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 ‘Government Contracts’ Category

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.

 

2010 Census news roundup…

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hi everyone, it’s been a long time. Unfortunately, life has made it such that MyTwoCensus.com isn’t my #1 priority at this moment, but that doesn’t mean that the impact of the 2010 Census is any less pertinent. In fact, there has been tons of news lately about the 2010 Census. Some key stories that I’ve been following:

1.  As I would have predicted, specifically in the case of New York, where I identified myriad problems with 2010 Census operations, the city is disputing its 2010 Census numbers as it will likely be missing out on a ton of federal funding ($3,000 per resident not counted per year). Here’s some info.

2. Despite its inflated advertising budget (don’t forget that bomb of a Super Bowl ad), the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census ad campaign is winning awards…but again, these are industry awards created by the industry, for the industry, so don’t take them too seriously. When you compare the amount of ad dollars spent in 2000 vs. 2010 to the participation rates, it is clear that 2000 was a better performance proportionally.

3. This shouldn’t be a major shock, but America’s demographics are  CHANGING. While the surge of Hispanics was expected, people didn’t expect the number of Asians in America to be growing so quickly. Here’s some info.

4. Minorities are moving to the suburbs and whites are moving to the cities, reversing trends that started in the post-war era. This is very interesting.

5. The GOP’s (Republican Party) success in the 2010 Elections may translate to redistricting success. Here’s a look at how the GOP won big in the 2010 Census.

On a more positive note, I have become quite interested in genealogy in recent months and I can tell you that US Census records have been invaluable in tracing my family’s history. In this sense, I am quite happy and proud that my family participated in the 2010 Census, because maybe, long after I’m gone, a future generation will be able to access information and learn about life in the year 2010.

The latest from the Inspector General’s office…

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We failed to post a piece from the Inspector General about the Census Bureau’s “partnership” programs that MyTwoCensus criticized heavily for its lax spending procedures. Check out the November 18, 2010 report HERE.

And if you turn to page 20 of this Inspector General’s office document that was released on December 20, 2010,  you will find an update on recommendations being made for the 2020 Census.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Who estimated the 2010 Census supplies and printed materials contract? (RIP dead trees!)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
The following article comes from a former 2010 Census manager:
A month ago, MyTwoCensus posted a picture of hundreds of boxes of materials that were being recycled. Although no one will argue that recycling is good for the environment, the truth is none of this should of been printed in the first place. The Census Bureau estimate of the census forms they needed were off completely wrong and here’s why:
The company contracted to print the enumerator questionnaires (D1-E) printed over 200 million questionnaires. However the NRFU workload was only estimated to be 47 million households. Critics could argue that the NRFU workload was unknown before the printing contract was awarded however the American Community Survey estimate of 2008 only showed 128 million households in the United States. If America had a zero percent response rate they would still require only 128 million questionnaires, not the 200 million that was printed. There were 15 million enumerator supplemental questionnaires (D-1E SUPP) printed which field staff used when there were six or more household members. Information on how many households have six or more people was unavailable however only 23.4% of American households have 4 or more members. Any statistician can say with confidence that households with six or more members is negligible.
The errors in estimate cascaded to other printed materials such as information sheets and notice of visits also being overprinted. For example even though census procedures specifically allowed only three personal visits; in some regions to increase accuracy and avoid going to a proxy some enumerators made more than three visits. However Stephen Morse’s picture clearly shows there are still hundreds of boxes of these forms unused. Another example were the forms for eligibility employment verification (I-9) forms. The contract for the I-9 forms was 20 million, yet the census only ended up hiring about 600,000 employees across the nation and estimates show only a couple of million applicants.
None of this news should be surprising, Census models are completely inadequate. In 2009 during address canvassing they threw away millions of taxpayers’ dollars on training employees for which there was little or no work available. Each office returned palettes and palettes of office supplies such as pens, pencils, paper clips and rubber bands. The companies contracted to provide these were the ones who received the money.
If Census managers are infuriated over this picture perhaps they should be funneling their energy towards ensuring that their money is spent on technology that actually works and the proper amount of printing. Surely printing 200 million questionnaires for just 48 million households assuming assignment prep error is a little overkill.

BS Alert: PBOCS system creators claim that the 2010 Census operations were successful…Lies, lies, and more lies!

