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.

Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

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

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everybody needs to be counted,” Joseph said.

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

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

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

“Everybody needs to be counted,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The $23,000 Totem Pole Debacle

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

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

This leads to many questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem.  You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event.  Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months  to promote participation in the 2010 Census.  The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000.  The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111.   We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes.  The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

I would venture a guess that the total cost for the Totem project is less than the cost burden the Census Bureau has incurred to complete the search of your list of 26 explicit profanities that might have been found in any emails regarding the 2010 Census of 10 senior staff at the Census Bureau over several years.  I understand we have found just two emails responsive to your request which refer to news accounts which happened to have one of the words on your list.

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 6:06 PM

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

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

and you are requesting the following information:

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

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

Respectfully,

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

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

More to come should this saga continue…



Sending a 2010 Census totem pole from Alaska to Washington – On your dime!

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

UPDATE: Steve Jost just wrote the following to me:

The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem.  You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event.  Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months  to promote participation in the 2010 Census.  The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000.  The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111.   We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes.  The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

Now, this must be one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about. A “totem pole” that has been created to celebrate the 2010 Census is traveling thousands of miles from Juneau, Alaska to Washington D.C. I’ve already e-mailed Steve Jost at the Census Bureau to find out some more info about the cost of this commission and the transportation of this object. Here’s the report from the Juneau Empire:

JUNEAU – For the first time in history, the 2010 Census commissioned Sitka carver Tommy Joseph to design and carve a totem pole specifically for the Census. Since its completion this spring, the totem pole has traveled throughout many communities in Southeast Alaska during the census data collection process. The totem is currently on display at Goldbelt’s Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau.

A celebration and dedication will be held as the totem begins its journey to its new home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C. All are invited to attend the celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 at the Mount Roberts Tramway. Meet the artist, enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the Children of All Nations, and join the event with other special guests.

Strange news of the day: Man threatens Census worker with bulldozer

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

This news comes from Alaska.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Fingerprinting changes are long overdue because the media failed to report on the potential problems

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

For nearly a year, MyTwoCensus.com was the only media outlet reporting about the problems that the Census Bureau faced in terms of fingerprinting the 1.4 million people who were set to work for the 2010 Census. And we continue that fight today.

In December 2009, I reported that a convicted felon in Alaska was working in a supervisory position for the Census Bureau. This was discovered only after the man killed his mother and then himself. Clearly, this incident should have made calls for improved fingerprinting procedures at the Census Bureau obvious. However, the Census Bureau maintained the status quo and did nothing — fending off my questions and ignoring my concerns.

This incident occurred two months AFTER I originally posted the flaws of the 2010 Census fingerprinting process that were written by child advocate and fingerprinting expert David Allburn, who offered solutions to the Census Bureau that were ultimately refused. Allburn wrote:

(1) The Bureau should announce that trainees are responsible for the “readability” of their own fingerprints, and that fingerprint “failure” due to un-readability (or to discovery of disqualifying criminal history), terminates the canvasser’s employment. This stops attracting ex-felons who would intentionally blur their prints, but it is manifestly unfair to honest workers whose fingerprints are blurred by the inexperienced print-takers. This is fixed by step two.

(2) The Bureau should augment its fingerprint capture by adopting part of our patented “self-capture” technique. Invented by a war veteran, the method has applicants use an extra minute or two to make their own set of “backup prints”, observed and authenticated by the print-taker. Barcoded and enclosed with the cards forwarded to the scanning center, those self-captured prints are readily available for fixing any individual print impressions found “bad.” Well tested, this gets the cards through the FBI with the same dependability as live-scanning offers, typically twenty times better than the old rubber-stamp method now in use.

Only after a handicapped woman was raped by a 2010 Census employee and a sex offender was caught going door-to-door did the Census Bureau decide to change their policies. Is that what it takes to create “change” in America?

