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 the ‘Census Bureau’ Category

New Census Bureau Web Site…

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Census Bureau Provides Preview of Redesigned Census.gov

The U.S. Census Bureau today released a beta version of its new census.gov website. With a new look and topic-based navigation, the redesigned site provides easier access to statistics on America’s people, places and economy.

The Census Bureau conducted both industry and customer research to create the new site. The beta site invites users to explore what the new home page will look like and how the topic based navigation will work.

“The new census.gov makes it easier than ever for people to get the timely, quality statistics we produce about America,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. “Our goal is to make statistics accessible to the public anytime, anywhere on any device.”

What is New?

· Topic-based navigation — The site includes navigation built around 11 topics, such as health, families and education, and centralizes statistical content from numerous surveys. For example, the family and living arrangements topic centralizes content on child care, fertility, grandparents and marriage.

· Contextual navigation — Web pages within the Census Bureau site now provide multiple paths to get to information. For instance, many pages now have helpful related links instead of requiring you to back out of the site and try again.

· The look — The site uses new colors and offers more white space and narrower columns to allow for easier reading and navigation.

· Home page application carousel — This feature on the home page provides direct access to many of the more popular data tools on census.gov.

Coming Soon

· Improved search — The new search function will provide statistics along with traditional results, using combinations of a keyword and a location. For instance, when a user types in “Population of California,” the latest population statistic along with related links will appear.

· Full migration of content — As the new site becomes available, more content from the existing census.gov will be converted to the new look and navigation.

Check out the Census Bureau’s Global Reach Blog

Monday, February 17th, 2014

This blog that the Census Bureau runs on global trade, called the Global Reach blog, is actually pretty awesome. Check it out some time!

And the Census Bureau is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

http://www.census.gov/… just like the rest of the US government…

 

OMG! The United States Census Bureau has finally done something proactive, progressive, and, dare we say it, cool! We present the top 12 reasons the Census Bureau is now almost cool in 2012!

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The top 12 reasons the US  Census Bureau is now almost cool in 2012

1. The Census Bureau has created an API.

2. The Census Bureau has created an API.

3. The Census Bureau has created an API.

4. The Census Bureau has created an API.

5. The Census Bureau has created an API.

6. The Census Bureau has created an API.

7. The Census Bureau has created an API.

8. The Census Bureau has created an API.

9. The Census Bureau has created an API.

10. The Census Bureau has created an API.

11. The Census Bureau has created an API.

12. The Census Bureau has created an API.

Here’s the deal in detail. If only they did this in 2008…

NYT: New York Census Data, Centuries Old, Is Now Online

Friday, July 27th, 2012

H/t to Sam Roberts at the New York Times for this (full article HERE):

What was Al Capone’s address? Where did Jonas Salk live? What did John D. Rockefeller list as his occupation? Whom did Franklin D. Roosevelt list as the head of his household in 1925?

The New York State Archives and Library has collaborated with Ancestry.com to provide searchable versions of the recently released 1940 United States census; New York State censuses from 1892, 1915 and 1925; and marriage, draft and other records dating to the 17th century.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson involved in multiple car accidents after seizure

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

We’ll have to wait to see what the real story here is after an investigation into John Bryson’s recent incidents is completed. Here’s the story:

Commerce Secretary John Bryson said Monday he will take a medical leave of absence to undergo tests and evaluations after suffering a seizure during a succession of traffic accidents in San Gabriel and Rosemead.

Bryson informed President Barack Obama that he was taking a medical leave “so that I can focus all of my attention on resolving the health issues that arose over the weekend,” according to a statement released by the department. Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank will serve as acting commerce secretary in Bryson’s absence.

Bryson, 68, of San Marino, was treated Saturday at an undisclosed hospital after the crashes, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and San Gabriel Police Department said in a joint statement.

Neither the San Gabriel police nor the Sheriff’s Department would release a 9-1-1 audio call involving the crashes on Monday.

The accidents took place Saturday. The first occurred at 5:05 p.m. in the 500 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard near a railroad crossing, according to dispatch logs released by the San Gabriel Police Department.

The 2010 Census was close, but not perfect…

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

According to the Associated Press, “The 2010 census missed more than 1.5 million minority members after struggling to count black Americans, Hispanics, renters and young men, but it was mostly accurate, according to an assessment released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday.”

This is sure to revive the controversial issue of whether statistical sampling can be used in the 2020 Census. Though minority groups likely have advocates for them in the form of organized advocacy groups, “young men” and “renters” will likely continue to be shortchanged when political decisions are made.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Sign this MyTwoCensus Petition: Ensure that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is not eliminated

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

UPDATE: Click HERE for the petition!

As the founder and executive editor of MyTwoCensus.com, I am astounded that the GOP, the political party that consistently claims to be pro-business, recently voted to nix an operation, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, that provides enormous sums of data that help American businesses.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) is a career politician and a big fat idiot (who is apparently just as ignorantly conservative as his namesake fellow politician). If only he had more business experience, it’s doubtful that he would be calling the American Community Survey “intrusive,” “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” “unconstitutional,” and “the very picture of what’s wrong in D.C.” (Ironically, it Webster’s salary that is a waste of tax payer dollars, intrusive, and what’s wrong in D.C.)

For those unfamiliar with the American Community Survey, it is, according to Wikipedia, “an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly (or 3 million per year). It regularly gathers information previously contained only in the long form of the decennial census. It is the largest survey other than the decennial census that the Census Bureau administers.”

