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 ‘Gary Locke’

Census Bureau official criticizes $1.6 billion savings

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

An anonymous Census Bureau official submitted the following to MyTwoCensus.com:

Last week Commerce Secretary Locke touted the Census Bureau’s $1.6 billion cost savings which they will return to the Treasury.  But I agree with congressman Issa that the touting of 1.6 billion returned to the Treasury is simply a “smoke and mirrors budget gimmickry that the American people have come to expect from the federal government.”

The bureau’s incompetency was saved by luck. There were no natural disasters and the recession produced a workforce that was otherwise unparalleled. About $800 million were in unspent funds set aside for hurricanes, floods and earthquakes which there were none. It is analogous to as if I lent you $10 and you returned it when it was not needed.

But the workforce productivity that beat expectations came from alleged poor management practices and labor and wage violations.
The most common complaint is the overtime it denied field, office staff and LCO managers. There were many office and field staff who worked many hours and never submitted time sheets for fear of termination in the worst employment market since the Great Depression.
The report also fails to mention that the first few operations (address canvassing, groups quarters validation) were overstaffed and thousands of employees were trained and got either no work or less than a week’s work.
The Census Bureau also entered into poor contracts such as the Harris handheld computers and PBOCS. And last but not least the supplies and paper contracts it entered into which produced enormous amounts of waste. There are entire rooms of unused office supplies (rubber bands, erasers, pencils, file folders) and preprinted manuals and administrative forms in huge quantities that are quietly being made to disappear. We’re not talking boxes, we are talking hundreds to thousands of boxes per LCO. The counter argument was any operation would of generated office waste but any census employee who works in the office who packed the shipping trucks knows exactly what I am talking about.
Robert Groves should have a press conference about what they are doing with the truckloads of unused supplies and whether they are returning those to the contractor for a refund. Perhaps the Inspector General should do an audit over the truckloads and pallets that are being quietly thrown out. In order to hide this waste some managers are threatening employees who document this with immediate termination.
I am optimistic that in the months after the census ends the truth will come out. In retrospect had the Census entered into better IT contracts, had there there not been problems with PBOCS, had they better estimated simply the amount of rubber bands every office would need they could have saved them themselves possibly at least another billion.

Census Bureau returns $$ to the Treasury…but how do we know this now when operations are ongoing?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Well, in anticipation of Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ press conference that starts in just over an hour (yes, for those people on the West Coast this is conveniently timed for 7AM – perhaps a move so nobody is actually on the call) the Commerce Department announced that the Census Bureau is under-budget and is returning more than $1.5 billion to the Treasury Department. Obviously, the timing of this statement is a Public Relations coup d’etat prior to the press conference, with the hopes of deflecting the rather tough questions that should be asked in regard to faulty operations.  But let’s get some things straight here: The Census Bureau received $1 billion in  extra cash from the stimulus package, so that means that its budget swelled to $14.7 billion after the initial budgeting was done. Additionally, the 2010 Census is NOT FINISHED. There are ongoing operations, including Census Coverage Measurement (CCM) and the recently added NRFU Residual Follow-Up. How much will these operations cost?

*Also, a note about the media: The mainstream media has been ALL OVER reporting this issue. I am upset by this for 2 reasons: 1. The media goes nuts whenever the Census Bureau does something good, but fails to criticize it when it is wrong. 2. I never received this press release even though I have informed the Census Bureau on numerous occasions that their time-sensitive releases don’t reach my inbox, and they have repeatedly assured me that they will correct the problem, but this hasn’t happened yet.

Fact Check: Is the mail participation rate a valid tool for tracking responses? Not until the following questions are answered.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

On Friday, the Commerce Department released a statement, “U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today congratulated the nation for its strong participation in the 2010 Census to date, as the Census Bureau released the latest mail participation data showing that 72 percent of U.S. households have mailed back their 2010 Census forms so far — the same rate the nation achieved at the end of the mail-back period during the 2000 Census.”

But what validity does this have? None, until the Census Bureau answers the following essential questions:

What data are used to adjust the mail response rates?  Who in the Postal Service supplies these data? To meet what specifications?  What distinguishes between unoccupied housing and Census address list errors? At what level of geographic detail?  The Census Bureau has stated the “participation rate” is “fairer”?  How is fairness defined?   Does the Postal service guarantee data consistency between and among all postal delivery service areas of the country? Or, are there big differences in what is returned to Census as undeliverable based on the quality of the address list used by the Census Bureau in each postal service area ? How does the Postal service distinguish between a bad address from the Census Bureau and a vacant house?  How does any of this get calculated in dense urban areas…..especially given the statement from the Census Bureau about “fairness” (For example, it is well known that delivery methods in multi-unit urban dwellings differ dramatically from suburban, single family residences — how does the proclaimed Census 2010 ”fairness” doctrine adjust for this)? When will the mail return rates for 2010 be calculated and how will this process differ from 2000?

D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center (who covered the 2000 Census for the Washington Post) has tried to explain this process:

For the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau will use a new real-time metric, called the “mail participation rate,” to report the share of U.S. households-by state, city, county and neighborhood-that send back their completed forms. Why is this important?