Photo of the day: Census form’s blowing in the wind

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Apologies for being MIA for the past 36 hours, but I was traveling and now I am back to MyTwoCensus work…Here’s a great photo:

2010 CENSUS— A faded bag with a census form hangs in front of a Talkeetna cabin. Enumerators now follow up and go door to door to count residents. Photo by Diana Haecker

Too cool for the census

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I’ve already posted about NPR’s survey of hipsters who don’t complete their 2010 Census forms in Brooklyn, but this piece from the Alaska Dispatch (a citizen journalism site)  is too good not to republish here:

By Maia Nolan

Much has been made lately of Alaska’s lackluster rate of participation in the 2010 census. But it turns out there’s at least one demographic that’s significantly worse than Alaskans: Hipsters.

In the capital city of hipsterdom, the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., census participation is right around 30 percent — more than 20 percent below Alaska’s current statewide rate — according to a recent NPR report. The reason? Um, like, whatever.

“I guess it’s laziness and like, what’s the point?” a 20-something record store employee, Nate Stark, told NPR’s Scott Simon. “When it comes down to it, nobody wants to fill out like another form that’s just like getting sent to your house that really relatively has nothing to do with your life.”

Another Williamsburger, Jamie Lilly, told Simon:


“You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what’s the point to be counted if you don’t count for much anyway? If we don’t count, why be counted?”

Way deep.

Meanwhile, my fellow Alaskans, I think we’re missing an important opportunity to polish up our image. Outsiders might look at our bottom-of-the-barrel census participation rate and chalk it up to our being backwoods rednecks who can’t dig out of our mountainside snowdrifts in time to brave polar bear attacks and coastal erosion as we hike to the post office to get our census forms in the mail, or to our resentment of gummint intrusion into our gun-toting, aerial-wolf-hunting, pot-decriminalizing libertarian lifestyles. All of which just contributes to the perpetuation of the image of Alaska as a frozen wilderness outpost where people talk with Minnesota accents and only pick up a newspaper to swat away Russian spy planes rearing their heads into our airspace.

It’s time to take a clue from our retro-glasses-and-ironic-T-shirt-wearing brethren in the ‘burg. Clearly the hipsters are on to something here: We just need to come up with a really existential-sounding reason for the state’s low return rate. Like, what’s the point? We’re not too remote to participate in the census; we’re just too cool.

And if you think it’s ridiculous to imply that Alaskans have anything to learn from hipsters, keep in mind that hipsters have been taking style clues from Alaskans for years. We’ve always known that plaid shirts, bedhead and dive bars are cool; it just took them a while to catch on.

Census Bureau Press Release: Second Round of Census Forms Mailed to 40 Million Households…Targeted Mailing Reminds Residents There is Still Time to Return Questionnaires

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The following is a Census Bureau press release that just came into the inbox:

To reduce the estimated $2.7 billion cost of following up with
households that fail to mail back their 2010 Census questionnaires, the
U.S. Census Bureau has begun mailing second forms to approximately 40
million housing units in areas that had below-average response rates in the
2000 Census.

“Census Bureau and a multitude of private sector research shows that
sending a replacement questionnaire to households can significantly
increase response rates in the end,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves
said. “We estimate that the second mailing could increase America’s mail
participation rate in the 2010 Census by 7 to 10 percentage points, and
doing so would save taxpayers more than $500 million.”

According to the Census Bureau, every percentage point increase in the
national participation rate by mail saves about $85 million. It costs the
government just 42 cents in a postage paid envelope to get a questionnaire
back in the mail, but it costs taxpayers an average of $57 to count a
household that fails to mail it back.

Second questionnaires were mailed last week to every housing unit in
areas that had a mail response rate of 59 percent or less in 2000, or about
24.7 million households. The questionnaires were sent to all households,
regardless of whether they had already returned their 2010 Census form.

In areas that had response rates between 59 and 67 percent — below the
national average of 67 percent — replacement forms will be sent only to
households that have not yet mailed back their completed 2010 Census form.
These 15 million households will receive a second form April 6-10.

Households have until mid-April to mail back their forms before census
takers begin going door to door to residences that failed to respond.

“We understand that people lead busy lives and may not have gotten
around to sending back their forms yet,” Groves said. “The replacement form
gives them a second chance to get counted and help ensure that their
community gets its fair share of political representation and federal funds
over the next 10 years.”

