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.

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MyTwoCensus Editorial: The Census Bureau PR Machine is at it again…Return rates for 2010 are not better than return rates for 2000, and here’s why

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

In mid and late March, the return rate for the 2010 Census wasn’t looking good. In fact, it appeared that return rates from the 2000 Census (that lacked this year’s multimillion-dollar ad campaign) would exceed the 2010 Census rates. In a comment posted on this blog on March 25, 2010, Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote “It is tricky business comparing 2010 to 2000 for lots of reasons…2000 had a Long Form and a Short Form. 2010 is a Short Form only Census.” This is an excellent and true point. (The long and short forms for the 2000 Census can be found HERE.)

In 2000, some 16% of decennial census questionnaires were “long form” versions of the census with more than 100 questions — many of which take a significant amount of time to answer. This year, the census is the shortest ever, with only 10 questions. However, since the public was informed that 72% of American households mailed back there 2010 Census forms, the Census Bureau has had no problem comparing apples to oranges as it praises this year’s participation rates over those from 2000. My point is clear: In the 2000 Census, approximately 20 million households received the long form.  Any statistician or communications expert will tell you that it is infinitely more difficult to convince someone to complete a 100+ question form than a 10 question form.

So when the Census Bureau claims that it has exceeded its 2000 return rates, let’s not kid ourselves: In 2010 it’s like every household has to learn first grade math, whereas in 2000, some 20 million households had to learn calculus.

Here are some screenshots from the official Census Bureau analysis of the 2000 Census Mail Return Rates to illustrate my point:

The chart above illustrates that those people receiving the long form in 2000 participated in the census at significantly lower levels than those people who received the short form.

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Investigation: Census Bureau’s lack of photo IDs for employees and use of cheap black canvas bags as “uniforms” aid scammers because impersonating a Census Bureau enumerator is all too easy

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

UPDATE: FOR THOSE WHO READ AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS PIECE, SEE THE UPDATE  PRESENTED NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.

On Sunday, I discovered an alarming piece of news from Washington state: Census Bureau polo shirts and black canvass bags were on sale at a local Goodwill store. As Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote in a blog post yesterday, “Census workers will be easily identifiable: Each will have an official government badge (identifiable by the seal of the Census Bureau) and a black canvas census bags.” This should raise red flags, because by giving out these materials (that were subsequently donated) the Census Bureau is actually enabling fraud to take place. The other way that the Census Bureau has enabled fraud to take place is by failing to give its 600,000 door-to-door workers photo IDs. In a day and age where photos can be printed instantly on an office computer, this is ridiculous. The Census Bureau’s ID cards used by these employees are flimsy and extremely easy to replicate.  Yesterday, I questioned the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office about this, and received the following DENIALS from the Census Bureau:

E-mail from Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com: It came to my attention that  polo shirts with 2010 Census logos and black 2010 Census canvas bags have appeared in thrift shops and on Ebay – presumably these were leftover partnership materials. As you said, there are two ways to identify Census workers – by their black bag and their name badge. I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, may be duped by scammers.  I have two questions: 1. Why, knowing that black canvas bags are used by enumerators, did the Census Bureau distribute black canvass bags with 2010 Census logos as partnership materials?  2. Why did the Census Bureau choose not to use photo identification for official Census workers? I worry about this because it is extremely easy for criminals to replicate the ID badges.

E-mail back from Michael C. Cook,  a Senior Marketing Specialist at the Census Bureau: A search of Ebay by Census staff found only Census 2000 shirts.  There are no 2010 enumerator bags or back packs currently on Ebay.  The child’s drawstring backpack for 2010 and the enumerator shoulder bag share nothing in common, not size, not logos, not shape, not dimensions, other than the color black.   If a member of the public is not certain of the identity of a census employee, they may ask for a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, or a phone number for the local census office to call and confirm the individual’s employment.

Now, this is truly a great way to dodge the questions I asked. Fortunately, I was also able to get Mr. Cook on the telephone and he said that the Census Bureau couldn’t make the photo IDs because “it had to do with the volume and the fact that there is a short amount of time between the time we identify the workers, to the time we hit the street — it wasn’t cost effective to take photos.” So the Census Bureau has no problem spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ads, but has no budget to authenticate its workers’ identities in picture form to protect people from scammers…

*Note: My one mistake in this investigation was not taking a screen capture of the black canvas 2010 Census bag that was being sold on EBay. For all I know, the Census Bureau Public Information Office could have purchased it in the time before they responded to my query. Nonetheless, most Americans wouldn’t know that Census Bureau employees only use black bags. And despite this, there is still a 2010 Census tote bag on EBay that the Census Bureau PR team scouring the internet failed to notice. This time, I took a screenshot:

I’m not saying that scammers even need Ebay or thrift stores to obtain these materials. In fact, the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists have handed millions of them out for free! Did you get any Census Bureau swag? If so, let us know in the comments section!

Here is a photo of the all-too-easy-to-replicate canvas bags and non-photo IDs used by actual 2010 Census enumerators:

UPDATE: A READER JUST SUBMITTED US A PHOTO OF A BLACK CENSUS BAG THAT WAS FOUND ON EBAY…IT LOOKS AMAZINGLY SIMILAR TO THE 2010 CENSUS BAG. IN FACT, I AM 99.99% CERTAIN THAT THE PERSON WHO LISTED IT ON EBAY PUT IT UP AS A CENSUS 2000 BAG IN ERROR. TO ME, IT APPEARS TO BE A 2010 CENSUS BAG…ANY RESPONSE TO THAT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE?

2010 Census Body Count: 6

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

UPDATE: Census Bureau Communications Director (aka Public Relations/Media Spin Guru) Steve Jost has tried to censor this site by posting a comment in the comments section directing me to be more sensitive with the way I describe things. As you can read in the comments section below, I will not be sensitive, I will report the truth — before any other media outlet does –  as I have done since the inception of this project.

