During address canvassing operations in Fall 2009, MyTwoCensus learned that individuals were flown from North Carolina to New York and from Georgia to Florida to assist with 2010 Census operations. In the midst of the recession, when unemployment was ridiculously high and people could be hired very easily in ANY part of the USA, the Census Bureau felt it necessary to pay the travel costs, hotel expenses, per diem, salaries, and food costs of workers who were not working where they lived. MyTwoCensus has received anonymous tips that this wasteful practice is still taking place. Please let us know in the comments section if you know where and when this has occurred. Thanks!
Posts Tagged ‘Address Canvassing’
UPDATE: The Inspector General’s report is available HERE.
Though we are yet to obtain a hard copy of the Inspector General’s report that will be released within the next two hours that details how the Census Bureau went massively over budget during the address canvassing phase of the decennial census, we believe that Census Bureau employees should be held accountable. Without making false accusations, here is a list of names of people who, according to the positions they hold at the Census Bureau , should be held accountable and punished — meaning demoted or fired – for this waste (in order of culpability from worst offenders to more moderate offenders…):
1. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR DECENNIAL CENSUS – ARNOLD A. JACKSON
2. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR ACS AND DECENNIAL CENSUS – DANIEL H. WEINBERG
3. COMPTROLLER - ANDREW H. MOXAM
4. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR FIELD OPERATIONS – MARILIA A. MATOS
5. HUMAN RESOURCES CHIEF - TYRA DENT SMITH
6. TECHNOLOGIES MANAGEMENT OFFICE CHIEF – BARBARA M. LOPRESTI
7. FIELD CHIEF – BRIAN MONAGHAN
And while these deputies and senior Census Bureau employees are responsible for their actions, they answer directly to three men: Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Mesenbourg, and Associate Director For Communications Steve Jost, who are in that order, the three top dogs so to speak at the Census Bureau. Perhaps the man who is most to blame for the widespread failures is Mr. Mesenbourg, who served as Acting Director of the Census Bureau for more than a year before Dr. Groves was installed in office. Mesenbourg continues to oversee an agency filled with miserable and inexcusable performance results, yet he has done little to enact change. Nonetheless, neither Dr. Groves nor Steve Jost should be let slide for these actions. While both of them consistently discuss looking toward the future, they can’t seem to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess that was present at the Census Bureau when they arrived. To play on Shakespeare’s words, “There’s Something Rotten In Suitland!”
Throughout the ongoing “address canvassing” in preparation for the 2010 Census, the lives of the 140,000 field employees who took part in this operation were oftentimes put in jeopardy. In acts that are just as dangerous as using cell phones or writing text messages while driving, these workers were forced to look at the small screens of their handheld computers, commonly known as HHCs (the ones manufactured by Harris Corp. as part of the $600 million debacle that will likely be talked about for decades as one of the most pathetic partnerships of the U.S. Government with private industry) to find and mark addresses while driving. There is only one word to describe this situation: DANGEROUS.
Not only can driver distraction harm the employees, but it also has the potential to harm individuals, animals, and property in the vicinity of the distracted drivers. If the handheld computers had been built with a speaker that shouted directions (like any consumer GPS device), the employees would not be in this perilous situation.
It shocks the MyTwoCensus team that no individual from the Census Bureau or Harris Corp. ever considered the safety of the people who must operate these devices. Given that many 2010 Census employees are senior citizens, tasking them to drive while operating a computer is a recipe for disaster.
Update: The Census Bureau does its best to discourage employees from driving while using the HHCs, but these rules are not always followed in local offices throughout the country.
Note: Please e-mail MyTwoCensus @ MyTwoCensus.com if you are aware of any situations where car accidents or other unnecessarily dangerous situations have resulted from driver distraction due to the use of the Harris Corp’s handheld computers. MyTwoCensus has already heard reports of employees involved in fatal car accidents, and we are hoping to investigate whether the HHC played a role in these deaths.
Update: We understand that many of our readers are hoping to find out more information about the FedEx-gate Scandal. We will be holding our next post on this issue until tomorrow morning as we are currently fact-checking new major allegations.