Monday, October 25th, 2010

To any investors out there, this is as much of a bull-shit alert as I can possibly give you. As MyTwoCensus has repeatedly noted, and the Census Bureau has repeatedly acknowledged, the PBOCS systems used during 2010 Census operations were complete failures that created problems resulting in severely delayed operations (thousands of workers sat around waiting for assignments) and mismanaged data (2010 Census forms had to be manually imported at a snail’s pace, and who knows how many of these never made it into the system at all…). But the PR teams below state otherwise:

Rally helps ICS deliver mandated requirements 50% faster using 1/3 staff of previous efforts and demonstrates best practices for improving U.S. government’s outsourced IT operations

WASHINGTON and BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Rally®, the leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM), and ICS, a proven 8(a) information technology contractor, today announced that Rally’s Agile ALM platform played a central role in the success of ICS’s work in support of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 decennial census.

Rally Unlimited Edition enabled the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team to deliver the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software over 50% faster than delivery times of the 2000 or the 1990 census software, with just 1/3 of the staff. By tracking its software development process with Rally, ICS not only delivered software requirements and met immovable deadlines, but exceeded expectations by delivering an additional software module.

“The efficiencies we realized with Rally are a perfect example of the change being driven within the government to improve the performance of IT operations across the board,” said Khurram Shah, ICS founding partner and chief strategy officer. “The velocity and productivity gains Rally brought to the 2010 Census Agile ICS development team enabled us to deliver applications that processed more data at a much faster rate than during previous Census operations.”

About the United States Census

The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution to gather statistics on the U.S. population. The data collected helps determine the number of seats states have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 2010 Census, this data also helps communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year.

“Because Census deadlines are mandated by the Constitution, there’s no question that the execution, performance and timing of our software development operation was critical,” said Erika Peace, technical project manager at ICS. “Rally provided the right tools at the right time so we could cost-effectively deliver technology more accurately aligned with our client’s business objectives.”

Challenges

Software development requirements are defined by the mandate that decennial U.S. Census figures are based on actual counts of every person dwelling in U.S. residential structures. Delivery dates are immovable, as the Census Bureau is required by law to report the nation’s population and the allotment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for each state by the end of December. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team also had to adapt to changing requirements and unique circumstances, such as the challenges around accurately counting “group quarters,” like college students living in dormitories.

Solution and Results

The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team brought in Agile development practices to deliver 12 key requirements for the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software. By implementing Rally Unlimited Edition to provide the real-time status, progress and quality of the Census Bureau’s software development processes, the Agile ICS team over-delivered ahead of schedule – completing all requirements in just 18 months with just 1/3 of the staff.

“By taking advantage of Rally’s Agile ALM platform, the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team was able to help the Census Bureau improve the speed and accuracy of the 2010 census-taking process in response to the ever-increasing population of the United States,” said Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO. “Demonstrating that Agile practices meet federal schedule performance index requirements allows Rally’s Agile ALM platform to align with government projects.”

In order to achieve critical requirements within the allotted timeframe, every incremental build resulted in shippable, working software. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team used Rally to meet changing requirements, build incrementally and turn deliverables around quickly. Requirements, acceptance tests and source code changes were tracked in Rally’s Agile ALM platform, giving the team rapid feedback on the status and quality of each build.

Rally’s powerful reporting capabilities were critical for providing data analysis, progress reports and status updates to government officials on a daily basis. Providing real-time visibility to senior government officials was vital for making informed decisions, assessing scope change and tracking team progress to delivery.

While addressing the National Press Club, Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert Groves summed up the importance of the PBOCS software delivered by ICS and how well it was performing when he said, “This software system, called the Paper-Based Operation Control System (PBOCS), performs various functions that are really crucial for the non-response follow-up phase…we’re processing at rates that we never imagined we could process.” (1)

Government Agile Success Tour

Rally is hosting a special edition of its Agile Success Tour on October 21, 2010 in Bedford, MA for those working in Federal contracting environments. This free, interactive half-day seminar is intended for anyone who is adopting or considering adopting Agile development practices for government software projects. Northrop Grumman and Rally Software will discuss real-life Agile implementation stories from the Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and state and local governments.

About ICS

ICS is a certified 8(a), Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) founded in 2003 by seasoned technology professionals.  ICS has proven an innovative designing experience that is client-focused, developing quality solutions in mission critical environments in the public and private sector.

ICS is comprised of experienced management and technically agile professionals with diverse competencies, creating a collaborative program and project management environment for clients. The size of the organization, coupled with the focused range of services performed, enables the company to rapidly source and retain thoroughly trained, certified professionals with tested, measurable performance and proven experience.