While the survey is currently listed as mandatory, I person has ever been prosecuted for not completing it. (Perhaps the Census Bureau should make it optional to appease critics.)

Yes, the Census Bureau should move to an online survey from its current paper-based system to save taxpayers significant sums of money (and put the US Postal Service one step closer to its grave), but that doesn’t mean that the treasure trove of data that will be lost is any less valuable.

As the Washington Post’s editorial board accurately wrote, “Every year, the Census Bureau asks 3 million American households to answer questions on age, race, housing and health to produce timely information about localities, states and the country at large. This arrangement began as a bipartisan improvement on the decennial census. Yet last week the Republican-led House voted to kill the ACS. This is among the most shortsighted measures we have seen in this Congress, which is saying a lot.”

The Post continues, “Businesses deciding whether to sell tractors or tricycles want to know how many people live in a given area, whether they mostly live in apartments or houses, with how many children, and how far they travel to work. Consumers then get access to goods and services they desire. Municipal planners determining whether to build a new senior center need to know where the elderly live in their town, and if they have family around to care for them. Government agencies targeting $400 billion in annual anti-poverty, health-care or highway spending require granular data on things such as local incomes. Lawmakers debating health-care policy should have up-to-date information on how many people are uninsured, and where they are concentrated.”

In response to this legislation, I have started a petition to alert the United States Senate of this unthinkably stupid legislation that has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

BREAKING: Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves resigns to become Provost of Georgetown University

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

It’s been a good few years for Robert M. Groves at the Census Bureau, but news broke earlier today that the man who may have saved the 2010 Census (and most likely eliminated much of the waste and typical bureaucracy) is moving on to become the Provost of Georgetown University.

Now the question is: Who will replace Dr. Groves?

The Washington Post reports:

Robert M. Groves ,who oversaw the 2010 Census, is stepping down from the Census Bureau to become Georgetown University’s next provost.

His resignation, just three years after he left the University of Michigan to head the census, becomes effective in August.

“I’m an academic at heart,” Groves said in a telephone interview Tuesday, explaining his decision to leave the Census Bureau. “This was the kind of position that’s kind of hard to pass up.”

When Groves arrived at the Census Bureau in 2009, many were predicting the 2010 count was headed for failure, in large part because of the shrinking number of Americans who are willing to answer survey questions and concern about technological problems with handheld computers that were scrapped just before the count.

“The wonderful team of career folks here that were assembled way before I got here really proved that to be false,” Groves said.

Groves, who was nominated by President Obama, had developed a national reputation for the methodology of conducting surveys. He had previously been a professor at the University of Michigan and director of its Survey Research Center.

“I look forward to working with Georgetown’s world-class faculty and students to build the Georgetown of the future, one that fulfills all their aspirations,” Groves said in a statement released by the university. “I look forward to meeting my new colleagues, seeking their wisdom and getting to work.”

Senator Tom Carper’s office sent out the following press release:

The news of Dr. Groves’ decision to leave his post of Census Bureau Director later this year is bittersweet.  On the one hand, I am happy to see Dr. Groves pursue this great professional opportunity with Georgetown University; on the other hand, his tremendous work ethic and courageous leadership guided the Census Bureau through some very challenging times and he will certainly be missed.

 

When Dr. Groves came on board in 2009, the Census Bureau faced many operational and management challenges that threatened the success of the 2010 Census. Dr. Groves confronted these challenges head on and through his impressive skill set and background in issues related to the Census and to statistics, he helped right the ship, ensuring the successful completion of the 2010 Decennial Census. Three years after his arrival, Dr. Groves definitely leaves the Census Bureau and the Census in better shape than when he found it. In fact, he was just what the doctor ordered for the agency.

Under Dr. Groves’ leadership, and with the support of President Obama, the Census Bureau realigned its national field office structure and implemented key management reforms, reducing Census Bureau costs by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014. His ability to identify and implement ways to achieve greater efficiencies and significant cost-savings within the programs and operations of the Census Bureau ensures that the Census fulfills its important Constitutional obligations while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. We need more leaders like Dr. Groves in government today.

 

While I respect that Dr. Groves needs to do what is best for his career and his family, his departure is certainly a loss for the Census Bureau and the Administration. I appreciate Dr. Groves’ commitment to public service and his willingness to help the Bureau navigate through such challenging times. Dr. Groves leaves some very big shoes to fill but fortunately, under his leadership, the Bureau is poised to continue to make progress and improve its management of its critical decennial duty.”

 

1940 Census results released by the Census Bureau after 72 years: Genealogists and history buffs rejoice

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Census Bureau swears to protect its data for 72 years. As such, today, the Census Bureau is releasing the 1940 Census results for the first time. The Census Bureau has provided a fairly simple mechanism for sorting through the basic information, with some pretty cool data visualization. And sites like MyTwoCensus.com advertising partner Ancestry.com (with over 1 billion 1940 Census records available) will surely be able to provide more in-depth results for users. (CBS News has provided some suggestions on how search for specific 1940 Census records.)

However, this data release is not without controversy. As The Washington Post writes:

The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, has for more than 30 years opposed any unrestricted release of census records.

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, said harm could come from combining the rich 1940 Census data with other information.

“Computer technology today allows you to take information from different sources and combine it into a very high-resolution image of somebody’s life,” he said. “Each particular piece of information might just be one pixel, but when brought together, they become very intrusive.”