Currently, the national mail participation rate is 60 percent, with some
of the lowest rates in Alaska, California, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
The latest national and local participation rates can be viewed at
http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map.

Consequences of the 2010 Census: Redistricting

Friday, February 26th, 2010

There are two major political consequences of the 2010 Census that this site will start to discuss on a more frequent basis. They are redistricting and (re)apportionment. That there are three articles I found today from far-reaching corners of the US that all discuss this topic is a testament to the growing discussion of these issues:

First, some historical background from Florida:

Census to alter political districts

Survey could make district lines more fair

By Abraham Aboraya | February 24, 2010

SEMINOLE COUNTY – It’s 10 simple questions with a decade of implications.

Every 10 years, as per the Constitution, the United States performs a census – a headcount and snapshot of everyone living in the U.S.

The original intent was to make sure that each state got its fair portion of people in the House of Representatives. But that was more than 200 years ago. What does the census mean these days?

The answer may surprise you, as the 2010 census could drastically change the future of politics in Florida – and in Seminole County. This is the first of two articles which will examine how a questionnaire could change the political landscape for the next 10 years, and maybe beyond.

And it all started with a Massachusetts governor in 1812.

The history

Chances are, you’ve never heard of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry. But you’ve probably heard of the term gerrymandering.

Gerry was governor during the 1812 election and was responsible for drawing the voting districts. Gerry drew one district that slithered across the state, in the shape of salamander.

Gilbert Stuart drew a cartoon for the Columbian Centinel’s March 26 issue, and editor Benjamin Russel first coined the term gerrymandering to describe the district.

The name stuck, and now when a district is drawn to keep someone elected, or to keep minorities from gaining representation, that’s what it’s called.

And in Florida, there are some strangely shaped districts.

Florida’s salamanders

In South Florida, Florida Senate District 27 touches the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico through more than 140 miles of Florida.

The seat, held by State Senator Dave Aronberg, touches parts of Palm Beach County, Hendry County, Glades County, Charlotte County and Lee County.

Take a look at Florida House District 29: It starts just off the east coast of Florida in Fellsmere and west Vero in Indian River County, snakes west of Palm Bay into Brevard County, and then reaches up like a finger through Cocoa, Port St. John and Titusville. In one area, it’s surrounded on three sides like a peninsula by House District 32.

“They’re all created in those odd configurations in order to accomplish a certain political result,” said Ellen Freidin, the campaign chair for Fair Districts Florida. “They’re all created to be a Democratic or Republican district. And that’s what we’re trying to change.”

Freidin has been working for nearly the last four years to get enough signatures together to propose two constitutional amendments. This November, Floridians will be asked to vote up or down on Amendments 5 and 6.

Both would make it a constitutional requirement that the Florida House, Florida Senate and U.S. House of Representative districts be drawn along existing city, county and water bodies, when possible.

The heart of the issue, Freidin said, is making elections more fair. Florida has some of the least competitive elections in the country.

In the last decade, only 10 members of the Florida House of Representatives and one Florida senator have been defeated as an incumbent running for re-election.

Republican Ralph Poppell has represented District 29 since the 2002 elections, the first election after the district was redrawn. Aronberg has also represented District 27 since 2002.

“Incumbents almost never lose,” Freidin said. “They’re tailor-made to have the voters in there that would want to vote for one of these people.”

What about the Census?

When the 2010 census is finished, all those Florida districts – all those salamanders – will be redrawn by the Florida Legislature.

That’s a once-in-a-decade opportunity that Fair Districts Florida didn’t want to miss.

Mike Ertel, the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, said that the salamander districts have been an issue forever.

“The whole purpose of the census, if you look at the core and its beginning, the only reason the census exists is to determine the number of people in congress,” Ertel said. “Everything else they do is an add-on to its core mission.”

Second, some discussions in Illinois to change the redistricting process:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Illinois Senate Democrats want to take the luck of the draw out of legislative and congressional district lines drawn every 10 years.

They proposed a plan Thursday that would allow a “special master” appointed by two Supreme Court justices of different political parties to draw a map in case of gridlock.

The three maps since the 1970 Constitution have been drafted by the political party whose name was drawn from a hat.