About Rally

Rally is the recognized leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM). We are dedicated to helping organizations embrace Agile and Lean development practices that increase the pace of innovation and improve product quality. According to a study by QSM Associates, software-driven companies that rely on Rally’s Agile ALM products and services are 50% faster to market and 25% more productive than industry averages. The company’s experienced services group, including training through Agile University, guides companies through the organizational change required to become innovative, Agile businesses. Rally’s products, including AgileZen, currently support more than 3,000 corporate customers, 76,000 projects and 138,000 users in 60 countries. For more information, visit www.rallydev.com.

(1) Dr. Groves briefing at the National Press Club on June 2nd, 2010; transcript available here.

Rally, the Rally logo, Rally Software Development, and AgileZen are trademarks of Rally Software Development Corp. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

2010 Census oversight team wins award

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General has been recognized for an award by the professional organization that unites the Inspector Generals of all government agencies…Here’s the brief from Ed O’Keefe:

The Commerce Department’s 2010 Census Oversight Team will be honored for “exemplary service” for a recurring series of reports on the planning, coordination, and execution of the largest decennial census in American history. (Example: Census workers who did no work were paid.)

Both the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office both did some excellent work in the past few years by shedding light on major inefficiencies related to the 2010 Census and doing their best to correct many debacles.

Update to photo contest: The $500 photo of 2010 Census WASTE is here!

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The following photo of 2010 Census waste comes from a local census office in a major city. To protect the employee involved, I will not say which region until that person grants me permission to do so. Feel free to write your captions for this photo in the comments section below. Be aware, there is no Title 13 or PII-protected information in this photo. We are also curiously wondering why some leftover items have been donated to schools while others headed straight to the dump, depending on which office was responsible. MyTwoCensus is awaiting the Census Bureau’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was filed a couple of months back that further examines the 2010 Census waste disposal contracts. Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words:

The next phase of MyTwoCensus.com

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Update: To any former Census Bureau employees who may be interested in working on MyTwoCensus.com, I am aware that a misleading gag order was sent to many of you with your final paycheck that addressed the issues of social media and blogging. However, so long as you are not revealing Title 13 information, you are free to blog as you wish. Steve Jost of the Census Bureau commented on another Census worker’s blog, “…Upon reading it I went right to the Chief Information Officer to find if the Census Bureau has “shut down” a blog or website and he reported “none”. At it’s worst, our information technology protections might block Census staff from visiting websites identified has having malware or threats, but never shut down a site like yours. So, please keep on blogging.” So, follow his advice, and keep on blogging!

(Here’s what a 2010 Census gag order looks like)

To the readers of MyTwoCensus.com:

As the operations of the 2010 US Census wind down, the activities of MyTwoCensus.com will follow suit. As of this week, there will no longer be daily updates on this site, but when there is news, information, or investigations regarding the 2010 Census or the Census Bureau, you should continue to look here for information. If readers want to suggest future topics for me to write about or investigate, please contact me without hesitation.

(That said, if anyone out there wishes to take over this blog and update it daily or multiple times per week, I would be glad to hand over/share the reins! Please get in touch as I am happy to bring some fresh talent and watchful eyes aboard.)

This blog started from humble beginnings in San Francisco in early February 2009. In its first weeks, MyTwoCensus.com received great recognition from Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post and David Weir from BNet, which surely kept it chugging along.

The Census Bureau’s Public Information Office (Stephen Buckner in particular during those early days) fielded many questions from me and provided this fledgling news organization with invaluable information and clarifications.

From June 2009-June 2010, MyTwoCensus was funded by a generous grant from The Phillips Foundation. Despite critics of this blog decrying The Phillips Foundation as a “conservative” organization, it is 100% true that nobody other than I, Stephen Robert Morse, had any control over the editorial content of this blog (with the exception of some great interns who provided excellent commentary and news when I was on vacation). In fact, the Phillips Foundation’s hands-off approach is what led MyTwoCensus to experiment with different styles of reportage.

And, perhaps most of all, the site would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of Evan Goldin, MyTwoCensus.com’s Chief Technology Officer, who has been constantly tweaking and improving this site. Any blogger would be lucky to have a guy like Evan as a dear friend and colleague.

