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 ‘Politics’ Category

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial is a farce and here’s why…

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the following editorial:

The 2010 census, in its final stages, has apparently been a success — something not thought possible just a couple years ago, when unsteady management, political interference and other problems threatened to derail the effort. The count was salvaged only after last-minute scrambling and major new spending — and after new leaders were put in place by the Obama administration.

For a time, it seemed as if Congress would learn the lessons from the near disaster of 2010. In March, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced a bill to improve the census, mainly by giving the bureau director more power to run the agency without interference. In April, the Senate committee in charge of the census unanimously passed the bill. The bill has not gone anywhere since then.

Why does that matter, when the next count is a decade away? The best chance for passing a bill is now, when public awareness of the census is high. And the sooner reform is passed, the better, because census planning, done right, is a decade-long project.

The administration, which had to rescue the current census, should certainly know that. But it is the administration that appears to be standing in the way.

At a hearing this spring, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Thomas Carper, Democrat of Delaware, said that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had complained about a provision giving the director greater independence to communicate directly with the commerce secretary and Congress about problems with the census. He said Mr. Locke also objected to giving the director greater influence over the bureau’s budget.

Mr. Carper suggested that independence to communicate was nonnegotiable, but a compromise on the budget could be found. There is no sign of progress.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Carper’s staff will issue a report on the bill to help other senators as they consider the legislation. The bill is a brief 11 pages and it is uncontested, at least on Capitol Hill. How much help do the other senators really need?

Mr. Carper should speed up the report. If the administration still has problems with the bill, it should make them public and allow the process to move forward openly. Basic reform of the census is needed, and the time to make those changes is slipping away.

MyTwoCensus analysis:

The first part of this editorial labels the 2010 Census a “success” but never states why it is considered as such. Perhaps this is based on the cursory observation of the participation/response rates that were similar to those of 2000. This may be a “success” when taking a quick glance at figures, but let us remember that the Census Bureau’s budget for 2010 was infinitely larger than it was in 2000. (And it took home an extra $1 billion in funding from the stimulus package.)

The second half of this disjointed editorial has a bit of validity, though it isn’t articulated well. Yes, it would be better for America for the Census Bureau Director to have a fixed term that ends in a year that is in between Presidential election years. But Gary Locke has legitimate concerns, and those must be addressed before rushing a bill through committee. The same Senate that can’t pass Climate legislation that’s been on the table forever shouldn’t be expected to jump on legislation related to the 2020 Census.

And here’s a little caveat/prediction for the New York Times: When the mainstream media learns just how much of a mess the 2010 Census was in some parts of the country, and in particular New York (where a dense concentration of media moguls and reporters utterly failed to cover the giant mess that is the New York regional census office) they will be begging for re-enumerations, recounts, and heads to be put on the chopping block. MyTwoCensus.com will elaborate more on this information in the coming days and weeks.

Note: An earlier version of this post questioned why President Obama hadn’t signed a bill seeking to reform the GOP’s “census” mailers. I referred to a blog post that I wrote on May 18, 2010. I subsequently learned from comments on this post that President Obama signed the bill on May 24. I was never made aware of this action by President Obama until today and I apologize for the confusion. Those people who refer to a bill from April should know that the GOP found a loophole in this legislation and continued to issue deceptive mailers. Furthermore, the comment about President Obama was just an aside from a post that focuses on many other important matters which I hope are not overshadowed by my simple error.

MyTwoCensus Scoop: Census Bureau regional partnership coordinator running as a Democrat for New York State Assemblyman while still on the job

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

UPDATE: At 10:00, a credible e-mail came in to the MyTwoCensus inbox stating that Mr. Dominguez was upset at his office. At 10:50, I spoke with Steve Jost, Associate Director of the Census Bureau, who informed me that Mr. Dominguez is no longer employed by the Census Bureau. Presumably, he was fired as a result of this scoop.

Rafael Dominguez, a New York-based regional partnership coordinator for the US Census Bureau since early 2008 has filed a petition to run as a Democrat for Assemblyman for New York’s 82nd District. Yet, as Census Bureau Associate Director Steve Jost recently commented on a MyTwoCensus.com post, the Hatch Act, “prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities while on duty.”

The problem is not that Mr. Dominguez is running for office, the problem is that he is running for office while an employee of the federal government and campaigning on the Census Bureau/taxpayer’s dime. MyTwoCensus.com has also learned that other Census Bureau employees who are underlings of Mr. Dominguez have been performing campaign activities while on official Census Bureau duty. These employees include other partnership assistants in the New York area:  Ed LaFranco and Adrian Tapia.