According to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves, six employees involved in NRFU operations have been killed (presumably all in car accidents) since April 27. Is taking a 1-2 week job worth your life? Stay tuned for more details from today’s press conference…

The Associated Press reported the following:

The Census Bureau said Monday that six of its workers died in auto accidents in the past week. “When you have 600,000 people, all sorts of bad things happen,” Robert Groves, the bureau’s director, said. Two workers died Friday near Lubbock, Tex., when their vehicle was struck by a tanker truck after they apparently failed to yield at a stop sign. There was a third death in Texas, and others in California, Florida and South Carolina. In the 2000 census, 13 workers died in traffic accidents; another was fatally attacked by a dog.

Tragedy: Two 2010 Census workers killed on first day of NRFU operations in Texas

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

With more than 635,000 individuals working for the Census Bureau’s non-response follow-up operations (NRFU), there are statistically going to be some accidents that will occur in the field. However, it is tragic that one occurred on the first day of NRFU in Texas. To the Census Bureau employees who are reading this, please make sure that you wear your seatbelts, don’t become distracted while driving, and ensure that all drivers whom you ride with are competent, capable, and 100% drug/alcohol free when they are behind the wheel:

Area census workers killed in crash near Midland

By Adam D. Young | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Saturday, May 01, 2010
Story last updated at 5/1/2010 – 5:36 pm

Two South Plains residents who worked for the 2010 Census died in a two-vehicle crash Friday in Midland County.

The census workers were en route to Lubbock after visiting the census regional office in Midland when the 2003 Dodge pickup they were in failed to stop at an intersection and collided with a tractor-trailer about 12:25 p.m. Friday, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety in Midland.

The pickup’s driver, 67-year-old Merlyn David Millsap of Levelland, died Friday at Midland Memorial Hospital. His passenger, 31-year-old Sara Elizabeth Pierce of Brownfield, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the families,” Dallas-area Census spokeswoman Kimberly Murphy said in a statement Saturday. “This is a horrible tragedy for all of us.”

Millsap and Pierce had been in Midland to pick census materials to deliver to Lubbock, Murphy said in the statement. Census Bureau workers retrieved the census materials Friday from the accident scene.

Investigators said Millsap was about four miles north of Midland on State Highway 349, the newly opened Tom and Nadine Craddick Highway, when he failed to stop at a stop sign and his vehicle was hit in the side by the tractor-trailer that was traveling northwest on State Highway 158. The driver of the tractor-trailer, 40-year-old Heriberto Jaquez of Midland, Saturday was in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries at Midland Memorial Hospital.

All of the vehicles’ occupants were wearing seat belts.

Follow lubbockonline.com and read Sunday’s Avalanche-Journal for more on this story.

Census shirts for sale create a situation that makes fraud all too easy…

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

H/t to KING5.com who provided us with the first glimpse of a story that we will likely encounter at many other places in coming months. For more than a year now, MyTwoCensus has been concerned that the dinky canvass tote bags and non-photo IDs of Census Bureau employees do not serve as proper identification of government employees:

by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2010 at 11:15 PM

SHORELINE, Wash. — Thousand of U.S. Census workers will be hitting the streets starting May 1, and they’ll have a few identifying characteristics — a Department of Commerce badge and a Census messenger bag.

What they will not be wearing, for the most part, are U.S. Census T-shirts.

But Sue Mills and Laurie Sorenson were still concerned when they saw a bunch on sale for $1.99 at the Goodwill store in Shoreline.

“Laurie saw the shirts hanging on the rack, and we took a look and said, ‘Well, these shirts really should not be here,’” said Mills.

But there they were, red Census 2010 polo shirts, the label on the front, the multi-colored hand logo on back. The two found eight shirts, and ended up buying all of them for fear that “anyone could buy one and do with them what they wanted,” said Sorenson.

Or, more specifically, that anyone wearing those shirts could look official enough to gain your trust, maybe more.

“They could ask your name, your social security number, your phone number,” Mills said.

“Potentially, your personal information getting into the wrong hands,” added Sorenson.

A U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman said there is no official “uniform” for census takers – rather, they are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that will help them as they walk long distances. However, some may choose to wear Census paraphernalia.

The best way to identify an official Census worker, they said, is to look for the government-issued I.D. badge, which will have the local Census office phone number, and a messenger bag.

Any residents suspicious of the person at their door are encouraged to call the local office to verify the Census taker’s identity. A Census taker also will never ask to enter a home, nor ask any questions beyond what is on the official survey, said the bureau.

Sue and Laurie said they’re worried not everyone will know that and will take the shirts at face value.

“I don’t know where they came from, where else could they be? They could be in thrift stores all over the country,” said Mills.

KING 5 stopped by the Shoreline Goodwill and found 20 more of the printed Census shirts, as well as some Census 2010 travel bags.

But when notified, employees immediately took the items off the shelves, while a manager said she’ll send an e-mail to all the other Goodwills in the area with a picture of the shirts.

As for where the shirts came from, a Census spokesperson said they were likely promotional items shared with a local partner agency, probably left over from a marketing event, and donated with good intentions.

Non-response follow-up (NRFU) operations begin today across America

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Please share your stories and questions about NRFU in the comments section.

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

Paper-based Operations Control System failures…

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Do you have any knowledge about this? If so, please post your comments here.

Belated Earth Day Special: The Census Bureau Waste Continues (with hard evidence attached)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Last week, I planned to publish this piece, but the data from a New York area census office didn’t come in until yesterday…Check it out:

Here’s the hard evidence:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

It seems like the Census didn’t know April 22nd was Earth Day. In honor of it the printers ran non stop from morning to midnight in 494 offices across the nation printing out all the address listing pages and assignment preparation for Non Response Followup.

Cost to print NRFU Address Listing Pages of every housing unit in the United States single sided and then ship it to the National Processing Center Fed Ex Priority Overnight

Cost to print out hundreds upon thousands of maps single sided only to not even be looked at

Cost to print all the training materials on high quality printer quality paper

Cost to print all the glossy recruiting brochures, partnership posters only for them to be unopened and thrown out by the palette like this everyday (see pictures below)

–  Some food for thought. These boxes are filled with 500 brochures a piece and has been happening everyday for months and in all 494 offices everyday –

Cost to print all the Be Counted Questionnaires which were all taken back from the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers to be thrown away even though New York City wanted to extend the program by 30 days and some to count the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants.(see attached disposal list)

Cost to print all the GQV Questionnaires which we still have two palettes left. (see attached disposal list) And that is just one of the forms on the attached list to throw out…Here we go:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

Photos of materials on their way to be destroyed/recycled:



Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

We must have missed the following report when it was originally published two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to learn about these problems as MyTwoCensus.com has repeatedly criticized the Census Bureau and its contractor Diplomatic Language Services for doing a shoddy job. Thanks to the Queens Courier in New York for the following:

Slam errors in census forms

Koreans, Chinese, Latinos complain

BY VICTOR G. MIMONI
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2:06 PM EDT

Assemblymember Grace Meng says she’s “angered” over translation errors in the Korean version of 2010 census forms and communications trouble on the Census’ language hotline.