As readers, you have been an extremely insightful bunch. You have directed me down the path to investigate many aspects of 2010 Census operations that would otherwise never have been covered or discussed by the media. I am proud to say that more than one million unique visitors have come to MyTwoCensus.com as a source of information since we started tracking analaytics.

The 2010 Census is not yet over. Some time before December 31, 2010, the results of the 2010 Census will be made public, which will initiate a major scramble for power. With redistricting, Congressional reapportionment, and gerrymandering arriving after the new year, there will surely be a wealth of information to gather and report. (If any readers are interested in collaborating on watchdog or reporting efforts surrounding these activities, please let me know.)

The MyTwoCensus Community forum (located on the upper right portion of the page) will remain open indefinitely for readers to share their comments and opinions.

Best regards,

Stephen Robert Morse

PS – To any media/non-profit/corporate organizations or individuals seeking comments or appearances related to MyTwoCensus.com or the 2010 Census, feel free to contact me.

Transcript from Dr. Groves’ most recent press conference..and a funny story

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Update: For some reason, comments were turned off for this post. Now that I noticed the problem, they are turned on.

Note: For a few months now, the Census Bureau has prevented me from asking questions when I dial in by phone to their monthly press conferences. The Bureau prefers to take questions from journalists with little or no knowledge about 2010 Census operations, because such questions will be less pointed/inflammatory.

Such was the case last week at Dr Groves’ press conference when question after question was asked and I was not selected to ask mine.  II was forced to resort to plan B: I dialed in to the press conference on a second phone line,  using a false name, “John Smith”, representing a fictional publication, “The Ocean Side Gazette” in order to have my question asked. Within minutes of this call ending, Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s #2 political appointee)  acknowledged that people realized it was me on the line.

I find it both shocking and despicable that a fictional journalist from a fictional publication gets better treatment from the Census Bureau’s management at press conferences than Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com trying to ask tough questions.

Here’s the transcript:

http://2010.census.gov/news/pdf/transcript_8-10-10.pdf

Update on Vangent

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The other day,  I wrote about Vangent, the company that received an $86 million contract from the Census Bureau to staff call/processing centers for the 2010 Census. As it turns out, the company has a very shady history. Some readers of this site might not even realize that they have been working for Vangent, which sub-contracted 2010 Census hiring to other companies such as Quest Staffing Services, Synergy Staffing Partners and Remedy Intelligent Staffing. To get a more clear picture about how Vangent runs their operations (which seems more like how things are run in China than the US), check out jobvent.com’s page for Vangent. Here’s a sample quote from the site:

“Let’s start out with the basics: Vangent is a call center & information processing company. They work on U.S. federal government contracts. This means the management and leaders at Vangent will stoop to any level to satisfy the government agency who gave them the contract. You as an employee are a robot; performing the work that was outsourced by the government. You are not a person and you have no rights outside of the most basic rights that are afforded to government contract employees. Vangent is the most impersonal company you will ever encounter.”

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Detroit Ponzi Schemer STILL employed by Census Bureau

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Toine Murphy making a 2010 Census presentation. Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Chronicle

Despite being indicted in Michigan in June, 2010, Toine Murphy, a one-time basketball player turned US Census Bureau partnership specialist (and apparently a major Dwight Dean crony) is STILL employed by the Census Bureau. As MLive.com reported back in June:

Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation today announced it has shut down a $1.9 million Ponzi scheme after records showed sales of securities products were used to fund shopping sprees and trips to strip clubs.

Investor Martin Royster, a partner in Royster, Carberry, Goldman & Associates, was accused of “promising outrageous returns” of up to 240 percent annually in a fraudulent oil investment company, according to OFIR

OFIR’s investigation showed that Royster’s wife, April Royster, Toine Murphy, Lloyd Banks III, Shannon Steel and Royster’s firm all were associated with the sale of unregistered securities products, a violation of the state’s Uniform Securities Act.

Mr. Murphy has not returned calls or e-mails, but it has been confirmed by a secretary at the Detroit Regional office that Murphy “works from home” but stops by the office “almost every day.” Mind you, Census Bureau “partnership” activities finished in early June, and in mid-August with Census forms all returned, who knows what this guy isdoing while remaining on the government’s payroll…

Burton Reist, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications,  denied any knowledge of this situation.

Stay tuned for more!