The 2010 Census will show population shifts that require new district lines. Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul (KWAH’-may RAW’-ool) says his committee’s plan would allow the Legislature first crack at map-drawing.

A Republican plan says sitting lawmakers should not be involved at all.

Voters have to approve any proposal to change the Constitution this fall.

Third, constitutional changes in Alaska:

Associated Press – February 24, 2010 9:04 PM ET

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – The measure calling for a ballot question and constitutional amendment to add 12 seats to Alaska’s 60-seat Legislature appears to be making headway.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of the measure Wednesday, while the House version gained eight cosponsors from both parties in the last two weeks.

The expansion is intended to ease redistricting after the 2010 Census count is in. Through redistricting, rural districts are expected to grow geographically while urban districts shrink to maintain roughly equal population representation. Over the years, the trend has made rural districts harder to manage. Sen. Albert Kookesh’s is the most egregious example, covering about half the state’s land area across nearly 1,000 miles.

Dr. Robert Groves vs. PETA…a battle looming?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Census Director Robert Groves’ blog on 2010.Census.Gov…for a second I thought I was reading a post from Sarah Palin:

Monday evening we had a feast of moose, caribou, and muktuk (whale skin and blubber) along with more traditional fare like turkey and dressing. The meal was followed with native dancing from villages surrounding Noorvik (some as far North as New Hope on the Northern coast). Next a band of electric and acoustic guitars, drums, and keyboard appeared, playing mainly country and western music. The musicians were the mayor, the president of the Noorvik native community, and the school principal among others. They started with an old Hank Williams tune, and played other favorites they had grown up with.

In response, Laura Lopez of PETA told MyTwoCensus, “If the Census Director wants to have fewer Americans to count, he’s headed in the right direction by feasting on a Noah’s Ark of animals. From turkey flesh to moose meat, all animal flesh is packed with saturated fat and cholesterol—so not only is meat a product of animal cruelty, it also makes people obese and unhealthy.”

Census count begins in Alaska Monday

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves will travel to Alaska Monday to begin the official tally for the 2010 Census.

Groves is slated to count the first household in Noorvik, a remote Inupiat Eskimo village located north of Arctic Circle.

The AP has some background and more details:

Monday’s single count will be the only one conducted by Groves, and the rest of Noorvik’s population will be enumerated beginning Tuesday. Census workers and trained locals are expected to take a week to interview villagers from the same 10-question forms to be mailed to most residents March 15. Census workers also will visit 217 other rural communities, all in Alaska, in the coming weeks.

Alaskans in rural communities not linked by roads have been the first people counted since the 1990 census. The unlinked communities are the places where the process is first conducted in person by census workers. The bureau makes personal visits to nonresponding residents around the country.

It’s easier to get census workers to the Alaska villages before the spring thaw brings a muddy mess, making access more difficult, said Ralph Lee, director of the bureau’s Seattle region, which oversees Alaska. Also, residents in many villages still live off the land, hunting and fishing for their food, and it’s important to reach them before they set off for fishing camps or hunting expeditions when the weather begins to warm.

Which states need to improve their Census response rates?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Census forms won’t reach homes until March, but the Census Bureau is already publicizing a three-stage advertising campaign aimed, in part, at encouraging people to fill out their forms and cooperate with Census workers.

So, in which states should the Census Bureau concentrate its efforts?

A look at the response rates from the 2000 and 1990 censuses show that, in general, the same states had low numbers in both years.

Alaska had the lowest response rate in both 2000 (56 percent) and 1999 (52 percent). South Carolina had the next-worse response rate in both years, with 58 percent in 2000 and 56 percent in 1990. (Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, had a response rate of just 53-percent in 2000).

At the other end, Iowa had the best response rate in 2000 with 76 percent, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin at 75 percent. In 1990, Wisconsin topped the list with a 77-percent response rate. Iowa and Minnesota tied for second-best at 76 percent.

The national response rate was 67 percent in 2000 and 65 in 1990. The Census Bureau is predicting a drop in the response rate, to 64 percent, for the 2010 Census.