The Census Bureau hopes to count every American in the coming months, but it has a hefty financial incentive to count them quickly. Census forms arrive in most home mailboxes next week. If a household sends back its postage-paid census form, the government spends less than 50 cents in mailing costs. If the completed form does not arrive back by late April, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to knock on the non-respondent’s door, which costs $57.

As part of its promotional campaign to encourage households to return their forms fast, the Census Bureau plans to release mail participation rates down to the neighborhood level each weekday, from March 22 to April 26. Knowing where the problems are could help the bureau and its partner organizations—such as local governments and community groups—steer their census-encouragement efforts to the areas that could benefit most.

The 2010 mail participation rates will be displayed daily on a recently launched Census Bureau mapping tool, where users already can see 2000 data for states, counties, cities and census tracts (neighborhood-level units of about 4,000 people). For the Bureau’s publicity campaign, the mail participation rate replaces the “mail response rate” used in the 2000 Census because, for reasons described below, officials believe the new measure will give a truer picture in places with large numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes.

Three Different Mailback Rates

The mail response rate, the mail participation rate and a third measure of response, the “mail return rate,” are calculated for areas where household residents are asked to mail back forms that were mailed to their homes or dropped off by a census worker. These areas include almost all of the nation’s more than 130 million households.

The mail response rate is an unrefined measure —the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau. It is a preliminary measure that Census officials say somewhat understates participation, though, because many forms sent out by the Bureau cannot be mailed back — for example, those sent to vacant housing units and those where census forms could not be delivered, such as non-existent or non-residential addresses. In 2000, the final national mail response rate was 67%. (The initial mail response rate, over the first few weeks, was 65%.)

The mail participation rate is a refined version of the mail response rate–the percent of forms sent to households in these mailback areas that are returned to the Census Bureau,  after removing from the denominator addresses where census forms are determined by the U.S. Postal Service to be “undeliverable as addressed.” Nationally, the final census mail participation rate was 72% in 2000.

The mail participation rate is intended to exclude vacant and foreclosed homes, which have grown in number as a result of the national economic downturn. The mail participation rate also may provide an improved real-time measure of participation for areas with large numbers of seasonal homes that are unoccupied on Census Day, April 1.

However, the new metric will not eliminate all sources of error. For example, if the owner of a vacant or seasonal home has a friend who picks up the mail, the form may not be returned as undeliverable. Some forms may be sent to home addresses whose occupants get their mail from postal boxes, and those forms may be returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable even though the home is occupied. These kinds of addresses will be on the Census Bureau’s to-do list, however, and census-takers would make sure they are properly accounted for during follow-up visits, according to Census Bureau officials.

The mail return rate, the most precise measure of census participation, is the number of households returning a questionnaire from mailback areas mail divided by the number of occupied housing units that received questionnaires in those areas. It cannot be calculated until the end of the census counting process. At that point, officials will use data from census-takers’ follow-up visits and other sources to total the number of occupied home addresses in areas where residents mail back their forms. Once addresses are excluded from the denominator—mainly for being unoccupied, non-residential or non-existent—the rate will rise. In 2000, the mail return rate was 78%.

Does this lawsuit against the Census Bureau have legitimacy? Perhaps

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

H/t to former MyTwoCensus editor Emily Babay for informing me of the following lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau for its hiring practices. The Philadelphia Inquirer brings us the following:

Phila. woman at center of census lawsuit

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Paying $17.75 an hour, U.S. Census jobs, though temporary, are attractive in an economy where unemployment is stuck at 9.7 percent. But the Census Bureau’s screening policies, designed to safeguard the public, end up discriminating against minorities, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That’s because the bureau has set up an “arbitrary barrier to employment” for any person with an arrest record, “no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job,” the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, says. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is named as the defendant.

The national suit, filed by Outten & Golden L.L.P. in New York and a coalition of public-interest organizations, seeks class-action status on behalf of those turned down for a job if they were arrested and not convicted, or convicted for an offense irrelevant to the job.

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s top priority is the safety of both our workforce and the American public,” Commerce Department spokesman Nicholas Kimball responded. “Americans must be confident that, if . . . a census taker must come to their door to count them, we’ve taken steps to ensure their safety.”

Kimball declined to comment on the suit.

One of the two lead plaintiffs, Evelyn Houser, 69, of North Philadelphia, thinks she is qualified to fill one of the 1.2 million census positions. That’s because Houser worked for the census before, in 1990.

“What’s the difference between then and now?” she asked in an interview Tuesday. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

The difference, said her lawyer, Sharon Dietrich with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, is the government’s cumbersome screening process.

Computers kick back any application with an arrest record, requiring more documentation, but the Census Bureau doesn’t make it clear what documentation is required, Dietrich said.

The discrimination occurs because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans exceed those of whites, the suit says. Compounding the problem, it says, is that one in three arrests do not lead to prosecution or conviction, yet the bureau’s system does not readily distinguish between arrests and convictions.

“The processes are screening out any kind of criminal case, no matter what,” Dietrich said.

“If you were arrested years ago for a minor offense, you are asked to comply with the same burdensome process as if you had been released from jail last week after committing a murder,” she said,

Plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Miller, of Outten & Golden, estimates that as many as one million applicants may have been caught up in the process, with tens of thousands unfairly deterred or excluded from employment.