Anyone know about Vangent?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

A significant amount of work, $86 million worth, for the 2010 Census went to an IT management firm called Vangent. In the company’s most recent earnings report, they wrote:

Vangent reported revenue from continuing operations of $214.8 million for the quarter ended July 3, 2010, an increase of $79.7 million or 59% compared to $135.1 million in the quarter ended June 27, 2009.  The increase in total revenue from continuing operations reflects an $83.0 million or 72% increase in revenue from the Government Group.  The increase is primarily attributable to $85.9 million in revenue from Vangent’s 2010 U.S. Census contract.

What have been your experiences working for Vangent? How have they managed this large contract? As this firm derived a major portion of their revenue from the 2010 Census, it’s important for us to look into their background. A search reveals that Chairman of the Board Robert B. McKeon has a shady past which is revealed in this Business Week article:

McKeon is the founder of Veritas Capital, a New York private-equity firm that invests in intelligence and defense contractors. Among the fund’s holdings: DynCorp International Inc. (DCP ) in Irving, Tex., whose name was tarnished in the late 1990s when some of its employees in Bosnia became embroiled in a sex trafficking scandal.

In the summer of 2005, another scandal-plagued military contractor caught McKeon’s eye. MZM Inc. was the focus of a federal investigation into whether its owner bribed California Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars of government contracts providing technical and other support to intelligence agencies and the military. Sensing an opportunity, McKeon hired a former CIA general counsel to quiz Pentagon and intelligence officials about the viability of MZM’s business, which before the invasion of Iraq included helping with controversial analysis of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capabilities. “We take on messy situations, and MZM was a mess,” says McKeon, whose top secret security clearance still doesn’t allow him to know all the details of what his companies do.

Not everyone is cheering. Critics argue that Athena’s apparent success rests on lucrative contracts landed under questionable circumstances. “Veritas is profiting from the spoils of congressional bribes,” says Keith Ashdown, vice-president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, in Washington.


What other skeletons are in the Vangent closet?

Interesting take on New York 2010 Census spending…

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Please keep in mind that the following opinion piece from Matt Schaertl on MPNnow.com doesn’t even factor in many millions of federal dollars that were allocated for 2010 Census PR and advertising in New York:

Canandaigua, N.Y. —

Too frequently, I receive emailed newsletters from Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, New York’s secretary of state, informing me how her department is doing a terrific job and should be expanded. I do not really know how she received my email address, but it’s good reading when I am in a cynical mood, or when I need something to think about when I wake up in the middle of the night.

In her last newsletter, besides mentioning herself 28 times, she highlights the additional “$2 million in grants to bolster mobilization and media campaigns around the 2010 census,” and how those grants improved returns. What she does not say is that the grants improved the return by only 190,000 people. In other words, taxpayers spent, on average, an additional $50 in advertising for every lazy family of five that can’t manage to walk out to the mailbox, or, perhaps, don’t know where the mailbox or post office is.

She also mentions that because of the extra effort, there were “dozens of non-profits that worked together for the first time.” Wow, dozens out of tens of thousands in the state.

It seems like a more reasonable solution would be to use tax returns and Social Security numbers (dependents are listed on tax returns) backed up with driver licenses to gather census information. Question for Cortes-Vazquez: If 59 percent of state residents responded to the 2000 census and 60 percent responded to the most recent census, then how do they know that the other 40 percent even exist? According to the state website, New York City represents approximately 44 percent of the state’s population; something does not sit right.

Yes, I am still harping on the $23K totem pole!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The Juneau Empire brings us the following story about the $23,000 totem pole:

Totem pole, after boosting 2010 census count, heads to new home
By Pat Forgey | JUNEAU EMPIRE

Traditional dancers gathered at the base of Mount Roberts Monday for a ceremony sending off the “Census Totem Pole,” carved to tell the story of the 2010 Census.

This year has marked an unprecedented effort by the U.S. Census Bureau to get a complete enumeration of some of Alaska’s most difficult to count populations, the widely scattered, predominately native villages throughout rural Alaska.

That included commissioning a totem pole to tell the story of the census.

Sitka carver Tommy Joseph called a census-themed totem “out of the ordinary,” but said its mission and symbolism was important.

The totem itself contains representations of Raven and Eagle at either end to reflect the two Tlingit moeities that make up all the people.

“Everybody needs to be counted,” Joseph said.

Also on the totem are multiple hand prints, contributed by visitors to Joseph’s studio at the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in Sitka.

The Census 2010 logo of a hand, along with the motto “It’s in our hands,” are represented by the hand prints, Joseph said.