Earlier today, Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post reported, “the House lawmaker charged with overseeing the Census has expressed some early, if only vague concerns about how Census workers have performed their address canvassing duties, or the national inventory of every place of residence.
“While I’m very pleased that Address Canvassing has gone well for the most part, it’s too early to declare the operation a complete success because there are still some unanswered questions,” Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said in a statement yesterday. “The Commerce Department Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have both expressed concern about some listers not following procedures for Address Canvassing and some shortcomings in quality control measures.” A spokesman would not elaborate.”‘
Below, please find a press release that echoes many of the issues that MyTwoCensus has previously reported about employment and unemployment figures not adding up. Apparently at least one member of Congress (Patrick McHenry) has caught on…
McHenry: Is the Administration erroneously counting census jobs?
|WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, issued the following query regarding Obama Administration officials’ claims that the stimulus package will “save or create” 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days.
“As hiring for the 2010 Census continues, the American people ought to know whether the Obama Administration is attempting to include the thousands of temporary and part-time census workers in their count of 600,000 jobs ‘saved or created.’
“Including census workers would be disingenuous at best. First, the Obama Administration didn’t invent the census; these are positions which are created every ten years, regardless of who occupies the White House.
“Furthermore, attempting to combine these part-time and temporary jobs to count them as full-time positions is not an accurate picture of the nature of the work. As many families struggling to make ends meet with a series of part-time jobs can tell you, two part-time jobs does not equal one full-time job.
“I hope the Administration will be forthcoming about whether these temporary positions, which would have been created regardless of stimulus spending, are included in their jobs count.”
Note: The 2010 Decennial Census is expected to result in 200,000 hires in 2009, which the Office of Management and Budget scores as the equivalent of 17,197 full-time positions. In 2010, the Census Bureau will hire an estimated 700,000 workers, the equivalent of 105,391 full-time positions.
Here is a first-person account (written by a highly qualified Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity) submitted to us about the Harris Corp’s handheld computers that have been used in the field by the Census Bureau’s address canvassers during the first stage of 2010 Census operations:
I’d say the biggest bug in the handhelds was due to the government trying to assure privacy. They had the handhelds set up to hide information from us after we entered it. So after declaring a street or an area “done,” the computer hid that information so we couldn’t go back to check, or to compare or verify our work. (So, we learned to avoid marking things “done” until we were absolutely sure we wouldn’t need to check back.)
The handhelds provided an advantage, in that they served to level the information-recording playing field amongst the canvassers. When the GPS was working (which was 99% of the time for me, the only time I had a bad signal was in a very wooded area), it made it quite easy to “map-spot” all the residences, and those spots will be used by USPS workers when delivering the census. Remember that in addition to the easy, obvious residences, there are plenty of residences that aren’t so evident. Cabins at the end of dirt roads, where people live there but have no mailboxes in favor of a PO Box. Trailers parked in driveways with separate families renting space. Rental apartments in the back-rooms of businesses or the basements of libraries. Our handhelds let us map all those places, and made it possible for everyone’s map-spotting to be equivalent. If we had been doing pencil-and-paper mapping, each canvasser’s information would have been different, because each would just be guessing where on the map each house was. Since we all had the same GPS technology, we’re guaranteed to be mapping residences at the same quality level. Also, by using the GPS/handheld technology, we probably cut our work time down by 3/4.
So I definitely think adding the handhelds was a good idea, it’s just too bad they implemented it poorly via a custom-contractor.
There’s no doubt that it’s Census Season.
In the past few weeks, MyTwoCensus staff have spotted multiple address canvassers on their foot patrols across the San Francisco Bay Area, the home of MyTwoCensus’ West Coast staff.
In one case, photographed above, we spotted an address canvasser walking the hilly streets of Potrero Hill, a residential San Francisco neighborhood. As the garage door opened and a curious homeowner approached, the canvasser promptly announced his presence, and his purpose.
The homeowner, curiosity apparently satisfied, let the canvasser return to his work.
