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.

Sending a 2010 Census totem pole from Alaska to Washington – On your dime!

UPDATE: Steve Jost just wrote the following to me:

The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem.  You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event.  Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months  to promote participation in the 2010 Census.  The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000.  The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111.   We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes.  The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

Now, this must be one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about. A “totem pole” that has been created to celebrate the 2010 Census is traveling thousands of miles from Juneau, Alaska to Washington D.C. I’ve already e-mailed Steve Jost at the Census Bureau to find out some more info about the cost of this commission and the transportation of this object. Here’s the report from the Juneau Empire:

JUNEAU – For the first time in history, the 2010 Census commissioned Sitka carver Tommy Joseph to design and carve a totem pole specifically for the Census. Since its completion this spring, the totem pole has traveled throughout many communities in Southeast Alaska during the census data collection process. The totem is currently on display at Goldbelt’s Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau.

A celebration and dedication will be held as the totem begins its journey to its new home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C. All are invited to attend the celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 at the Mount Roberts Tramway. Meet the artist, enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the Children of All Nations, and join the event with other special guests.

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28 Responses to “Sending a 2010 Census totem pole from Alaska to Washington – On your dime!”

  1. 9 Says:

    yawn.

  2. anon Says:

    Slow News Day or maybe SRM has something against native Americans. I’d like to know how he would propose reaching out to the remote and hard to count communities of America.

  3. Adrian Says:

    …”one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about”. Really?

    Some of the posts I’ve skimmed on your site are just taking potshots, out of context, for the purpose of rallying the ignorant, a la what that loon did with the Shelley Sherrod/NAACP tape.

    I’m an enumerator, still working today, and I am disgusted by the many inefficiencies and redundancies I see everyday. The basic bad design of the Census was clearly not done by our brightest minds. It’s great there’s a blog that points out these things. But this post, and others, lacks any context.

    I also once worked for a year as a case clerk a corporate law firm where we sat around a conference table with 15 others and ordered out from some of S.F.’s finest restaurants, working hours of overtime everyday, pushing paper in a completely blatant waste of the clients’ (banks suing each other over student loans) money. We all knew it, the partners colluded. Waste is not limited to the gov’t sector at all.

    The amount of money that goes for photo shoots and marching bands in the Armed Forces in any given week dwarfs the entire PR budget for the entire Constitutionally-mandated ten-year census. While I despise the waste I’ve seen, I’m very cognizant that other parts of gov’t, and also corporate America spend lots and lots of dough on morale-building, image-making, and self-promotion. I want a lean and mean Census operation, but nothing you’ve written above says to me that this totem pole thing is such an huge outrage, let alone “one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about”. Possibly it is a waste, but what’s your reasoning and proof?

    Without journalistic context, you come across in your posts little better than FOX News. I mean if that’s your model, go for it. If your aim is to sit across from Sean Hannity in a year with your book in hand and giving him his millionth chance to knee-jerk rail against the evil government, hey, go make your stash. But at the end of the day you’re not doing anyone a service. It feels disingenuous, and it’s nothing to be proud of.

  4. Laney Says:

    Hard to call something the most flagrant waste you’ve ever seen when you’re not even giving any dollar figures on the cost associated with it. Perhaps waiting until you get all the facts before posting would have been a better idea? Oh but wait…That would only be for a blogger who actually cares about getting the whole story. You just want to post things out of context to get people riled up. The poster above me is right, you’ll fit right in on Fox News.

  5. pranita veeria Says:

    I saw a pole being made for the ARCM of the NYC RCC…wonder where that’ll go???

  6. Dutch Buckhead Says:

    NRFU RES starts August 12.

  7. Steve Jost Says:

    Stephen Robert Morse/My Two Census

    The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem. You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

    Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

    In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event. Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months to promote participation in the 2010 Census. The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

    The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000. The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111. We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes. The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

    I would venture a guess that the total cost for the Totem project is less than the cost burden the Census Bureau has incurred to complete the search of your list of 26 explicit profanities that might have been found in any emails regarding the 2010 Census of 10 senior staff at the Census Bureau over several years. I understand we have found just two emails responsive to your request which refer to news accounts which happened to have one of the words on your list.

  8. Steve Jost Says:

    since you did not post my full response, I’m posting the last bit that you cut from your post…

    “I would venture a guess that the total cost for the Totem project is less than the cost burden the Census Bureau has incurred to complete the search of your list of 26 explicit profanities that might have been found in any emails regarding the 2010 Census of 10 senior staff at the Census Bureau over several years. I understand we have found just two emails responsive to your request which refer to news accounts which happened to have one of the words on your list.”

  9. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @Steve, I was trying to save you some face so you didn’t come off like an unprofessional asshole. In fact, my FOIA request was pared down from what it originally was, and it only asked to see e-mails from your office and Dr. Groves’ office over a two year period. If you would like to publish the cost of merely searching for records, I would be happy for you to do so on MyTwoCensus.com.

  10. anon Says:

    Thank you Mr. Jost for the clarification!

  11. Laney Says:

    Ha! Steve Jost, I do not envy you this job, but you are certainly good at it. Thanks for smacking him down with facts yet again.