A document obtained from the National Archives by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that, in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau raised privacy concerns about the disclosure of the 1940 Census by the nation’s record-keeper.

Census Bureau spokesman Robert Bernstein said in an e-mail that any fears the data could be used to harm anyone living today “such as through identity theft” were alleviated when the National Archives said that no birthdates or Social Security numbers would be in the records. One 1940 Census question asked a sample group of more than 6 million people whether they had a Social Security number but did not ask for the number itself.

We’d love to hear any comments from amateur or professional genealogists or family tree-makers about how you feel the Census Bureau’s data has assisted you (or, on the contrary, any problems that you may have had while trying to access information).

More Americans with college degrees than ever before

Monday, February 27th, 2012

As GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum tries to appeal to voters by claiming that President Obama is a snob for proposing that all Americans should get a college education, he is apparently hitting home with the 70% of Americans who lack such a degree. Nonetheless, with more than 30% of Americans over the age of 25 now have a college degree, which is the highest percentage in American history. CNN explains it all right here.

Click here for the Census Bureau’s report on educational attainment in the United States.

In Ireland, people who don’t complete their census forms are actually prosecuted

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

In America, all residents are legally obliged to complete their census forms, but it has been many decades since the US government has actually enforced its rules and prosecuted citizens who have failed to complete their census forms. But in Ireland, this isn’t the case. The Irish Times reports:

SIX HOUSEHOLDERS are to be prosecuted for refusing to complete their census forms in last year’s survey.

The six cases have been forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, a spokeswoman for the Central Statistics Office told The Irish Times .

The CSO’s policy was to prosecute “as representative a sample of the population as possible” and it would be prosecuting six households “for the moment”, the spokeswoman said. They could face fines of up to €25,000 on conviction in the Circuit Court.

Some 20 households had “refused outright” to co-operate with the census but a “significant proportion” of these households subsequently completed their forms after further correspondence, the spokeswoman said.

Forms from some 1.7 million households were collected by enumerators after last April’s survey.

 

 

 

Rahm Emanuel Wants A Re-Count For Chicago – Disputing 2010 Census Results

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In the run up to the 2010 Census, Rahm Emanuel took a significant amount of flack for trying to bring the 2010 Census under the auspices of the White House. Republicans were enraged that President Obama’s then chief-of-staff had the chutzpah to try to transform an independent agency into a White House subsidiary. But now Emanuel is in the news for other reasons. As Mayor of Chicago, Emanuel is fighting for the $1,200 that each resident is worth in terms of annual federal subsidies. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is mounting a challenge to 2010 U.S. Census estimates that Chicago lost about 200,000 residents.

Big city mayors regularly contest the once-a-decade census results, which determine how much federal funding flows to different parts of the country. Chicago would gain about $1,200 annually for the next decade for each person added to the official population, according to Emanuel’s office.

Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard Daley, launched an unsuccessful bid to get Chicago’s 2000 population numbers increased. In 1990, Daley and other mayors tried futilely to get Congress to give them additional time to fight the census results.

The 2010 census estimated Chicago lost about 181,000 African-Americans and about 53,000 whites. Meanwhile, the Latino population grew by about 25,000 and the Asian population went up more than 20,000. Overall, the city’s estimated population in 2010 was 2,695,598.

City workers used estimates of the occupancy rates of housing units in particular neighborhoods to come up with areas they believe the census numbers were low, according to a news release from the Emanuel administration.

The 2010 Census makes an appearance on Glee

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The 2010 Census made a rare appearance on the hit TV series Glee.  According to Politifact, a fact-checking service run by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times:

The plot of the Feb. 7, 2012, episode: Schuester enrolls in a night Spanish class taught by Ricky Martin’s character, David Martinez. (Yep, Mr. Schuester is a Spanish teacher whose Spanish es muy muy malo.)

Martin tells his students that they need to learn Spanish to function in the U.S. in the future: “Do you know that the U.S. Census believes that by 2030 the majority of Americans will use Spanish as their first language?” (Here’s a clip of Martin singing “Sexy and I know It” and “La Isla Bonita” on the episode.)  Schuester uses Spanish as the inspiration for his weekly assignment for the Glee Club: sing a song by a Spanish artist or that includes Spanish.

We decided to take a short intermission from politics to test Glee’s claim about whether the Census Bureau believes the majority of Americans will speak Spanish as their first language by 2030.

The result of the fact check:

The census projected that by 2030 there will be about 85.9 million Hispanics out of about 373.5 million people in the U.S., representing about 23 percent of the population. That projection is compared to about 16 percent of the population (49.7 million people) in 2010. So it’s true that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is on track to grow.

But the census projections are about the number of Hispanics — not how many people will speak Spanish as their first language at home.

Pennsylvania to use the 2000 Census for redistricting: WHY?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Pennsylvanians are apparently living like its 1999. Here’s what the Courthouse News Service had to say:

In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said a 2011 redistricting plan establishing new districts based on fresh data from the 2010 census was unconstitutional.

That plan, proposed by the state’s five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission, failed to adequately balance constitutional requirements that districts be compact, contiguous and roughly equal in population.

Of particular concern to the high court was a fourth requirement: that voting districts do not excessively fracture political subdivisions.

The state constitution says voting districts should divide counties, wards and municipalities only when absolutely necessary.

A group of 20 state senators who appealed the 2011 plan offered an alternative redistricting plan that, the group said, does a better job balancing these requirements, particularly when it comes to respecting the integrity of subdivisions.