In 1981, Houser was a 39-year-old mother raising four children on welfare and food stamps. Her monthly check was several days away, but she was out of food when, going outside to take out the trash, she found a check next to the Dumpster.

“I went home and told my kids, ‘God sent me a piece of paper that says we’re going to eat tonight.’ ”

Houser shouldn’t have done it, but she tried to cash the check. She was arrested. Instead of being convicted, she was placed in alternative rehabilitation program. Her record remains clean, Dietrich said.

In 1990, Houser got a job with the census. Last year, she decided to apply again and passed a qualifying test.

A month or so later, the Census Bureau sent her a letter, asking her for documentation. The way she read it, her fingerprints would suffice, so she had them taken and sent them in the next day.

The bureau rejected her because, it said, she hadn’t sent the right documentation. Dietrich called the bureau’s communications confusing.

Since then, Houser has been involved in a long appeals process, which culminated in the filing of the suit.

Houser, who lives in subsidized housing, estimated that 25 percent of her working-age neighbors are unemployed. They are “just existing,” she said. “It’s just survival.”

She’s helping her neighbors find a path to employment, Houser said. “I’m a little gray-haired old lady and I’m trying to lead them in a better way.”

Update: More Languages In Advance Letters

Friday, October 9th, 2009

If you’re interested in reading more information about the recent policy shift at the Census Bureau to distribute advance letters about the 2010 Census in multiple languages, check out the following documents:

Advance Letter from Robert M. Groves in multiple languages

Letter from Robert M. Groves explaining policy changes to leaders of minority organizations.

Kudos Dr. Groves and Secretary Locke

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Last week, we wrote about trouble brewing in California over language issues on questionnaires, but fortunately the problem has been resolved due to the swift and effective action of Census Director Dr. Robert M. Groves and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The changes that have been made are detailed in the following letter obtained by MyTwoCensus.com:

October 5, 2009

Dear Secretary Locke and Director Groves:

In my September 28 letter to Secretary Locke, I shared my concern about sending an English-only Advance Letter.  I am pleased that a change has been made in policy to incorporate a prominent postscript on how to get language assistance in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian.  This decision will provide Californians the added opportunity to be counted as residents.

I would like to thank you for the prompt change in policy and I look forward to working with each of you to ensure all Californians are counted.

Respectfully,

Ditas Katague
Director, 2010 Census Statewide Outreach



Trouble Brewing in California

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The following is a letter from the state of California’s 2010 Census office to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in Washington. (In other related news, 2010 Census boycotts have kick-started in California):

September 28, 2009

Director Katague Sends Letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Locke on Advance Letter

Director Ditas Katague today sent the following letter to Secretary Gary Locke urging reconsideration of the U.S. Census Bureau’s English-only Advance Letter policy:

September 28, 2009

The Honorable Gary Locke

Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Locke:

It has come to my attention that the U.S. Census Bureau has made the policy decision to send the Advance Letter in English-only in March 2010.  The Advance Letter is one of the first official communications coming directly from the U.S. Census Bureau for the decennial census.  By not including any in-language instructions or messages, I believe you are missing a huge opportunity to engage limited or non-proficient English speaking households in preparing them for the arrival of the census questionnaire.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision, as this decision risks completely missing the opportunity to communicate with those Hard-to-Count populations in our state.  Hundreds of languages other than English are spoken at home in California.  Based on 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) data, only 19,646,489 out of more than 30 million Californians speak only English .  That leaves millions and millions of California residents that could effectively not receive advance notice of the decennial census.

Lastly, we believe that any investment in sending a multi-lingual Advance Letter to Californians will ultimately serve to increase the Mail Back Response Rate (MRR), which will decrease the amount of Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) the Bureau conducts.  This could save valuable time and taxpayer money.

Again, I strongly urge you to reconsider your English-only Advance Letter policy immediately so that operations are not impacted and to ensure all Californians are counted.

Respectfully,

Ditas Katague
Director, 2010 Census Statewide Outreach

Governor’s Office of Planning and Research

cc:     The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

The Honorable Diane Feinstein

The Honorable Barbara Boxer

Robert Groves, U.S. Census Bureau Director

B16001. LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME BY ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER

Universe:  POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER

Data Set: 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Stimulus $$ At Work: 2,200+ New Census Bureau Hires

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

The following is a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau:

WASHINGTON, July 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that it met the July 1, 2009 deadline to create more than 2,200 new jobs across the country. Funding for the positions was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The new employees will support the agency’s 2010 Census partnership program.

Under the Recovery Act, the Census Bureau received $1 billion in funding, $120 million of which was used to create the new positions. The remaining funds were directed to other critical 2010 Census operations, including expanding the 2010 Census communications and advertising campaign.

“The U.S. Census Bureau has moved quickly to create these much-needed jobs,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “This new staff will perform vital work at the local level with special emphasis on getting hard-to-count communities to participate in the 2010 Census.”

There are now more than 2,900 personnel in 12 regional offices working on the 2010 Census partnership program. The diverse staff speaks 95 languages and will work with thousands of governmental entities, community organizations and the private sector to raise awareness about the 2010 Census.

The new jobs created will last through the summer of 2010, when 2010 Census outreach activities are completed.