More areas with low response rates include Washington, D.C. (60 percent in 2000, 56 percent in 1990), Louisiana (60 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990), Hawaii (60 percent in 2000, 62 percent in 1990), Vermont (60 percent in 2000, 64 percent in 1990) and Maine (61 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990).

Other states with high response rates were South Dakota (74 percent in both years), Virginia (72 percent in 2000, 70 percent in 1990), North Dakota (72 percent both years) and Ohio (72 percent in 2000, 75 percent in 1990).

This county-by-county map shows a more detailed breakdown of response rates from the 2000 Census.

Some states are already striving to improve their performance from the last count. The Herald in Rock Hill, S.C., reported that the state will have heavier marketing and outreach efforts in the 10 or 12 counties that had the lowest response rates in 2000.

“Some people just don’t understand the importance of the census,” Michael Sponhour, spokesman for the State Budget and Control Board, told the paper.

Follow up: Transcript from Robert M. Groves conference call

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

There were some technical glitches during a media conference call last week with Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves about the status of the 2010 Census.

Stephen got dropped off the call, and we wrote an editorial criticizing the Bureau’s technical problems with the conference call and failure to make a transcript available.

This afternoon, Stacy Gimbel of the Census Bureau responded in the comments to the editorial with this link to the transcript of the briefing (as a pdf).

Some highlights from the end of the call:

  • In response to a question on the economy, Groves said the recession has led to a larger applicant pool for Census workers, but the vacancy rate (due to foreclosures) means forms will be sent to addresses where no one lives.
  • According to Groves, self-identification questions (such as about ethnicity) change on almost every Census form. The Bureau wants people to write-in how they identify themselves if none of the provided options apply.
  • And some upcoming key dates: Census road tour begins Jan. 4, media kickoff event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, paid media ads start airing Jan. 18, Groves travels to Alaska for the first enumeration of a remote village on Jan. 25.

Live-blogging a conference call with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves…

Monday, December 14th, 2009

10:00 – pretty sure the census bureau dropped the ball on this one because i called back in and the line is dead…either the call is over or more likely the census bureau/call center made some sort of error…

9:55 – KNOCKED OFF THE CALL…did it go dead? my line is still working fine…come on!

9:52 – Question: Why don’t you mention single, unattached people under age 30 as a hard-to-count group?

9:31 – 134 million addresses in the USA. As of now, they are 2% points high, compared to 5% high in the 2000 address…there were more duplicates then.

9:29 – go in pairs, with escorts, in high crime areas (for census enumerators)…

9:28 – safety in america: FBI NAME-CHECK…ALL APPLICANTS UNDERGOING FINGERPRINTING…on criminal history check, any convinces for major crimes such as grand theft, child molestation…etc…”if there are convictions of less serious crimes then the applicant can be hired if they don’t pose a risk to the american public”  – With so many people OUT OF WORK who don’t have felonies, why would you hire felons????

9:26 – Over 3.8 million people are being recruited for 1.2 million through 1.4 million people. 700,000 people working for the largest operation, Non-Response Follow Up from May through July 2010.

9:21 – Complete Count Committees forming…who ensures that there is bi-partisan representation on these 9,100 committees (37 in states). But are they bipartisan and independent?

9:20 – 135,000 partner organizations with the 2010 census…here’s one who’s not a partner anymore: ACORN

9:18 – 3 large processing centers open

9:17 – Grovesy talks about the ad campaign that’s getting started. Starting enumeration in Alaska in January. In March, most of the US population receives their forms. April 1 is Census Day (and April Fools Day…ah)…people should return their forms by this day. Otherwise the door-knockers will come knock knock knocking…some talk of reapportionment. In April 2011 the state-redistricting data for local/regional races is distributed.

9:16 – Grovesy’s giving us a quick history lesson about the Census….founding fathers yadda yadda…yawn

9:15 – Dr. Groves is in da house so to speak for the second operational press briefing (shouldn’t we have more of these?)

9:15 – 2010 Census PR Man Stephen Buckner is on the line…

9:13 – We are still standing by…this hold music is now reminiscent of terrible elevator rides.

9:07 – Kind of enjoying the jazz rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer…on second thought, take as much time as you need to start this call.

