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 ‘Colorado’

Strange News Of The Day: Western Colorado Census Office Raided By Feds

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Very interesting story here from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Feds checking for violations of safety laws at census office

By Gary Harmon
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the U.S. Census Bureau office in Grand Junction, which earlier this year was inundated by fumes from a marijuana-growing operation in the same building.

A person who worked in the building at 573 W. Crete Circle, meanwhile, said as many as a dozen claims might be filed by census employees affected by pesticide fumes from the nearby operation, which shared a ventilation system with the census office.

The inspection is intended to determine if there were violations of federal workplace-safety laws as a result of the fumes flowing into the offices, Herb Gibson, area director for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Friday.

The agency’s inspection “is open, and I would say it will stay open for a few more weeks,” Gibson said.

Inspectors have visited the census office, where Gibson said officials are in the process of making modifications to the ventilation system.

A Mesa County grand jury last week declined to indict the three people who owned the marijuana operation.

Still, a former office employee, who asked not to be identified, said some people who worked there, including the employee, have suffered ill effects from the fumes, which were those of pesticides used to protect the marijuana plants, census officials said.

Even though officials point to the pesticides, other odors were unmistakable, the employee said.

“You walk in the front door, and you feel like you’re at a Bob Marley concert,” the employee said.

Even after leaving the office, the employee said pain and coughing developed to the point that the employee had to be hospitalized for several days.

“I was screaming in pain” and forced to double over by the coughing, the employee said. “It felt like it was burning me from the inside.”

The employee has been in contact with other people from the office who have been hospitalized. Some are preparing or have prepared workers’ compensation claims as a result of their exposures in the office, the employee said. (more…)

The Census Bureau wastes your tax dollars by shifting workers around the country…

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, MyTwoCensus.com reported that 2010 Census workers from Colorado have arrived in New York to assist with operations. Each of these employees is put up at a hotel and paid a per diem rate. (I’ve heard that Hilton Hotels are being used for this purpose — which isn’t surprising since Census Bureau officials are known to stay at Ritz Carleton Hotels while on government business).

Michael C. Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office wrote to me yesterday, “When we assess that a particular office is either not following procedures or has weak management we often make staffing changes, or even send in experienced managers to help improve operations and re-train the temporary staff.” So the Census Bureau is saying that nobody in New York, a city of 8 million people,  is capable of handling these procedures? (Two sources have confirmed to me that one manager clerk from Washington DC is even being put up in New York’s Battery Park in a $4,500 per month apartment on your dime.)

The federal government outlines hotel and per diem rates for New York quite clearly. This means that in addition to their salaries as Census Bureau employees, each individual is spending up to $411 per day, not including flights or other expenditures, merely to eat and sleep in New York. This isn’t the first time this has occurred. During the address canvassing stage of 2010 Census operations, the Census Bureau sent in workers from North Carolina to assist with efforts in New York. Such wasteful incidents have also occurred with workers from Georgia being sent to Florida and workers from Texas being sent to Louisiana. With unemployment hovering around 10% and the Census Bureau’s admission that it had four times as many applicants as it did positions open, can this type of spending on transportation, hotels, and per diems be justified? Absolutely not.

Breaking News: Firing people from New York and hiring people from Denver, Colorado to replace them…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

In the past week, many New York City Census Bureau employees have been terminated. MyTwoCensus.com has received substantial evidence from two individuals who have alerted us that since the Denver, Colorado region was ahead of schedule, they have since flown workers to New York, put them at hotels, paid them per diems, and provided meals for them. Yes, you are reading this correctly. A city of 8 million people does not have enough competence to complete a task, so the Census Bureau has recruited folks from Denver to help them get the job done. If this isn’t inefficiency, what is? More details coming ASAP.

Note: If you know more about this, please get in touch with me or leave a note in the comments section with details. Thanks!

Denver Colorado sees THOUSANDS of dollars worth of 2010 Census swag unused — including canvas bags

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

My suspicions about waste and leftover swag enabling scammers to do their jobs more easily is proven true yet again. Thanks to Colorado NBC affiliate 9News.com, and specifically investigative reporter Jace Larson for the following. Let’s hope that he follows up on this like he said he will at the bottom of the article:

DENVER – The U.S. Census Bureau spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on promotional items used to convince more people to mail back their census forms, but a 9Wants to Know investigation found thousands of the items were dropped off, unused, at a local high school.