With the billions of dollars being spent on this Census, we’re thrilled to say that the canvassers we’ve seen working in person have been diligent and focused on the task at hand: Verifying every single address on every one of the 3,794,066 square miles in the country.
Is this the norm? Have you seen address canvassers in the wild? Are you one yourself? Share your story, photos or thoughts by emailing us at mytwocensus ( at ) mytwocensus.com
By Reynolds Farley, Ph.D.
I worked as a crew leader for address canvassing from March 23 to May 7. Reflecting the economy, five of the 18 members of my crew had post bachelor’s degrees. Several had given up lower-paying jobs to canvass for the Census Bureau. All had been told that they would have six to eight weeks of work. Canvassing took place from April 17 through May 6.
Our area was a rural one with numerous lakes and isolated homesteads not visible from unpaved roads. In many places, dirt roads lacked names, homes lacked numbers and residents claimed that the post office did not deliver their mail. The vehicles of three canvassers became stuck in mud. Maps on the hand-held computers bore no more than a remote relationship to what we found. Quite often we came upon an array of a dozen or two mailboxes sitting side-by-side at the end of a dirt lane. Some had numbers, some did not. Then there would be a dozen or two homes scattered about a lake, an estuary or a river front. Matching numbers with residences was extremely time consuming, if possible.
Address canvassing went well from April 17 through May 1. Our local census office was located in a suburban area adjoining a major metropolis. Officials there appeared to be unfamiliar with canvassing in a remote rural area. We were told that our district was the only one in the local census office not completed by the week-end of May 2.
Rather than letting us work for another week to finish the job competently, canvassers from urban areas were sent to our area in great numbers and at considerable cost. There appeared to be no interest at all in quality control. The emphasis was solely upon completing the canvassing before an arbitrary deadline.
The canvassers who started with this crew believed they would be employed for six to eight weeks worked three weeks at most. I suspect that the very many new canvassers who were sent in to complete the area had little, if any, familiarity with the rural area where we worked.For my entire career, I have used U.S. Census data in my teaching and research. The area we canvassed is one in which no address list could be complete and accurate. The canvassers working with me were serious and cautious. Two-thirds of the area was competently canvassed. One-third of the 29,000 address lines were canvassed in extreme haste implying that several hundred housing units may not receive a questionnaire when they are mailed next March 17. I hope that this emphasis upon speed rather than quality was a rare happening.
I had the good fortune of working with many excellent an dedicated canvassers in this brief period and a very competent Field Operations Supervision. I am, however, less sure about the dedication of some higher level local census office administrators to the important issues of minimizing undercount in the 2010 Census by getting an excellent address list.
Dr. Reynolds Farley is Professor Emeritus at the Population Studies Center and Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan, where he served as Chairman of the Sociology Department. Dr. Farley’s research interests concern population trends in the United States, focusing on racial differences, ethnicity, and urban structure. A recognized leader among social scientists who study race relations in the United States, Reynolds Farley is among the top echelon of social demographers, a leading authority on the demography of African Americans, and a penetrating and creative analyst of racial and ethnic relations over the past 40 years. His pioneering studies of the causes and implications of massive and continuing racial segregation have enlightened the national discourse on social policies concerning families, welfare, health and education. His current work includes an investigation of the residential consequences of revitalization in the Rust Belt. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and first worked for the Census Bureau in 1962.
We urge all of our readers to take a close look at the Inspector General’s most recent reports about the 2010 Census (located here: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Follow—OIG-19636-01 [PDF] Report). This report details many significant failures of the Census Bureau’s recent address canvassing operations that were brushed aside by Acting Census Director Tom Mesenbourg at today’s 2010 Census hearing in Philadelphia. Here are the major problems discussed in the report:
During address canvassing field observations, we found that some Census listers were not
consistently following the procedures in their instruction manual. In several cases we observed
listers skipping the procedure for knocking on doors. In at least one case a crew leader ignored
portions of the verbatim training and instead instructed listers to omit this procedure. We
received several additional reports from listers who were specifically told by their crew leader to
omit this procedure. Further, we observed listers map-spotting addresses from their cars when
they were instructed to collect a map spot at or near the main entrance of a structure—usually the front door.
