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 ‘Obama’

President Obama: We can’t move forward until you mail it back

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A pretty innocuous and straightforward message from El Presidente was just released, so hopefully this won’t get politicized. The major downside here is that the geniuses at ad agency Draftfcb haven’t figured out that people should be able to embed video…so unfortunately you will have to click the link below to find this one…Here’s a press release from the Census Bureau :

President Obama Records Message Urging Participation in 2010 Census

Continuing a White House tradition of strong support for the census
dating back to 1790, President Barack Obama recorded a public service
announcement (PSA) encouraging national participation in the 2010 Census.
The 30-second PSA released today by the U.S. Census Bureau asks every
household to take 10 minutes to answer the 10 questions on the 2010 Census
form and to mail it back.

The PSA and a 20-second version are available now at
<http://2010census.gov/> and will be distributed to television and radio
stations by the National Association of Broadcasters’ Spot Center satellite
feed on Friday, Feb. 19. Stations are encouraged to broadcast the PSA
through April following their standard procedures appropriate for a
national public awareness campaign.

U.S. presidents in office during a decennial census have routinely
spoken in support of the census to encourage participation by all residents
in the country. President Dwight Eisenhower said of the 1960 Census:  “The
prompt, complete and accurate answering should be regarded as one of the
requirements of good citizenship.”

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush recorded a PSA about the rights
and freedoms we enjoy. “One of the ways our Constitution preserves our
rights is to require the government to conduct a census every 10 years. It
helps determine how you’re represented in Congress and what kinds of
government services you find in your community. So be a part of this great
democracy. Answer the census. It counts for more than you think.”

In 2000, President Bill Clinton spoke of the vital importance of the
census. “Behind all those numbers are real lives and real life stories. And
when you put them all together you see the patterns emerge. This is a
profoundly important issue if we want to make good decisions about where
we’re going. We first have to know exactly who we are.”

In addition to speeches and public service announcements, all presidents
serving during decennial censuses — from President William Howard Taft
through President Clinton — have issued a presidential proclamation on or
before Census Day, which has been on April 1 from 1930 to the present. The
10 proclamations can be viewed in the attached video along with images of
other presidential efforts supporting the censuses of 1930, 1990 and 2000.

Message from the President of the United States on the 2010 Census
The White House

“Every 10 years, our Constitution requires the federal government to
conduct a census. This helps determine your representation in Congress, as
well as how federal funds are spent on things like schools and roads, and
where businesses decide to put new stores and factories. So when you get
your census form in mid-March, take about 10 minutes to answer 10 questions
– remembering to include everyone in your household. Because we can’t move
forward until you mail it back.”

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Concerns About The Political Makeup Of Complete Count Committees

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

After reading a report in the Austin Republican Examiner (featured below), MyTwoCensus is extremely concerned by the fact that Complete Count Committees are not always bi-partisan entities with independent non-political voices also serving in leadership capacities. As there have been concerns about a lack of participation in the 2010 Census by Republicans, a charge being led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), it is all the more important for Republican voices (in this instance) to be present on Complete Count Committees, so rumors about the goals of the 2010 Census and accusations of bias will not exist. While Travis County, where Austin, Texas is located, consistently votes Democratic (64% for Obama compared to 35% for McCain in 2008), there is no good reason why Republicans are not serving as chairs or on the board of the Austin Complete Count Committee.

MyTwoCensus urges any readers who are aware of other instances in which one political party controls a municipal, local, regional, or state Complete Count Committee to please report these problems to us.

Here’s the original op-ed that prompted this investigation:

Are Democrats hijacking the Austin census?

By Brandon Lighton

Census time is upon us yet again, and thankfully we still have at least one government enterprise that has not yet become explicitly partisan. Oh, wait…

“Mayor Lee Leffingwell and County Judge Sam Biscoe joined members of the citizen driven Complete Count Committee to launch the 2010 Census efforts on Monday, November 30, 2009 at City Hall.

The 2010 Census Complete Count Committee is Chaired by Judge Eric Shepperd, Constable Bruce Elfant and Alejandro Ruelas, Managing Partner, LatinWorks.”

So we have the Democrat mayor of Austin and a Democrat County Judge overseeing this operation. But thats okay, right? We still have the committee membes themselves to maintain the integrity of the census. So let’s take a look at those committee members:

Eric Shepperd – Democrat Judge, County Court at Law, Place 2

Bruce Elfant – Democrat Constable

Alejandro Ruelas – Finally, someone who isn’t a candidate. Someone who can balance out the partisan bias of the other committee members. Oh wait, he’s a Democratic Party donor. Oops.

So we have a Democrat mayor, two Democrat judges, a Democrat constable, and a Democratic Party donor to boot. Sound like a recipe for a fair and accurate census to you?

This is just another step in a long trend of Democrats politicizing the census, starting with the Obama administration’s decision to take over the census itself instead of allowing a nonpartisan group to do it like the other 43 presidents have done. When the 2010 census comes out and Democratic constituencies have miraculously gained ground in Austin, at least try to act surprised.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: New Web Site Is A Step Forward, But Analytics Data Must Be Provided

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

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.

Interview with Robert Goldenkoff of the Government Accountability Office

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

On Friday, October 9, 2009 I interviewed Robert Goldenkoff, who has worked for more than 20 years at the Government Accountability Office and currently serves as the GAO’s Director of Strategic Issues. One of his many areas of focus is the 2010 Census, which the GAO defined as a high risk operation in a March 2008 report. On Thursday October 8, Mr. Goldenkoff faced questions at a Senate hearing investigating the 2010 Census. In the following interview he discusses the recent fingerprinting problems that he shared with Congress and many other long-term issues with the decennial census.

SRM: What led to the discovery that there could have been criminals hired by the Census Bureau?

RG: We’re looking at all aspects of the Census Bureau’s readiness for the 2010 Census. The decennial census is so huge that we’re focusing a lot of our work on areas where the Census Bureau doesn’t have a lot of experience, where they haven’t done that particular operation before. One of those areas is fingerprinting. In the past, at least for the 2000 Census, they relied only on a name background check. That was why we included fingerprinting as part of our review, because it was a new operation. They’ve been doing the census pretty much the same way  – obviously technology changes – but, the fundamental approach to the 2010 Census is very similar to say the 1970 Census. So if there’s going to be an issue, it’s more likely in something that they’ve never done before.

SRM: Why is your office investigating this rather than the Commerce Department Inspector General’s office? Or were you working together on this?

RG: We are two independent agencies, two different reporting authorities. We do work together, collaborate and coordinate our work just so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. Sometimes we work in the same areas and other times we work in different areas, depending on facts and circumstances.

SRM: Where did you get the figure that you reported to Congress that 200 criminals could have been hired by the 2010 Census? And can you clarify what “could have been hired” means?

