that the ad campaign has been completed:

http://www.mytwocensus.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/GrovesRemarksJune2010.pdf

At his most recent press conference (on June 2nd), Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves stated that the Census Bureau had completed its 2010 Census advertising campaign. Yet, yesterday, it was reported that the advertising campaign is ongoing in Mississippi:

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The U.S. Census Bureau will increase its advertising efforts in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta to encourage people to respond.

Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves said Tuesday the agency is committed to a complete and accurate count of area’s population.

The Census is conducted once every 10 years and helps determine how millions of federal dollars are spent. Officials use the updated population figures to reconfigure lines for districts in the U.S. House, the state House and Senate and for local offices such as county supervisors.

Graves met in Jackson last week with several groups concerned about an accurate count in the Delta, including Southern Echo and the Sunflower County Parents and Students Organization.

To Census Bureau officials reading this: Is the advertising campaign really complete?

After two weeks without blogging…Robert M. Groves is back

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert M. Groves hasn’t been blogging for two weeks. We suspect that this is to avoid all of the problems that have consistently come up surrounding the 2010 Census. You would think that he would use his blog to debunk criticism, but since he hasn’t we will have to assume that there is a significant amount of truth in what has been reported on MyTwoCensus.com. However, yesterday Dr. Groves (or a PR lackey on his behalf) posted again:

We’ve finished the fifth week of the Nonresponse Followup stage of the 2010 Census.

The completion of interviews in this phase is proceeding roughly on schedule. As of Sunday, we completed over 84% of the entire workload.

Some local census offices, those with smaller than expected workloads are entering the final phases of their nonresponse followup workload.

We are now engaged in a variety of quality control procedures. We redo a portion of each enumerator’s work, to gain some assurance that our data quality standards are being maintained. Then we will launch an operation that verifies that cases that the enumerator has recorded as vacant on April 1, were correctly categorized. I’ll say more about our quality assurance procedures in another entry.

Chris Brown promotes the US Census, but as a criminal, the UK won’t even let him into the country

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

He’s not even allowed to travel internationally, but singer/felon Chris Brown is a proud spokesman for the 2010 Census. Smart huh?