Despite instructions to traverse every road in an assignment area, some listers we observed
completely skipped roads in rural areas when they assumed no houses existed on the road.
Address canvassing in rural areas can be difficult as tree cover and other conditions can visually
obscure structures. Road conditions also can pose significant challenges: for example, rough
terrain may necessitate four-wheel-drive vehicles, and some roads may only lead to fields or
barns, or may dead-end at a physical feature such as a river. Nonetheless, canvassing these areas is essential to accurately locate rural living quarters.
OIG staff observed address canvassing in 15 different locales in 5 of the 12 Census regions. We
identified the failure of listers to conform to address listing and map-spotting procedures in 7
different locales representing all 5 regions. We also received independent information on the
same problems for 2 locales not associated with our sample. Although our observations were not conducted on a statistically drawn sample and therefore cannot be considered representative of the entire operation, the widespread nature of the problem is noteworthy.
A number of factors may be contributing to this breakdown in procedures. Skipping procedures
reduces the time it takes to conduct address canvassing. We have received reports from Census
field staff that they are under intense pressure to complete their assignments within a limited
time frame and to minimize or avoid overtime. Some are concerned they may face termination if they miss deadlines or work unauthorized overtime. Production pressure may therefore be one cause for this breakdown, but Census needs to determine why these problems are occurring.
Failure to follow procedures negatively impacts the quality of the address list, map spots, and the subsequent enumeration. Living quarters that are not included on the address list have a greater probability of not receiving a decennial questionnaire and thus not having their residents counted. Address canvassing is the primary means for identifying “hidden” dwellings, such as sheds and makeshift garage apartments, but the likelihood of missing such living quarters increases if the lister does not attempt the required personal contact. Because of smaller populations, missing a single living quarters in a rural area has a greater impact on the quality of final census population counts.
Failure of listers to correctly use the handheld’s GPS capability—a key component of Census’s
nearly $800 million field data collection automation contract—jeopardizes Census’s ability to
ensure that living quarters are recorded within the correct census block. This accuracy is
particularly important for redrawing congressional and state legislative districts.
The Census is depending on its address canvassing quality control operation to identify and correct errors resulting from listers’ not following procedures. We are therefore expanding the number and breadth of our field observations to focus on this quality control operation, particularly in rural areas. Given the problems we have identified, we are concerned that Census has not completed its contingency plan for improving list quality in the event that the results of address canvassing are found to be deficient.
These shortcuts have cost impacts as well. Quality control operations may take longer to
complete and cost more than anticipated since improperly listed addresses that are identified or
deleted must be recanvassed. Inaccurate map spots can increase the time it takes for enumerators to find their assignments during enumeration and nonresponse follow-up operations and add to their chances of getting lost and enumerating the wrong housing unit or group quarters.
Inaccurately located rural living quarters may have a greater cost impact on subsequent census
operations, as locating and driving to these potentially remote units requires greater effort than
doing so in urban or suburban areas.
Note: We have added a new permanent link on the right side of this site that will take you to the Inspector General’s most recent reviews of Census Bureau activities.
12:57 – 25 people at this meeting…poor turnout…90% work for the Census Bureau…Sen. Carper not here…will it start on time?
1:04 – Sen. Carper doing introductions…he shook my hand and introduced himself earlier.
1:05 – Sen. Carper discussing stats about 1.4 million Americans working for Census Bureau (largest peacetime hiring effort)
1:06 - 6 million people missed in 2000 count. 1.3 million people counted twice.
1:07 – Hispanics miscounted 4 times as often as whites in 2000 says Carper
1:08 – Mayor Nutter going to speak…he’s in a rush and has to leave in 10 min.
1:10 – Michael Nutter says Philly will lose $2,300 per person not counted in 2010 Census
1:12 – Challenges for Philly: Locating households, encouraging people to return their forms…accurate address listings from US Postal service very important.