RG: It’s strictly based on the percentages. There were 162,000 people in total hired for address canvassing. 1,800 passed the name background check but their fingerprints revealed that they had criminal records. Of those, 750 were disqualified for census employment, because their criminal records were such that they were ineligible for census employment. All we did was project those same ratios for the 35,700 people who went through the name background check but whose fingerprints could not be read. So it’s strictly a projection. It’s unfortunate that the reporting of this was not always accurate or perhaps sensationalized it. We’re not saying that 200 criminals did work on the census, but we’re saying that based on that projection it’s possible.

SRM: During the summer, I was contacted by a man named David Allburn who runs a company called National Fingerprints, LLC, which can be found at NationalFingerprints.com. His firm placed a bid with the Census Bureau to receive a contract to handle the fingerprinting of employees, because right now prospective employees are fingerprinted by other Census Bureau employees who are not well trained in fingerprinting. David informed me that someone who is an experienced criminal would know that it’s very simple to smudge your fingerprints and make them unreadable by simply pressing your hand too hard on the paper when your fingers are being rolled in the ink. The Census Bureau chose not to use David’s company but rather to conduct the operation on their own without outside help. Of course part of the reason David called me originally because he was upset that his company wasn’t chosen for the contract, but he was also concerned that the 2010 Census operations would be infiltrated by criminals. At first I figured David could be overexaggerating this scenario, but now I know that he was absolutely right. So I’m wondering, do you have any idea why David’s method was rejected?

RG: No idea.

SRM: I’ve also heard from many sources that after people have been hired by the Census Bureau and started to work, their criminal background check reports came in later, and only then, after they already had access to a significant amount of data, were they fired. Why did this happen?

RG: I don’t know. Our point to all of this was not to scare people or anything like that. Our point was to make it clear to the Bureau that they need to have a better policy, or at least have a better policy for those people whose fingerprints can’t be read. With so many people working on the census, even if only a small percentage of fingerprints are flawed, you’re still talking about a substantial number of people.

SRM: Has the Census Bureau done anything to try to fix this flawed system?

RG: It is important to point out though that the Bureau has acknowledged that they have a problem with this and they are taking steps, improving training for example, to improve how the fingerprints are actually captured. Moisture is an issue with the quality of prints. The remaining issue is what to do about people whose fingerprints can’t be read.

SRM: I’m also wondering, can social security numbers be used as an element of background checks? Having sat for the employment exams for the 2010 Census, I know that it is mandatory to provide your social security number at that early stage.

RG: That already might be used, but I’m not sure. But people can change their social security numbers or use fraudulent social security numbers. That’s why it’s not as reliable. As we saw, just  the name background check can’t be the only tool used as criminals can get past that system.

SRM: Who do you hold accountable for these errors?

RG: This is something that the Census Bureau had no experience with. It’s clearly something that the Census Bureau and its parent agency, the Commerce Department, need to deal with. We’re not out to get anyone or point fingers. We want to see a successful census. I think the Census Bureau has acknowledged there’s a problem and they are going to work on it – and we are going to keep tabs on them. There are some smaller field operations coming up, but the big one is non-response follow up in the spring, to follow up with non-respondents. That’s going to be around 600,000 people hired. So we’re going to watch the Bureau’s progress in improving fingerprinting abilities.

SRM: On a related issue, I wrote about how the Census Bureau’s three Data Capture Centers may have similar human resources issues. Because, for example, in Baltimore, the Data Capture Center is run by contractor Lockheed Martin, who subcontracted the hiring efforts to Computer Sciences Corporation, I am wondering if the same rigid hiring standards that Census Bureau employees are subject to apply in these cases? I was told by Stephen Buckner, spokesman for the Census Bureau, that these employees are subject to the same standards, but a couple of loopholes that I noticed are that employees at these centers are not subject to drug tests or that because of time lags, people who undergo background investigations now might not start work for six months, meaning that they could potentially develop criminal records in the interim period. Can you address these issues?

RG: I’m not familiar with the specifics when contractors are involved.

SRM: What are the greatest challenges for the 2010 Census from your perspective?

RG: I’m glad you asked that because what we’ve been reporting on is much bigger than fingerprints. That’s certainly an issue, but the Bureau has other things they need to be concerned about as well. Speaking positively, the GAO has a high risk list, and we put the Census Bureau on this list in March 2008 because of weaknesses in the Census Bureau’s IT management, problems with the handheld computers, the difficulties they were having in coming up with the total cost of the decennial census, the fact that they did not conduct a full dress rehearsal, and on top of all that time was running out. And we put the decennial census on our high risk list because it’s a critical statistical program for the nation. Using March 2008 as an anchor point, we have seen that the Bureau has made a lot of progress in terms of risk mitigation. There is certainly a lot more work to be done but we are also encouraged by a lot of the improvements that we’ve been seeing. Certainly it was important to have a president appointed and senate confirmed Director (Robert M. Groves), so it’s certainly important that the top leadership is now firmly in place. We’re encouraged by some of the advisors that Dr. Groves has brought in who have experience from the 2000 Census. And we’re also encouraged by the fact that the Census Bureau acknowledges that they have a problem. The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that you have one. But some of the areas that still concern us: IT management, requirements and testing plans have not been finalized, it’s difficult to track progress because of vague metrics, and some of the IT systems face tight implementation time-frames. Of all the IT systems, the one that we’re most concerned about is the paper-based operational control system (PBOCS).

SRM: Can you elaborate on that?

RG: That was the program that was put in place when they abandoned the handheld computers for non-response follow-up. So PBOCS basically controls the office workflow. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of nailing down requirements and testing in the short time remaining. Basically, they have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it before it needs to go live.

SRM: There was a Census employee named Bill Sparkman who was murdered about a month ago. Is your office involved in that investigation?

RG: No, not at all.

SRM: Do you have any comments on the recent decision for the Census Bureau to sever its ties with ACORN?

RG: The Bureau just needs to make sure that it has adequate guidance so that it can make a determination as to who they should partner with and who the shouldn’t.

Government Will Not End Raids Prior To 2010 Census

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Check out the following little discussed story from the Associated Press that shows the Obama Administration taking an immigrant unfriendly position:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the 2010 census six months away, the Commerce Department said Thursday it won’t seek a halt to immigrationraids as it did in the previous census in hopes of improving participation in hard-to-count communities.

In a statement, the department said it is committed to an accurate count of U.S. residents, including both legal and illegal immigrants. Spokesman Nick Kimball said officials will not ask the Homeland Security Department to stop large-scale immigration raids during the high stakes count that begins April 1.

That position is a departure from the one taken in the 2000 census, when immigration officials at the request of the Census Bureau informally agreed not to conduct raids. The bureau two years ago asked DHS to hold off again in 2010, but that was rejected by the Bush administration, which said it would continue to enforce federal laws.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department echoed that position and said it would not be revisiting the matter.