Those contributing the prints included a schoolteacher, a janitor, a fisherman, a judge, a weaver and a young girl, he said, reflecting the challenge.

“Everybody needs to be counted,” he said.

The Census 2010 took a step towards closing down its counting operations Friday, with the shutting down of its toll-free telephone questionnaire assistance line.

Now, the Census totem will be shipped to the U.S. Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C.

Early Monday morning, before the day’s four cruise ships had arrived, census officials, local dignitaries, dancers and honorary bearers showed up for the send-off. The census totem has already visited several other Alaska and Pacific Northwest communities to help the Census 2010 campaign.

State Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and chairman of Sealaska Corp., said it was an appropriate way to mark the movement of the totem from Alaska to its permanent home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters.

The totem is more than just the wood, in this case red cedar from Prince of Wales Island, from which it is made.

“The totem and the culture are the same,” he said.

The complete count is important to Alaska’s Native population, he said, because undercounting will result in less influence when it comes to representing rural and Native issues, he said.

“We lose representation in the Senate if we don’t get a good count,” he said.

Katherine Eldemar, who with Assemblyman Bob Doll chairs the city’s Complete Count Committee, praised the Census Bureau for the steps it took in 2010 to reach out to the communities it has had difficulty counting in the past.

She called the team handling Alaska “outstanding civil servants.”

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, said he hoped the efforts pioneered here this year will be used in future censuses.

“I hope the Census Bureau in (2020) will bring the totem pole back to Alaska,” and make a similarly strong effort at a count, he said.

Among those participating in the ceremony at the Mount Roberts Tramway, owned by Goldbelt Corp., was Goldbelt Chairman Randy Wanamaker, along with Ed Thomas of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council and Kake Tribal Corp.’s Harold Martin.

As the honorary bearers carried the totem pole out of the building to begin its trip east, the Children of All Nations dance group sang.

Then, having seen the totem pole off to its new home, and with the Golden Princess moving in to dock, the traditional dancers left and turned the waterfront over the day’s influx of tourists.

The $23,000 Totem Pole Debacle

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, I blogged about how  the Census Bureau paid $20,000 to construct a 2010 Census totem pole that is now being shipped from Alaska to Washington DC for more than $3,000.

This leads to many questions:

1. What other art work has the Census Bureau commissioned? (Isn’t this the job of the National Endowment for the Arts?)

2. How much money has the Census Bureau spent on art projects?

3.  How much money did it cost to make the totem pole video that is on YouTube that (before I blogged about it)  received only 42 total views and still only has 217 views?

4. Who are Deni Luna/Gutacetla — the people who are  responsible for this video? Is it the same person as on this web site? Was the bidding process to make this video competitive? Were the Tinglit Raven Clan compensated for their part in the video? If so, how much money?

5. Why would the Census Bureau commission Tommy Joseph, an artist from Sitka, Alaska, to design a totem pole to commemorate an action taken by people of Noorvik, Alaska — two places that are approximately 1,500 miles apart from each other?

Steve Jost of the Census Bureau answered my previous questions about this by writing the following:

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.

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting
copies of all memos, documents, e-mais and reports that directly discuss
the 2010 Census, including ESA correspondence, e-mail, records, etc. from
the office of Dr. Robert M. Groves and the office of Steve Jost, as well as
the Office of the Secretary, the CIO and Administration from the time that
Mr. Jost took over until the present.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan
watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com,
governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a
non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the
public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute
significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of
the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the
clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is
“urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged
government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and
recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that
language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request
deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific
exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of
appeal procedures available under the law. If you have any questions about
handling this request, you may telephone me at any time at XXXXXXXXX.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 6:06 PM

Dear Mr. Morse,
To document our conversation this morning you have clarified your request
FOIA 10-099 to collect records from:

1.) The Office of Dr. Robert Groves
2.) The Office of Steven Jost
3.) The Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA)
4.) The Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Office of the Secretary
5.)  Chief Information Office (CIO)
6.)  Administration

and you are requesting the following information:

-Copies of all memos, documents, e-mails and reports that directly discuss
the 2010 Census, specifically problems, trouble areas, or cover-ups
regarding the following:
a.) Money
b.) Software
c.) Fees
d.) Contracts/ Contractors (operational glitches, problems with
test-runs)
e.) Technology
f.) Status Updates
g.) Reporting to Dr. Groves on major/minor operations
h.) Regional Directors reporting/ status updates
i.)  Hiring/ Firing
j.)  Personnel Incidents
k.) Human Resources Incidents
l.)  Disputes with Congress
m.)Responses to negative media coverage

Our Office will continue processing your request with all practical speed.