Meng is one of several lawmakers who have called on the Asian community to respond to the census forms. “We have stated over and over again that our schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, police and other services depend on the census,” she said.

But now, constituents have told her that where the English language form asks for “County,” the Korean form asks “Country;” instead of “State” the Korean form asks “Province.”

“It’s confusing. In Asia, ‘Province’ has a specific meaning,” she said, speculating that people who get stumped on a question might not mail in the form.

Meng also complained that some Chinese and Koreans in her district said that the persons on the hotline “do not speak their native language fluently.”

“Someone didn’t understand ‘House Number’ and the help line operator could only explain what ‘house’ and ‘number’ meant,” Meng recounted. “They couldn’t or wouldn’t explain that it meant the address,” she said.

Northeast Queens Census Supervisor Nan Min was distressed. “I heard about the forms – they came out of Washington months ago,” she said, powerless to do anything about it. Min explained that the toll free help number directs to the Washington, D.C. area.

“We have a local help line number – 347-783-1049 – that is staffed with people from around Flushing,” said Min, who is fluent in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

“We have speakers of at least four of the more popular Chinese dialects, Korean and other languages spoken around this area,” she added. “We’ve been working hard – we’re 10 percent ahead of the response in the last census.”

Some people, especially in the Hispanic community, have expressed confusion about questions 8 and 9, relating to “origin” and “race,” but Min explained that you can check all boxes that apply to you. “We want you to self-identify – write-in or check off what it takes to describe yourself.”

“I can’t comment on that,” regional census supervisor Patricia Valle told The Queens Courier, promising to contact the supervisors at the language hotline.

Michael Steele and the GOP – Are you kidding me? Republicans continue ‘census mailings’ despite law

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Michael Steele and the national GOP are a bunch of ignorant individuals who are completely out of touch with their party’s mainstream. Even after Congress showed strong bipartisan support for a measure to ban deceptive census mailings (now a law signed by President Obama), these idiots continue to act illegally — and they are openly defending their actions. They should be prosecuted. Eric Holder and the Justice Department, I hope you’re reading this. H/t to Ed O’Keefe for the following…and I hope that Jon Stewart creates a segment mocking this BS on The Daily Show in the near future:

The Republican National Committee believes that a new round of mailings which use the word “Census” does not violate a new law banning such deliveries.

Democrats and news organizations in Nebraska, Utah and Washington state have called out the new Republican mailings as illegal and detrimental to 2010 Census efforts.

The mailings appear to violate a law signed by President Obama on April 7 that passed with bipartisan support in both chambers. The law requires mailings with an envelope marked “Census” to state clearly the sender’s return address and provide a disclaimer that the mailing is not from the federal government.

But the RNC will keep sending such mailings regardless of the new law, according to committee spokesman Doug Heye.

“In reviewing the new law, our legal department determined such mailings are not covered. Therefore, they will continue,” Heye said in an e-mail. He would not elaborate on the legal determination.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who authored the bill, sounded incensed.

“What is with these guys?” she said in a statement. “Congress passes a law in record time, with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses, to reduce confusion about the real Census. But there they go again, trying to make a partisan buck on the Census!”

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been asked by Nebraska Democrats to weigh in on the matter. Under the old law, postal inspectors deemed such mailings legal.

Fact Check: Is the mail participation rate a valid tool for tracking responses? Not until the following questions are answered.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

On Friday, the Commerce Department released a statement, “U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today congratulated the nation for its strong participation in the 2010 Census to date, as the Census Bureau released the latest mail participation data showing that 72 percent of U.S. households have mailed back their 2010 Census forms so far — the same rate the nation achieved at the end of the mail-back period during the 2000 Census.”

But what validity does this have? None, until the Census Bureau answers the following essential questions:

What data are used to adjust the mail response rates?  Who in the Postal Service supplies these data? To meet what specifications?  What distinguishes between unoccupied housing and Census address list errors? At what level of geographic detail?  The Census Bureau has stated the “participation rate” is “fairer”?  How is fairness defined?   Does the Postal service guarantee data consistency between and among all postal delivery service areas of the country? Or, are there big differences in what is returned to Census as undeliverable based on the quality of the address list used by the Census Bureau in each postal service area ? How does the Postal service distinguish between a bad address from the Census Bureau and a vacant house?  How does any of this get calculated in dense urban areas…..especially given the statement from the Census Bureau about “fairness” (For example, it is well known that delivery methods in multi-unit urban dwellings differ dramatically from suburban, single family residences — how does the proclaimed Census 2010 ”fairness” doctrine adjust for this)? When will the mail return rates for 2010 be calculated and how will this process differ from 2000?

D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center (who covered the 2000 Census for the Washington Post) has tried to explain this process:

For the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau will use a new real-time metric, called the “mail participation rate,” to report the share of U.S. households-by state, city, county and neighborhood-that send back their completed forms. Why is this important?

The Census Bureau hopes to count every American in the coming months, but it has a hefty financial incentive to count them quickly. Census forms arrive in most home mailboxes next week. If a household sends back its postage-paid census form, the government spends less than 50 cents in mailing costs. If the completed form does not arrive back by late April, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to knock on the non-respondent’s door, which costs $57.

As part of its promotional campaign to encourage households to return their forms fast, the Census Bureau plans to release mail participation rates down to the neighborhood level each weekday, from March 22 to April 26. Knowing where the problems are could help the bureau and its partner organizations—such as local governments and community groups—steer their census-encouragement efforts to the areas that could benefit most.