”Our job is to count every resident once, and in the right place, and that’s what we do,” Kimball said. ”All the information the Census Bureau collects is protected by law and will not be shared with any other agency. Neither the Commerce Department nor the Census Bureau will ask DHS to refrain from exercising their lawful authority.”

It remained unclear what Commerce’s stance might have on the likelihood of immigration raids next year. In recent months, the government has said it was seeking to shift enforcement efforts more toward criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants as well as cases in which an illegal immigrant may pose a safety threat to the community.

The Commerce statement comes as the Census Bureau enters the final stretch of preparations for the decennial count, which is used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid. With an effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws expected to take place sometime next year, Census Director Robert Groves has said he’s particularly worried that tensions over immigration will deter people from participating in the count.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Keep Up The Good Work Dr. Groves!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

At Dr. Robert M. Groves’ confirmation hearing to become the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, it was reassuring to hear a career statistician and manager discuss his vision for a Bureau that was in great need of reform. However, at that time it was only natural to worry that Groves was simply a man of words who needed to get past what could have been a controversial confirmation process. Four months after making many promises to change the Bureau, Dr. Groves has proven that he follows through with actions.

Despite GOP partisans stalling Dr. Groves’ nomination over concerns that he would bring his political views to the 2010 Census, Dr. Groves’ has proven to a level-headed, fair, honest, transparent, and decisive leader. As he stated yesterday at his first major press conference, he is constantly trying to be persuaded to enter the political fray but fights every day to maintain his independence. Dr. Groves’ rejection of political overtures is what will make his tenure different than those of past Census Bureau leaders.

An excellent Census Bureau director must have superior statistical knowledge, superb management skills, and an ability to answer honestly to both politicians and the public. In his first months in this role, Dr. Groves has succeeded in all of these areas. With his decision to terminate the Census Bureau’s partnership with ACORN, Dr. Groves unequivocally proved himself as a leader who put the Bureau and the people of this nation ahead of the Democrats who supported him from day one and the president who nominated him.

Dr. Groves inherited a Census Bureau that was filled with disorganization, mismanagement, and a lack of foresight. Turning this agency around cannot occur overnight, and MyTwoCensus does not place blame on on Dr. Groves for most failures of the 2010 Census. Though his first 70 days in office have been marked by success and progress, there is still much work to be done with April 1, 2010 only six months away.

White House: ACORN Behavior Is Unacceptable

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Thanks to Jake Tapper of ABC News:

At today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked by ABC News about recent government actions taken against ACORN, had a forceful response.

“Obviously the conduct you see on those tapes is completely unacceptable,” Gibbs said, raising the issue of videotapes posted online by BigGovernment.com and aired frequently by Fox News Channel that seem to show ACORN employees advising a faux prostitute and faux pimp on how to skirt housing and tax laws. “The administration takes accountability extremely seriously.”

Gibbs said the Census Bureau decided that ACORN could not assist the group in meeting “the bureau’s goal of achieving a fair and accurate count in 2010″ and that some other agencies are evaluating their relationship with the group. “We constantly evaluate to ensure that any grantee is living up to what has to happen in order to fulfill that grant application.”

The ACORN Investigations Continue…

Friday, September 11th, 2009

We hate to keep beating this story to a bloody pulp, this is yet another day where ACORN has been featured prominently in the news for its wrongdoings. When I woke up this morning, the following story was the #1 headline on CNN.com:

(CNN) — Two employees at the Baltimore, Maryland, branch of the liberal community organizing group ACORN were caught on tape allegedly offering advice to a pair posing as a pimp and prostitute on setting up a prostitution ring and evading the IRS.

The footage, which appears to have been edited in places, was recorded and posted online Thursday.

The footage, which appears to have been edited in places, was recorded and posted online Thursday.

The video footage — which has been edited and goes to black in some areas — was recorded and and posted online Thursday by James O’Keefe, a conservative activist. He was joined on the video by another conservative, Hannah Giles, who posed as the prostitute in the filmmakers’ undercover sting.

The video shows the pair approaching two women working at the ACORN Baltimore office and asking them for advice on how to set up a prostitution ring involving more than a dozen underage girls from El Salvador.

One of the ACORN workers suggests that Giles refer to herself as a “performing artist” on tax forms and declare some of the girls as dependents to receive child tax credits.

“Stop saying prostitution,” the woman, identified by the filmmaker as an ACORN tax expert, tells Giles. The other woman tells them, “You want to keep them clean … make sure they go to school.” Video Watch tape of alleged advice on prostitution »

Both women appear enthusiastic to help.

Calls to ACORN’s Baltimore offices were not immediately returned Thursday. A local spokeswoman told The Associated Press that both employees seen in the video were fired.

“The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at ‘gotcha journalism,’ ” said Scott Levenson, a spokesman at ACORN’s national offices. “This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”

The conservative filmmakers unsuccessfully attempted similar ruses at the group’s offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, California, and New York, Levenson said.

Law enforcement officials in the Baltimore area wouldn’t confirm whether they are investigating the alleged incident at the local ACORN office. However, authorities said that under Maryland law, such undercover video may not be admissible in court as evidence.

CNN attempted to reach O’Keefe and Giles; O’Keefe was not available for comment and Giles canceled an interview scheduled for Thursday.

ACORN — an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — made headlines last year when Republican groups seized on allegations of voter registration fraud by the group in Florida and several other states, claiming its workers were trying to push the election in Barack Obama’s favor.

On Wednesday, arrest warrants were issued for 11 Florida voter registration workers suspected of submitting false information on hundreds of voter registration cards, according to court documents. The Florida investigation was triggered by ACORN officials who noticed irregularities in forms they were receiving.

ACORN turns in Fla. workers on voter fraud charges

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Just a week after I announced the findings of my spot check of ACORN’s activities in regard to the 2010 Census, the organization is back in the news in a very bad way. Check out the following report from Curt Anderson of the Associated Press:

MIAMI — Armed with a tip from the grassroots group ACORN about its own workers, authorities on Wednesday began arresting 11 people suspected of falsifying hundreds of voter applications during a registration drive last year.

ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has long been accused by Republican and conservative activists — fed by talk-radio hosts — of fraudulently registering voters. But Miami-Dade prosecutors gave credit to the group for coming forward and ACORN officials said they felt vindicated.

“It shows that we take the integrity of our voter registration work with the utmost seriousness,” said ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring. “We turn in people who try to game the system.”

Although ACORN is nonpartisan, its registration efforts focus on low-income and minority populations who tend to vote for Democrats; critics contend those efforts frequently bend or break registration rules. At times during the 2008 presidential campaign, people attending rallies for Republican nominee John McCain broke into chants of “No More ACORN!”

Last year, ACORN’s national drive produced some 1.3 million voter applications.

