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Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves says that operations are winding down; Mass #layoffs ahead at the #2010 #CensusTuesday, June 15th, 2010
Groves wrote, “As of Sunday, we have completed and checked-in about 44 million enumerator forms for this operation of the approximately 47 million; we’re at about 93% complete in this operation. We are somewhat ahead of schedule and certainly under-budget.”
My first (snarky) comment is that its not hard to be under-budget when you are given a $15 billion blank check that is more than triple what your predecessors had to work with in 2000.
My second, realistic comment, is that there are still 3 million households that have not been counted. With the end of operations looming near, this invites fraud on many levels, as individuals will likely be pressured by their higher-ups, all the way through the chain of command back to Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland to get forms completed come hell or high water.
Subtly, Dr. Groves also warned of mass layoffs in the coming days. He wrote;
However, for many we will have to say our goodbyes. It is to them that this entry is dedicated –
You were among the best labor force for a decennial census in decades; you brought to the census family the strongest set of skills and intelligence, the best work experience, incredible flexibility, and a strong devotion to serving the American public by devoting your talents to the 2010 Census. On behalf of the full Census Bureau family, I thank you for your service to the country, and I wish you well in the next steps in your careers. I hope some of the experiences you had during this massive, complicated, messy effort will provide knowledge that makes you a better employee in your next endeavor. Thank you again.
Also, please say a warm and fuzzy goodbye to Obama Administration job creation statistics that were inflated by Census Bureau hires!
In a memo sent last week to all of its employees, the Census Bureau took a huge swipe at the first amendment of the US Constitution, the right to freedom of speech. The contents of the letter were as follows:
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social network sites have become more common and popular, it is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their employer in a public forum. Please be aware that you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that is protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, you must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government, when you are writing in your personal capacity.
These rules apply to all employees, as well as those who are professional writers and reporters, so please keep these considerations in mind before writing and publishing or posting an article or other writing about the census or your work as a Census Bureau employee.
As a Federal employee and a hard-working member of the Census Bureau, you have important responsibilities and obligations to the public which impose some limits on you that do not apply to persons in the private sector. Please be mindful of these responsibilities, even when engaging in personal activities such as blogging and posting on web sites.
These restrictions on writings and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to uphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census information subjects you to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.
*The last part of the letter was underlined, not put in bold, but I put it in bold to illustrate a point.
Just like other government officials and people who work in the private sector, Census Bureau employees are subject to confidentiality laws. However, this does not mean that the government has the right to threaten employees, particularly whistleblowers, as they have in this situation. The Census Bureau must make clear what workers’ legal obligations are and what are simply the goals of the Census Bureau’s management and public relations team who benefit greatly from problems being kept quiet and unreported.
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information. The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers. They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers. Nice try. There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDERSocial Networking and Census EmploymentAs personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, itis not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and theiremployer in a public forum. Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information thatis protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs oroperations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, youmust be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of theBureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when youare writing in your personal capacity.[...]These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took touphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential censusinformation subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.
A government agency with a beautiful web site is rare, and only when the Obama Administration redesigned and modernized WhiteHouse.gov were the American people able to get access to the sort of web site that should be standard for online government publications. Building off the success of the Obama ‘08 campaign’s successful use of social media, we are glad to see that the Census Bureau has, as of yesterday, gone above and beyond 21st century governmental web site norms by redesigning 2010.Census.gov. The new site embraces the Obama rhetoric that advocates interactivity and transparency even further than WhiteHouse.gov.
From a practical perspective, one of the best features of this new site will be the ability to track census questionnaire response rates of individual states and locales as the data results come in. (We hope that Steve Jost and the communications team at the Census Bureau will make it a priority to update this data on a daily basis.) If nothing else, this feature will motivate states, municipalities, and other regional districts to improve their participation numbers before the non-response follow up period ends. This part of the new site will also encourage friendly rivalries between politicians, states, and municipalities which will likely result in free and positive press for the Census Bureau. We also hope that Dr. Groves and other bloggers for the 2010 Census site continue to provide new information at frequent intervals.
While the idea of a new and improved web site is wonderful, if few people are viewing it, then it won’t have the impact it needs. MyTwoCensus urges the Census Bureau to release the analytics data detailing the number of unique users per day on its new web site, particularly as it compares to the analytics data of the old web site. We hope to see the numbers of viewers for each individual page of the web site as well. This is the only way that MyTwoCensus and other watchdog/non-profit organizations will be able to accurately track the success of the redesign. Additionally, if the Census Bureau’s site redesign becomes a statistical success, then perhaps other government agencies will follow suit by improving their interactivity and transparency, which will be a great step forward for American society.
It should be noted that the redesign of 2010.Census.gov was a combined effort of the Census Bureau with private sector advertising firm Draftfcb.
Last night, The Wall Street Journal published a blog post by June Kronholz about the likelihood of being counted in the 2010 Census. As the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census, MyTwoCensus must point out that this article is written from a very partisan perspective. Kronholz’s only source of data was information collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released by The Census Project. Kronholz writes, “The [census counting] estimates were developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, using Census Bureau planning databases, and released by the Census Project whose members include policy planners, demographers and citizen-rights advocates.”
If you look at The Census Project’s stakeholder list, it’s clear that all of the stakeholders are liberal advocacy groups, and more importantly, one of the “stakeholders” (which translates to meaning an organization that funds The Census Project) is The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the very organization responsible for providing this data…So here’s our advice when reading articles, even from reputable news sources:
1. Read between the lines.
2. Take any information from “The Census Project” with a large grain of salt, as it’s coming from many partisan sources including ACORN, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and other immigrant advocacy groups.