New Yorkers should be entitled to a partisan-free census, and Mr. Dominguez’s overt Democratic Party affiliations require the Census Bureau to fire him immediately. MyTwoCensus has subsequently learned that Mr. Dominguez used his (massive) budget for partnership materials to fund events and organizations that will benefit his political campaign.

Admittedly, it will be difficult to prove that partnership  funding was diverted for specific purposes that relate to the campaign, but such activities should immediately be scrutinized and audited more thoroughly than they already are. (MyTwoCensus.com has learned that the New York Census Bureau’s partnership office is currently undergoing a major audit. Perhaps this audit is directly tied to Dominguez and his misuse of funds, but more likely it has to do with rampant excesses by the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists.)

Here is the photographic evidence of the campaign activities that Mr. Dominguez has been engaged in while a Census Bureau employee:

Note the Census Bureau’s extensive partnership budget that includes $120 million from the stimulus package:

Picture 14

Will Microsoft rescue Florida’s census count?

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Most likely this effort is a “too little too late” scenario, but be sure to check out how Microsoft is trying to assist in enumeration efforts in Florida.

One theory is that Florida may use Micrsoft-gathered data down the road to demand a re-count or re-enumeration. A Census Bureau insider tells me the following about this topic:

1. It’s advertising.

2. To its credit, Census is less invested in Microsoft products than it could be. So Microsoft has less to lose by alienating the Census Bureau.
IBM and Oracle have BIG contracts with the Census Bureau; they probably wanted nothing to  do with Florida’s software development project.

3. FL residents deserve an apathy prize for the lack of participation in My Florida Census.

4. Do not rule out the possibility of a hidden, evil social engineering agenda on Microsoft’s part.

5. Apple revenues outpaced Microsoft’s last quarter; Microsoft is fading.

6. The failed handheld computer ran a Windows Mobile operating system. May have contributed to development problems and subsequent failure.

7. Very interesting report: “During the redistricting process in 2001, the Florida House of Representatives learned that certain areas seemed to have more voters than the 2000 census had recorded for the voting-age population. That discovery led the House to conclude that Florida’s population had been undercounted during the 2000 census.”

8. “An accurate aerial image…” Too bad the Census Bureau did not think of making better use of aerial images for the Address Canvassing operation.

9. “By using Bing Maps, the application presents highly accurate images of streets and addresses, which are often more accurate than census roads.”
Just horrible that the private sector claims their geodata is better than the Census Bureau’s.  Why hasn’t Groves massacred some Census Bureau managers for this? How much of the blame does Harris deserve for their sizable role in 2010 Census geography? Why hasn’t the Census Bureau’s management addressed this amazing claim?

And perhaps most importantly…

10. What does the State of Florida know about the Census 2000 Hialeah recount that we don’t?

Field Verification: Your comments please

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

As a reader noted to me, the Vacant/Delete thread is morphing into the Field Verification thread. Let’s start a new thread here to specifically focus on Field Verification thoughts, complaints, etc.

Enjoy the weekend!

The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country. Whistleblowers should not hesitate to contact MyTwoCensus.com immediately. Your confidentiality will be 100% maintained.

On Monday, July 19, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled, “Is Brooklyn Being Counted? – Problems With the 2010 Census” to examine a recent incident involving two senior managers at the Brooklyn North East Local Census Office who were fired for fraudulently completing census surveys.  The hearing examined the steps the Census Bureau is taking to ensure the accuracy of the 2010 count. The New York State Congressional Delegation has been invited to participate in the hearing.

The hearing was held on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, located at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

The witnesses who testified were:

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau

Mr. Todd J. Zinser
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Lester A. Farthing
Regional Director
U.S. Census Bureau NY Regional Census Center

Opening Statement of Chairman Edolphus Towns

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay

Opening Statement of Rep. Yvette Clarke

Prepared testimony of Dr. Robert Groves

Prepared testimony of Mr. Todd Zinser

According to the New York Daily News:

The bungling was first uncovered last month when two census managers were discovered faking surveys by lifting information off the Internet.

Brooklyn Northeast census manager Alvin Aviles and assistant Sonya Merritt were axed – and 4,200 questionnaires had to be redone.

Redoing the phony forms – which is almost complete – will cost taxpayers $250,000, Groves revealed.

To make matters worse, a whistleblower recently alerted officials that some of the new surveys also were fudged by workers who took their best guess when no one answered the door.

The workers estimated the number of people living in a home based on information such as names on mailboxes, Groves said at the hearing.

“This … is a clear violation of procedures,” he said.

Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.

The bureau is investigating whether information was faked in any other offices in Brooklyn or around the country.