The leftover items, such as backpacks, cloth grocery bags, hats, pins, magnets and business card holders, were dropped off at Lakewood High School last month.

“We probably had, between the backpack style [bags] and the shopping bag style [bags], over 1,000 dropped off,” Lakewood High School Principal Ron Castagna told 9Wants to Know.

He estimates more than 1,000 posters printed in different languages were also dropped off at the school.

An unknown Census worker walked into the school in mid-April and asked the principal if she could leave the items. She did not ask the school to distribute them.

“[She] said, ‘We have extra stuff. We’re wrapping up the Census and we just want to distribute the materials,’” Castagna said.

It did not sit well with him.

“Wait a minute, times are tough and I’m sitting in a position where we’ve got a school district that’s done everything the right way and yet we’re still going to face budget cuts,” he said.

Among the many boxes of posters the Census worker left at the school, were more than 300 promotional posters printed in Farsi. Farsi is the language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.

9Wants to Know reviewed the U.S. Census Bureau’s numbers from 2000 and found 360 people spoke Farsi in all of Jefferson County at that time.

Castagna says he hopes to let students use the backs of the posters in art classes.

“How much money was spent on items like this that could have been spent someplace else?” Castagna asked.

9Wants to Know broke down Census spending. The U.S. Census Bureau spent $4,899,348 on promotion for 10 states in the Denver region.

U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman Lauren Shaw says nationally local offices used an average of 98.7 percent of the promotional items ordered. Leftover items account for 1.3 percent of all materials ordered, according to Shaw.

Shaw also says she believed the materials dropped off at Lakewood High School represent unused materials for 10 states that are part of the Denver region, not just one county or one state.

Denver Region Census spokesman Doug Wayland says the spending was worth it.

“Visual items raise awareness about the Census,” Wayland said.

He says promotional materials actually save taxpayers money even if there are extra items left over. He points to national figures to prove his point.

Promotion and advertising nationwide cost $370 million this year. The U.S. Census Bureau says a 2000 advertising and promotional campaign helped boost mail-back participation by about 5 percent. If that happens again this year, the campaign could save taxpayers $425 million. That is because for each percentage increase in the mail-in participation rate, the Census Bureau says taxpayers save $85 million.

When residents mail back the census form, it costs the government 42 cents for postage. When people do not mail it back, a Census worker must go to the home and that costs $57 per house.

Wayland says proof that advertising and promotional campaigns work is in the numbers. The percentage of people who mailed in census forms had declined from 1970 to 1990. In 2000, the first year of an advertising and promotional campaign, the percentage of people who mailed in their census forms increased.

“We reversed three decades of people not sending back their questionnaires,” Wayland said. “Instead of those people not mailing back their questionnaires, they are motivated to mail it back based on those reinforced messages.”

“There’s a term I like to use called image transfer. You see national advertisements on posters and you see the message. Then when you see an item with the Census logo at home there is a transfer of the message that was on TV or on a billboard. Repetition reinforces the message that the Census is important,” Wayland said.

A member of a Colorado policy watchdog group says because the costs of going door-to-door, using promotional materials makes sense.

“They are covering the country in as many ways as possible, through schools, through promotional materials, advertisements on TV through door to door canvassers. They are really making sure every person is counted. That is really important,” Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute Fiscal Project Coordinator Kathy White said.

The Census Bureau says the census is vitally important to funding for local communities in addition to helping Congress decide how many representatives communities, counties and states will have in government bodies.

Nonprofit organizations use census numbers to estimate the number of potential volunteers in communities across the nation.

When Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, census information aided the rescue effort by providing estimates of the number of people in each block, the Census Bureau says on its website.

It also says that census numbers were used to support a request for a new community center in New England. Senior citizens successfully lobbied for a new center before county commissioners, according to the Census Bureau.

The U.S. Census has faced criticism before.

Many Americans were unhappy that the Census sent three letters to households reminding people to fill out the form.

Shaw says that is less expensive than sending a Census worker to homes that would not have otherwise filled out the form.

Also, a government audit alleged in February that the Census Bureau paid employees who never actually worked and paid others who overbilled for travel expenses.

Several 9NEWS viewers question why some of the promotional materials say “Made in China.”

Shaw told 9Wants to Know that the U.S. Census Bureau contracted with American businesses for the materials. She says American businesses chose to use items made overseas, but printed the logos on the bags in the United States. She says the majority of other items were made in the United States.