Youtube Video from the Census Bureau: Swearing In of Robert M. Groves

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The 2010 Census: It’s In “His Hands”

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The following report comes from MyTwoCensus Washington, D.C. correspondent Dominique Kelly who was present for yesterday’s swearing-in-ceremony of Robert Groves as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau:

It’s the first of many long days to come for the newly sworn in director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Dr. Robert M. Groves.

With his wife, Cynthia, and son, Christopher, by his side, Groves, known to many at the Census Bureau as Bob, stood proudly reciting the oath that was the final step in his long journey to become the 23rd director of the U.S. Census Bureau.  Groves’ previous post was at the University of Michigan Survey Research center and the University of Maryland’s Joint Program in Survey Methodology.  Although Groves’ duties as director commenced on July 13, 2009, today is his first official step in leading “one of the important and most difficult challenges,” the 2010 decennial count, as explained by Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.

Blank rendered the opening remarks where she expressed her joy of having Dr. Groves as the new director.  “I’m absolutely delighted to have Bob Groves here as the Census director,” said Blank.  Blank and Groves are long time colleagues, having worked together for more than ten years at the University of Michigan.  Blank expects to work closely with Groves and “develop a shared vision of what the Census is and what it can be,” as she eagerly expressed during her speech.

As Census employees, distinguished guests, and media personnel anxiously awaited the speech and words of comfort and encouragement from Groves, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, eased the restless audience with humor by saying, “I especially want to thank them [former U.S. Census Bureau directors] for not saying anything to scare Bob away.”

However, Groves is no stranger to the Census Bureau. He served as Associate Director of the Bureau for Statistical Design, Methodology, and Standards from 1990-1992.  Locke and others agree that the job of directing the 2010 Census is very challenging and it calls for a well seasoned, highly noted individual to take on the task. “The job demanded someone of outstanding academic credentials and management skills, and as it turns out, a lot of patience,” said Locke during his introduction of Groves.

Groves began his speech by intimately speaking to the Census Bureau staff, and telling them words he feels they don’t hear very often: “Thank you for what you do.”  He went on to make a promise to the staff, by saying that while he is in office the Census Bureau will have a culture of mutual respect, while celebrating their mission to serve the American public with the most cost efficient, highest quality statistical information they can possibly produce.

Groves expressed that one of his many concerns is that 45% of the Census Bureau staff is eligible for retirement next year, which we all know is a crucial year for the Census Bureau.  Although that means he has a well experienced staff, he is worried about what will happen in the near future.  Groves urged the long-time employees to seek out the “rookies “in the Census Bureau and teach them what they’ve learned to do so well. Not only does Groves want the veterans to reach out to the younger people, but the “rookies” must reach out to the veterans too.  “As a legacy to your career here, take a little time to pass on your experience to those that you’re going to leave behind. Pass on the wisdom you have.  To those who are new seek out those wise elders, listen to them, and ask them questions about their experiences.  Learn from them actively,” said Groves.

Groves went on to make several statements addressing the usual difficulties that lie with completing a massive count of the American population, and encouraged that when mass amounts of people work together to achieve a common goal everything can happen, and it normally does.  Groves admitted, “Although the product of the Census can be statistically beautifully in its integrity and quality, the process of producing the product is always complicated, messy, and wrought with difficulty and temporary setbacks.”  Groves insisted that his staff act on the difficulties and setbacks with the highest levels of professionalism.

He closed his speech by speaking directly to the long time staff who believes they have heard it all before, and may now be a little skeptical, by insisting that they think back to their earlier years at the Census Bureau and how they felt about their jobs and expediting their tasks when they were new.

“I need you to rekindle that enthusiasm, because we need your ideas,” said Groves.

Robert Groves is aware that he has a lot of work ahead of him, but just as other’s are confident in him, he is confident in his staff, federal statistical agencies as whole, and members of other organizations that provide advice to the Census. Groves looks at all of them combined as a closeknit group of professionals and leaders.

“We need all of these people and the people they work with,” emphasized Groves.

Commerce Secretary Locke Swears In Census Bureau Director Groves

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The following is a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Seven former Census Bureau directors, as well as hundreds of members of
the statistical community and Census Bureau employees, witnessed Department
of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke publicly swear in Robert M. Groves today
as the 23rd director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

President Obama nominated Groves to head the bureau in April. The Senate
confirmed him on July 13.

Groves takes over the nation’s preeminent statistical agency just eight
months before Census Day — April 1, 2010. The 2010 Census is a count of
everyone living in the United States, and the numbers are used to apportion
congressional seats to states, to distribute more than $400 billion in
federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year and to make
decisions about what community services to provide.

“President Obama knew when he nominated Dr. Groves that the job of
directing the 2010 Census demanded someone with outstanding academic
credentials and management skills — and as it turns out, patience,” Locke
said. “We’re depending on Bob bringing his expertise and commitment to
sound science to the biggest civilian project this nation undertakes.”

Groves is the former director of the University of Michigan Survey
Research Center, and he was an associate director of the Census Bureau from
1990 to 1992. He is the author of seven books and scores of scientific
articles concerning the improvement of surveys.

“In a matter of months, we’ll begin the national operation we call the
decennial census,” said Groves at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland,
Md. “It is a time-honored tradition. There is no other federal agency
charged with such a large undertaking. It is awesome in every bit of its
aspects.”

