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 ‘Associated Press’

The Census Bureau’s options for the 2010 Census form were inadequate

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

As the Associated Press has demonstrated, more than 1 in 14 Americans (21.7 million people) had to hand-write their race into the low-tech census form because the choices on the Census Bureau’s form weren’t adequate to cover America’s growing and diversifying population.

“More than 21.7 million — at least 1 in 14 — went beyond the standard labels and wrote in such terms as ‘Arab,’ ”Haitian,’ ”Mexican,’ and ‘multiracial.’”

Associated Press: Detained immigrants may help bring in census money

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This news got drowned out yesterday but it’s prety important and interesting:

TACOMA, Wash. – Paulo Sergio Alfaro-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant being held at a detention center in Washington state, had no idea that the federal government would count him in the census.

No one gave him a census form. No one told him his information would be culled from the center’s records.

But counted he was, along with other illegal immigrants facing deportation in detention centers across the country — about 30,000 people on any given day, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.

By the time the census delivers the total tallies to the state and federal government, most of the immigrants will be long gone. But because the population snapshot determines the allocation of federal dollars, those in custody could help bring money to the towns, cities and counties in Texas, Arizona, Washington and Georgia where the country’s biggest and newest facilities are located.

“I think the irony, if there’s any irony, is that the locality is what’s going to benefit, because you have a detention center in a particular city where people have been brought from different parts of the region, and that community will benefit,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, an organization that has pushed Latinos to participate in the census.

This census brings a twist, though. For the first time, states have the option of counting people in detention centers and prisons as residents of their last address before they’re detained, worrying some local lawmakers who say cities and counties that host detention centers could lose money.

“Detention centers and prisons should probably count where they are located, that’s where resources would be required,” Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, D-Georgia wrote in a May letter to the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the census. Bishop represents Stewart County, Georgia, population 4,600, where the nation’s largest detention center housed a total of 14,000 people between April 2007 and March 2008. (more…)

Inspector General’s report on the 2010 Census to be released later today…Here’s a sneak peak from the AP

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General’s report that will soon be publicly available may shed some light on major cost overruns at the Census Bureau. The AP obtained a copy on Wednesday, and here’s what they said about it:

WASHINGTON — A new audit questions whether the 2010 census can stick to its $15 billion budget because of computer problems that are forcing substantial overtime work.

The report from the Commerce Department inspector general’s office was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. It says glitches with the computer system used to manage the door-to-door count caused a 40-hour backlog of work over two weeks.

The report notes that the Census Bureau has already notched more than $1.6 million in overtime costs, and says continuing shutdowns could put the count’s accuracy at risk if census data can’t be put into the system immediately.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves says he believes the agency will stay within its budget.

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE AP: Audit finds 2010 Census preparations wasted millions

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
H/t to Hope Yen and the Associated Press for the following piece. Of course we are already trying to obtain this complete document to find out the details of exactly what happened…but at the same time, none of this should come as a shock since we’ve been reporting on many examples of blatant waste at the Census Bureau for the past year…
UPDATE: This report from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office is now available to the public HERE.

By HOPE YEN (AP) –

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs.

Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press.

On a positive note, investigators backed the Census Bureau’s decision to spend $133 million on its advertising campaign, saying it was appropriate to boost public awareness. The spending included a $2.5 million Super Bowl spot that some Republicans had criticized as wasteful.

The findings by Todd Zinser, the Commerce Department’s inspector general, highlight the difficult balancing act for the Census Bureau as it takes on the Herculean task of manually counting the nation’s 300 million residents amid a backdrop of record levels of government debt.

Because the population count, done every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and billions in federal aid, many states are pushing for all-out government efforts in outreach since there is little margin for error — particularly for Democratic-leaning minorities and the poor, who tend to be undercounted. At the same time, the national headcount will employ 1 million temporary workers and is the most expensive ever, making it a visible sign of rising government spending.

The federal hiring has been widely touted by the government as providing a lift to the nation’s sagging employment rate — but investigators found it also had waste.

The audit, scheduled to be released next week, examined the Census Bureau’s address-canvassing operation last fall, in which 140,000 temporary workers walked block by block to update the government’s mailing lists and maps.

While the project finished ahead of schedule, Census director Robert Groves in October acknowledged the costs had ballooned $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. He cited faulty assumptions in the bureau’s cost estimates.

Among the waste found by investigators:

_More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.

_Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.

_Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.

_Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.

Census regional offices that had mileage costs exceeding their planned budgets included Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City and Seattle.