He promised the bureau will come up with an accurate count and said that the recount of all 4,200 surveys will be done in a few days.

“I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred,” Groves said. “This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

According to Gothamist:

Census Recounters Messed Up Recount, Re-recount Planned

Those Brooklyn Census workers really don’t want to lose their jobs. After being instructed to redo more than 4,000 falsified Census forms, workers at the Brooklyn Northeast Census office botched the corrections and must complete the forms a third time.

One office worker recently alerted officials that some workers were fudging answers when people wouldn’t answer their doors—exactly what managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt did to get themselves fired and start this whole mess in the first place. The best part is the whole $250,000 SNAFU could probably have been avoided, since Census workers are allowed to leave questions blank if they cannot obtain the information by either first person or “proxy” interviews.

At a hearing yesterday regarding the first set of faked forms, Congressman Ed Towns said, “I represent a district that is comprised of a number of so-called ‘hard to count’ communities…These communities present challenges to the Census Bureau, but these challenges must be met.” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves says the second round of mistakes were caused by confused workers who misunderstood instructions, and that it should be worked out shortly. Still, he said, “I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred. This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

ABC affiliate says Fresno Census Bureau faces discrimination complaints

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Federal investigators are looking at the Fresno offices of the U.S. Census Bureau after receiving a number of employee complaints.

Investigators with the Commerce Department have been examining Fresno-area operations for the past several months. The complaints range from discrimination and bad management.

Investigators say two Caucasian workers who were let go say Hispanic employees were routinely favored for assignments over older, white workers.

The woman who oversees the Fresno Census offices says the census has been managed professionally and according to agency policies.

More shocking news from North of the 49th parallel as StatCan chief resigns

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

From Canada’s The Globe and Mail:

By Steven Chase

Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 1:20PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 10:38PM EDT

It’s not clear what he is referring to but The Globe and Mail ran an interview Wednesday with Industry Minister Tony Clement where the minister said Statscan is not an independent agency.

 

The embattled head of Statistics Canada has resigned over the Harper government’s plan to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying the replacement they propose for this will not work.

In a letter on the Statscan website, Munir Sheikh refused to say what advice he gave the Conservatives when they asked him to make these changes.

But he made it clear he cannot accept the scheme the Tories say is a perfectly adequate replacement for a compulsory long-form questionairre.

“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion,” Mr. Sheikh wrote.

“This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It cannot,” he said.

“Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister.”

In a statement, Industry Minister Tony Clement said he acknowledges Mr. Sheikh’s resignation “with regret.”

However, Mr. Clement stood by the Conservatives’ plans to abolish the mandatory long-form survey.

“We do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. We believe it is not appropriate to compel citizens to divulge how many bedrooms they have in their houses, or what time they leave for work in the morning.”

This isn’t the first time a government has sought to tamper with the census. In November, 1984, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government announced it intended to save money by cancelling the 1986 census. There was an immediate protest from the business community – which said the census data were needed to plan marketing strategies – and Mr. Mulroney’s finance minister, Michael Wilson, reversed the decision the following month.

At the same time, the government also responded to complaints that some of the information sought on the long form was too personal. It eliminated, for example, a question about the number of household bathrooms.

Wayne Smith, assistant chief statistician for business and trade statistics, will fill the post on an interim basis, until a permanent successor to Mr. Sheikh is found.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Sheikh sent an e-mail to staff that cancelled a planned town-hall meeting where he was to address employee concerns. He said he would have more to say shortly.

“In light of today’s media coverage, I am cancelling the scheduled town hall meeting,” Mr. Sheikh said in a mass e-mail to Statscan staff.

Census Director Groves is king of the world (of advertising)

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, delivers the opening salvo at The Advertising Research Foundation AM5.0 – AUDIENCE MEASUREMENT EARTHQUAKE. There is no singular event with greater influence on the next ten years of audience measurement and marketing than the 2010 Census. Groves presents the ultimate “insider” preview of the much-anticipated 2010 Census report to be released next year.

MyTwoCensus.com hopes to learn how much $ Dr. Groves raked in for this keynote address…

Stay tuned for Dr. Groves’ exit from the federal government followed by his immediate decision to join a Fortune 500 company as the director of Market Research…

The battle over Congressional redistricting has just begun…

Monday, July 19th, 2010

A July 16th editorial in the Christian Science Monitor discusses the battle over congressional redistricting. The impact that 2010 Census data has on redistricting could be especially disturbing in light of recent concerns over the accuracy of this data:

All eyes are on the US House in this fall’s election, but that’s not the only place where a political earthquake might shake up power.