The first census — mandated by the Constitution — was conducted in 1790,
counting nearly 4 million people. A temporary census office conducted the
count every 10 years, with the Census Bureau becoming a permanent agency in
1902. The latest census in 2000 counted more than 286 million. The 2010
Census expects to count more than 310 million residents.

The former Census Bureau directors is attendance were Vincent Barabba
(1973-1976 and 1979-1981), John Keane (1984-1987), Barbara Everitt Bryant
(1989-1993), Martha Farnsworth Riche (1994-1998), Kenneth Prewitt
(1998-2001), Louis Kincannon (2002-2008) and Steve Murdock (2008-2009).

Official Census Bureau Press Release on Groves’ Confirmation

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

CENSUS BUREAU NEWS: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MONDAY, JULY 13, 2009

Groves Confirmed as Census Director

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate today confirmed Dr. Robert Groves as the new director of the U.S. Census Bureau, on a strong bipartisan voice vote. Groves, a highly respected expert in the field of survey methodology, takes the helm of the agency at a critical time as it makes final preparations for the 2010 Census. “The 2010 Census faces significant challenges and Dr. Groves will help us meet those challenges,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “He is a respected social scientist, highly regarded by the professional statisticians, geographers, mathematicians and demographers who work at the Census Bureau. He will run the agency with the integrity and independence demanded by the Constitution and expected by the American people.” As Census Director, Dr. Groves will report to Secretary Locke. “I am honored to accept this position,” Dr. Groves said. “Extensive planning has put the 2010 Census on track to be the most accurate and technologically advanced in our nation’s history. But counting a dynamic population, like the U.S., needs the help of every resident. I’ll work to ensure our systems operate according to plan, and to make sure the public understands the vital importance of filling out and mailing back the census questionnaires in a timely fashion. Every survey conducted by the Census Bureau needs constant innovation to provide the taxpayer with the most efficiently produced, high quality statistics this country needs.” Dr. Groves had been director of the University of Michigan Survey Research Center and research professor at the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland. From 1990 to 1992, he was an associate director of the U.S. Census Bureau, on loan from the University of Michigan. Groves received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan. He is the author of seven books and scores of scientific articles concerning the improvement of surveys. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, a National Associate of the National Academies, National Research Council, former President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), former Chair of the Survey Research Methods Section of the American Statistical Association. Groves was awarded AAPOR Innovator Award in 2000, and in 2001 he was awarded the AAPOR distinguished achievement award by the association. He and his wife, Cynthia, have two college-age sons, Christopher at Purdue University and Andrew at Northwestern University.

A Failed Campaign: 2010 Census Ad Dollars Are Inadequate For Minorities

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

On April 29, the left-wing 2010 Census advocacy group The Census Project published a piece by Terri Ann Lowenthal (who served on President Obama’s transition team) that discussed the ethnic media’s perception that 2010 Census advertising efforts had gone seriously awry. Lownthal writes, “A panel of stakeholders advising the Census Bureau on the 2010 census paid advertising campaign issued a vote of “no confidence” in Draftfcb, the prime contractor responsible for the Communications program, which includes advertising and outreach to promote participation in the census.  The Joint Advertising Advisory Review Panel (JAARP), comprised of representatives of the Census Bureau’s official advisory committees, met last week to review proposed ads Draftfcb developed for the national census promotion campaign. The Census Bureau’s five Race and Ethnic Advisory Committees (REACs), representing communities of color that are at higher risk of undercounting in the census and other Census Bureau surveys, concurred with JAARP’s ‘no confidence’ statement with respect to Draftfcb’s creative materials for the 2010 census general campaign, at their biannual meetings held later in the week.”

Then, today, I came across an article from Frost Illustrated, an African-American publication, that described how the black community feels  they have been failed by the 2010 Census advertising efforts:

Census ad dollars ‘not enough’ black publishers say

By Pharoh Martin
NNPA National Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (NNPA)—Rick Wade, deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to the U. S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, was met with a bit of displeasure from black publishers June 26 as they expressed that the government’s Census advertising plan for black newspapers was insufficient.

Wade announced to members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association that out of an estimated budget of more than $24 million dollars for black media advertising only $1.6 million will be spent with black newspapers.

The funds are to be used to assure an accurate count in difficult to count communities, such as among African Americans and Latinos.

“That’s not enough,” one publisher said quickly in response to Wade’s announcement. Another publisher did the math and equated that the estimated numbers will do nothing if split among hundreds of newspapers nationally. At the most it will only buy one ad, she said.

As others chimed in during a question and answer period, Wade assured the audience representing more than 200 black-owned newspapers that the proposed budget is not yet final.

“These are just estimates,” he said. “We believe we have sufficient funds to ensure an accurate count.”

Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader Newspapers, and chair of the NNPA Foundation, then addressed another concern.

“Ten years ago, we ran your ads and didn’t get paid,” she said. “We are a significant part and we want to be counted.”

Wade assured, “These are paid advertisements so you will be paid.”

The intense, but courteous discussion underscored a long-standing contention by black newspaper publishers that they are often undercut by advertisers—including the federal government.