The 2010 mail participation rates will be displayed daily on a recently launched Census Bureau mapping tool, where users already can see 2000 data for states, counties, cities and census tracts (neighborhood-level units of about 4,000 people). For the Bureau’s publicity campaign, the mail participation rate replaces the “mail response rate” used in the 2000 Census because, for reasons described below, officials believe the new measure will give a truer picture in places with large numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes.

Three Different Mailback Rates

The mail response rate, the mail participation rate and a third measure of response, the “mail return rate,” are calculated for areas where household residents are asked to mail back forms that were mailed to their homes or dropped off by a census worker. These areas include almost all of the nation’s more than 130 million households.

The mail response rate is an unrefined measure —the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau. It is a preliminary measure that Census officials say somewhat understates participation, though, because many forms sent out by the Bureau cannot be mailed back — for example, those sent to vacant housing units and those where census forms could not be delivered, such as non-existent or non-residential addresses. In 2000, the final national mail response rate was 67%. (The initial mail response rate, over the first few weeks, was 65%.)

The mail participation rate is a refined version of the mail response rate–the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau,  after removing from the denominator addresses where census forms are determined by the U.S. Postal Service to be “undeliverable as addressed.” Nationally, the final census mail participation rate was 72% in 2000.

The mail participation rate is intended to exclude vacant and foreclosed homes, which have grown in number as a result of the national economic downturn. The mail participation rate also may provide an improved real-time measure of participation for areas with large numbers of seasonal homes that are unoccupied on Census Day, April 1.

However, the new metric will not eliminate all sources of error. For example, if the owner of a vacant or seasonal home has a friend who picks up the mail, the form may not be returned as undeliverable. Some forms may be sent to home addresses whose occupants get their mail from postal boxes, and those forms may be returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable even though the home is occupied. These kinds of addresses will be on the Census Bureau’s to-do list, however, and census-takers would make sure they are properly accounted for during follow-up visits, according to Census Bureau officials.

The mail return rate, the most precise measure of census participation, is the number of households returning a questionnaire from mailback areas mail divided by the number of occupied housing units that received questionnaires in those areas. It cannot be calculated until the end of the census counting process. At that point, officials will use data from census-takers’ follow-up visits and other sources to total the number of occupied home addresses in areas where residents mail back their forms. Once addresses are excluded from the denominator—mainly for being unoccupied, non-residential or non-existent—the rate will rise. In 2000, the mail return rate was 78%.

Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/20/2010 09:52 AM

Subject:

PBOCS and NRFU

OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/14/2010 09:48 AM

Subject:

PBOCS

As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

fld.regional.directors@census.gov

Cc:

fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

Date:

04/08/2010 05:57 PM

Subject:

Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

    Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

—– Original Message —–
From: Barbara M LoPresti
Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
Brian,
In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
Thanks
Barbara


Chaos at Eastern Washington Census Office

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

From the Tri-Cities Herald in Washington state (which was my local newspaper when I worked the grape harvest at Pacific Rim winery):

4 census managers announce resignations

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writer

Most of the managers at the Kennewick census office quit last week, but the interim manager said the vacancies shouldn’t affect completing the local 2010 Census.

Ford Carlberg, interim local census office manager, said the office had four resignations last week. He said he couldn’t discuss it further because it is a personnel issue.

However, he said, the local office is on schedule with the 2010 Census.
Dave Donaldson of Finley, who was an assistant manager at the Kennewick office, said he, two other assistant managers and the office manager quit last week.

Donaldson, who was in law enforcement for 22 years, said he has been a supervisor before and had never experienced the lack of support and concern for employees that he did with the regional census center in Bothel.

Donaldson said he enjoyed working with the other employees at the Kennewick office, and felt like they were doing a good job. But the local office would be given last-minute changes to procedures, sometimes without enough time to implement them, he said.

The regional census center was concerned about the numbers but not about quality and doing the job right, Donaldson said.

Donaldson said he hopes the local census work isn’t negatively affected by the resignations.

Carlberg said the census has a practice of training others in the office to take up tasks if someone is unable to continue. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has regional technicians, including Carlberg, who are trained to fill in at needed positions.

Now that the deadline to return the census forms by mail has passed, officials are set to begin follow-up work in the region on May 1 with about 1,200 employees, also called enumerators, Carlberg said.

Currently, the office is hiring and training those enumerators, he said. Training likely will be during the weeks of May 3 and May 10 as the office gets a better idea of what will be needed.

“We don’t know yet what the specific workload will be,” Carlberg said.
The mail-in response rates provide an estimate, but the official data from the national processing center won’t be available until the end of the week, Carlberg said.

Benton County has a preliminary participation rate of 73 percent as of Monday with the cities of Kennewick at 70 percent, Richland at 75 percent and West Richland at 76 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Franklin County, the participation rate was 71 percent as of Monday. Pasco had a participation rate of 71 percent, which already is 2 percent more than the overall 2000 Census participation rate for the city.
The Kennewick office staff is dedicated, Carlberg said. “We will get the number right,” he said

Read more: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/04/20/983127/4-census-managers-announce-resignations.html#ixzz0liuodnsx

Anonymous Census Bureau Official: Major Nation-wide IT FAILURE at the Census Bueau

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The following piece comes to us from a Census Bureau official from the Mid-West region who has requested anonymity but has had her identity verified by MyTwoCensus.com. Her discussion of a major week-long IT systems failure has effected every Census Bureau office across the country and demonstrates how disgraceful operations are being handled (and subsequently covered up, as MyTwoCensus has requested information about this failure numerous times yet has not received any responses from the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office):

I have a problem in my local census office. The problem is 493 of those offices across the nation are having the same exact problem. You see, in November and December 2009 when I first started at the Census Bureau, one of my first assignments was assisting in a system load test known as the Decennial Application Load Test (or DALT for short). DALT simulated the conditions of every census office employee logging on at the same time across the nation and what would happen. This was my first taste of our federal tax dollars hard at work. As is typical of any large scale government program the whole system went kaput; users couldn’t log-on and applications crashed.