ACORN first detected problems in Miami-Dade County in June 2008, according to a letter the group wrote to prosecutors. Investigators eventually determined that 11 canvassers, who were paid between $8 and $10 an hour, were turning in fake registration cards, mostly from the Homestead area.

“This is really about money. These are people who decided not to work,” said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katharine Fernandez Rundle.

The 11 workers each face multiple counts of two felony charges: false swearing in connection with voting and submission of false voter registration information. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The suspects collectively turned in about 1,400 registration cards, of which 888 were later found to be faked. Some contained names of celebrities such as actor Paul Newman, while in other cases the same real voter’s name was used on multiple applications. There was no evidence anyone voted who should not have.

The FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement had made five arrests by midday and were looking for the remaining suspects. ACORN officials said the group regularly reports suspected fraud to authorities nationwide but the Miami prosecution marks one of the few times the complaints were taken seriously.

ACORN itself last year was the subject of fraudulent registration complaints in Missouri, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, among others.

Spot Check: ACORN

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

So, the Census Bureau has assured members of Congress that ACORN is NOT involved in the recruiting process for candidates hoping to be among the 1.4 million Americans who will work for the 2010 Census. I decided to contact a bunch of ACORN offices throughout the country and ask them if they could help get me a job to see if this was true. Here’s what I found:

Note: More than half of the ACORN offices I called had phone lines that were no longer active. Some of the e-mail addresses I contacted were also no longer working and bounced back to me. (Hmmm…Do you think that ACORN’s bad publicity during the past yer could have caused the organization to lose just a little bit of non-profit funding? It certainly looks that way to me.)

When I called each office, I said, “Hi, I heard that you could help me get a job with the 2010 Census. What do I have to do?”

Washington DC ACORN – “We have no idea. You have to take a test with the Census. Do you know how to go to that site? We have nothing with the Census Bureau. You have to go on the web site then go to www.ACORN.org…”

Pittsburgh ACORN – “We don’t have that contract.  I don’t know who has it. You know the Hill House? They have a new employment center. Those people should know who’s hiring for the 2010 Census.”

Philadelphia ACORN – “I don’t know too much about the census. We are one of a couple of thousand partnership organizations. We haven’t had any information yet, but you should try back in a couple of weeks.”

Atlanta ACORN – “Go online to ACORN.org and that’s where you’d have to put the application in. That’s where you would put your application in.”

At this point, her phone line went down and she kindly called me back from her cell phone. She had me send her an e-mail with my request as her land-line phone was experiencing problems. I sent her an e-mail but it bounced back to me.

Among the ACORN offices I e-mailed, I received only one response, and it came from the Southern regional office:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am currently out of work, and I heard that ACORN was hiring for the Census. Can you please let me know how I can work for the Census in our area?

Thank you very much,

Stephen Robert Morse

The e-mail responses:

Dear Mr. Morse:

Thank you for contacting ACORN.

Unfortunately, no one we know of at ACORN has any idea where this notion came from.  We have no census work, never heard of any and don’t expect to hear of any census work.

Please contact the U.S. Census bureau or your local congressperson for information regarding working with the census.

Best regards,

G. Brown

CONCLUSION: At this time, it doesn’t appear that ACORN is recruiting on a national level to attract candidates to work for the 2010 Census, but that’s today, September 2. Local offices, such as the one in Atlanta, were quite quick to help me out.  The major recruiting efforts for the 2010 Census don’t take place until later this fall, so we’ll just have to wait and see what involvement ACORN has in this process.

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).

California could lose a House seat after 2010 census

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
H/T to Richard Simon of the LA Times for reporting on the following:

Reporting from Washington — Here’s yet another result of the bad economy: California’s congressional delegation is unlikely to grow and could even lose a seat after next year’s census for the first time since stagecoach days.

If the state loses a seat, it could weaken California’s clout in Washington and reduce the amount of federal money flowing to the state. It could also set off a game of political musical chairs, forcing two incumbents to run against each other.

As if that weren’t enough, the state that stands to gain the most new seats is California’s longtime rival, Texas, the second most populous state.

With the possible loss of a seat, “an accurate census becomes all the more important to California,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House census oversight subcommittee and a member of President Obama’s transition team for the census.

As California’s population has increased — through the booms of the 1880s, the post-World War II years and the 1980s — so has its clout in Congress.

The delegation has grown every time Congress has reapportioned House seats to reflect population changes. The state gained nine seats — the most ever — after the 1930 census, seven after 1950, eight after 1960, seven after 1990 and one after the 2000 count.

The delegation now stands at 53, the largest of any state.

California neighbors Arizona and Nevada are expected to gain seats, as are Texas, Florida and Georgia. Texas alone could pick up as many as four. Michigan and Ohio, hard hit by the recession, are among the states expected to lose seats.

California’s population has been growing at a slower rate than those of a number of other states, a key factor in apportioning congressional seats. It grew 1.1% last year, its lowest rate in a decade.

“The economy, no doubt, held down the growth rate in California,” said UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain.

Demographers believe that the size of California’s delegation will most likely remain unchanged — still significant because of its history of growth — rather than decrease by one. But they also say the state is on the bubble.

“I would be very surprised if we lost a seat, but not at all surprised if we didn’t gain any, based on the job growth,” said Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.

The state is adding jobs at about the same rate as the national average after above-average job growth from the end of World War II until the early 1990s, when the economy suffered deeply from the collapse of California’s aerospace industry, Levy said.

The Golden State’s share of new immigrants — legal and illegal — has also dropped. The state has been drawing about one-sixth of new immigrants in recent years, down from one-third in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, said Jeff Passel, a demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

He added that the percentage of immigrants settling in the mountain states and Southeast has risen.

As immigration has slowed, more people have moved out of California to other states than into California from other states — a net loss of more than 435,000 and perhaps as many as 945,000 in the last four years.

“During recessions, when California’s unemployment rate is higher than the nation’s, as is the case right now, we tend to experience quite a bit of outmigration,” said Hans Johnson, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

The state’s population has grown, nonetheless, because births and continued, albeit slowed, immigration have outpaced deaths and people moving out of California.

“Population is driven by jobs and the economy. So in this next census, I think there will be a strong correlation to the regional and state economies and population,” said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s little doubt that California is going to feel that in a special way.”

Still, the fate of the state’s delegation will remain unclear until after the census is completed, because the current population estimates vary.

If the state’s estimate of 12.6% population growth from 2000 to 2008 is correct, Johnson said, California could still gain a seat or two in Congress. Under the Census Bureau figures of 8.5% growth since 2000, the state’s congressional delegation is likely to remain unchanged.

Although the subject is arcane, size matters in Washington.

Not only is the census used to apportion strength in the House of Representatives and the electoral college, but dozens of federal aid programs are linked to population figures.

The possible loss of a congressional seat was cited by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month in creating a special panel to “make certain everyone is counted so that California gets its fair share of federal dollars and representation in Congress.”