A mad scramble is also on to influence elections for state legislatures, as well as governors. National political bigwigs and big dollars – record amounts, actually – are focused on these local races.

The reason? This is a census year, and it is these newly elected officials who will use the new population numbers to redraw the boundaries of voter districts. Those districts will then set the contours of power and policy for the next decade.

Republicans see the opportunity for a long-lasting comeback in Washington if they can tip enough statehouses their way, and thus come up with voter districts likely to elect Republicans to Congress again and again. Likewise, Democrats are working hard to defend their mapping turf.

There would be nothing wrong with the mad scramble were it not for the fact that it’s scrambling American democracy. Many state legislatures and governors have gotten increasingly caught up in sophisticated “gerrymandering” of voter districts – shaping “safe” districts according to computer programs that reliably return incumbents to power.

Legislators are selecting their voters, instead of voters selecting their lawmakers.

The US Constitution requires redistricting after every census in order to make districts roughly equal in population, guaranteeing equal representation across the land. It leaves the method up to the states, though, and oh, the self-serving methods that many state politicians have chosen.

The party in power uses technology to account not only for population, but also voter registration data, voting patterns, and the addresses of incumbent lawmakers (in some cases, maps have been refigured so that an incumbent of the opposing party is drawn right out of his or her home district).

Thus are born districts that are no longer competitive, that don’t foster the free exchange of ideas, that hatch more extreme candidates who play to their home base, and that lead to hardened, immovable positions in elected bodies.

Concern Growing in Canada Over Recent Census Decision

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

This article is worth reading because it does an excellent job of discussing the wide reaching impact of Census data (even if it is Canadian Census data):

The census can look dull or irrelevant to the average citizen, a twice-a-decade event that only policy wonks, academics and journalists really care about.

But like the foundation of a building, census data are largely invisible but crucially important, affecting the lives of any citizen who has a child, drives a car, goes to school, moves here from another country, retires, works — or loses their job — shops, gets sick, wants to live in a safe neighbourhood, needs a helping hand from a charity or wants to know the money they donate will be put to good use.

“It really does touch your life, but not until you need it or you see it do you realize it,” says Doug Norris, director general of social and demographic statistics at Statistics Canada until 2005 and now chief demographer and senior vice-president with Environics Analytics.

Since the Conservatives announced three weeks ago they’re scrapping Canada’s long-form census in 2011 and replacing it with a voluntary survey — a move they say was prompted by privacy complaints — opposition has been mounting steadily. The short-form census remains mandatory. An array of experts and organizations have panned the decision, insisting it will destroy the statistical backbone of municipalities, social programs, community organizations and private businesses that touch nearly every aspect of the lives of ordinary Canadians……

Municipalities use information gleaned from long-form questions on how people get to work and where they work to plan bridges, roads and public transportation projects and budgets, says Derek Cook, research social planner with the City of Calgary.

“We may never again get neighbourhood level statistical data and what the hell are we going to do if we don’t have neighbourhood data? How are we going to plan?” he says. “It’s like taking a carpenter’s hammer away and asking him to go continue to build the house.”

Like Cook, Brent Toderian, director of city planning for Vancouver, said census data so fundamentally underlie everything a city plans for its residents that he struggles to pinpoint a single instance.

“It’s literally the starting point of all of our work, so pick a project,” he says, mentioning school boards, new transit lines and aging neighborhoods as a handful of examples. “The tendrils of this work go all the way through every city in the country.”

We, The Census

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Jamie Stiehm over at U.S. Daily News and Report has an interesting essay on the unifying essence of the Census. When these days certain talk-show hosts with a disproportinate amount of influence can rally a good chnk of Americans against the Census, it’s nice to read about it’s completely Constitutional inception. Take a look:

Have I told you how much I love the Census? Jump in, let’s go for a ride around the block of American democracy to count every single person living on it–babies, the young and the old, students and workers, single and married, rich, poor, and anxious members of the middle class, artists and bus drivers, wired and not, employed and unemployed, the uninsured sick and the covered healthy, military and civilian, homeless, incarcerated and free, citizens and immigrants, people of any religion, color, language or kind. And now it’s over this time around, so let me say a few good words on what it’s all about.

The Census is the closest we come to giving true, timely meaning to “We the People.” It’s a quintessentially American pursuit, dreamed up and penned on paper by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention, this “enumeration” process of counting the particulars to understand the whole. The first Census, carried out in 1790, was directed by Thomas Jefferson. It held up a mirror to an energetic nation, a brilliant mosaic then as well as now, inventing itself. African-Americans were in the first census, both enslaved and free blacks, but their lower social status was reflected by the lack of names for each and every one. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1870 Census, the first taken after the Civil War, that African-Americans were considered citizens with recorded names to go with their numbers. The pre-1870 silence was broken; family genealogies and histories at last began to speak more clearly across time. For historians, names to go with occupations and addresses meant precious identities could be recovered, say, for a study of the community of Chesapeake watermen back in the late 19th century.