The Bureau’s contingency plan was to limit users and ask offices to spread out their staffing. We started to run an evening shift which meant paying night differential (an additional 10% pay) to our night employees.  One application of concern was PBOCS the Paper Based Operational Control System that was unveiled in January 2010 to complete the rest of their field operations. The system was developed after the Census decided to nix the Harris Corporation as their contractor. The PBOCS system was used to check out assignments into the field, make assignments to enumerators, check work into the office after completion and check out for shipping. In February 2009 after the two big snowstorms that hit Washington DC the same thing happened. The Bureau’s contingency plan for PBOCS was to limit users to four per local census office and remove functionality they didn’t deem was mandatory.

In the last few weeks we are experiencing many more problems as we near non-response followup the most massive operation of the decennial census. Some of PBOCS problems include but are not limited to:
* individual census reports (ICRS) from group quarters enumeration that PBOCS claims are missing for shipment.
* daily progress reports that are outdated or showing the wrong numbers
* numerous system crashes where work is lost or has to be rescanned
* wrong or missing work being selected for reinterview

At the beginning when these problems started, the RCC pointed fingers at the local census offices accusing them of not using the system or processing the work properly. However when several offices reported the same issues the blame then shifted to the software.

To further complicate things is the divide that also occurs between the local census office employees and the the regional census center and headquarters staff. The headquarters and regional census center staff are mostly career employees. The local census office employees are temporary Schedule A hourly employees. Although both are referencing the same procedures in the same manuals the local census office employees are the ones who are doing the grunt work (the enlisted men per say). The RCC and headquarters staff (the commissioned officers) manage and oversee but do not realize the difficulties and nuances because they are not out there getting their hands dirty.

The LCO employees are finding that the PBOCS system actually will not update the report numbers or sometimes show the wrong numbers. The RCC and headquarters are lead to believe if the work doesn’t show in the system as completed then it is not completed. However when the reports don’t show the quotas are being met the career census employees usually get on the phone to threaten the temporary employees and even sometimes terminating their employment.

This weekend is the third weekend PBOCS has gone offline. On Wednesday April 14 it was announced PBOCS was to go down at 8pm (actually went down about 5pm) and will not be back up until Monday morning April 19th. We are somewhat relieved to hear through the grapevine that the RCC and headquarters will be more lenient and readjust their production goals for the entire nation. However I think that much of the intimidation and harassment will occur again so that the career census employees can cover their asses and recover any of the money they were probably paying in overtime for programmers to fix this crap piece of software. This is all the while they tell the temporary employees at the LCO that overtime will be strictly prohibited.

The career employees at RCC and headquarters hold the temporary LCO employees accountable for mistakes they [RCC and headquarters] made in the ten years they had to prepare since the last decennial. But who is held accountable at the highest levels when a multi-billion dollar piece of software doesn’t work and they constantly have to fix it? I hope the Inspector General and my congressmen are reading this because PBOCS is government waste at its finest. How ironic it is happening in the nearing days of the largest operation of the decennial census.

Does this lawsuit against the Census Bureau have legitimacy? Perhaps

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

H/t to former MyTwoCensus editor Emily Babay for informing me of the following lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau for its hiring practices. The Philadelphia Inquirer brings us the following:

Phila. woman at center of census lawsuit

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Paying $17.75 an hour, U.S. Census jobs, though temporary, are attractive in an economy where unemployment is stuck at 9.7 percent. But the Census Bureau’s screening policies, designed to safeguard the public, end up discriminating against minorities, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That’s because the bureau has set up an “arbitrary barrier to employment” for any person with an arrest record, “no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job,” the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, says. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is named as the defendant.

The national suit, filed by Outten & Golden L.L.P. in New York and a coalition of public-interest organizations, seeks class-action status on behalf of those turned down for a job if they were arrested and not convicted, or convicted for an offense irrelevant to the job.

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s top priority is the safety of both our workforce and the American public,” Commerce Department spokesman Nicholas Kimball responded. “Americans must be confident that, if . . . a census taker must come to their door to count them, we’ve taken steps to ensure their safety.”

Kimball declined to comment on the suit.

One of the two lead plaintiffs, Evelyn Houser, 69, of North Philadelphia, thinks she is qualified to fill one of the 1.2 million census positions. That’s because Houser worked for the census before, in 1990.

“What’s the difference between then and now?” she asked in an interview Tuesday. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

The difference, said her lawyer, Sharon Dietrich with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, is the government’s cumbersome screening process.

Computers kick back any application with an arrest record, requiring more documentation, but the Census Bureau doesn’t make it clear what documentation is required, Dietrich said.

The discrimination occurs because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans exceed those of whites, the suit says. Compounding the problem, it says, is that one in three arrests do not lead to prosecution or conviction, yet the bureau’s system does not readily distinguish between arrests and convictions.

“The processes are screening out any kind of criminal case, no matter what,” Dietrich said.

“If you were arrested years ago for a minor offense, you are asked to comply with the same burdensome process as if you had been released from jail last week after committing a murder,” she said,

Plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Miller, of Outten & Golden, estimates that as many as one million applicants may have been caught up in the process, with tens of thousands unfairly deterred or excluded from employment.

In 1981, Houser was a 39-year-old mother raising four children on welfare and food stamps. Her monthly check was several days away, but she was out of food when, going outside to take out the trash, she found a check next to the Dumpster.

“I went home and told my kids, ‘God sent me a piece of paper that says we’re going to eat tonight.’ ”

Houser shouldn’t have done it, but she tried to cash the check. She was arrested. Instead of being convicted, she was placed in alternative rehabilitation program. Her record remains clean, Dietrich said.

In 1990, Houser got a job with the census. Last year, she decided to apply again and passed a qualifying test.

A month or so later, the Census Bureau sent her a letter, asking her for documentation. The way she read it, her fingerprints would suffice, so she had them taken and sent them in the next day.

The bureau rejected her because, it said, she hadn’t sent the right documentation. Dietrich called the bureau’s communications confusing.

Since then, Houser has been involved in a long appeals process, which culminated in the filing of the suit.

Houser, who lives in subsidized housing, estimated that 25 percent of her working-age neighbors are unemployed. They are “just existing,” she said. “It’s just survival.”

She’s helping her neighbors find a path to employment, Houser said. “I’m a little gray-haired old lady and I’m trying to lead them in a better way.”