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders has called for illegal immigrants to boycott the census to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to overhaul immigration laws, but a number of Latino House members from California have spoken out against a boycott, saying it could cost the state dearly. In its decennial count, the Census Bureau does not consider a person’s legal status.

Ironically, declining home values may deter Californians from selling their homes and leaving the state.

Mary Heim, chief of the state Department of Finance’s demographic research unit, said the number of people moving out of California to other states “may not reach the level of the 1990s because the economic slowdown is nationwide this time and not as concentrated in California as it was in the 1990s.”

Can Harry Reid Make Robert M. Groves’ Confirmation Happen?

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Well, now we know where the holdup came from! It was not one, but two senators, David Vitter (R-LA) and Richard Shelby (R-Al) who have been blocking Robert M. Groves’ confirmation to become the next U.S. Census Director. MyTwoCensus is inquiring with both of these Senator’s offices and we will be able to have their responses for you within the next 24 hours. We give a hearty hat tip to Roll Call for the following report:

By Jessica Brady
Roll Call Staff
July 9, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is looking to force a vote as early as this week on the stalled nomination of Robert Groves to lead the Census Bureau, hoping to harness his new 60-seat majority to overcome holds by a pair of Republicans.

“I think we’re going to have a cloture vote,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Wednesday, noting that Reid will likely file a procedural motion to advance the long-stalled nomination.

Republican Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David Vitter (La.) each have holds on Groves, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, over concerns he would use statistical sampling for the 2010 effort. Republicans charge that the technique, designed to better capture undercounted groups such as minorities, is unconstitutional and a political maneuver.

But Democrats who favor Groves’ installment as Census Bureau director are eager to get him in place before the national population count officially gets under way in just eight months.

“The reality is this census is already hopping on one leg,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said, expressing fear that “Latinos and other minorities are going to be severely undercounted.”

Carper last month called a meeting with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to hatch a plan to unlock the GOP hold on Groves. There has been no follow-up to the June 16 meeting, both Carper and Collins said. The Homeland Security panel has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau.

“I still think he should be confirmed. He’s well-qualified, and I don’t know why some of my colleagues have a hold on him,” Collins said of Groves, who was confirmed by her panel on a unanimous vote on May 20.

But Vitter and Shelby have been unrelenting in their holds, demanding assurances from the White House including a guarantee from President Barack Obama that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which came under fire in 2008 over allegations of voter fraud, would not participate in the 2010 effort.

“Sen. Vitter is holding the Groves nomination until he gets written confirmation from the White House addressing two concerns: that sampling will not be used and that ACORN will have nothing to do with the census,” Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado said.

Shelby wrote a letter to the president in March to question ACORN’s involvement in the census.

The census, conducted every 10 years, assesses the nation’s population and demographic makeup and influences the allocation of Congressional districts throughout the country. Next year’s head count will cost at least $14 billion, and according to a report by the Government Accountability Office issued in March, preparations for 2010 are ill-managed and behind schedule.

In addition to hefty legislative priorities and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Reid has a backlog of two-dozen executive nominations awaiting floor consideration. The Majority Leader has had to use procedural rules to break GOP opposition on several nominations so far this year.

“We of course want to confirm all of these nominees as quickly as possible,” Reid spokeswoman Regan LaChapelle said in a statement Wednesday. “It is unfortunate to have to use precious floor time on these nominations, all of which so far have eventually been confirmed. We have so many important issues to address and the president needs his full team.”

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.”

Full Transcript Of Stephen Robert Morse’s Conversation With Kenneth Prewitt

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last week, I, Stephen Robert Morse, had the opportunity to interview former Census Director/current Census Bureau consultant Kenneth Prewitt. The following piece is certainly long (5,000+ words), but I think that it will provide many answers for people who have questions about the 2010 Census. If you don’t have the stamina to read such a long piece, I urge you to read the shortened version of this interview on MotherJones.com. Enjoy the following:

6/23/09: Conversation with Kenneth Prewitt, former Director of the U.S. Census Bureau

Interview by Stephen Robert Morse

SRM: When did you arrive back at the Census Bureau?

KP: By arrive back, you mean in the consultant sense?

SRM: Yes.

KP: I have been sworn in, but I haven’t actually started work, so I wouldn’t say that I have arrived back yet. I haven’t done any work yet because I was hoping that the confirmation process [for Robert M. Groves] would play out. I’ve done very little, but I’m probably going to try to get started in the next week or so.

SRM: Do you have to wait for Robert M. Groves’s Senate confirmation before you begin?

KP: No, I don’t have to wait. I just felt like it made more sense to do whatever I could whatever I could with the leadership who will be in place for the duration of the decennial. But no, it’s partly my own schedule and getting free of my obligations here [in New York] and so forth.

SRM: If you’re not running the show right now and Robert Groves isn’t running the show right now, who is running the show at the Census Bureau in Washington?

KP: Well, they’ve got an Acting Director [Tom Mesenbourg] who is running the show, and even if I had been there I wouldn’t be running the show [He laughs!] They have a leadership structure. The Census Bureau is not unfamiliar with acting directors. If you look across any decade, you will find that about 15-20% of the time, it being run by an acting director. So it’s not an unusual structure.

SRM: That’s a good lead-in to another question. Do you think the Director of the Census Bureau should have a fixed term? If so, for how long?

KP: I very strongly think it should be a fixed term. It should be a presidential appointed, Senate confirmed, five-year term, starting in the year 07 or 02 (or 12 or 17), off-cycle of the decennial Census (which takes place in years ending in 0), renewable once without Senate confirmation. And were it to be renewed again, it would go back to the Senate, so it could be a ten-year term with one Senate confirmation. I feel very strongly that it should be a fixed term.

SRM: And do you think the Census Bureau should be an independent agency?

KP: I very strongly feel that it should be an independent agency. It’s a scientific organization. It’s like the National Science Foundation, like NIH, like the Archives Center. It has a statistical responsibility for society and it should be treated as a science institution and like NASA and I think it would be a much stronger institution if it were independent.

SRM: Do you think the Census Bureau has been damaged by partisan activity?

KP: It’s a complicated question because the partisan activity goes back to 1790. [laughs] The first presidential veto, by George Washington, was a veto of Alexander Hamilton’s formula for apportioning the House, and the one that Washington preferred was one that Thomas Jefferson produced, and that was one partisan issue. The apportionment formula that Jefferson produced gave an extra seat to Virginia. Everybody knew what that game was [laughs]. That was partisan. Look, partisan interest in the census is simply nothing new. Has there been damage over that period? Yes, on and off. For example, after the 1920 Census, the House of Representatives was not apportioned. It was simply not apportioned, for ten years. That was a partisan issue. It wasn’t the Census Bureau itself, but it was a Census Bureau product in which the apportionment numbers simply weren’t used.

SRM: How does partisanship affect the census today?