Jefferson’s direction of the first Census is a little-known fact. That’s a shame, for it may have helped quell the tide of anti-government hostility and threats many Census 2010 workers encountered on the job. Doors were slammed in their faces, dogs snarled at and bit them, and some were even run off private property with a shotgun. Jefferson, the Founding Father most fearful of government intrusion into people’s lives and liberty and all that jazz, understood that a proper census was essential to political fair play in dividing up each state’s seats in Congress. More than that, the inquiring social scientist in him wished to know the answer to who dwelled where in the early Republic. Take Nantucket Island, in 1790 a rising whaling capital. The answer: about 5,000 whites, predominantly Quakers, and just a handful of native Wampanoag Indians.

The first Census was a wonder to behold, carried out by federal marshals. So was the last, though ours tells a sadder story. The sheer scope and ambition involved in organizing this endeavor (every 10 years) of counting us, in cities and plains, by the millions, is breathtaking. I remember explaining the Census 2000 methods to a fascinated journalist from Bosnia and taking him to the enormous nerve center of Baltimore’s operation. As a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, it was my job to be there, but it was also my pleasure. I was actually proud to see the job the federal government was doing in counting this city populace of about 650,000 souls in the last peaceful and prosperous year of the Clinton presidency. The Democratic mayor, now Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, was happy with that number because it showed the city had slowed losing residents at a rapid rate. Once an industrial powerhouse, the waterfront city of Baltimore hit its peak population in mid-century. In 1950, it weighed in at 900,000 residents, census figures show. Baltimore before the Civil War had the largest population of free blacks.

These are good things to know to trace the ebb and flow of our own back stories. And even in an age of profound distress, economic and otherwise, the Census can be a morale-booster as an excellent temporary employer to help make ends meet for all manner of people. Unfortunately, all those well-paying government jobs for census-takers are now being phased out. They include college graduates and middle-aged job seekers who will be out in the cold of this 9.5 percent unemployment-rate economy again. While they enjoyed getting to know their communities better, few look forward to being on their own again, missing a sense of mission. Counting 300 million people (more or less) creates motivation and dedication among its civilian foot soldiers. It’s a shame to say good-bye to people who are serving their country, too, if not in uniform.

To prescient Republicans in the George W. Bush era, geniuses who decided to skip the “occupation” question for Census 2010 forms and visits, it’s as if you knew relatively few would have an answer ready on that point. That’s the tragic flaw of this census, that we won’t have a well of rich first-hand reporting on how people across America fended for themselves and fed their families in these hard times, the worst in memory for many. This disservice to ordinary peoples’ lives and our collective social history, like past blind spots in the Census, shall not soon be forgotten and forgiven.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Brooklyn scandal is just the tip of the iceberg

Monday, July 12th, 2010

What happened last month at the Brooklyn LCO was indeed unfortunate. But let us not be naive: Data collection inaccuracies and falsifications are happening throughout the entire New York Regional Area and possibly the entire nation, though perhaps on a smaller scale than in Brooklyn.

There are many luxury rental and condominum buildings where real estate management companies have a strict “no enumerator” policy, as well as tenement buildings  and brownstones where it is impossible to gain access. There are also one or two family houses where it is unclear how many people live there and a knowledgeable proxy could not be located.

For these units, some enumerators went to public search records on the Internet or merely wrote the names off the mailboxes. The mid and upper level census managers encouraged field staff to use techniques to “guesstimate,” creating major operational ambiguity for the once in a decade headcount.

What was acceptable inside the questionnaire was another problem. Most enumerators tried to get all the information but those who went to a proxy who gave them little, no, or inaccurate information, finished their areas quickly. These same field staff were rewarded with more work and allowed to clean up districts that were lagging behind.

These cases are the same ones where quality assurance suspects poor data collection practices or data falsification. However, in some cases re-interview staff are unable to locate the respondent to verify whether the interview was actually conducted and prove it definitively. Many other quality assurance managers are told to “just pass it” or are afraid to accuse enumerators of poor quality work, fearing that they will be stepping on people’s toes.

For two years municipalities and city officials preached about the beauty of the census through media and print advertising. They encouraged people to send back their census forms saying it was the only way to ensure that their residents were counted and for their community to receive the federal funding it was entitled to.