Census Bureau over-hired, pulled back on job offers

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Colorado Springs Gazette just reported on of the Census Bureau’s most serious blunders to date, revealing that job offers for potential employees were rescinded, but only when those who thought they were new-hires showed up for their first day on the job. One wonders, how widespread is this bureaucratic nightmare? Here’s the report:

Thinking she’d secured a better gig, Colorado Springs resident Janet Seville quit her $10-an-hour, part-time job at a building company last month.

But when she showed up for her new job last week, she learned it was all a big misunderstanding.

With unemployment in Colorado Springs at a 21-year high, it was a tough break for the 65-year-old divorcee.

Seville thought she had secured a full-time, temporary position at the U.S. Census Bureau making $13.25 an hour.

But Seville said she and nine other applicants were turned away. She said officials told the applicants the Census Bureau had hired too many people.

“They gave it to us and took it away,” she said. “I just thought it was horrible. I mean, how can they do that? They just blew it off like it was nothing. I mean, they apologized and said we would get paid for one hour for showing up, and for mileage and travel time, but that’s just not good enough.”

Seville went to the media. She went to Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office.

With the country in the middle of a recession, Seville said, she has few financial resources and isn’t sure what she’ll do if she can’t find another job soon.

Her previous employer filled her position quickly but agreed to let her come back as a substitute, which she did over the weekend.

Seville said she doesn’t expect anything to change now, but she wants people to know about the effect a bureaucratic mix-up can have.

A Census Bureau official said the situation is more of a misunderstanding. The bureau hired about 140,000 people nationwide for temporary jobs to get ready for the 2010 Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone who lives in the country.

With that many people, and given the demands of the work, there’s bound to be turnover, said spokeswoman Deborah Cameron. Seville was among a group of people on a list as possible replacements when some from earlier waves of hiring departed, Cameron said.

“That training class (Seville attended) was actually designated as a replacement training class, so all people there knew that it was possible, they were in a pool as someone who could replace in terms of carry-over, and they could be used now or they could be used a little bit later,” Cameron said.

Seville said she and all the other applicants had good reason to believe they were following up on firm job offers, not just another step in the application process.

She said there was no paperwork recording the job offer, just a phone call March 14 with orders to show up April 1. That was later delayed to an April 16 start date.

Redistricting & The 2010 Census

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Many state legislatures are currently engaged in partisan battles over redistricting prior to the 2010 headcount. Colorado’s Aurora Sentinel reports:

Colorado has never had a shortage of embarrassing moments under the Gold Dome. The Legislature has tried to legislate the slander of vegetables, granted state residents permission to remove tags from pillows and furniture, and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon than it is to rent a car. But lawmakers may at least ward the next embarrassing gaffe off by changing the way the state draws boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts.

State Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, is proposing the state create a single bipartisan panel that has a tie-splitting independent voter to keep things fair.

Republicans have nothing to lose by the change — this time.

In Montana, similar arguments are now dominating the state legislature. Here’s what the Flathead Beacon has to say about redistricting:

HELENA – Even lawmakers’ first steps to begin the once-a-decade process of carving new legislative districts wear the marks of the bitter partisanship that often characterized the process in the past.

Republicans on Thursday released names of their candidates for the commission charged with redrawing legislative districts to reflect new census numbers. And — surprise — all four turned out to be Republicans. Democrats, if history is any indication, almost certainly will pick party stalwarts for their appointments, as well.

This time GOP leaders have thrown a new twist into the process, with a dedicated e-mail for receiving public comment on their candidates. Senate Majority Leader Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, said the goal is to be more “open and transparent,” but Democrats think otherwise and have no plans to do the same.

“It could get to be a partisan sort of wrangling and that’s not what the commission is supposed to do,” said Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, careful to note that she finds all the Republican nominees well-qualified.

State law says Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature each may select two commissioners. Those four then are to agree on a fifth member, the chairman. If the appointees deadlock on choosing the tie-breaking chairman, then a decision rests with the Montana Supreme Court.

“I was hopeful the last go round that the four would be able to agree on a chairman,” said retired Chief Justice Karla Gray, who served on the court when it nominated the swing vote in 1999. “I don’t think it’s a responsibility that the court looks forward to, but perhaps that’s just my opinion.”

Stalemates have forced the court to appoint the chairman for bickering lawmakers in three of the four most recent redistricting efforts. And those appointments have in turn led to more partisan bickering, spawning bitter charges of gerrymandering that reverberate for years.