KP: I think the sampling fight, whatever it was, was deeply unfortunate. And it was a partisan fight. And I have written at great length and argued a great length that it shouldn’t have been partisan. The Census Bureau does not know how to be partisan. If it tried to design a census that had a partisan outcome, it wouldn’t know how to do it. How could you predict in three or four or five years before you are doing the decennial census, a design that would benefit this district instead of that district? If you’re trying to count everybody, you wouldn’t know how to torque it in a way. It’s all about a share basis. All apportionment numbers and redistricting numbers are on a share basis, which means that if you do something here, you’re adjusting the entire system, because it’s allocated on a fixed pie, on a share basis. So the actual assertion that the Census Bureau could behave in such a way as to tilt things one way or the other way in the partisan sense, is, on the face of it, a silly charge. It’s the same Census Bureau that’s considered to be incompetent by some people and then some of the same people are saying that this incompetent agency is so clever and so Machiavellian that it can design a census for partisan reasons. It just doesn’t compute. Now, did [accusations of partisanship] damage the census? Yes, it damaged the idea of sampling. As I quip, I like to tell the people I interact with who are against sampling, I say, “Next time you want to go to the doctor for a blood test, don’t say ‘I want you to take out a little bit,’ say ‘Take out all of it!’ How else will you know? Clearly there’s a fundamental sense in which the public and the leadership understand sampling. When you wake up in the morning and you want to find out whether it’s raining, you don’t look out every window of your house, you look out one window. There, you sampled. Etcetera, etcetera. So, the idea that we turned the word sampling into a dirty word and a partisan word is deeply, deeply damaging, not to the Census Bureau, but the idea of fiscal integrity, the idea of how do you have the best count possible. That’s not necessarily an argument for a particular methodology, dual system estimation. It’s a complicated, difficult methodology, and the Census Bureau has now worked on it, and understands that it hasn’t quite gotten it right yet, but the whole thought that this is about something called sampling, goes against a very particular technical methodology, which the U.S. Congress has not shown the patience to try to understand, is unfortunate. On the other hand, every other number we use to govern society, the CPI, all the lagging indicators, unemployment numbers, trade statistics, healthcare, how many people are uninsured, all of those numbers are based on samples.

SRM: After President Obama was elected, you were the frontrunner to become the next Director of the Census Bureau. Even the New York Times endorsed you for this position. Why did you withdraw your name from the running?

KP: By the way, I don’t know what the word “frontrunner” means in that sense. I am aware that my name was mentioned, but who knows who the frontrunner was or was not? I was aware that I was under consideration. At a certain point, I felt it more appropriate and more useful, because I had decided that I was not going to be able to relocate, I have heavy duties at Columbia University, and I wanted to continue those duties. In that sense, I wrote a note that said, “If you are considering me, please don’t.” But I wouldn’t say that I was a nominee who withdrew.

SRM: Why do you think Bob Groves’ confirmation [to become the next director of the U.S. Census Bureau] has been stalled?

KP: I wish I had a good answer to that question. I really do. I see that some people went through last week. I think maybe nineteen people, or some large number of people, went through last week. But why he wasn’t on that list, I don’t know. As I had quickly e-mailed to you, I had gone along on the assumption that  everybody was being held out because of the start of the hearings on Sotomayor. But if they are letting some people through but not Bob, I simply don’t have a good explanation for that.

SRM: Do you have any suspicions as to who stalled the nomination?

KP: No, I really don’t. I don’t walk the halls of Congress, where I could learn that. I think I would know if it were knowable, if somebody knew.

SRM: When do you think this will be resolved?

KP: How about six weeks ago? [Laughs] That’s when I thought it would be resolved. I just find it sad, on one level, because somebody doesn’t take the census serious enough to recognize that leadership matters. And leadership does matter. It’s June, for heaven sakes. It’s already too late to improve some things, but it’s going to get increasingly too late to improve anything. And the poor Census Bureau is going to get beaten up for something it didn’t have any say-so in. At the end of the day, nobody’s going to remember that you didn’t have a director [currently there is an acting director] for a year and a half, going on two years. But there was also a long period before Murdoch [Stephen Murdoch, Census Director during the last year of the Bush administration] was appointed and confirmed. That’s a slight exaggeration because the deputy census director had been basically eased out (forced into retirement)  and the then-census director Louis Kincannon had said that he would resign. However, he said that he would stay on until a replacement was in place, but once he decided to announce that he would resign, it obviously created a lame duck situation. So it was obviously very difficult for the Census Bureau to move during that period. And it took the Bush Administration a year to find Murdoch and then another six months to get him confirmed, so in that sense there was an 18 month period when you were expecting to have a director and you didn’t have one. Louis was still there for much of it. He’s a very first rate man and a very effective guy but he had already announced that he was leaving, so in terms of planning the decennial, there wasn’t a whole lot that Louis could be doing.

SRM: As we’re now talking about the Census Bureau in the early and mid 2000s, what happened to the 2010 Census? Where did things go wrong? What are your thoughts?

KP: Hermann Habermann, who Louis Kincannon appointed when he was became Director, was a very talented and important Deputy Director (of the Census Bureau). Hermann and Louis both had deep experience within the Census Bureau and both had gone on to do other kinds of things. Louis had gone on to OECD (?) and Hermann had gone on to the United Nations Fiscal Program, so they were real, major professionals and were running, I think, a very good operation. And this is now back in 02, 03, 04. Then there were some money problems, some serious money problems. Not money problems in terms of the Census Bureau’s budget, but it got held up, there were continued resolutions. It had nothing to do with the Census Bureau, they just got chewed up in the process, which meant that there was a period, and I don’t have that period in my mind, but a period in the mid-decade, when they couldn’t actually plan seriously for the decennial, because they didn’t know how much money they were going to have. They didn’t have the kind of money in that year, for example, to do the kind of planning they needed to do. They were really being squeezed financially. Then, after the ’06 election, Hermann was basically eased out by the Commerce Department.

SRM: What does that mean exactly?

KP: He was told that he would be reassigned from being deputy director of the Census Bureau to some other job in the Commerce Department, which was not one he wanted, so in that sense he wasn’t going to be what he thought he was, which was Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. So, that was when Louis Kincannon said “If I can’t have my own Deputy Director, then I myself will resign.” So that’s in ’06 and that was done by the [Bush] Administration for whatever its reasons were. I know what the public reasons were, but I don’t think they were the real reasons.

SRM: What were those reasons?