But these city officials did little in the way in forcing real estate management companies and reluctant respondents to cooperate when their participation was required. The fact that the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce made empty threats to fine people for not cooperating and then did not follow through on it shows how poorly 2010 Census data has been managed.

The offices in the five boroughs of New York will be the last in the nation to finish NRFU, whereas most areas were done weeks ago. The few career census employees who valued a fair and accurate count and finished last can not be proud of their work. Those responsible for promoting the individuals won’t let them be proud. When it comes time for their annual performance reviews, the fact they finished last will be reflected poorly and jeopardize their careers.

What happened in Brooklyn should not come as a surprise. In retrospect the Census did what it usually does. It set hard line production goals, held managers and field staff accountable and fired them if they failed to meet these goals with little constructive technical support. Those who work quickly are rewarded with more work with little regard to accuracy.

I dedicate this post to the many crew leaders, field operations supervisors and LCO manager who lost their jobs because they valued a fair and accurate count.

Will this census be our last?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Two days ago, the BBC reported that the UK’s 2011 Census may the that nation’s last:

In future, data could be gathered from records held by the Post Office, local government and credit checking agencies – thought to be more effective.

The government said it was “examining” whether changes could be made but no decision had been reached.

This is an interesting development, particularly as funds for the 2020 Census will soon be allocated. Though pro-immigration groups and organizations like the ACLU feel that forcing everyone in America to register with the government would be problematic, many nations already have national identity cards, which, if implemented in the US, would make creating a “portrait of America” that much easier.

Hearing to take place on Brooklyn scandal…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

From the New York Daily News:

BY MICHAEL MCAULIFF

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee has set a hearing into the Brooklyn Census office that dummied up thousands of questionnaires, prompting the firing of two managers and do-overs for 10,000 family surveys.

edtowns.jpg

Rep. Ed Towns, whose district is next door to the Northeast Brooklyn Census office that used the Internet and phone books to fill out forms, set the hearing for July 19 in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

“Given my commitment to the success of the 2010 Census, this recent problem is particularly troubling,” said Towns, who ironically held an earlier hearing in the very census office that later became a problem.

“Any attempt to compromise the integrity of the census is simply unacceptable given what is at stake for our community,” Towns said of the shenanigans first reported by the Daily News. “I am holding this hearing to ensure that the Census Bureau is following all of the necessary steps to accurately count every resident in Brooklyn.”

Among those invited to testify are Census Director Robert Groves, Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, and Tony Farthing, the census regional director.

Transcript from Census Bureau Director’s latest press briefing…

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Here’s the transcript and info from the latest press briefing. Here are some quotes of interest from Dr. Robert M. Groves:

1. On the second risk—the software systems, the new management team—I can say
honestly now that, although we had a very shaky start with these software systems, with
management interventions that were wisely done from this team, with enormous
dedication from a bunch of software engineers, we have successfully processed
47,000,000 forms through this software system that was designed to do that. It worked. It
wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and we have successfully completed that phase. We have a
few tail-end things that we’re finishing up.

2. The first operation is the biggest we’ll operate, and that’s called Coverage Follow-Up.
That actually began in mid-April, and it should finish up by August 13th. We’re calling on
about 7.5 million households. This is exploiting an innovation in the 2010 Census. If you
remember your form, there were two questions. One, is there someone at your house right
now who normally doesn’t live there? And then for every person you reported, we asked
the question, does this person sometimes live elsewhere? For the houses that checked one
of those boxes, we’re going to call back and make sure, make double sure, that we’ve
counted people once and only once. It is these complicated households where people are
coming and going and living there sometimes and not other times that pose real
challenges to get accurate counts, so we’re calling back on those.

3. The second operation, The Vacant/Delete Check, is about the same size, about 8,000,000
households, and what we’re doing there is going back on a set of households that we’ve
visited over the past few weeks where, when an enumerator went up and knocked on the
door, they determined, he or she determined, that that house was vacant on April 1. We
want to make sure that’s right. We’re going to double check that. We’re going to go back
to that house and redetermine [sic] whether that’s a correct designation for the house.
And then there are other houses on our list that went out over the past few weeks, and
when they went out to locate the house, they saw an empty lot, the house had been
destroyed, or they couldn’t find the house. It looked like our list was inappropriate. And
they marked that as a Delete. We’re going to go back out to those and make sure we got
that right before we finalize the operation.