In a 4-3 decision last month, the court called that plan “powerful evidence” that the commission could have done a better job balancing these factors, and remanded the plan to the commission for revision.

While the revisions are pending, the court directed Pennsylvania to govern its upcoming April 24 primary election with the 2001 redistricting plan, based on census data from 2000.

That directive prompted three federal lawsuits in late January and early February.

The plaintiffs – which include the majority leaders of the state Senate and House, the House speaker, and a Latino rights group – said it would be unconstitutional to use the old districts.

Bronxville, New York to challenge their 2010 Census numbers

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

The city of Bronxville, New York is planning to challenge their 2010 Census results. They won’t be the first municipality, and they certainly won’t be the last municipality to go this route.

ProPublica: How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Note: This piece was originally published by ProPublica and has been republished with their consent and encouragement.

by Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson ProPublica, Dec. 21, 2011, 3:38 p.m.

This spring, a group of California Democrats gathered at a modern, airy office building just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The meeting was House members only 2014 no aides allowed 2014 and the mission was seemingly impossible.

In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate.

The question facing House Democrats as they met to contemplate the state’s new realities was delicate: How could they influence an avowedly nonpartisan process? Alexis Marks, a House aide who invited members to the meeting, warned the representatives that secrecy was paramount. “Never say anything AT ALL about redistricting 2014 no speculation, no predictions, NOTHING,” Marks wrote in an email. “Anything can come back to haunt you.”

In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 2014 a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates 2014 members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines,” according to another email.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.

California’s Democratic representatives got much of what they wanted from the 2010 redistricting cycle, especially in the northern part of the state. “Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC,” said one enthusiastic memo written as the process was winding down. “This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”

Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party’s voter registrations have grown only marginally.

“Very little of this is due to demographic shifts,” said Professor Doug Johnson at the Rose Institute in Los Angeles. Republican areas actually had higher growth than Democratic ones. “By the numbers, Republicans should have held at least the same number of seats, but they lost.”

As part of a national look at redistricting, ProPublica reconstructed the Democrats’ stealth success in California, drawing on internal memos, emails, interviews with participants and map analysis. What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old.

The losers in this once-a-decade reshaping of the electoral map, experts say, were the state’s voters. The intent of the citizens’ commission was to directly link a lawmaker’s political fate to the will of his or her constituents. But as ProPublica’s review makes clear, Democratic incumbents are once again insulated from the will of the electorate.

Democrats acknowledge that they faced a challenge in getting the districts they wanted in densely populated, ethnically diverse Southern California. The citizen commission initially proposed districts that would have endangered the political futures of several Democratic incumbents. Fighting back, some Democrats gathered in Washington and discussed alternatives. These sessions were sometimes heated.

“There was horse-trading throughout the process,” said one senior Democratic aide.

The revised districts were then presented to the commission by plausible-sounding witnesses who had personal ties to Democrats but did not disclose them.

Commissioners declined to discuss the details of specific districts, citing ongoing litigation. But several said in interviews that while they were aware of some attempts to mislead them, they felt they had defused the most egregious attempts.

“When you’ve got so many people reporting to you or making comments to you, some of them are going to be political shills,” said commissioner Stanley Forbes, a farmer and bookstore owner. “We just had to do the best we could in determining what was for real and what wasn’t.”

Democrats acknowledge the meetings described in the emails, but said the gatherings “centered on” informing members about the process. In a statement to ProPublica, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, head of California’s delegation, said that members, “as citizens of the state of California, were well within their rights to make comments and ensure that voices from communities of interest within their neighborhoods were heard by the Commission.”

“The final product voted on by the Commission was entirely out of the hands of the Members,” said Lofgren. “They, like any other Californian, were able to comment but had no control over the process.”

“At no time did the Delegation draw up a statewide map,” Lofgren said. (Read Lofgren’s full statement.)

California’s Republicans were hardly a factor. The national GOP stayed largely on the sidelines, and individual Republicans had limited success influencing the commission.

“Republicans didn’t really do anything,” said Johnson. “They were late to the party, and essentially non-entities in the redistricting process.”

Fed-up voters create a commission

The once-a-decade redistricting process is supposed to ensure that every citizen’s vote counts equally.

In reality, politicians and parties working to advance their own interests often draw lines that make an individual’s vote count less. They create districts dominated by one party or political viewpoint, protecting some candidates (typically incumbents) while dooming others. They can empower a community by grouping its voters in a single district, or disenfranchise it by zigging the lines just so.

Over the decades, few party bosses were better at protecting incumbents than California’s Democrats. No Democratic incumbent has lost a Congressional election in the nation’s most populous state since 2000.

As they drew the lines each decade, California’s party bosses worked in secret. But the oddly shaped districts that emerged from those sessions were visible for all to see. Bruce Cain, a legendary mapmaker who now heads the University of California’s Washington center, once drew an improbable-looking state assembly district that could not be traversed by car. (It crossed several impassable mountains.)

Cain proudly told the story of the district, which was set up for one of the governor’s friends. Cain said he justified the odd shape by saying it pulled together the state’s largest population of endangered condors. “It wasn’t legitimate on any level,” Cain recalled.

The 2010 ballot initiative giving the citizen commission authority over Congressional districts was sold to voters as a game changer. Not surprisingly, it was strenuously opposed by California’s Democrats, who continue to control the Statehouse.