KP: The public reason was that there had been a laptop issue, and they blamed Hermann for that laptop issue. There were stolen laptops. Look, the proportion of stolen laptops at the Census Bureau that went missing were a tiny percentage of what some other agencies were experiencing. And Hermann was a very responsible civil servant, and when the word came out that he had to let us know what the laptop situation was under the law, blah, blah, blah, he answered forthrightly and quickly, so the Census Bureau took the hit, and for whatever reason they decided to blame him. Ok, now I’m getting all of this back in my mind. So Hermann then leaves and Jay Waite becomes Deputy Director, so essentially Jay Waite was running  the decennial census during that time. It was then in that period, then, this is in 06, after the mid-term, when they begin to run into troubles with the handhelds. As I said, Hermann was first-rate and he was managing the contracts. So, they didn’t really have anyone to be managing those contracts, and Jay Waite, who is a very talented man on some operations, he just wasn’t attuned to some of the issues that could come up with the handheld situation, so that one got out of hand.

SRM: So who’s fault was this? Who’s fault was this whole handheld computer debacle?

KP: The Department of Commerce. This is why I think it needs to be an independent agency. They weren’t paying attention to the Census Bureau during the intermediate years. That’s always true. That’s why it has to be independent. Look, who is to blame? That’s a Washington question. Structures are some times to blame, not people. I mean, you can create a structure which makes carrying out a certain task very difficult, not in order to carry that task out, in order to do something else, but the result is unintended consequences. The unintended consequence of getting Hermann Habermann out of the Deputy Director position in those years was not having anyone pay attention to the handheld debacle. The fact that Hermann Habermann was removed on not a very good charge contributed to the fact that nobody was paying attention to the contract, the Harris contract [the $600 million debacle to create handheld computers for the 2010 Census], at the level of detail he needed to be paying attention to for about a year.

SRM: There were reports by the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and they all said over and over again that the 2010 Census was a very high risk situation. It seems like even after these reports came out that there were opportunities to correct these errors, but nobody listened this advice. Again, who is to blame? Why did this happen? What is the root of these failures?

KP: Well, I don’t know. Whoever it was that doesn’t want Bob Groves…I’m not trying to find somebody to blame. I’m trying to say, what is the situation that leads to these kind of outcomes? All of this starts during the mid-term elections in 06. You had a quasi-leaderless situation in 06-07. Then, you get the handheld fiasco, whatever you want to call it. Then the Secretary of Commerce and the Commerce Department tries to put something together in an emergency situation. But then with Steve Murdoch in the Directorship position, but then there’s an election in 08. But because there’s not a term appointment [for the Census Director], Murdoch is clearly not going to go, so it’s now…

SRM: What are your thoughts on Murdoch and his leadership?

KP: Steve was in a difficult position, because if he had a five-year term, he could have run the Bureau differently than if you think you’re going to be there for a year. That’s why this fixed term really does matter. So the Census Bureau gets jerked around, starting in 06, first by the administration, and then by Congress not acting, and then on budgetary issues and so forth. And suddenly you’re walking up to 2010 and you’ve gone almost four years without a permanent, solid, leadership team in place to do the decennial, because the person who was doing it, Jay Waite, also leaves, and I won’t blame anybody, but he leaves. Murdoch leaves because he had to. Tom Mesenbourg [current acting director of the Census Bureau] who I have a great deal of respect for, a very talented man, becomes Acting Director, but he had never done a decennial, so he’s got to learn on the job. He’s doing a first-rate job of learning on the job, but he had never done a decennial. So you have an agency that no one is actually paying attention to until there’s a problem, and then there’s a lot of rushing around and looking for quote on quote, someone to blame. And now, we’re perpetuating it by letting Bob Groves sit around at his apartment in Washington instead of running the Census Bureau.

SRM: So Bob’s not even going into the office yet?

KP: He can’t. He technically can’t.

SRM: There was a Field Data Collection Automation Task Force, known as the FDCA Task Force, and they made another report to Carlos Gutierrez (Secretary of Commerce) in early 2008 with recommendations on how to improve the collection of field data. What has been done since early 2008, for over a year now?

KP: If that’s the task force I’m thinking of, then I was on it. Our only job was to advise Gutierrez on what to do regarding the handheld computers. And that was the task force that said “Keep them for address canvassing but don’t use them for non-response follow-up. So in that sense, it was acted upon.

SRM: Do you think that it’s surprising that here we are, in the year 2009, and we’re conducting the 2010 Census without using technology for all parts of the operation?

KP: Let me put it as follows. I think the Census Bureau has been a technical innovator, certainly since the start of the 20th Century. After all, it was the first agency to use the Hollerith Card, the old punch card which was married to an adding machine which became IBM. It invented sampling theory in the 1930s. It was the first federal agency to use a major mainframe in the 1950s. It was extremely adept in 2000 in doing intelligent character recognition and data capture using very, very high-tech processes. And I think you can say about 2010, that it was technically innovative in using the handhelds in address canvassing. Who’s to say that they had to use handhelds for non-response follow-up? So, they have been technologically innovative once again, with respect to GPS and address canvassing. I don’t know the results yet, but I hope we’ve come out of this with a much better address list than we had in 2000. We won’t know until we start in the field, but at least one has reason to think it is. So, I think it has been technologically innovative. The fact that you didn’t take the extra step for non-response follow-up doesn’t mean that it’s been technologically stagnant.

SRM: But do these handheld computer devices from the Harris Corporation even work properly? And were they designed properly?

KP: Well, that I’m not in the position to judge. They’re doing quality studies on that right now.

SRM: Do you think that Harris Corp. is a worthy company to receive these contracts?

KP: I need to see how well the devices work. Anybody who gives you an opinion on that is doing it before the data are in.

SRM: I don’t know if you’ve read on MyTwoCensus.com and other blogs, where people have complained about the functionality of these devices.

KP: When you payroll 140,000 people, it’s not hard to find people who are disgruntled. And I’m not saying they’re wrong. I actually talked to people who did the address canvassing work, people I know extremely well, people who had no reason whatsoever not to tell me what was going on, and they had some problems, but they are convinced that they ended the process by producing a much better address list then when they went into it. And that’s the test. Of course there’s always somebody saying “this didn’t work” or “that didn’t work.” But the test is, do we have a better address list? And that’s quality control judgment. I’m not trying to slam your website (MyTwoCensus.com) but you have to appreciate that you are getting a self-selected group of correspondents. But I’m not passing judgment on you, and you shouldn’t pass judgment on the technology until the data are in. What I’m saying is that I don’t think the people who are writing to bloggers are the people producing systematic data.

SRM: I understand that. So, what are the greatest obstacles that remain for the 2010 Census operation?