Respectfully,

Anita M. Molina
Office of Analysis and Executive Support
Freedom of Information Act and Information Branch
US Census Bureau
8H026B

P Save Paper –  Please consider the environment before printing this email

More to come should this saga continue…



Census center jobs winding down…

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

The Census Bureau has three processing centers across the nation that handle all 2010 Census forms. They are located in Indiana, Arizona, and Maryland. Here’s a report from the Courier-Journal that discusses the status of operations in Indiana:

By Lesley Stedman Weidenbener

INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Census Bureau’s National Processing Center in Jeffersonville will eliminate its night shift on Friday as it winds down its work on the 2010 Census.

That will leave the local center with about 3,000 employees – down from a peak of about 5,000 this spring, said director David Hackbarth.

In May, the center started laying off temporary employees who had been hired for about $13 an hour to process roughly 40 million Census forms received at the Jeffersonville location, one of three processing centers in the country. That represents roughly 20 percent of the Census forms returned nationally.

“The work load is now significantly lower than it was at its peak,” Hackbarth said.

Additional layoffs will continue through the fall of 2011.

“Even though the Census is winding down, there will be Census work through 2011,” Hackbarth said. “Our employment will depend on the magnitude of the work.”

Most of the employees who were hired as temporary workers for the Census knew their jobs would be ending in late summer, Hackbarth said. Still, they’re all receiving two weeks notice of their final days, he said.

Some employees have left for new jobs immediately upon learning their layoff date. Others will stay to their last day, he said. They are working on the last Census forms and cleaning up data.

“One of our concerns is trying to help people find their next job,” Hackbarth said. “And that’s part of the reason for a two-week notice. It gives them time to react and we think that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

Leading up the layoffs, Clark and Floyd counties have had unemployment rates that have been lower than the state average.

Base staffing for the Jeffersonville center is about 1,600 employees. Hackbarth said employment levels will fluctuate significantly throughout the decade as the center handles other projects and surveys that the Census Bureau conducts between the decennial counts.

“Many of the employees – whether they’re temporary or term employees – have worked here before and will work here again,” Hackbarth said.

To 2020 and beyond…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

In my humble opinion, I think it is utter nonsense when journalists, other than those of the tech variety,  are already publishing pieces about the 2020 Census in their reportage. Their are so many stories about the 2010 Census that lack coverage. The implementation of technology for 2020 likely won’t even get to the drawing board stage for another 5 years as tech development is so rapid that we won’t know what is available yet.  Nonetheless, here’s some news on this topic from USA Today. Journalists are already trying to create a stir by focusing on issues like how to use the Internet in 2020 and the potential use of the controversial art of statistical sampling…

Rumor: Change in DAPPS Payroll Software?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Anyone have any knowledge about the following tip:

Subject: DAPPS payroll software change
Message Body:
It appears that the following occurred on either 6/27 or 6/28. A change to D-308 timesheet editing rules in DAPPS was implemented which no longer permits timesheets to include entries for which one entry ends at the same time as the next begins. Such entries have been accepted up until now, and are *necessary* to properly record work across the midnight boundary. Rumor has it that the change was made to stop somebody from getting extra pay by exploiting a bug in the system.

It is not clear what the details are, for example how multiple task codes affect the results, but it is known for certain that work across the midnight boundary is affected, and that the new edit rules can cause errors between timesheets and batches. Washington I.T. support apparently is telling people they have to shift their time 1/4 hour away from midnight (trivially, falsifying their timesheets). My LCO discovered that payroll batches which had been entered without errors for the previous week, if re-opened and re-saved for any reason, generated NEW errors. It also appears that a key diagnostic report regarding overlapping time is now, sometimes, “broken” in a way that masks existing errors.

If my understanding of DAPPS is correct, it is *possible* that MANY LCOs experienced errors when payroll was transmitted 6/29.

The change was made the day before payroll had to be wrapped up and transmitted, and there was NOT SO MUCH AS AN E-MAIL NOTIFICATION. We can’t be the only ones who got burned; HQ I.T. support confirmed the situation and provided the workaround.

I would love to know how much of a problem this has caused, and/or whether the change had to be backed out of the code. As of Tuesday afternoon 6/29 the change was still in place.

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.

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.