4. The third operation is called Field Verification. It will began August 6th and it will go
through early September. This is really our last operation in terms of time. It’s pretty
small. We’re going to about 400,000 addresses. This is a check on a set of cases that is,
itself, the result of our efforts to count everyone. So, in March and April, if you didn’t get
a form, we said you could go to a local facility and pick up what we call a Be Counted
form. People did that. Not too many people, but people did it. And on that form we asked
you to write your address. We’ve examined every one of those forms already. And
sometimes, when we look at the address, we can’t match it to anything we have on our
list. On those kinds of cases, we’re going to go back out. We’re going out to that house
and we’re going to make sure we can find it. We can understand the address, we know
what block it’s in, and we can place it correctly in that block.

5. One another note that is useful to make. If you’re out there, or if your audience has the
following thoughts, “Gee, I don’t believe I got a mail questionnaire. I know I didn’t send
it back. I haven’t had anyone knock on my door. I’m afraid I’m not counted.” We still
have a facility for you, an 800 number. 866-872-6868. If you press the right buttons, I’m
told, rather slowly, you will get connected to an interviewer who will take your data right
on the phone. And that’s still open. That’ll be open until the end of July, roughly.

6. This was a short form only census. In 2000, the short-form had a response rate about ten
percentage points than the then long-form. We were counting on this. This was part of the
success. This is really the only way we achieved that 72% mail out response rate, I’m
pretty sure. Secondly, remember we had a bilingual form that was sent to areas that were
disproportionately Spanish-only speakers. We’ve analyzed those data. That thing worked
the way we wanted it to work. It increased the return rate in high prevalence Spanish-
speaking areas, we’re pretty sure. It’s a complicated analysis that will take longer to do,
but we’re pretty sure that thing worked the way we wanted it to.

7. We have a lot of junk on the list.” We deleted about 4.1 million cases in 2010. In 2000, we deleted
6,000,000. We like that contrast. Right? It looks the list is cleaner on the Delete side.

8. In the 2000 cycle, we were able to do reinterviews [sic] on 75% of the interviewers. 75% of the
enumerators got at least one case in their workload redone and checked. We’re essentially
at 100% now; we’re 99. something. That’s a good thing. That means we can say honestly
that a piece of every Census worker’s work was redone, independently, and checked to
see if we found any departures from training guidelines. We like that result.

9. This Vacant/Delete Check will really nail that number, but right now we stand, as of today, we found about 14.3 million vacant
homes versus 9.9 in the 2000 cycle.

10. We have about 47,000,000 households, we have about 565,000
interviewers, it looks like the number of cases that we judged as so severely mismatched
that it could’ve been a fabrication incident is less than a thousand out of those 565,000.
This is, by the way, below what we expected. And we feel good about that, because we
know we’ve sampled work from every interviewer, essentially.

11. Now, the second question is about prosecution. We are not in the prosecution game, as
you know. When there are severe, endemic, large amounts of fabrication, then that’s a
matter where we would call the Inspector General, if they weren’t aware of it already.
They do an independent investigation, and then they would make a recommendation to
the relevant U.S. attorney to prosecute or not prosecute.

12. It is feasible, as the caller noted, that we would count someone both at a soup kitchen one
day and then we would visit an encampment, or a group of people sleeping under an
overpass. When we visit them in the evening, it is very common that those people are
worried about their own safety. They protect themselves in various ways, to make sure
they’re not harmed physically. It is common that when we visit those outdoor locations,
that we can’t get the names and age and race of each individual. They say essentially,
“We don’t want to talk to you.” As a last resort, in those cases, we enumerate, we count,
Person 1, Person 2–  that’s about the best we can do.

13. ANDREA ISHAL: I’m Andrea Ishal,  …(inaudible) Reporters. I wanted to follow up on
one question that came before, and then ask one of my own. You had said that there were
1,000 cases–  was that 1,000 individuals out of 585,000, or was it a thousand cases out of
the 47,000,000.

GROVES: What I wanted to say—and we’re still doing this, so I don’t know the final
numbers—but we’re confident that it will be less than 1,000 people who, in
reinterviewing cases they did, we have judged falsified those cases. That’s 1,000 out of
565,000 roughly.

14. The number, just for talking purposes, in talking about the marginal cost
of calling on a case and doing an interview is about a $57 a household or about $25 a
person. And those are numbers that we’re still working with. We’ll refine those numbers
based on our experience as soon as we collect all the data.

15. JEFF COONER:  The second question was, you were talking about being under budget,
so I wanted to know what the budget was and what we actually spent.

GROVES:  Yea, yea. Well, again, we’re not sure on this. But we’re coming in at the
Non-Response Follow-Up stage at about 70%-75%  of the budget. We’re not through
with that yet, so we’re not able to report on that. But that’s a significant cost savings,
we’re sure. The why of those cost savings are important to note, too. Part of it is our
workload was lower than we were prepared to do. These are good things. We had less
cases than we were ready to call on; that we thought we’d have to call on. The second
thing that happened was, we’re now pretty sure, that the work of this labor force that we
engaged was just smoother. We got cases in faster than we thought. We think the
productivity was greater. I’ve noted several times that we are blessed.