No fewer than 35 Democratic politicians 2014 including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 2014 and their allies spent a total of $7 million to campaign against the proposition. The effort included mailings from faux community groups that derided the commission’s $1 million annual budget as “bureaucratic waste.” Despite this effort, Californians voted 61 percent to 39 percent to wrest federal redistricting from the hands of state lawmakers.

Immediately, Democrats began organizing to influence the citizen commission. There were numerous opportunities.

According to civics textbooks, the aim of redistricting is to group “communities of interest” so that residents in a city, neighborhood or ethnic group wield political power by voting together. The commission took an expansive view of this concept, ultimately defining a “community of interest” as anything from a neighborhood to workers on the same commute, or even areas sharing “intense beach recreation.”

This gave savvy players an opening to draw up maps that benefited one party or incumbent and then find 2014 or concoct 2014 “communities of interest” that justified them.

Democrats set out to do exactly that.

On March 16, members of the California delegation gathered at Democratic Party offices to discuss how to handle redistricting. They agreed that congressmen from the various regions of California 2014 North, South and Central 2014 would meet separately to “create a plan of action,” according to an email recounting the day’s events by Alexis Marks, the House aide. Among the first tasks, Marks wrote, was determining “how to best organize communities of interest.”

Democrats were already working “BEHIND THE SCENES” to “get info out” about candidates for the job of commission lawyer who were viewed as unfriendly. “I’ll keep you in the loop, but do not broadcast,” Marks wrote.

“The CA delegation has been broken down into regions that will be discussing redistricting at the member level,” read another party email from late March. “Members will be asked to present ideas on both issues” 2014 communities of interest and district lines 2014 “and will be asked to come to some consensus about how to adopt a regional strategy for redistricting.”

Over the next several weeks, California Democrats huddled with Mark Gersh, the party’s top mapmaking guru. Officially, Gersh works with the Foundation for the Future, a nonprofit whose declared goal is “to help Democrats get organized for the fight of the decade; the fight that will determine Democratic fortunes in your state and in Washington, D.C. for years to come: Redistricting!”

The foundation is well funded for this fight. Its supporters include longtime supporters of the Democratic Party: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as well as the American Association for Justice (previously known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). The foundation was launched in 2006 when Nancy Pelosi’s office worked with both groups to start it.

Neither Gersh nor participants would describe in detail what was discussed at the meetings. But from Marks’ emails and other sources, it is clear that California’s Democrats sat down together to discuss mutually agreeable districts that would protect incumbents.

The value of coordinating efforts to influence the commission cannot be overstated. If each Democrat battled separately for the best district, it was likely that one Congress member’s gain would harm countless colleagues. Creating Congressional districts is a lot like a Rubik’s cube: Each change reshapes the entire puzzle. The Democrats’ plan was to deliver synchronized testimony that would herd the commission toward the desired outcomes. If it worked perfectly, the commissioners might not even know they had been influenced.

Over the summer, Marks sent out more than 100 emails about redistricting, according to multiple recipients of the messages. According to House records, Marks earned $112,537 in 2010 in her post as deputy director of the California Democratic delegation. That makes her a federal employee. But although many of the messages were sent during the work day, a spokesman insisted Marks did so in her after-hours role as a political staffer for Democrats. They were sent from a Gmail account. Lofgren’s office did not make Marks available for comment, citing policy that staffers do not speak on the record. Instead, they pointed to Rep. Lofgren’s statement.

Federal employees are not allowed to do campaign work on government time, or use government resources, according to House ethics rules.

The emails alerted staff and legislators when the commission was scheduled to discuss their districts and they encouraged them to have allies testify to “community of interest” lines that supported their maps.

Marks told members they would be asked to raise money for a legal challenge if things didn’t work out. The delegation, she said, was working with Marc Elias, who heads an organization called the National Democratic Redistricting Trust. (The trust shares a website with The Foundation for The Future.)

Last year the trust persuaded the Federal Election Commission to allow members to raise money for redistricting lawsuits without disclosing how the money was spent, how much was raised, and who had given it.

The commission blinds itself

Back in California, the commission was getting organized. Its first task was to pick commissioners. The ballot initiative excluded virtually anyone who had any previous political experience. Run for office? Worked as a staffer or consultant to a political campaign? Given more than $2,000 to a candidate in any year? “Cohabitated” for more than 30 days in the past year with anyone in the previous categories? You’re barred.

More than 36,000 people applied. The state auditor’s office winnowed the applicants to a group of 60 finalists. Each party was allowed to strike 12 applicants without explanation. Then, the state used Bingo-style bouncing balls in a cage to pick eight commissioners 2014 three Republicans, three Democrats and two people whose registration read “decline to state” (California-speak for independent). The randomly selected commissioners then chose six from the remaining finalists to complete the panel.

The result was a commission that included, among others, a farmer, a homemaker, a sports doctor and an architect. Previous redistrictings had been executed by political pros with intimate knowledge of California’s sprawling political geography. The commissioners had little of that expertise 2014 and one of their first acts was to deprive themselves of the data that might have helped them spot partisan manipulation.

The law creating the commission barred it from considering incumbents’ addresses, and instructed it not to draw districts for partisan reasons.

The commissioners decided to go further, agreeing not to even look at data that would tell them how prospective maps affected the fortunes of Democrats or Republicans. This left the commissioners effectively blind to the sort of influence the Democrats were planning.