9:05 – Come on Grovesy…I’m hungry for answers. (Still waiting for call to begin…)

8:59  – Call should begin shortly…

** CENSUS BUREAU MEDIA ADVISORY **

Census Bureau Director to Provide Update on
Status of 2010 Census Operations

What:         U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will brief the media on the status of 2010 Census operations. Groves will provide an assessment of the Master Address File, which serves as the source of addresses for mailing and delivering more than 130 million 2010 Census forms next March. He will also provide  updates on outreach activities and other logistical operations under way.  The briefing will include a question-and-answer session.

When:        Monday, Dec. 14, 9 – 10 a.m. (EST)

Where:        National Press Club, 13th floor
Fourth Estate Restaurant
529 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20045

Members of the media may also participate by telephone. (Please dial-in early to allow time for the operator to place you in the call.)

Letter To The Editor: Census Bureau Ignores Fingerprinting Problems And Focuses on Name Checks

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The following letter, from David Allburn of National Fingerprinting, comes in response to our recent post that features questions about why felon/presumed murderer Thom Gruenig was working in a supervisory role for the 2010 Census answered by the Census Bureau:

To The Editor:

Did you notice that your questions about FINGERPRINT comparisons were answered with statements about NAME-CHECK comparisons?

The Census Bureau made the two statements that “No criminal record was found,” and “He was not in their criminal database.” Those statements ask us to assume that he was not ANYWHERE in their criminal database, most especially not in the FBI “fingerprints” database. It is not evident at all from the investigation report you published, whether the FBI had actually compared Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints to the fingerprints of felons, no matter what the names were.  The questions to ask should have included these, for which I proposed what the carefully considered Census answers might be:

1.  ”What would normally have happened at the FBI side if Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints were determined by the FBI automated equipment to lack sufficient image quality to enable print-to-print comparison?” [Answer: A name-check is done instead, and Census relies upon that.]

2. “Is there any record entry maintained at Census or at the FBI, by them or by their contractors, that shows whether the aforementioned image quality test was passed or failed, either by a direct data description or by a reliable indirect indicator?” (…such as an indication that the fingerprint query defaulted into the name-check process by returning a TCR number.) [Answer: If a TCR is returned, that indicator is probably retained by either FBI or Census or their contractors somewhere.]

3. “If due to ‘normal procedure’ Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints may not have actually been compared with others in the FBI file, is there any process by which new prints can be taken of assured-adequate quality and re-submitted to assure AFIS acceptance and comparison?” [Answer: If Mr. Gruenig were to be booked after our background check, presumably pursuant to a new criminal allegation, his prints would likely be routinely sent by the booking law enforcement agency to the FBI for comparison, and re-sent however many times necessary to assure the fingerprint check was actually accomplished to reveal whether any previous forensic-purpose prints on file matched his.]

4. “If a disqualifying record were thereby exposed and reported, would Census have the same confidence in the fingerprint portion of its background check process as previously asserted?” [Answer: Yes, but our confidence would be higher for those prints that passed the quality check at the FBI side.]

5. “if there were a way to assure that fingerprints submitted with insufficient quality to support an actual FINGERPRINT COMPARISON did not result in a default-hire as may have occurred in the Gruenig case, and such a way could be instantly and simply incorporated into the current logistical process, is there any reason why Census would not adopt it?” [Answer: Census routinely considers all helpful proposals according to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.]

6. “Would Census reveal whether an internal investigation was done to determine if Mr. Gruenig’s prints were rejected for quality reasons, and whether or not there actually were matching prints in the FBI file after all? [Answer: The Census Bureau considers personnel records confidential and does not reveal their contents.]

7. “Would a Freedom-of-Information Act request limited to whether Mr. Gruenig’s prints got a TCR result from the FBI allow a FOIA response?” [Answer: Consult the answer to #5 above.]

8. “If it were to be revealed by other legal means that there was a TCR returned by the FBI in Mr. Gruenig’s case, and that he indeed did have matching prints on file with the FBI under a fake name different from the one he gave on his Census employment application, …. (question left to be finished by MyTwoCensus.)