Wade told the group that he understands that black newspapers are not only press but they are also businesses and that it is in the interest of the Department of Commerce to advance businesses.

According to the temporary budget, the $24.7 million being allocated for black population media advertising during the census count will be split three ways. Black population media includes Black- American, Carribean-American and Black-African media outlets, according to Wade. The budget is comparable to the Latino media allocation of $27 million dollars.

The advertising campaign will begin in the fall and will end August 2010. The Census Bureau will adjust and reallocate unused money until it runs out.

The Department of Commerce will be pushing their message about participating in the 2010 census through a large advertising campaign in order to reach the “hardto- count” populations.

Wade spent most of his speech before America’s premier black publishers organization explaining the specifics of the 2010 Census and promoting the importance of $5 billion slated to broadband employment for the black community. But the information surrounding the Census’ advertising campaign is what caught the ears of the dozens of black newspaper publishers in attendance.

Following the breakfast the Census Bureau hosted a seminar called Advertising and Ethnic Media, in which, the Bureau gave more specifics about the process of securing an advertisement buy during the 2010 Census advertising campaign.

Contract management chief Kendall Johnson said as long as the media entity is solvent and has been in business at least a year it would qualify for ad money.

“We’re not looking for metrics. We’re just looking that you can reach the people you say you can reach,” she said.

The advertisements will be placed through multi-cultural advertising firm Globalhue and a pairing of smaller advertising firms. The smaller firms are being used because law states that 40 percent of the $326 million dollar contract’s budget must be spent on small businesses.

And even though 51 percent ad budget will be allocated to ethnicowned media some publishers fear that the money will not make its way down to community papers because many black newspapers have not had positive business experiences with Globalhue.

“We’re not being represented by that agency,” said a publisher who spoke but did not identify himself. “We have our own ad agencies that haven’t excluded us and put us behind the eight-ball. So it’s not [that] we don’t trust [the Census Bureau]. We don’t trust the guys you are doing business with.”

Census Vets Tapped for New Advisory Board

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Many thanks to Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post for breaking the following story:

Census Vets Tapped for New Advisory Board

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has tapped three Census Bureau veterans to serve as part-time advisers on operational, management and contracting issues while President Obama’s nominee to serve as Census director awaits a full Senate confirmation vote.

The trio includes Dr. Kenneth Prewitt, who served as bureau director from 1998 to 2001 and was widely believed to be the leading candidate for the position until suddenly withdrawing earlier this year with little explanation.

Kenneth Prewitt
Former Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt will return in a temporary advisory role.

Obama instead nominated Dr. Robert Groves for the job in April, but his nomination has been held up ever since he cleared the Senate’s government affairs panel in late May.

As Groves awaits a final vote, Locke will consult with Prewitt, National Opinion Research Center president John Thompson and former Census chief financial officer Nancy Potok. The trio will draft a list of suggestions for Locke, who will pass them off to Groves if he’s confirmed.

The move, first mentioned in late April and not formally announced until today, has raised the ire of congressional Republicans who fear the White House is “back dooring” Prewitt into the director’s job without formal congressional confirmation.

“By bringing in these outsiders with strong personalities, the Bureau runs the risk of having too many cooks in the kitchen challenging the actions of career civil servants who have worked for 18 months to ensure a successful 2010 Census,” Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said in a statement. Issa leads a House GOP Census Task Force established earlier this year to monitor the Obama administration’s execution of next year’s headcount.

“We are within ten months of Census Day, the last thing we need is a structural change that could jeopardize the success of the Decennial,” Bardella added.

Commerce officials stress that the three are merely serving as advisers and that Groves “will run the agency with the independence and professionalism that the American people expect and the Constitution demands,” according to a department statement set for release today. The consultants “will use their decades of experience to tell us just what steps require immediate attention to make the 2010 Census a success.”

Groves will have to wait until at least July 6 for a Senate confirmation vote. The Senate approved a dozen other Obama nominees last Friday, but at least 30 other nominees are in limbo. Administration officials believe Republicans have blocked them out of anger with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s timetable for Sonia Sotomayor‘s Supreme Court nomination.

Prewitt currently serves as a Columbia University professor and ran NORC before serving as Census director. Thompson is a 27-year Census veteran who had responsibility for the management, operations, and methodology of the 2000 national headcount.

Potok, a 29-year Census veteran, served as principal associate director and CFO during the 2000 census and currently serves as chief operating officer of management consulting firm McManis & Monsalve Associates.

Associated Press: Locke urges end to GOP block on census nominee

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
The following article from the Associated Press echoes MyTwoCensus’s opinion on the stalled confirmation of Robert M. Groves:

By HOPE YEN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Wednesday urged Congress to immediately end a GOP block on President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the 2010 census, saying continued delays are putting the high-stakes head count at risk.

Initially put on hold by an anonymous GOP senator, Groves is now among roughly 30 Obama nominees in limbo after Republicans protested the quick timetable for hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation. Under Senate rules, a senator can hold up a nomination without going public or providing an explanation.

Robert Groves, a veteran survey researcher with the University of Michigan, was easily approved by a Senate committee last month. But Republicans have stalled Groves’ full confirmation vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans aren’t yet in agreement on Groves; his office says it has no information as to why.