One of the mapping consultants working for the commission warned that it would be difficult to competently draft district lines without party data. She was overruled.

The lack of political data was “liberating,” said Forbes, the commissioner. “We had no one to please except ourselves, based on our best judgment.”

“I think,” he said, “we did a pretty good job.”

The commission’s judgments on how to draw lines, Forbes and others said, was based on the testimony from citizens about communities of interest.

“We were provided quite a number of maps from various organizations,” said another commissioner, attorney Jodie Filkins-Webber. If the groups were basing their maps on political data to favor one party, “they certainly did not tell us that.”

“Districts could have been drawn based on voter registration,” Filkins-Webber said, “but we would never have known it.”

The commission received a torrent of advice 2014 a total of 30,000 separate pieces of testimony and documents. Records suggest the commission never developed an effective method for organizing it all. The testimony was kept in a jumble of handwritten notes and computer files. The commissioners were often left to recall testimony by memory.

The difficulties in digesting and weighing the reams of often-conflicting testimony enhanced the value of people or groups who came bearing draft maps.

“Other people offered testimony; we offered solutions,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a powerful business group outside Los Angeles that persuaded the commission to adopt its Congressional map for the San Fernando Valley.

How Democrats locked down Northern California

Redistricting is a chess game for people with superb spatial perception. Sometimes, anchoring a single line on a map can make everything fall into place.

According to an internal memo, Democrats recognized early on that they could protect nearly every incumbent in Northern California if they won a few key battles. First, they had to make sure no district crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.Then, they had to draw a new seat that pulled sufficient numbers of Democrats from Contra Costa County into a district that included Republicans from the San Joaquin Valley.

The man with the most to lose was Rep. Jerry McNerney, who represented an octopus-shaped district that had scooped in Democrats from the areas east of San Francisco. McNerney’s prospects seemed particularly dismal. Early in the year, he made The Washington Post’s national list of top 10 likely redistricting victims.

Republicans moved first, attempting to create a district that would keep San Joaquin County whole and pick up conservative territory to the south. But then a previously unknown group calling itself OneSanJoaquin entered the fray.

OneSanJoaquin described itself as a nonprofit, but records show it is not registered as such in any state. It has no identifiable leadership but it does have a Facebook page, called OneSanJoaquin, created by the Google account OneSanJoaquin.

The page was posted in early April, just as the commission began taking testimony. Its entries urged county residents to download maps and deliver pre-packaged testimony.

On the surface, the OneSanJoaquin page seemed to be serving Republicans’ interests. But Democrats were one move ahead and understood that a united valley would inevitably lead to a Democratic-leaning district. (Republicans apparently did not understand that federal voting rights requirements ruled out their proposed district, since it would have interfered with the Latino district to the south. That misconception was encouraged by the maps on the OneSanJoaquin page, which were drawn to make this look possible.)

In fact, the only way to make a district with “one San Joaquin” was to pull in the Democrats in eastern Contra Costa 2014 the far reaches of San Francisco’s Bay-area liberals.

The author of OneSanJoaquin’s maps was not identified on the Facebook page, but ProPublica has learned it was Paul Mitchell, a redistricting consultant hired by McNerney.

Transcripts show that more than a dozen people delivered or sent the canned testimony to the commission, which accepted it without question. There’s no sign that commissioners were aware some of the letters had been downloaded from the mysterious OneSanJoaquin page.

After the commission finished, McNerney announced he was moving to the newly created San Joaquin district to run for re-election. It was a huge improvement for him. In 2010, he barely won his district, beating his opponent by just one point. If the 2010 election were re-run in his new district, he would have won by seven points, according to the Democrats’ internal analysis. (McNerney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

Summing up the story, an internal Democratic memo said the GOP had been decisively out-maneuvered “Their hope was to create a Republican Congressional seat,” the memo said. “Their plan backfired.”

“McNerney ends up with safer district than before,” Mitchell’s firm tweeted, after McNerney announced his candidacy in his new district. “Wow! How did he do that?”

An under-funded commission

While players attempting to influence the process were well funded, the commission struggled with a lack of time and money. They responded, in part, by reducing citizens’ opportunities for input.

The budget for the whole map drawing undertaking was just over $1 million. At first, the commission had its public hearings transcribed 2014 then the money ran out and they stopped.

The commissioners received $300 per day as compensation and were eligible for reimbursement of travel and out of pocket expenses. Most kept their day jobs at the same time they tried to juggle their roles as commissioners.

It was a grueling schedule, with 35 public hearings taking place over just three months. “I had three days off between” April and August, said Commissioner Filkins-Webber, who maintained her legal practice while serving. “I was working basically on average18 hours a day.”

The commissioners also had to deal with public anger. The Tea Party in California decided to use the hearings as a forum to protest the Voting Rights Act, for instance, and at one hearing got so rowdy that police intervened.

Experts hired by the commission to actually draw the maps were also overworked and underpaid. Half a dozen times the meeting transcripts contain references to map drawers working overnight to prepare maps.

Overwhelmed by the task at hand, the commission decided to essentially shut down public participation halfway through the process. After the first round of drafts, which were widely criticized and abandoned, the commission stopped releasing formal drafts. More importantly, commissioners stopped holding hearings, which meant the next draft was prepared without public input.

The commission moved its meetings to Sacramento, not far from where party bosses had once gathered in secret to set the lines. The commission’s meetings were webcast to the public. But only those with the resources and time could participate.