Of course, the above is an interrogation, not an interview. And it may turn out that Mr. Gruenig’s prints indeed got compared with the FBI print collection and turned up with no matches. Such a result would impugn Alaska’s reporting system, not Census Bureau procedure. But such close questions is necessary when jousting with a skilled PR department that carefully chooses its words such as providing NAME-CHECK answers to FINGERPRINT-CHECK questions.

I am glad that MyTwoCensus will “soon get to the bottom of this.” Can’t wait.

David Allburn

MyTwoCensus Investigation Into Why Alaska Felon/Murderer Worked For Census Bureau In Supervisory Role

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Last week, we discovered that Thom Gruenig was a convicted felon in Alaska turned Census Bureau Supervisor turned murderer, so logically we wanted to know why in the world the Census Bureau hired him…After five days of waiting for an official response from DC headquarters, we finally got one…

Here is the official statement from the Census Bureau followed by the official answers to questions posed by MyTwoCensus.com:

“We are saddened to learn of this tragic event. Following established
procedures, Mr. Gruenig’s name and fingerprints were submitted to the FBI
for a background check and he was not in their criminal database.”

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Q:    What can you tell us about Thom Gruenig and his employment by the
Census Bureau

A:    Like all 2010 Census employees, after passing an FBI background check
based on his name, social security number and birth date, Mr. Gruenig
submitted two sets of fingerprints that were matched against the
FBI’s criminal database. No criminal record was found. Mr. Gruenig
was then hired in March 2009 as a field operations supervisor for the
Census Bureau in Fairbanks, Alaska. He worked with remote Alaska
Native villages in preparation for the 2010 Census.

Q:    Did the Census Bureau know about Mr. Gruenig’s prior criminal record?

A:    No. As with all census applicants being considered for employment,
Mr. Gruenig’s name, social security number, birth date and
fingerprints were submitted for an FBI criminal background check. He
was not in their criminal database.

Q:    Do you still have confidence in the background check system?

A:    Yes. The FBI’s National Name Check Program is considered the
preeminent investigative determination for pre-employment vetting and
background investigation.  More than 70 federal and state agencies
have confidence in the FBI’s service. The program utilizes criminal
data submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies.  Based
upon Census Bureau results gathered over the last ten years, FBI name
checks failed to identify less than half of 1% of criminal records.

Q:    What criminal activities would disqualify an applicant for Census
employment?

A:    A conviction for the offenses below will likely disqualify an
applicant for employment. However, this list is not all-inclusive;
there may be additional types of offenses for which a conviction
depending on the date, severity, and nature of the offense, may
render an individual unsuitable for hire.

·  manufacturing/sale of any controlled substance
·  breaking & entering
·  burglary
·  armed robbery
·  embezzlement
·  grand theft
·  violent crimes against person or property (includes assault,
battery, kidnapping, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, murder,
arson)
·  crimes against children
·  sexual offense (includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct,
sexual assault, rape, statutory rape)
·  weapons charge (includes carrying concealed weapon, possession of
illegal weapon, sale of firearms)
·  terrorism
·  voter fraud/voter registration crimes
·  identity theft

Q:    Approximately how many people will likely undergo background checks?

A:    For total 2010 operations, name checks will be requested for
approximately 3.8 million applicants. Ultimately, about 1.36 million
applicants who successfully pass the FBI name check will be hired and
will undergo an FBI fingerprint check.

The Naked And The Dead: Another Census Employee Tragedy

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Trooper kills armed Fairbanks man; mother found dead

911 CALL: Officers believe woman tried to get help before dying.

By JAMES HALPIN
jhalpin@adn.com

Published: November 24th, 2009 10:06 PM
Last Modified: November 25th, 2009 01:51 PM

An Alaska State Trooper shot and killed a naked, knife-wielding man at a Fairbanks home Tuesday morning after he confronted officers and refused to put down the weapon, according to troopers. Investigators later found the body of his mother inside the home lying next to a phone.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Kathryn Gruenig

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Thom Gruenig

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Troopers say the man, Thom Depace Wylie Gruenig, 38, was declared dead at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital shortly after the shooting. Found in the home was his mother, Kathryn L. Gruenig, 66, whose death was being investigated as a homicide, troopers said.