    Stephen – You are confusing Mr. Jost very politely pointing out your follies with being an “asshole”. Lol, you have absolutely no self-awareness, do you? Calling someone who is always graciously responding to your attacks as unprofessional, then calling him an asshole in the next word. Professionalism, you’re doing it wrong.

    Perhaps you should visit the link to the Wonkette article someone posted in the comments a few months back. Laugh at yourself…might do you some good.

  12. anonymous Says:

    WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY!

    FV (Field Verification) was supposed to last 1 to 2 weeks in my area – now, they are telling us 2 to 3 days!

  13. anon Says:

    I just watched the video…really cool stuff!

  14. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @Laney – Let me guess, you work in the Public Information Office in Suitland or better yet, you are Steve Jost posting under another name.

  15. Laney Says:

    Aw, so predictable. I knew that instead of owning up and admitting you were wrong, you would just accuse your critics of being Census operatives, or Steve Jost’s family members, or whatever.

    No, I do not work in Suitland. I was a NRFU RI Enumerator in the DC metro area. When I first found this blog I was excited, as it seemed like a great place to go to see what the other Census offices throughout the country were like. I was frustrated at times with the bureaucracy, or my crew leader, but overall I had a good Census experience.

    Unfortunately this site did not live up to my expectations. It is no doubt an interesting idea and could have been an informative blog, showcasing both the bad and the good. But it’s painfully obvious as time goes on that you are either no longer interested in that, or that you never were in the first place. Your blog postings have become increasingly hysterical. When you make mistakes (which happens AT LEAST once a week) you never post a retraction or apology. You just post something in the comments attacking your detractors, rather than addressing the error. Now you’re calling a public servant, who does not need to even bother responding to you, an asshole. Sorry, but there’s nothing professional about that.

  16. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    If you want to read about the good, why don’t you subscribe to the Census Bureau’s press releases?

  17. anon Says:

    Morse – You know that feeling when you are about to post a snot-nosed reply? Try to recognize that as a warning versus a green light.

    This is not Breitbart or BigGovernment. This is YOUR home. You are the host. We are your guests. You set the tone. Imagine being invited to someone’s home for a party only to have insults and piss thrown your way by the host. Wake the ef up…even enumerators are calling you out!

    You continually break the following rules:
    1. Seek truth and report it. Case in point, the story above…You claimed it was a big waste even before you knew the costs. We’ve asked you to investigate things before, but you never do a thorough investigation. We want facts not rhetoric.
    2. Minimize harm. You actually inject harm into your posts and replies by being a dick. “Stop hurting America”
    3. Be objective and independent. You’ve worked for conservatives and post for Conservatives. Do you know how to separate your mind from that way of thinking? If you can’t, you should really try to stay over in the one camp…don’t try to claim independence.
    4. Be Accountable. You made a mistake. Own up to it. Yeah. It hurts, but I promise, it will be over soon.

    Get your house in order, it looks like shit. PS – I don’t work for Suitland either.

  18. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @anon – What was in any way untrue or misleading about this story? The government wasted money. A lot of it. Plain and simple. If you can find a way to justify this, please let me know. And for the record: For the number of visitors this blog receives, the number of critics is extremely low.

  19. pranita veeria Says:

    I think a totem pole is actually an appropriate representation of the 2010 US Census….it’s the kind of response you received from Area Managers and ARCM’s of the New York area when you asked critical questions about staffing and operations…stiff and lifeless, with a grotesque look on their faces. Kudos to blogs like SRM’s for uncovering the nonsense that surrounded this entire operation from day one… the focus on frivolous items like road tours, totem poles, “March to the Mailbox”, TNSOL nights…and on and on. What a shame that the final “count” will be so woefully wrong, and what areas in need of critical funding will never receive the dollars they need…. maybe then you can put that totem pole where it rightfully belongs… on a NYC street with the tens of thousands of marketing and “feel good” brochures ready for trash pickup. Rock on SRM !!!!

  20. My Two Census » Blog Archive » The $23,000 Totem Pole Debacle Says:

    [...] Yesterday, I blogged about how  the Census Bureau paid $20,000 to construct a 2010 Census totem pole that is now being shipped…. [...]

  21. GS-X Says:

    The Census Headquarters building is very ugly.
    The totem pole will help decorate it. There should be room for the totem in the lobby or the library.

  22. Resident Says:

    It’s time an art school refugee weighs in …. I like the totem. I don’t know jack about totem or tribal art, but I think this Tommy Joseph did a great job under the circumstances. From my admittedly short hour of research, I don’t see anyone in Alaska who dislikes it. So far the few protests I’ve seen, toward a project which was a ‘done deal’ seven long months ago, are ignorant outsider mudslings at the dollar signs.

    For a large work of public art I think twenty grand is a ridiculous bargain. Other reports quote a budget of $15,000, but let’s just say for argument the higher bill is true. The price becomes a steal when you learn that these poles should take maybe eight weeks, and this one was pushed out in two, albeit due to a relatively simple design. A “rush order” should have cost a great deal more, in any industry.