Fact-Checking Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves: Are assisted living facilities group quarters?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Yesterday, a reader pointed out to me an inconsistency from the transcript of Dr. Robert M. Groves’ most recent press conference. Dr. Groves said, “And then finally group quarters, another category of folks who don’t receive forms in the mail. These are areas that are like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, dormitories, barracks, and so on.” The reader suggested that assisted living facilities are not considered group quarters, and each resident receives and completes his/her own census forms.

This is actually a complex issue that is not black and white. A Census Bureau official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “If a nursing home has independent or assisted living units then those are considered housing units and they will receive a census form in the mail. The units associated with the skilled nursing unit or nursing unit are group quarters and will be enumerated during the operation Groves speaks about.” So, in short, those people in independent housing units will receive their own forms, and thus, Groves inaccurately characterized the status of assisted living facilities at his press conference.

Transcript from Tuesday’s Press conference…

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Note my questions near the bottom of the first page, and further note how they weren’t clearly answered…(My questions discussed allegations made by Census Bureau employees about QACs…)

STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good morning, everyone. I’m with the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’d like to welcome everybody joining us on the telephone today, and also here at the National Press Club. Today, Dr. Groves, the Director of the Census Bureau, is going to be talking about mailing back your form. We have five days left to get your form back in the mail. He’s also going to be providing a brief overview of operations since our last operational press briefing on the 22nd of March where we launched the Take Ten Program, challenging local areas to mail back your form and beat your participation rate from the 2000 census. We’re off to a good start, and Dr. Groves will touch base on that.

In your press kit, you’ll see a variety of materials on the topics of today’s operational press briefing. Online, they’re also available under the news conference page for those listening and online. We will have a Q&A session following the Director’s comments, and we’ll try to alternate between the telephone and those here in the room. With that, I will give you Dr. Robert Groves. Thank you.

DR. ROBERT GROVES: Great, thank you, Stephen. Thanks a lot for coming today. This is an operational update, but really the headline of today’s briefing is that we have five days left for the over 120 million households around the country to mail back their form. And by that we mean if you get your form in the mail by April 16th, this Friday, there’s a much, much, much lower probability that anyone will come to your door to do follow-up work in the later phases of the census.

Today, this week, we begin a week of transitions. The transition is moving from this massive phase that we call the mail out/mail back phase where people fill out their census by mail, to one where we begin to hire a large number of people who will go out throughout the country, knocking on doors of houses and taking the questionnaire information in a personal interview.

I want to end with remarks on that, but I want to begin, really, by doing a quick update of recent operations. And in a word, things are going quite well. I guess that’s two words, quite well. Let me run through the things we’ve done. We have finished three operations that are notable that are complicated and are now in the hopper. The update leave operation, by that we mean in areas where postal delivery is not reliable, where many people have postal boxes, and also in those areas where in the, say for example the gulf coast where the housing unit stock is actually changing quite rapidly, we drop off questionnaires. We completed that on April 2nd, the dropped off questionnaires are being mailed back now at great rates. This operation is complete, it was on schedule and under budget.

We also finished, today we will finish, a count of people living in transitory locations. By that we mean RV parks, campgrounds, hotels, motels, marinas, circuses, carnivals throughout the country. We’ve completed that work on schedule, we’re happy to say. And then in a complicated operation called service based enumeration. We reached out and counted people who are affected by various types of homelessness. We counted people in shelters, soup kitchens, at regular stops of mobile food vans, outdoor locations and a variety of other places, about 65,000 locations throughout the country. This, as you might imagine, is a complicated one and we’re happy that we did that on time and with safety, relative safety, of all our enumerators and the people counted.

We had a problem in the New York/Boston area. You might remember there were torrential rains around the time we were doing this. We had to postpone one day to finish that work there.

Then I want to note two operations that we’re right in the middle of because they’re relevant to some folks who haven’t received forms because we do the enumeration in different ways. We don’t mail out forms to different areas. Ongoing right now is an operation called Update Enumerate. By that, we mean we go out with census takers and house by house do interviews with people in those areas. These are areas like the remote parts of Maine, certainly parts of Alaska, American Indian reservations, disproportionately, a lot of areas with seasonal housing. And the settlements called colonias on the border of Texas and Mexico are handled this way. It’s about 1.4 million households that we’ll visit in this way. We’re about 38 percent through with that operation. We’re way ahead of schedule on that, so that’s going well.

And then finally group quarters, another category of folks who don’t receive forms in the mail. These are areas that are like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, dormitories, barracks, and so on. We’re in the middle of that operation. We’re about 22 percent complete, that’s on schedule. That’s going to go through May 21st. That’s ongoing now. So for people in those situations, they should not have received the mail questionnaire, and indeed we’re reaching out to them and doing the measurement in different ways.

As of Friday, I’m happy to note, if you’ve been following this on the website, 65 percent of American households we’d estimate have returned the forms. This is over 77 million households in the country who have completed the short form and mailed it back. We’re going to post an update today at 4:00 on our website. If you’ve been following that, that will make that number be higher, no doubt. It is notable, if you look at those data, that there are states that are above 70 percent at this point already, 10 states have that status. It includes large states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. When we started this operation, the states in the upper middle west dominated the early returns. That’s mainly because they received those questionnaires by hand using our census takers to drop off questionnaires at their houses. Now you see states, other states, catching up that received them by mail.

It is interesting to note that on April 8th, South Carolina as a state, surpassed its entire 2000 census performance. And today, both North Carolina and South Carolina have beaten their own 2000 participation rate. So that’s a notable and noteworthy event, I think. Kentucky is really close, this could happen today for Kentucky. We have hundreds of jurisdictions around the country who have beaten their 2000 participation rate already, and to all of them we salute you for your civic participation and we hope you’ll be joined by hundreds of others in a matter of days.

We remain focused on return rates, participation rates in large cities, in some rural areas. The large cities pose interesting problems to sample surveys and censuses. They are low this decade, as they were last decade. Notable is New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and a set of others. You can go to our website and see this. In fact, if you look at this map here, the colors we love to see on this map over here are those that are yellow, orange and red. And the colors we don’t particularly like to see are those blues. You can see the Texas/Mexico border as an area that is challenging for us. You can see the middle of the state, or the middle of the country with those higher than average performances.

We are focused on all of these areas. We are looking at this daily through a variety of statistical models and intense scrutiny of partnership and other activities. We’ve made changes in our advertising to have much more targeted advertising into the areas and into the subgroups that look like they’re responding at a lower rate.