“You have to ask yourself, who has the money to send people up to Sacramento like that,” said Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which was active in organizing grassroots participation in the redistricting process.

“We didn’t have the money to do that. No way.”

The commission released no further drafts. In July, it made public a “draft final.” Voters had two weeks to submit comments before it became final. Most of those comments came from insiders who had been closely watching the Sacramento meetings.

Southern California Democrats also win

For those who could stay engaged, the Sacramento phase of the commission’s work proved rewarding. One politician who benefited was Southern California Congresswoman Judy Chu.

When it appeared that Chu would get an unfavorable district late in the game, a group with ties to the congresswoman went before the commission in Sacramento and convinced the commissioners to draw a favorable map that included her political stronghold, a town called Rosemead. Chu enjoyed broad support in Rosemead, where she was first elected to the school board in 1992 and later served in the state assembly.

The group, which called itself the Asian American Education Institute, worked with Paul Mitchell, the same consultant who helped engineer the triumph of Northern California Democrats.

Records show that crucial last-minute testimony in favor of Chu’s district was delivered by Jennifer Wada, who told commissioners she was representing the institute and the overall Asian-American community. Wada did not mention that she lives and works as a registered lobbyist in Sacramento, 400 miles from the district, or that she grew up in rural Idaho, where most of her family still lives. Wada says she was hired by the institute to “convey their concerns about Asian and Pacific Islander representation” to the commission.

The second witness was Chris Chaffee, who said he was a consultant for the institute and an employee of Redistricting Partners, Mitchell’s firm.

Commissioners accepted this map without asking a basic question: Who, exactly, was the Asian American Education Institute representing?

The group’s tax records show it had no full-time employees. Its website is barebones, and clicking on the “get active” button on the home page leads nowhere, simply returning users to the home page.

There’s another interesting feature of the Web site: the domain name is registered to a man named Bill Wong, a political consultant who has worked on multiple Chu campaigns, as well as her husband’s successful bid for Judy Chu’s old state assembly seat. Chu paid Wong $5,725 for consulting work in 2010, FEC records show. Her husband, Mike Eng, donated $4,500 to the Asian American Education Institute in 2010 and 2011.

The institute, said Wong, “argued to keep communities of interest together. Since Rep. Chu has been a strong advocate for Asian communities, it would make sense for her to represent them.” Wong added that he “discussed redistricting with a number of Asian-American legislators.”

An email obtained by ProPublica shows Amelia Wang, Chu’s chief of staff, telling Chu and Bill Wong about testimony submitted by another Asian group, Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting, which also intervened at the last minute to offer similar maps. In case that didn’t do the trick, Mitchell himself went before the commission, urging the commissioners to accept the maps submitted by the institute (his employer) and the coalition.

And that’s what the commission did, incorporating proposed lines for both groups and drawing a map that included Rosemead in Chu’s new district.

Wang told ProPublica that Chu’s office and the institute “did communicate about keeping communities of interest together, including Rosemead. However, Rep. Chu did not hire Bill Wong for redistricting or to testify on her behalf before the commission.”

“Rep. Chu has represented a united Rosemead city since 2001,” said Wang, “it would have been a tragic mistake to divide it.”

Though the process turned out well for Chu, it didn’t work out so well for the town of South El Monte.

To make room for Rosemead in Chu’s district, South El Monte 2014 85 percent Latino 2014 got bumped into another district across the mountains that is much less Latino, and much more affluent.

The town’s mayor, Luis Aguinaga, say the new lines “don’t make sense.” South El Monte is now split off from sister communities in the San Gabriel Valley 2014 including North El Monte and El Monte.

“We’re always on the same side, always fighting for the same issues,” Aguinaga said. “On this side of the San Gabriel Valley we have a voice. If we’re apart it will be much harder to be heard.”

Other communities lost, too.

Outside Los Angeles, residents of what’s known as Little Saigon begged the commission to undo what they saw as decades of discrimination and put the U.S.’s largest Vietnamese community together in one district. Instead, the community was split in two 2014 a result of testimony by supporters of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, including a former staffer and one of her wedding guests, to get her a safe district. A large section of Little Saigon ended up in a district with Long Beach, a town that is 1 percent Vietnamese.

“Residents who live in Little Saigon share the same needs, but if they’re in two different districts they may not be represented,” said Tri Ta, a City Council member from the area.

“This district is characterized by the Port of Long Beach,” the commission writes in its final report, “one of the world’s busiest seaports and the area’s largest employer.”

“It does not make sense to put the area known as Little Saigon in a district with Long Beach,” Ta said. “The two areas are distinctively different.”

“Congresswoman Sanchez believed strongly throughout the redistricting process that the population growth of the Latino community should be accurately reflected in the newly drawn congressional districts,” said Adrienne Elrod, Sanchez’s Chief of Staff, in a statement, “She’s glad that members of the Orange County community shared her views, and as a result, was pleased to see them take an active role.”

Paul Mitchell, the consultant whose work had such a large impact on the commission’s decisions, said voters benefited from the work done by him and others deeply involved in the process. The commissioners, he said, “knew some of the testimony was being fabricated by outside groups. But what were they to do? They couldn’t create a screen of all testimony and ferret out all the biases.”

The work he did on behalf of his diverse group of clients, he said, “created better maps 2014 regardless of if they came with the additional benefit of helping some local city, union, or incumbent that was the client,” Mitchell said.

“My only regret is that we didn’t do more.”