1:13 – Nutter: Master list doesn’t have 56,000 addresses that Philly City Gvnt reviewed and updated for Postal Service
1:15 – Nutter: Afro-Americans disproportionately represented in economically disadvantaged and Latinos in linguistically challenged areas
1:15 – Linguistic issues must be addressed by Census Bureau. INS and deportation issues must be addressed.
1:16 – improve response rate: 1. issue exec order 2. city-wide campaign 3. establish multicultural network
1:17 – Only through raising public consciousness that we can make this work – Nutter says his office will help out.
1:17 – Nutter leaves, Sen. Carper thanks Nutter
1:18- 3 minute video will be shown now…forgot my popcorn
1:19 – This is the same propaganda video stuff that’s available on YouTube on the Census Bureau’s channel…but informative!
1:21 – Still awake, still here…they’re playing sentimental “a photograph, a portrait of hopes and dreams” theme song…is Sen. Carper shedding a tear?
1:23 – De. Congressman Castle talking…discussing differences between allocating $ based on population rather than earmarks and pork legislation etc.
1:26 – Boring Del. Congressman Castle talking about why people don’t respond…this is called preaching to the choir, everyone here works for the Census Bureau
1:30 – Now Mayor Baker of Wilmington is speaking…making jokes, got no laughs
1:33 – 50% of Wilmington residents live in rented homes…this=bigger problems for counting.
1:34 – Mayor Baker thinks door to door messaging is important…like political campaigns.
1:36 – They make Joe Biden jokes about talking off the cuff…
1:37 – Baker says, “Who cares what Rush Limbaugh and FoxNews think” now that they’re in the minority…
1:38 – Baker makes more jokes and finishes his statement. Back to Sen. Carper…
1:39 – Philadelphia Managing Director Camille Cates Barnett is speaking…really sad story about her: http://www.kyw1060.com/pages/1430697.php?
1:40 – Barnett: Census data helps draw City Council districts…she cites 2007 Brookings study – $377 billion allocated based on 2010 Census
1:41 – Barnett: For every person we miss counting, $2,263 in funding lost…
1:44 – Barnett whips out 1 page strategic plan for Philly census…
1:45 – Add 75,000 residents in the next 5-10 years=Goal for City of Philly
1:46 – Since 2000 Philly has added 22,000 converted housing units…56,000 additional addressees have been handed over to Census Bureau from Philly.
1:48 – Economic downturn=people get displaced…complicates counting process.
1:49 – Only 23% of AfroAmerican Philadelphians have high school diplomas and 13% have college degrees.
1:52- Barnett repeats every single thing Mayor Nutter already said…eyelids shutting…
1:53 – Barnett finished with positive message…back to Sen. Tom Carper
1:55 – Carper asks Barnett what she learned from 1990 and 2000 Census.
1:56 – Barnett says major issue in previous Census operations=accurately ensuring population growth is properly recorded
1:59 – Congressman Castle talking about working with clergy…he references US Marshalls getting ministers to have criminals confess.
2:01 – Castle asks if clergy can be of help to get people out…Barnett talks about faith-based groups for outreach.
2:03 – Congressman Castle asks how landlords can help w/ Census. He admits he doesn’t know the legality of this.
2:05 – yadda yadda yadda – hopefully MyTwoCensus gets to ask some HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS. EVERYONE is falling asleep (woman next to me)
2:13- Carper’s aide just passed him a note…he’s now ending with Barnett and Baker…maybe abruptly ending mtg?
2:16 – New panel now on the Dais — Tom Mesoundbourg (acting Census Director) speaking…invoking founding fathers. Also on the Dais now: - Pat Coulter, Executive Director, Philadelphia Urban League
- Norman Bristol-Colon, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, State of Pennsylvania
- Wanda M. Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware
2:20 – Mesounbourg LIES! he says operations are going smoothly and address canvassing in philly almost done! – (THE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT FROM MAY 09 DISAGREES) READ THE MOST RECENT UPDATE: http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/
2:25: Mesounbourg concludes “Our operations are not intended to count many of us, they are intended to count all of us.”