16. SARA HASAID: Hi, Sara Hasaid from AFP. You mentioned that the number of cases in
which you had to appeal to a landlord or a building manager to get information was
higher this time around. Can you give me any sense of actually what those figures are and
why that might be?

GROVES: I can. And it’s roughly 21% or 22% of the 47,000,000 that we went on to
knock on the door. And if you look, it’s a bit of apples and oranges. But if you look at the
2000 rate, that was about 17%, so it’s a little higher. Did you have a second question?

[off mic]

There are a lot of different reasons. This tracks trends and surveys. For those of you who
know a little about surveys, you know it’s harder to get a hold of us than it used to be.
People are at home less frequently, for a lot of complicated reasons. These 47,000,000
households, by the way, are the households that chose not to return the mail
questionnaire. These are really busy people. And so that’s part of it. And there’s a
reluctance in that contrast between 17% and 22% that we don’t know the components of
yet. People who open the door, they’re at home, but they say, “I don’t want to do this.”
And we go back repeatedly, we send different enumerators, and as a last resort, then we’ll
ask a building manager or a neighbor.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Steve Jost says Aramanda is no longer managing Chicago LCO

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has been investigating the job history, performance, and current employment status of Joseph Aramanda, the Blago associate who somehow made the miraculous jump from pizza shop owner to Chicago Local Census Office Manager. That this man was in charge of thousands of employees and significant amounts of sensitive data should have raised red flags immediately.

But apparently the Chicago political machine was able to hush these voices until MyTwoCensus stepped in to publicize this corrupt activity and Congressman Patrick McHenry’s office subsequently launched an investigation into this man. Yesterday, Steve Jost, Associate Director for Communications of the Census Bureau, wrote to me, “Mr Aramanda is not managing the LCO and is in a non-working status pending further review.” Now, we’re wondering, is Mr. Aramanda still on the Census Bureau payroll?

According to a response I received yesterday from the Census Bureau’s FOIA office, Mr. Aramanda started work at the Census Bureau on November 2, 2009. This was 8 months after Blago was impeached and some 6 months after he was indicted. It is unacceptable that a man so closely tied to a major political scandal was approved to run the 2010 Census operations of the city of Chicago. Those who hired him should be investigated for not following proper human resources practices.

Updates/claifications on the following in the comments…

Additionally, if my memory serves me correct, the Census Bureau’s job application asks specifically if one has been involved in any political activities. Did Mr. Aramanda lie on his job application or did the Census Bureau hire a man who was widely known to be deeply involved with the Illinois political machine?

Congressman speaks about Census worker safety

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

H/t to Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post for this clip of Congressman Jim Moran:

Mississippi feels that the Census Bureau “dropped the ball” on the 2010 headcount

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Here’s the article.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Class action lawsuit should include everyone, not only minorities

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Earlier this year, MyTwoCensus informed readers about a class action lawsuit that alleges that the Census Bureau discriminates in its hiring process against individuals who have been arrested even though they were never charged with a crime. MyTwoCensus.com subsequently received many inquiries from white/Caucasian people who were not hired by the Census Bureau for this reason and hoped to join this lawsuit and were told that because they were white/Caucasian they were unable to partake in the lawsuit. MyTwoCensus.com wrote to the lawyer in charge of the suit, Adam Klein, of the firm Golden Outten in New York to determine if this was true. Unfortunately, Mr. Klein confirmed that only minorities are eligible to participate in this lawsuit. This is a travesty because this lawsuit itself is now discriminatory against any non-minority who wasn’t hired by the Census Bureau because of alleged (though unproven) misconduct. MyTwoCensus encourages Golden Outten to open this suit to everyone, because if justice is served, it should be served for all.

Is it redistricting time already? Some transparency please!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The following story comes from OMB Watch:

The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute convened an advisory board of experts and representatives of good government groups in order to articulate principles for transparent redistricting and to identify barriers to the public and communities who wish to create redistricting plans.

Redistricting is a legally and technically complex process. Access to district creation and analysis software can encourage broad participation by: being widely accessible and easy to use; providing mapping and evaluating tools that help the public to create legal redistricting plans, as well as maps identifying local communities; be accompanied by training materials to assist the public to successfully create and evaluate legal redistricting plans and define community boundaries; have publication capabilities that allow the public to examine maps in situations where there is no access to the software; and promote social networking and allow the public to compare, exchange and comment on both official and community-produced maps.