Corrections: This story originally stated that the Asian population of Long Beach was less than 1 percent. It has been corrected to say that the Vietnamese population of Long Beach is 1 percent. The story also previously stated that Rep. Judy Chu previously served as a state senator. In fact, she served in the state assembly. This story originally stated the commission worked for free, with a small stipend for expenses. It has been corrected to say, the commissioners received $300 per day as compensation and were eligible for reimbursement of travel and out of pocket expenses.

 

Detroit News: Bribery probe targets former U.S. Census official (Dwight Dean)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Since June 1, 2010, I have reported about problems in the Detroit office of the US Census Bureau involving Dwight Dean, who was booted from his once-stable perch in the Census Bureau hierarchy in August 2010. Today, I give a hearty thank you to Robert Snell and the Detroit News who have reported that the “former top-ranking U.S. Census Bureau official in Michigan and two other states is being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes and awarding an $857,000 no-bid contract.” MyTwoCensus.com urges federal, state, and local investigators to also investigate the many other Dwight Dean cronies who were very likely conspirators in his activities. Furthermore, as other MyTwoCensus.com pieces demonstrate, at the Detroit office of the Census Bureau, it oftentimes appeared like the inmates were running the asylum.

(Click here for a list of MyTwoCensus pieces involving the Detroit office that name many of the individuals I am referring to.)

Here’s the Detroit News piece (in full HERE):

A search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in federal court indicates that in November 2010 a grand jury was investigating Plymouth resident Dwight Dean. He was the highest-ranking Census official in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia until he was abruptly, and inexplicably, replaced in August 2010. No criminal charges have been filed.

This investigation involves a federal official in Detroit, which has been the focus of several ongoing corruption investigations involving City Hall and two Detroit pension funds.

Federal investigators did not put a value on the alleged bribes, which involve dinners at expensive restaurants and what appear to be free tickets to the North American International Auto Show charity preview.

The Detroit businessman named in the search warrant, who admitted giving Dean auto show tickets and paying for dinners, denied doing anything wrong.

“That’s not bribery,” Motor City International President Louis James told The News. “That’s a business meeting.”

Dean had served as Census regional director since 1987 and oversaw a crucial headcount last year that ended with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing vowing to appeal figures that showed a steep population drop. The census is used to determine the amount of federal funding cities receive.

Dean, 64, did not return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The search warrants were executed a year ago and the current status of the investigation was unclear Wednesday.

There is no indication the allegations affected the 2010 census count.

“Over 39,000 people hired locally in the Detroit region worked on the 2010 census. At all times, we conducted extensive quality assessments of operations and census results,” Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook said.”The assessments of the Detroit region are consistent and within the norms of what we found nationally.”

Federal agents raided Dean’s offices in Detroit one year ago, searching for evidence he accepted gifts, loans or money between August 2008 and August 2010, according to the search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday.

 

Updates from Censusland

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

It’s been a while. But a Tweet from a former 2010 Census employee made me nostalgic for this project, so I figured that I’d provide some 2010 Census news for the MyTwoCensus Faithful. In the past month, the Census Bureau has released some interesting information about national home ownership rates, America’s population growth by race (highlighting the growth of Hispanic and black populations), and estimates of the number of same-sex married couples. To the readers out there: Do you have any lingering questions about the 2010 Census? If so, I’m happy to put in some time to answer them.

I would like to think that MyTwoCensus.com had some role in initiating these reforms…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

After two years of reporting on waste at the US Census Bureau, I was very happy to receive the following public relations announcement from the Census Bureau today. However, I do hope that the federal government will find new employment for those people who lose their jobs as a result of this organizational shakeup:

As a valued stakeholder to the Census Bureau, we want to inform you about
some key changes we are making in order to be a prudent steward of the taxpayers’
money and fulfill our mission to provide the country important statistical information.
Today, we are announcing a realignment of our national field office structure and
management reforms designed to keep pace with modern survey collection methods
worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 – $18 million annually beginning in
2014.

Over the next 18 months we will transition to a new supervisory structure to
manage some almost 7,000 professional interviewers. The changes will result in
permanently closing six of our 12 Regional Offices and a reduction of the national field
workforce of about 115-130 positions. Most of the reductions will happen through
attrition, early retirements, or transfers to vacant jobs at Census headquarters or
elsewhere.

The six Regional Offices that will close are Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit,
Kansas City and Seattle. The six Regional Offices that will remain open are Atlanta,
Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

Advances in technology have allowed survey organizations to provide better
tools to their field interviewers and move to a leaner management structure. More
“virtualization” of supervision using more timely management information can yield both
cost and quality advantages. We want to keep pace with these innovations.

Our professional field interviewers are the front line of producing the nation’s vital
statistics about our economy, our communities, and our households. We owe it to the
nation to constantly improve our processes and become more efficient.

More than 20 percent of the interview workload involves conducting surveys for
other federal statistical agencies. Our customers are confronting tighter fiscal budgets
as well, and have challenged us to improve our systems. Indeed, the nation depends
upon us to slow the cost inflation in our survey work if we are to maintain the highest
quality statistics.

As we go through this transition over the next 18 months, our Regional Office
employees who are affected by this realignment are our first priority.

The closing of six Regional Offices was a difficult decision and one that will
produce disruption and pain in the lives of our colleagues in those offices. We are
committed to employ all methods legally possible to reduce the negative impact of this
change on our affected employees.