2:26 – Norman Bristol Colon now talking…he has a heavy Latino accent…hard to understand!
2:27 – More Puerto Ricans living in USA than in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
2:30 – Colon urges Census Bureau to have a plan to count undocumented and documented residents in the same way and counts EVERYONE.
2:31 – Colon insists that Census data remains private and is not released to the INS or other immigration officials.
2:33 – This is pretty much turning into a pro-immigration rally…Colon passionately speaking…only 20 people remain in the room here.
2:34 – Colon says that redistricting will help Latino populations so they can have more representation in gvnt.
2:36 – Colon finished speaking…now hearing from Pat Coulter, head of Urban League Philly – Urban League and Census Bureau have worked together since 1970.
2:37 – Coulter just quoted Dick Polman, my journalism Professor at Penn!
2:38 – Here’s the article Coulter quoted from: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/americandebate/Head_counts_and_head_cases.html
2:42 – Coulter finished speaking, now last but not least, Wanda Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware
2:46 – Wanda Lopez is very well spoken, but unfortunately no new information added.
2:49 – Congressman Castle asking questions then “calling it a day” as Sen. Carper put it.
2:53 – Congressman Castle asks if celebrities can do public announcements to promote the Census…Director Mesenbourg says the Bureau is pursuing this.
2:54 – Mesenbourg says a PR firm has been hired to do this…which firm is this? Coulter mentions Oprah as possible spokeswoman.
2:55 – Wanda Lopez suggests using local radio in addition to ads on Univision.
2:56 – Castle thanks panel. Carper ending mtg. now…NO HARD-HITTING ISSUES ADDRESSED!
2:57 – Carper says President and First Lady and possibly Sasha and Malia could be used to promote 2010 Census…Wondering: Will they be counted in Chicago or DC?
2:58 – Carper acknowledges problems with handheld computers and asks Mesenbourg to weigh in on correction of problems.
2:59 – Mesenbourg: Handheld only used for address canvassing NOT the non-response follow-up operation in May 2010. Too risky to do that he says
3:01 – 8 million addresses given to Census Bureau from state/local gvnts says Mesenbourg
3:02 – “introduced risk mitigation strategies” – aka 5 different strategies to reduce risk for address canvassing…
3:03 – Mesenbourg says in this economy only 12% of hired applicants didnt show up once they were hired.
3:03 – This explains why we are so far aheadin our address canvassing operation…”highly skilled work force” enables us to finish operation earlier than planned.
3:04 – Carper addresses the Inspector General’s report from earlier to Mesenbourg about failures that we mentioned earlier (top article on http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/)
3:05 – Mesenbourg acknowledges that in 6 out of 15 locations that Inspector General visited, the Census Bureau employees were not following orders.
3:06 – Mesenbourg deflects the criticism that Carper addressed — saying that all employees received a text message on their handhelds to follow procedures more closely.
3:08 – Sen. Carper asks more hard-hitting questions (finally)! Impressed that he addressed these issues, though not satisfied w/ responses…
3:13 – Closing statements from Castle and Carper before they “call it a day.”
3:14 – Carper quotes Richard Nixon: “The only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything.”
3:15 – Carper says his office was originally worried about lack of technology used in this headcount, but his fears have now been alleviated.
3:17 – Carper thanks everyone who joined us and Census Bureau staff. Carper quotes Lamar Alexander “hearings should be called talkings.”