    If you want return on investment, the local Partnership rep was quoted in March by the Daily Sitka Sentinel thus: “The state receives federal funding on the order of $2,700 per person for such federal programs as roads, transportation, health care, day care, libraries and senior centers.” Spend a day enumerating the previously hidden and hard-to-reach and you got that art commission bill covered.

    As to Mr. Morse crabbing about the artist and sponsor organization living “1,500 miles apart”, Joseph appears to have been chosen because he knows his genre and he’s a leader in his field who carves full time, not as a “weekend warrior”. If the patron wanted someone more local, there was nothing to stop that apart from the lack of talent.

    Let’s not forget we are talking about a vast state with so many remote isolated villages that it ranks near dead last in mailed Census form response. Alaska must work harder on outreach than what we might comprehend in the 48. This promo effort is targeted and home-grown, a lot prettier and more relevant than some reps at a folding table handing out bulk-ordered caps and mugs. I also gather that commemorative totem art for war veterans and other civic causes is not a foreign concept.

    The totem design is described as being about unifying disparate people and bringing them to the middle to be counted, where the paint job cleverly echoes the “In Your Hands” motif of the Census promo graphics. That’s a rather pressing point for the many Alaskan residents who still remember being racially shunned and ridiculed. To create and tour the message “You really do count” I think is a valid part of the Bureau’s mission.

  23. anon Says:

    @Morse

    For the record p2: you frequently ask those who disagree with you to leave your site. If you look back at the record, all we want are facts…not baseless rants/spin/attacks. Know thy customer.

    To answer your question…Misleading = you called it a “flagrant instances of waste” before a) you knew how much it cost and b) why it was being used. Does that help?

    Please report the facts. That is all we want. I know it is absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong. It’s ok. I forgive you. I, for one, know that I will shut up if you just report stuff in an honest way. I see that you’ve continued with your totem-gate investigation in the other thread. I will continue reading there.

  24. nerfoo Says:

    The lack of negative comments doesn’t mean that everyone who reads but doesn’t comment is in agreement with the post. It just means that they don’t want to comment

  25. Admin OOS Says:

    Once again SRM shows his complete ignorance. The totem is and was part of an outreach program to enumerate tribal lands. Seriously….

  26. Florida Fool Says:

    Mr. Morse’s blog does provide the service of bringing all of us frustrated enumerators together, BUT — his florid headlines, such as “Totem Pole Debacle” seem to discredit his claim of being a serious political journalist. A $25,000 expense for this totem pole hardly merits the description of “debacle”, which is defined as a total disaster or complete failure. Some of Mr. Morse’s snide retorts to his contributors’ comments are also unprofessional. So, I guess that while I have learned that I am not alone in my suspicions about the poor practices of this census, I will not provide Mr. Morse with detailed anecdotes or real names to use in his forthcoming book. I have decided that I don’t completely trust his journalistic integrity.

  27. GEORGE WILBERG Says:

    Gosh what a battle? Reviewing everything carefully and having worked as a Census 2010 employee I think that I have that “seasoning” one would need for a comment or two. Briefly the idea of the totem pole was unique and inovative but flawed. Why flawed? It is my opinion that the various Indian tribes have been approached for contributions as citizens to fund this project and promote Native American unity for the Census. Unfortunately whether it is right or wrong it has the “stamp” of the government shoving this idea with cost down the throats of American taxpayers. Too often we the taxpayers have heard of the $10,000 hammer or for that matter the $20,000 toilet seat purchased by Uncle Sam. Idea in mind good execution poor. In a way the founder of this site should be given a big “Atta Boy” because in a way like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, or Larry King he has both “provoked” and “brought attention” to the actual conduct of Census 2010. Sure he ran over some toes, hurt some feelings, and “p*ssed” some people off but he got this topic off and running. Like the unpopular wars overseas this subject of Census should and must be discussed with the American public. For all of you folks “pro” or “con” I salute you! America will be the better for your participation and hopefully changes to the next Census in 2020! Well done!

  28. James C Williams Says:

    October 21st, 2010 at 10:20 am James C Williams Says:

    I also really needed this job, but the difference is I got the job! My situation is that IT (the job) cost me more money than what I made. I lost my 1994 Toyota camry in a large mud hole, (I was known “whatever it takes to get the job done”), doing the best job job that I could.
    So anyhow, I lost my car due to water intake into the engine, so in a few days I bought a 1999 Chevy tracker 4×4,( alot of surgar-sand roads in Fl.) inorder to finish my census job, It also ended short of predictions. Long story short, Census Bureau replied, NO COMPENSATION due to employee negligence. I had liability only insurance because of age of car. Mabe best that you didn’t get the job. I’m very bitter but don’t know how to handle it. I’m NOW paying for two used cars and trying to support a handicapped daughter and her two kids on Social security.
    It’s as if there’s no other waste going on. Thanks for listening!

    2nd comment: After serving in VietNam, after donating over 14 GALLONS of BLOOD in my lifetime, The US Census can’t see fit to compensate me for a 3600 dollar car I lost DOING US CENSUS work. I want to go back to the ’60′s and begin voting different than the way i have.