Most of the nation will receive census forms in mid-March, and the Census Bureau is asking residents to return them by April. For those who fail to respond, the government will dispatch some 700,000 temporary workers to visit homes in May.

In response to cost overruns, Groves has said he would work to prevent expenses from ballooning further and reevaluate budget estimates for the entire census operation. He has made clear his goal of returning tens of millions of dollars to government coffers by motivating more U.S. residents to mail in their form, which avoids costly follow-up visits by census takers.

As to the Super Bowl ads, Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the $2.5 million purchase, which included two 30-second pregame spots, on-air mentions and a 30-second ad during the third-quarter.

The ads, featuring Ed Begley Jr. humorously extolling a new project called a “Snapshot of America,” was widely panned as weak and ineffective by media critics.

“There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues,” blogged Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both marketing professors at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The inspector general’s report said the census advertising was consistent with the government’s goals of boosting participation in the count. The agency has said that if 1 percent of Super Bowl viewers change their minds and mail in their form, it will save taxpayers $25 million to $30 million in follow-up costs.

MyTwoCensus Investigation and Editorial: Census Bureau Employee Murdered!

Friday, September 25th, 2009

As was reported here and across the news media yesterday by the Associated Press, Bill Sparkman, a Census Bureau field worker in Kentucky, was murdered on September 12 with the word “fed” scrawled into his chest. Unfortunately, the MyTwoCensus team can’t be in rural Kentucky at this time to investigate this matter on the ground, but that doesn’t mean that we are not using all available resources to determine what happened.

10 Questions that MyTwoCensus Hopes To Answer ASAP

10. If Bill Sparkman’s body was found on September 12, why did it take 11 days for this story to come to the media’s attention?

9. Why was it the Associated Press that broke the story rather than local news sources? (Did the police and FBI fail to report this incident to the press?)

8. Why was Bill Sparkman working alone?

7. If the Harris Corp. Handheld Computers (HHCs) functioned properly, is there a GPS record of his last known wherabouts? (Is it possible to mine data from Bill Sparkman’s handheld computer and the Census Bureau’s data network to determine Mr. Sparkman’s duties on the day he was murdered?)

6. Noting that this incident took place in a rural area, would such an incident have occurred if Sprint, the network that the Census Bureau contracted to handle telecommunications, functioned properly in rural areas, allowing Bill Sparkman to call for help when he was in trouble?

5. How did Sparkman’s body make its way to the forest? If his vehicle was nearby at the time of his death, why couldn’t he escape?

4. Where were Mr. Sparkman’s supervisors when he didn’t complete his tasks on time?

3. Did the Kentucky State Police and FBI fail to properly investigate this incident?

2. Is there a violent movement brewing in America against Census Bureau employees or was this an isolated incident? (Were any threats made against Census Bureau employees prior to this incident? If so, were ALL EMPLOYEES warned of possible dangers?)

1. Who committed this horrific act?

Today, the Louisville Courier-Journal provided some updates on the story that could be of interest:

Police said the area has a history of drug trouble, including methamphetamine trafficking and marijuana growing in its forested valleys between steep hills and ridges.

“That part of the county, it has its ups and downs. We’ll get a lot of complaints of drug activity,” said Manchester Police Chief Jeff Culver.

He added that officers last month rounded up 40 drug suspects, mostly dealers, and made several more arrests in subsequent days.

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, said Clay County is impoverished and has a “pretty wild history of a black market economy, a drug economy.”

No Change In Census Position On Missionaries: Utah Loses Again

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

UPDATE: More solid reporting on this issue is available in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Back in June I wrote, “In America’s last decennial headcount, Utah was 800 citizens short of gaining a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. One major factor: Many Mormons from Utah spend time overseas as missionaries and weren’t counted in the 2000 Census.” Well, as the AP just reported, “The U.S. Census Bureau has told Utah’s elected leaders it won’t count Mormon missionaries serving overseas in the nation’s next head count.”

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Census Bureau has told Utah’s elected leaders it won’t count Mormon missionaries serving overseas in the nation’s next head count.

Census Bureau officials, rejecting Utah’s lobbying efforts for the better part of a decade, say there’s no way to reliably count the overseas missionaries.

Utah leaders say the omission cost the state an extra congressional seat in 2000, when the state fell just 857 people short of receiving the last available slot in the U.S. House.

The Census Bureau does count military and federal employees serving overseas, and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, says it should include Mormons on proselytizing missions.