The following memo was leaked to us by a Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity, so we crossed out all identifying information. We particularly love the line “Don’t be a chatterbox.” We haven’t witnessed a pep talk written with as much vigor as this one since last season’s finale of Friday Night Lights…
We’re waiting for an update to see if anyone got canned as a result of the Inspector General’s visit to this office, but for now, here’s the dirt:
Subject: RE: The Inspector General – - Some Things to Inspect
As you all know by now, the Inspector General will be visiting your office Monday morning for an entire week. They are to observe the office and may ask to receive general reports to review. Please be courteous to them. They are in no way to obstruct Address Canvassing activities for any reason. If you are not sure how to handle a particular situation in dealing with the IG, please talk to XXXXXXXX or myself before committing yourself to an action or verbal statement. The IG comes off as very nice people and they are but there job is too find out what is WE’RE NOT doing correctly. It has come down that they have actually baited listers and office staff into doing wrong procedures. They will say things like” I just don’t add that entry it’s no big deal” or say “Oh just skip that house and go to the next”. This is how people in other offices and regions got dinged.
Trust me when I say the XXXXXXXX region is counting on XXXXX to come through for us. Your report from the IG will go straight to Washington, DC, Suitland, and all the other 12 regions. Here’s what you should do:
1. make sure you and your staff know all the procedures for their area and have the manuals handy.
2. Certain basic questions staff should be able to answer and be able to reference the manual(s) on what they are saying.
3. If you don’t know something, say I will get back to you on that and do it quickly.
4. Only tell them what they are asking for., Don’t get wordy with them be courteous and respectful but don’t be a chatter box.
5. Field staff have got to make sure they are following all procedures and not taking short cuts even when baited.
XXXXXXXX, they are going to come directly to the QC area because this is where all the crazy things have been happening with people in the field. make sure your well versed in your manual and that listers know to knock on every door and not skip houses.
I know you all will do fine and make the rest of the region proud.
Good luck to you all !!
XXXXXXX, Regional Census Center
By Laura Mansnerus
Well, the census job in Philadelphia is over. They hired way too many of us. We finished a couple months ahead of schedule. They trained people for a week so that they could work for two weeks. We all miss the paychecks we thought we’d have. The Census Bureau goofed. Does Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke know this? Probably not.
My census job was a total accident. This winter, I was on hiatus from my career in the dying newspaper industry, having left my job to take a fellowship that, of course, came to an end. When I regained consciousness, the whole publishing industry was staggering toward a cliff. Uh-oh.
In January, I was prowling on Craigslist — and the Census Bureau was recruiting for the address canvassing phase of the 2010 Census: Work 20 to 40 hours a week for 10 to 12 weeks.
And before long I was a “crew leader,” hired at $19.25 an hour to supervise canvassers, known as listers, who would be verifying every address in my district of Philadelphia. All over the nation, listers would be updating maps and address lists so the bureau would know where to send questionnaires for the 2010 Census. Fine.
I loved the prospect of spending springtime on the streets while putting off a hideous job search. Moreover, I tend to believe that the public sector does important things, even though I once worked for the E.P.A., one of the worst government agencies known to mankind. The census is a worthy undertaking. The Constitution told us to do it! So I walked into this job with a pretty sunny outlook.
The crew leaders started in March. We were told we’d be working into June. The official deadline for the address canvassing operation, I learned later, is early July.
In my chunk of Philadelphia, seven of us crew leaders were trained the first week, and the next week we trained assistant crew leaders. The third week, each of us would train about 15 listers. Then we would parcel out “assignment areas,” or AA’s, smaller districts with 300 or so addresses each, to the listers.
My supervisor, Ian Hemphill, said we would be all working all-out, full-time and furiously, because the Philadelphia region was behind schedule. It took me a week and a half to start wondering about this. The crew leaders and assistants had already knocked out a few assignment areas. Even fumbling with the balky software on our little hand-held computers, you could finish an AA in a day. My district had 90 AA’s left to assign. I’d have 15 listers.
“Ian, am I missing something?” I asked him when he called a meeting of the crew leaders. “I have 90 AA’s left, and they’re sending me 15 listers. That’s 6 per lister.”
“Oh, ho, I think your math is a little off there,” Ian said.
“Wellllll, I have 90 AA’s, divided by 15, and that’s 6.”
“Let’s get our terms straight here. Six per what? Six per day? Per week?”
Another crew leader, a quiet young guy headed for graduate school, entered the conversation: “SIX … for … the … rest … of … the … entire … operation.”