Troopers were summoned to the home off University Avenue and College Road about 7:40 a.m. after getting a 911 call during which dispatchers heard labored breathing but got no answer, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. A lone trooper, who was not immediately named, knocked on the door with medics standing by.

“The guy comes to the door, confronts the trooper and, you know, he’s naked and got a knife in his hand and the trooper backs away and tries to get him to drop the weapon,” said Col. Audie Holloway, head of the troopers. “He doesn’t. He continues to advance on the trooper and the medics, which are right there close to where the trooper’s at, and so the trooper’s forced to shoot him.”

Christine Lundberg, 58, lives across the street from the home on Hess Avenue. She said she had just taken her granddaughter to school and returned home when she saw a police car.

“Next thing we know, there’s a whole bunch of cop cars outside and then there was like a popping noise: Pop, pop, twice,” she said. “We stayed inside because there was cop cars everywhere. They had assault rifles and just running around. It was crazy.”

Lundberg said the woman and her son live in the brown home but that she didn’t know them well. Sometimes she would say hi when she saw Thom walking to the University of Alaska Fairbanks or his mother going to her car, she said.

Neighbor Dover Williams, 59, said the home has always been quiet, and the people living there kept to themselves.

“They have real tall fences around their lot and they’ve got a lot of the Siberian pea that’s grown quite tall, so you never really saw them that much at all,” Williams said.

City property records indicate the home belongs to Kathryn Gruenig, assistant to the director at UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering. Thom Gruenig was currently working as a field operations supervisor for the 2010 Census, according to a resume posted on his personal Web site. He has previously worked for the University of Alaska, his resume says.

As medics began trying to save Thom Gruenig, the trooper went inside to find out why 911 was called and found his mother, Holloway said.

Troopers’ “working theory” is that she called 911 as she was dying, he said., though he wouldn’t say how the woman died. Asked if she was stabbed to death, he said, “Not exactly.” Also unclear was why Thom was naked.

“We have no idea,” Holloway said. “We don’t know if he just happened to be that way or if he was on drugs or crazy, you know, we don’t have any clue at this point.”

Investigators found a marijuana growing operation in the lower level of the home involving about 30-40 plants. Holloway said investigators didn’t yet know if the drugs played a role in the situation.

Head Start For The 2010 Census in Alaska

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Thanks to the Anchorage Daily News for the following report:

By KYLE HOPKINS

About 640 people live in Noorvik. Give or take.

Want the exact head count? Check back next year when the Inupiat Eskimo village is expected to become the first town in America to be counted in the 2010 census.

U.S. Census Bureau officials let news of Noorvik’s preliminary selection spill during a presentation Thursday in Anchorage as the bureau prepares for months of counting households in Alaska’s remote towns and villages.

And the cities too.

The census, conducted nationwide every 10 years, isn’t just about counting people. It represents money, with the results used to determine how much Alaska gets in federal funding for Medicaid and other programs. The numbers can even cost politicians their jobs, as the state redraws voting districts after each census.

Anchorage and the Mat-Su could pick up a seat in the Legislature, for example, while Southeast Alaska stands to lose one because of population declines, said state demographer Greg Williams.

The 2000 census counted 626,900 people in Alaska, Williams said. The state estimates the population has grown by about 8.4 percent, to 679,700, as of 2008.

The latest count comes as researchers puzzle over an apparent migration from Alaska’s villages to larger towns and cities. The Aleutian Region School District, for example, plans to close a school in Nikolski in the fall because of low enrollment, according to the state Education Department.

“You can go all the way down the Alaska Peninsula and out to the Aleutian Islands, and all the districts have been declining,” said Superintendent Joe Beckford.

A recent report by the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs said the population in rural Alaska dropped by 3.6 percent between 2000 and 2008.

High fuel prices last year sparked talk of a rural exodus, but a May 2008 study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage said the trend can’t be blamed on energy costs alone.

“What makes this census particularly timely and anticipated is that there’s competing conventional wisdoms and a lot of discussion going on about what is really happening,” said Steve Colt, associate professor with the institute.

“We don’t really even know the extent and nature of migration in terms of who is moving (where), let alone why.”