I want to turn to an issue that you in the media could help us get the word out on, and that is those people who didn’t receive a form, what should they do at this point? And we have a variety of reasons that that might have happened. You might be living in one of those areas where census takers are coming to your door right now over the next few days and weeks. You might have a post office box where you receive your mail, rather than having your mail delivered to your home. You might be in a house newly built that was added just recently and we tried to get about two million of those kind of cases into the mail stream. You may have just received a form, but you may not have gotten it yet.

For all of those people who have not received a form, we have a very simple thing you can do, two alternatives. First, you can call our telephone assistance center, and these numbers are posted right here. The English number is 1-866-872-6868. And starting today, you can call between eight a.m. and nine p.m. local time every day, every day of the week. And there are numbers for different languages and for the hearing impaired.

And starting today, you can take the interview right on the phone. You can answer your census questions right on the phone. It’s the simplest thing you can do. You supply the address where you’re living, and you answer the questionnaire over the phone. Alternatively if you wish, you can go to over 40,000 sites around the country that are questionnaire assistance centers or labeled Be Counted sites. How do you know where they are? You can call these same numbers to find out where they are. You can go to our website, 2010census.gov, and find where the questionnaire assistance centers are. And there, you can pick up what we call a Be Counted form. You supply your address information and fill out the form that looks very similar to the mail out form.

We want to make it as easy as possible for those who haven’t received the form to get it. This is a massive operation, going to over 134 million households. Missing a few households is something that happens every census, and we want to make sure that you have an easy way to get a hold of the form.

But in closing, I want to turn to the most important message. We are counting down the days, the clock is ticking, and we are asking you, if you have a form sitting in your home that you haven’t filled out yet, to take a few minutes to fill it out and mail it back. If you can mail this form back by Friday, April 16th, the odds that someone will come to your house to follow up and ask census questions are much lower. Each passing day makes that likelihood higher. We would love to avoid sending census takers to large numbers of households around the country. And the easiest way for those of you who have a form sitting in your house to avoid that is to fill out the form and mail it back.

I remind us that for every one percent of the households that do that, we save us taxpayers $85 million nationally, a very large sum of money, for a very small act on your part. Taking it down to the personal level, if you fill this form out and mail it back, it costs us taxpayers 42 cents. If you don’t, it costs us taxpayers about $60 to send someone out and take the information in person.

This is a moment, these last few days, where our over 225,000 partners throughout the country and social and political leaders need to come together and get the word out that we are ticking away the clock to return these forms. This is the moment where we can all come together. Ask your neighbors if you filled out your form whether they filled out their form. Pass the word that we have just a few more days left, and this will be a much cheaper census if we can do that.

Starting at about the third week of April, we will begin to build the large files that will identify the addresses that our interviewers will have to go out and call on case by case. We will begin that work on May 1. It will continue through July 10th, and we will have other briefings on that large operation that we call non response follow-up. But this moment, at this time, the message is very clear. If you have a form sitting in your home and you haven’t turned it back, you haven’t returned a form at all, now is the time to fill it out and mail it back. Thank you very much, I’m happy to take questions. Carol?

CAROL MORELLO: Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on?

MR. BUCKNER: Just one second. So as we start our Q&A process, we’ll start here in the room. Please state your name, organize, and your question. Wait for the mic, and then we’ll jump to the telephone as well. First up, Carol Morello, question posed?

CAROL MORELLO: Hi, could you talk a little bit about what you think is going on in the blue states primarily, or blue sections, primarily in the south and the west? How does it compare to 2000 at this point, and how much do you think maybe politically motivated by people who resent the questions being asked?

DR. GROVES: Some of those rural areas that are in blue are traditionally what we call hard to enumerate areas. So you might first ask, so why is that? The challenge of rural areas is both that the kind of– first of all, these are based on either what we call update leave– these are the houses– the blue areas you’re looking at are houses where they have a questionnaire, either by mail delivery or dropped off. In some of those areas, we know we’re actually going to do enumeration, direct enumeration. They don’t even have a mail questionnaire yet. But rural areas pose difficulties, both in making sure we get all the areas. And then the other challenge, I think, in rural areas is that the impact of media that we use is more dispersed. If you think about it in an urban area, there are local media that we can use and local partnership activities that we can stimulate to get communities involved in the census. That kind of organization’s a little tougher in rural areas.

At the same time, in some of those areas, there are language impediments. The Texas/Mexico border, a whole lot of those areas got a bilingual questionnaire, but not all of the areas, and that’s an impediment. So, these are not surprises. If you looked at the 2000 census, or the 1990 census, this is a fact that is replicated over censuses.

CAROL MORELLO: So what impact do you think that politically the opposition to the census has had?

DR. GROVES: Actually, this is a topic of press commentary right now. And the City University of New York has just done an analysis that’s kind of interesting. We’ve done our own analyses. We can’t find empirical support for that, but I can tell you no one has the right data. We can look at the characteristics of counties that are returning the questionnaire at different rates. We see no evidence that some counties that may have voted in one way are lower than other counties. But we actually don’t know individual level attributes of people returning the form or not returning the form.

I can say one other thing, and that is the rate of forms that are being delivered with partial completes that force us to actually go back, they’re so incomplete that we have to go back and call on people’s houses, those are within or below the kind of tolerances we expected from our prior studies. So, we don’t see the evidence there for the impact of that on behaviors.

MR. BUCKNER: Carol, I’m going to have to go to the telephone here and then I’ll come back. All right, on the telephone, I believe we have a question? Please state your name and organization?

STEPHEN ROBERT MORSE: This is Stephen Robert Morse at mytwocensus.com. I have a couple of questions about the questionnaire assistance centers operation. Today, I posted an article on my website that was written by an assistance center employee that suggests that not all of the QACs are listed on the census bureau’s website. And it also suggests that all the organizations and corporations that are listed partners are not necessarily cooperating and working with QACs as they– and are not necessarily partners anymore. Please talk about this?