We could finish the whole thing in a week. Given some slow listers and half-functioning computers, it would take two weeks. But Ian was not persuaded. We all went home.
Wait, I said to myself. The Census Bureau was about to screw a bunch of barely employed people. They had been told they would work until June. They wouldn’t. Worse, this is the agency charged with sophisticated demographic analyses for government and business throughout the nation — no, the world — and with 10 years’ planning time the people running it didn’t know how long it takes x listers to verify y addresses? I had a supervisor who couldn’t divide 90 by 15?
I went to Google News. All around the country, newspapers were running friendly features as address canvassing started in their communities. The Census Bureau, as many of these reporters had copied from its press releases, hired 140,000 people to verify 145 million addresses. Ooops. So they were doing this everywhere. They hired one person for each 1,000 addresses. In Philadelphia they had hired one per 2,000 or so addresses. How long could that take?
The next week, while our listers were chewing through AA’s, Ian trained a second wave of listers who would serve (if needed) as replacements. Meanwhile, we were encouraged to fire people wherever possible. I did not fire anyone. I got two more listers. I got 19 in all, though one was fired because he had failed the security check. (When the local Census authorities learned this, he was already on the job — your federal security clearance dollars at work! — so I had to confiscate his computer and badge immediately while we were out on the street. But that’s another story…)
They people who were hired were top scorers on the same test I had taken. Some had not worked for months and were hugely relieved to have jobs, any jobs. They took their mission very, very seriously. We got lost in discussions about how to treat houses that appeared to be abandoned or buildings that might be divided into illegal apartments, even though our supervisors did not want us to spend much time on concerns like this.
The listers were in their second week on the job when the AA’s dried up. My big crew leader map was plastered with check marks. The listers had put in their first full day on April 3, and most were on their last AA’s when the crew leaders were summoned to headquarters on April 15. The assistant manager for field operations, a mild sort named Wayne Wolfgang, who seemed to be trying to do the right thing, announced, “There’s rumors out there that we’re running out of work.” Not true, he said. “We have a lot of opportunities to move people around. We still have work for everybody.”
Since the crew leaders had been instructed not to open our mouths at this meeting, we didn’t. The office manager distributed a memo from the regional director, Fernando Armstrong, stressing the importance of meeting deadlines. Attached was a warning about driving safely, and anticipating hazards like black ice and moose. We were supposed to pass these out to our listers. And we did! You’re out of work, but if you had any, you should watch for moose on Washington Avenue!
Ian wanted us crew leaders to tell people, “We will find you work.” I ventured, “I’m telling them, ‘we might find you more work.’” Ian got mad. “No! We WILL find you work!”
Nothing materialized, though. Listers who needed to reopen their unemployment claims asked if the Census Bureau would provide letters to certify that they were out of work. No, The Census Bureau wouldn’t do such things.
Many people had passed up other temp jobs or even quit jobs to take jobs with the Census Bureau. “What am I going to do?” said one middle-aged woman whose other job was passing out samples at a liquor store a few hours a week. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, six or seven times. She gave me phone numbers of a couple market research firms that convened focus groups.
Others just wandered away. A few called or visited the office to deliver a piece of their minds. This was to be avoided at all costs. Keep them away from us, the last text message from Ian said. It also said, “Congratulate Listers [sic] on a quick accomplishment of their mission. Stress the positive. Stress the value of a period of federal employment with the possibility of recommendations.”
Today was my last day. I turned in the equipment I’d gathered up from listers, and on the way out of the office I saw Wayne Wolfgang. I asked him a question: “Why did the Census Bureau hire 20 people, including me, to do 97 AA’s?”
“Well, that was the number he was given by headquarters,” he said.
There was no mistake. We finished early. So what?
Wolfgang, apparently looking for congratulations until the end, said, “Did it ever occur to you that we’re efficient?”
“No,” I said.
Laura Mansnerus was an editor and staff reporter at The New York Times for 22 years. She was a 2007 Soros media justice fellow. She is also a no-longer-practicing lawyer.
Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.