“The Census Bureau cannot wait for strong leadership any longer,” Locke said in a statement. “The longer this nomination is held up, the greater the risk to the accuracy and success of the 2010 census. Robert Groves stands ready to run the agency with the independence and professionalism that the American people expect and the Constitution demands.”

Groves, 60, has drawn skepticism from House Republicans. As a former census associate director, Groves pushed for the use of statistical sampling in the 1990s to make up for an undercount of millions of minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, but was later overruled by the Republican commerce secretary.

In his confirmation hearing last month, Groves sought to allay GOP concerns by ruling out the use of broad sampling in the 2010 census, which is used to apportion House seats and redraw congressional districts. Groves has also pledged to resign if he encounters undue partisan interference in tallying census figures.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security committee which considered Groves’ nomination, said she believed it was necessary for Groves to be confirmed soon.

“The Census Bureau has acknowledged that it is experiencing critical problems with its management and testing of key information technology systems,” she said. “I do not know who has placed a hold on Mr. Groves’ nomination, nor do I understand the rationale for holding him up. I am very eager to get this qualified candidate on the job.”

The delay on Groves comes as the Census Bureau heads into its final critical months of preparation for the 2010 head count, including an aggressive outreach campaign aimed at hard-to-find groups such as immigrants, non-English speaking residents and displaced homeowners.

The agency has already acknowledged that tens of millions of residents in dense urban areas — about 14 percent of the U.S. population — are at high risk of being missed. Groves has said that if he is confirmed, one of his first steps would be to conduct a thorough risk assessment study to pinpoint ways to improve the count.

FedEx-gate: Census Bureau wastes $3 million

Monday, June 8th, 2009

We hope that the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and Commerce Department’s Inspector General are paying close attention to this investigation. MyTwoCensus thanks our readers who alerted us to the following story. If you have received FedEx packages from the Census Bureau, we urge you to contact us immediately and share your stories as well.

The initial tip that led to this investigation came from a former Census Bureau employee who wrote to us, “On Tuesday, May 26, I received a FED EX package from the temporary East Los Angeles office of the Census marked “PRIORITY OVERNIGHT DELIVERY” containing one thing: a regular-size white envelope, with my address written on it, containing two pieces of official paperwork: (a) 1-page personnel office document stating I was hired March 30, and (b) 1-page personnel office document stating I was let go April 20 because of lack of work. I have no idea why they sent this PRIORITY OVERNIGHT DELIVERY, but at $20 or so a pop, times 140,000 workers nationwide, that’s a lot of money. ($2.8 million in fact).”

Below, please find an airbill sent last week from another local 2010 Census office in a different region. The problem, in this and thousands of other instances, is that the message inside this $20 FedEx package could have just as easily been sent using standard first class mail via the U.S. Postal Service (for a mere ¢44) to reach its non-urgent nearby location within 24 hours. MyTwoCensus is currently trying to determine just how widespread this problem has become. We certainly hope that $3 million or more has not already been wasted.

fedexairbillspokane1MyTwoCensus hopes that this wasteful spending will be stopped immediately, hopefully before the 1.4 million people who will be  hired for the 2010 headcount are also sent non-urgent messages via FedEx. As the U.S. Postal Service goes further and further into debt, one wonders why government agencies are failing to use their own counterparts.

MyTwoCensus will be filing a Freedom of Information Act request by the close of business today to ensure that these numbers become public. On Friday we asked the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau to provide us answers to our questions about the use of Fedex, and after following up throughout the day today, we still have not receieved any official comment.

Seeking journalist to cover event in Providence, R.I.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

If any of our readers know a journalist/photographer in or near Providence, Rhode Island who can cover the 2010 Census-related portion of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, it would be greatly appreciated if you could have that person contact us. We will reimburse the attending journalist for food/travel costs. See the press release below for details of the event that we would like covered:

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN, SR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR JARRETT ATTENDING MAYORS’ ANNUAL GATHERING JUNE 12 – 15 ~ PROVIDENCE, RI

WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Vice President Joe Biden, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Office of National Drug Control Director Gil Kerlikowske, Alaska Senator Mark Begich, Congressional Urban Caucus Chair Chaka Fattah (PA), Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and Mexico Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan are confirmed for the 77th Annual Meeting of The United States Conference of Mayors in Providence (RI) from Friday, June 12th to Monday, June 15th.

The Conference of Mayors has been working with the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to establish an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) Resource Center where mayors and city staff can meet with federal staff managing the various ARRA programs to seek guidance on federal stimulus funding implementation.

Led by Conference President and Miami (FL) Mayor Manny Diaz and hosted by Providence Mayor David Cicilline, this event is the largest annual gathering of U.S. mayors. In addition to Recovery Act implementation, the meeting will also highlight illegal guns and gun violence, energy independence, education and the 2010 Census. At the culmination of the meeting, mayors will debate and vote on national policy recommendations to forward to Congress and the new Administration.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his cabinet have been invited. An advance DRAFT agenda is also posted at www.usmayors.org. All CREDENTIALED press wishing to attend should pre-register VIA THE USCM WEBSITE to gain access to the meeting.