“The bottom line should still be fairness and accuracy,” Bishop said. “If we are currently counting some people abroad and not others, there is just no logic to that whatsoever.”

An experiment in counting Americans abroad in 2004 turned into a “colossal failure,” said Louis Kincannon, a former Census Bureau director under President Bill Clinton. Few Americans responded to an outreach program in three sample countries — Mexico, France and Kuwait.

A government consulting firm, Election Data Services, estimates that 6 million Americans are living overseas. But federal officials say there’s no dependable way to track down citizens who move around and may not want to be found because they don’t want to pay U.S. taxes.

A review by the Government Accountability Office found that counting Americans overseas is impractical, and it suggested the Census Bureau abandon the effort. The bureau says overseas counts produce erratic results that could distort state-by-state counts.

Census officials said that if Congress wants them to count all citizens overseas, it will have to enact legislation making it a requirement.

Utah sued the Census Bureau in 2001 in an attempt to get the military count thrown out, saying it unfairly benefited North Carolina, which claimed the 435th House seat a year earlier largely because of the state’s military bases, such as the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Utah’s claims and ruled the Census Bureau enjoys wide discretion on counting.

Census worker prepares for 6th, and last count

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

We thank the Associated Press for bringing us this story:

CHICAGO (AP) — Stan Moore remembers when the U.S. Census count involved punching paper cards for each household. That was just before the 1960 count, when the nation’s population was around 170 million and he was one of the few men of color working for the Census Bureau.

Since those days, Moore has tabulated five population counts with ever-changing technologies, tracked diversifying communities and watched the U.S. population swell to over 300 million.

Now, as the federal agency’s longest-serving employee, Moore is gearing up for his sixth and final tally: the 2010 Census.

“This has been my life,” said the impeccably dressed man who is the bureau’s regional director in Chicago, sitting at his office table covered with color-coded maps.

Working for 11 presidents and being an organizer of the Census for more than five decades has given Moore a front-row seat to history.

His first official assignment came in 1960 when he joined the Census to help program a computer that weighed eight tons and was the size of a one-car garage. He has been at the forefront of helping create a national digital database that maps neighborhoods, and has overseen the implementation of GPS-equipped handheld computers carried by census workers.

Official Census counts, mandated by the Constitution, are used to determine how billions in federal funds are distributed and how congressional districts are drawn.

“If you need good schools, health care or transportation in your community, all that money is based on Census figures,” Moore said. “If you’re not cooperating, another city will have a good living standard where your city won’t.”

Since he became a regional director in 1976, Moore has pushed for a community-first approach.

In his early days, Census workers used phone books to get addresses and then walked streets to verify them.

“We missed a lot of addresses in those days,” he said.

Moore met with post office officials to develop a more efficient process.

Then he met with mayors, clergymen and school leaders, making sure each understood the stakes of not participating in the Census.

Those informal meetings led to what the agency now calls the Complete Count Committee, groups that are crucial to ensuring the operations of the Census — mapping households, confirming addresses, mailing forms and going door-knocking when the forms don’t get mailed back — run smoothly.

“He understands some of the subtleties, the nature of our work and the technical aspects, but he related it to the community in a way I had never had any experience,” said Dwight Dean, the bureau’s regional director in Detroit who has long known Moore. “It was a pioneer way to do PR using community.”

For example, in his three-state region of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, Moore has pushed for hiring temporary Census workers who work in the neighborhoods where they live. That means neighbors are looking out for neighbors, he says.

Moore also gets ex-pro football players to talk to schools about the importance of the Census and he sends letters to each of the 6,433 mayors in his region.

His work with aldermen and mayors has earned him some recognition. There’s a street — Stanley D. Moore Way — named after him on Chicago’s southwest side.

He has an air of formality, usually dressing in a suit and tie. He is addressed by most, even some friends, as “Mr. Moore.” He has flecks of gray hair, doesn’t drink and refuses to give his age, jokingly insisting that he has worked at the Census bureau “since kindergarten.”

He took an internship with the agency after his high school civics teacher told his class in the early 1950s that African Americans were undercounted in the Census. He said wanted to help other minorities be counted.

Moore, married with four children, has few plans for retirement. He knows he’ll continue to attend his granddaughter’s basketball games, but he’s still focused on the 2010 count.

He has 38 temporary offices to open throughout the region and has hired former Bears players Otis Wilson and Wendall Davis, among others, to go to elementary schools to talk about the Census.

“It’s a wonderful job,” he said.