DR. GROVES: I don’t know anything about the second question. The first question, we’re doing the best we can at getting the questionnaire assistance centers posted on the web and updated. This is a big challenge for us because they’re, as you know, these 40,000 units are moving around cities for different days and different hours. But we’re doing our best on that. (more…)

Let’s hope Eric Erickson’s dumb comments don’t inspire more people using shotguns near Census Bureau employees…

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The following incident took place in March in Northern Idaho. MyTwoCensus.com believes that this incident should be considered more than a misdemeanor in the eye of the law, as it was directed at a federal employee who was working at the time. CNN commentator Eric Erickson’s heinous words mirror this incident in a strange yet shocking way.

H/t to the CDA Press for this:

A St. Maries man was cited for firing his shotgun near a U.S. Census worker who was trying to deliver the man his questionnaire in March.

Richard L. Powell, 54, faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for exhibition of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor offense.

The census worker alleges he was trying to deliver Powell the population-counting questionnaire on the afternoon of March 3, when Powell told the worker to get off his property at 396 Powell Road near St. Maries, according to the Benewah County Prosecutor’s Office.

Powell then went into his residence and returned with a shotgun, and fired the gun in the air, the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office said.

The census worker waited a few days before reporting the alleged crime to the sheriff’s office, and Powell was cited a week after the alleged incident.

Powell did not return a message left by The Press seeking comment Friday.

His pretrial conference is 9 a.m. April 26 at the Benewah County Courthouse.

Census Bureau Officials: The Questionnaire Assistance Center and “Be Counted” site debacles

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Update from the authors in response to comments: The QAC Representative’s duty station is the QAC site so they are not paid for mileage to and from the QAC site. For field staff their duty station is their home so they are paid milage to and from training (enumerators, crew leaders and field operations supervisors, partnership assistants and recruiting assistants) If they exceed eight hours a day in training the rest of the hours go into overtime. However if they are under 40 hours a week whether they receive overtime rate pay is not known.

A group of Census Bureau officials who have requested anonymity (but have had their identities verified by MyTwoCensus.com) shared the following report with us about Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted sites:

We are a team of recruiting assistants partnership assistants, clerks and questionnaire assistance center representatives who worked with the Questionnaire Assistance Centers and pooled together our resources to write you this article. We hope this article will answer many of the questions communities have about the Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) and Be Counted (BC) sites.

As you know Questionnaire Assistance Centers or QACs are places staffed by Census Bureau employees where people with a question about filling out their census form, need language assistance or believe they were not counted on their own household form can pick up a form. The only difference between QACs and BCs is that BC sites are not staffed. The intention is good but a series of poor management mistakes, lack of communication and prioritizing quantity over quality undermined the operation and will ultimately lead to an under count in the New York region.

In other regions partnership works with the local census offices but in our region they work out of the regional census center and independent of the local offices. The search for QAC and BC sites was a partnership task, however the management and staffing of these sites is done at the local census office by the Assistant Manager for Quality Assurance (AMQA). For months though, the local census office never interacted with partnership. Sometime early this year the local census offices discovered that there would not be enough QAC and BC sites and so the recruiting assistants were told to go out and in addition to recruiting applicants find potential QAC and BC sites.

At the local census office level all anyone was worried about was getting the “magic number of QAC sites” and in a mad scramble there was no regard to quality. There was little guidance given as to what would be a good QAC. Of course most community based organizations loved the idea of being a QAC because it was beneficial to the community they served. But most of these QACs were during weekday hours and some were little known organizations with no foot traffic. The big corporate giants such as chain banks who were census partners were the worst. They are featured on the 2010 Census website  as being census partners but when it came time to ask them to be a QAC they flat out refused.

In the third week of February all the local offices were told they needed to get all partners who agreed to be a QAC site confirmed by signing a conditions for donation of services and space agreement. When local census office employees went out to visit these places who had originally agreed to be a QAC some refused to sign the contract. Those who refused to sign the agreement did so because of a clause that basically says the Census Bureau retains their right to sue the partner if they do anything to screw Uncle Sam. Other partners denied knowing they agreed to be a Questionnaire Assistance Center. Many of the partners listed in the Integrated Partnership Contact Database (IPCD) which partnership used to keep track of their partners were either phantom or ones where partnership merely went to a networking event and took business cards. When crunch time came the new directive was we could accept verbal agreements and forget about the contract. Of course that lowered our legitimacy considering we had ID badges with no pictures.

The training was even worse. The QACs are staffed by census bureau employees who are trained for one day (see attached training schedule). But considering that there is two hours of administrative paperwork and an hour of fingerprinting the actual training is a half day. Many of the trainers rushed the training because they didn’t want to go into overtime. The employees are paid the overtime rate if training goes over eight hours in a single day even if you are under forty hours for the entire week.

The 2010 Census website www.2010.census.gov pulls the QAC sites’ location and hours from the Integrated Partnership Contact Database (IPCD) which is an off the shelf piece of sales management software from salesforce.com. On March 19th, the first day the QAC and BC sites were scheduled to open, the 2010 Census Website didn’t even feature all the sites, the wrong sites or the wrong hours. The following Monday headquarters pulled the website offline.

The QACs are open on average about 15 hours a week but a lot of us wanted more hours because we were paid at the clerk rate, the lowest level of LCO pay. For some of us during the first week we were sitting at places where there was either no foot traffic or the line was out the door and around the block.

In summary, the QAC/BC operation is another example of Census Bureau dumb decision number 7485840, 7485841 and so forth. 7485840: prioritizing quantity over quality of QAC sites
7485841: training QAC representatives for less than a day
7485842: using an off the shelf piece of sales management software which was overly complicated
7485843: having partnership working independently of the local census office
7485844: an agreement that tells your partner you will not waive your right to sue them

They could of done this with fewer sites and better hours. It is extremely hard to manage almost a hundred QAC sites. Some of our QACs were understaffed, some have no traffic, others are not staffed when they should be. As for partnership, they are held to no performance standards. The regional director and top managers in our region accepts what headquarters tells them to do, puppets of a huge bureaucracy and does little to advocate the special needs of the region.

When the 2010 Census ends and the Census Bureau advertises the thousands of nationwide partners that helped them by donating space and services it should be taken with a grain of salt. Most of the partners in the Integrated Partnership Contact Database aren’t really partners and even if they are they now want to back out knowing that Uncle Sam will not hold them harmless and sue them if they screw them.