WHAT: Hundreds of U.S. Mayors to Attend USCM 77th Annual Meeting

WHEN: Friday, June 12th – Monday, June 15th

WHERE: The Rhode Island Convention Center

One Sabin Street

Providence, RI 02903

401-458-6000

Boring interview with our fearless leader, Gary Locke

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke sat down with The Chicago Tribune for an interview…unfortunately the interview revealed nothing that we haven’t already heard 200,000 times:

WASHINGTON — The third time was the charm for Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington state who was tapped as commerce secretary after President Barack Obama’s first two choices pulled out. In an interview, he discussed the 2010 census.

Q Tell us what models you’re developing to ensure that all ethnic groups and minorities are accurately counted in next year’s census.

A Well, for the first time, we will be sending our forms in different languages and specifically in Spanish. So populations, communities with a large Hispanic population, will actually receive a census questionnaire. We’re going to be very specific. From past information, we know, for instance, in which parts of Houston there’s a large Vietnamese population. We know where in Los Angeles … in the Southwest, we have large populations, blocks of Hispanic families, and so we’re going to be very strategic and very targeted.

Q Will you, in part, rely on (popu- lation) sampling, even though the Republicans are dead-set against it?

A The United States Supreme Court has actually ruled that we are not allowed to use sampling apportionment. Nor do we have any plans to use sampling for any other purpose connected with the 2010 census.

Q Every White House has tried to play a role in the census. What will be this White House’s role in the census?

A The census director reports to me, and, of course, I serve at the pleasure of the president. … It will not be politicized, and the White House assured me that it has no interest in politicizing it.

Public locked out of Census meeting in Denver

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Earlier this week, we reported that the media was locked out of 2010 Census-related meetings with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Now, The Denver Post reports that the public was locked out of the same meetings. For an organization trying to build its public visibility (and spending hundreds of millions of your tax dollars to do so), this makes little sense. Here’s the scoop from The Denver Post’s staff editorial:


We couldn’t help but notice the irony surrounding actions of new Commerce Secretary Gary Locke when he was in Denver last week for a meeting.

The secretary, speaking to a group that is working to raise public awareness about the importance of the 2010 census, actually closed the meeting to the public.

Sounds pretty counterproductive, if you ask us.

All but the opening 10 minutes of the gathering was off-limits to outsiders, ostensibly so committee members, appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper, would feel comfortable in speaking their minds.

Surely, there was a better way to solicit candid remarks than by shutting off access during a publicized visit by the commerce secretary.

Frankly, Locke’s visit was the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the very important but, sorry to say, unsexy issue of the 2010 census.

Opportunity lost.

Among the goals of Denver’s 2010 Census Complete County Committee: Achieve a 75 percent return rate of mailed surveys. Make every city resident aware of the census. And ensure every Denverite knows that information they provide the census will be kept confidential.

They are laudable goals. And there are some other good things going on where the 2010 census is concerned.

In a Q&A with The Washington Post published last week, Locke defused a couple of inflammatory issues by ruling out the use of sampling or estimating, in coming up with counts.

He also offered assurances that the count, which is integral to apportioning congressional seats, would not be politicized.

Furthermore, Locke talked about how the census would target specific populations, such as Hispanics or Vietnamese, and send them surveys in their native tongue in an effort to boost participation.

These are all positive developments. Too bad the commerce secretary didn’t see fit to let the people of metro Denver in on them.

Closing the doors on the media…

Friday, May 8th, 2009

One major problem with the U.S. Census Bureau is its extremely unfriendly attitude toward the media, which has more likely done much more harm than good. Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke kicked off a public relations tour with closed-door meetings, including one in Denver:

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke came to Denver on Wednesday to meet with the group charged with raising public awareness about the upcoming census and closed the session to the public and media.

Locke said he wanted to allow Denver’s 2010 Census Complete Count Committee to be frank about their problems and concerns.

“I just wanted to hear straight from them, as candidly as possible, their assessment of how things were going,” Locke told The Denver Post after the 45-minute meeting at the main Denver Public Library.

The committee was formed this year to develop a public-awareness campaign for the April 2010 census. It includes city government officials and community leaders.

“This is more of a briefing for the secretary to get a sense of where things are in Denver,” Kimball said. “So it’s not necessarily a big promotional event to draw attention to what’s going on.”

During his opening remarks, Locke talked about some of the national problems the census faces next year. He said independent reports have found hand-held computers malfunctioning and concerns that the bureau has not had time for dress rehearsals to uncover potential roadblocks.Locke blamed the previous Republican administration for the problems.

However, he told the group that Colorado appears to be in better shape than most states.

The media were allowed in the meeting for the first 10 minutes while Mayor John Hickenlooper introduced Locke to the committee and Locke made opening remarks.

After the remarks, the media were escorted out. Eric Brown, Hickenlooper’s spokesman, said the Commerce Department made the decision to close the meeting.

Locke was available for questions after the session.

Locke told The Post that committee members “were very complimentary of the collaboration between the regional office of the Census Bureau as well as local and state governments.”

Before the meeting began, The Post questioned why it was closed to the media.

Commerce Department spokesman Nick Kimball said the decision to keep it private did not conflict with the Census Bureau’s attempts to publicize the 2010 census.

Security supervisor Lorna McDermott controls entry to the meeting. The media were invited to cover opening remarks, and Locke answered questions afterward.