KP: The old ones. They haven’t changed. One, you’ve got to start with a good address list. If it’s a good one, good. If it’s not, then you can’t have a good census because that’s your frame. And when you send non-response follow-up people, there’s that. Secondly, you’ve got to hope for a decent mail-back  response rate, because the workload goes way up and the costs go way up if you don’t have a good mail back response rate. And we simply do not yet know what the response rate is because we haven’t done it yet. But if it’s not in the mid-60s, it’s going to be both budgetarily and operationally very difficult for the Census Bureau. And in 2000, we had expected to be in the low 60s, and we got into the mid to high 60s and that was an enormous boost, and we did it with a first-rate effort. And I think that the people running the advertising campaign right now and all of the outreach are very good professionals and I hope they are successful. But it’s up to the American people to do it. What can the Census Bureau do, other than put it in their mailboxes on schedule. And if they [the American people] don’t send it back in, they have to start knocking on the door. So there is the mail-back response rate and then there’s the willingness to cooperate in non-response follow up, and then there’s the startling problem of the enormous number of undocumented in the country, who will have every reason not to want to cooperate with the federal government.

SRM: What do you think about people like Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who last week, in an interview with The Washington Times, said that she refused to fill out the 2010 Census form?

KP: I think it’s seriously unfortunate when an elected official of the federal government says that I’m going to deliberately break the law. I don’t know what kind of signal she thinks that sends, but if she believes that’s a good signal, I’m sad for the country. She says, incorrectly, because she hasn’t read the law, that the only thing she needed to do is give the number of people who live in her household. If everyone in the country did that, you would have zero quality control. Zero, because you do quality  control not only on how many there are, but is the family structure the way you told it is, is the racial composition, is the gender composition? You do quality control on all those other variables, and it means that you’re eliminating the capacity of the Census Bureau to do quality control. I think that it’s deeply, deeply, unfortunate that a member of Congress would, in effect, announce that, and invite other people who feel that way to say, “Well I don’t have to do it either.”

SRM: Do you think this has become a partisan issue?

KP: I have no idea. You asked me what I thought. It’s my opinion of her behavior. I don’t know her motivation.

SRM: Do you think that radio hosts and other prominent people questioning whether people should participate in the 2010 Census would turn this into a partisan issue?

KP: Everything can turn into a partisan issue. Honestly, I can tell you what the consequences are, but in terms of motivation, when you don’t know the people, I don’t know if it’s a partisan or non-partisan issue. I think it’s unfortunate for what it will do to the 2010 Census.

SRM: I’m sure the Mother Jones readers would be very interested in me asking about President Obama’s announcement on Friday, June 19 that gay marriage would now be able to be counted in the 2010 Census. What exactly does that mean and how exactly would that be done?

KP: Here I’m fairly confident that they have not worked out the exact operational procedures yet, because this was not expected when they were designing the questionnaire and designing the procedures, they did not think this was how they would be tabulating it. There isn’t a good answer to your question yet, or at least I haven’t seen it. Look, any time you are doing something with 300 million people, it’s not easy to get it right in different locales, however the question is worded on this now. Relationships in the household are on the short form.

SRM: Will the government be printing new forms now?

KP: No, it’s impossible. You can’t start reprinting new forms now. This stuff is already being printed. It takes a very long time and a lot of forward planning to run something of this magnitude. The idea of reprinting would probably be impossible.

SRM: So how would gay households know that they count?

KP: Well, that’s something that I can’t answer because I haven’t seen anything yet. There will be some serious effort by Census Bureau personnel to  create an operational plan that will make it work. I think they will go about this very seriously to make sure there aren’t any errors in the data. They want to get it right. This is who they are and what they do.

SRM: I noticed that Steve Jost (political appointee and former Census Bureau communications director) is back at the Census Bureau, and he was one of your deputies during the Clinton administration. Are you bringing back many people who were formerly there during the a Clinton administration.

KP: Jost is probably the only one. Hundreds of people at the Census Bureau were there during the Clinton administration. The Census Bureau has about five thousand employees, and if they didn’t retire or die, then they were still there in 2000. In terms of political appointees, there’s only 4. The director, the communications director, Steve Jost, the legislative director, and I’m absolutely certain that the person I had as legislative director will not be coming back, and then there’s intergovernmental relations, who deals with governors and mayors, and I’m absolutely certain that person is not coming back. So I think Jost would be the only one.

SRM: What about you? What’s your actual title now?

KP: Consultant.

SRM: Is that a part-time job?

KP: Certainly it’s a part-time job. Good gosh, I’ve got a real job. I’m just a consultant for the Census Bureau.

SRM: Are you the only person that has that title or do other people also have that title?

KP: I bet they have two or three hundred consultants out there doing different kind of work right now. You shouldn’t quote me on that number, but I imagine there’s a very large number of people doing some version of consulting work. You’ve got to imagine how big this is. For example, you may have a consultant who tells you how to make sure the trucks which are delivering the census forms to the data capture centers got an extra driver on April 13th to make sure they arrive on time. OR if they’re going to fingerprint everybody, you may have a consultant who tells you how to count a fingerprint to make sure this all runs smoothly and so forth. It’s big. If you’re going to payroll a million people, you may have consultants to make sure the payroll system is functioning. So don’t make my role something special.

SRM: You are the only person whose role as a consultant has been reported, that’s why I was asking.

KP: Okay, fair enough. Don’t quote me on the number, but I would be very surprised to find out that the number is a very large number of consultants, on all kinds of technical issues and so forth.

SRM: I know it’s early, but what will people say when they look back on the 2010 Census?

KP: I hope they say they pulled off a miracle [laughs].

SRM: Will you need a miracle at this point?

KP: That’s a quip, but I think it’s going to be very, very difficult to do this census in the current environment. That has nothing to do with the Census Bureau’s skill set. It has to do with the American people’s not wanting to be bothered, not answering their mail, not having phone lines anymore because they got cell phones, and the Census Bureau wants to do follow-up on the phone, and they can’t find phone number because they’ve only got the landline number. It has to do with the number of mobile people who would have changed houses between the time you did the address listing and when you knocked on the door. Houses will get torn down and houses will be built. The whole foreclosure crisis is a major crisis because whole hunks of the country are empty when they should be functioning neighborhoods. There are just a host of problems. And then there are the ones we can’t predict. Who knows? Natural disasters, strikes, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I know it’s going to be difficult, it’s always difficult to do a serious census. In this current economic and political and general cultural circumstances. Let me ask you a question. Let’s say there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. What percentage of those people do you think will mail a questionnaire back in?

SRM: 10?

KP: Whatever it is, it’ a low number. So let us say it’s 50%. That’s a 3% undercount before you start. Let us say it’s 25%, then you’ve got an even bigger undercount before you’ve even started.

SRM: So that’s what explains the need for the use of statistical sampling?

KP: That’s one of the reasons we were going to use it, but we can’t. So that just means that you’re doing a census knowing that you are going to miss a very significant proportion of the American population. And you’re obligated to count everyone, that’s just an uphill battle.

SRM: I really appreciate this conversation, and I definitely learned quite a bit. Thank you very much.

KP: It will only get more interesting.

SRM: I hope we can speak again soon. Thank you, goodbye.

Census to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages in ’10 Count

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Here’s the Associated Press story about the big news…

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Married same-sex couples will be counted as such in 2010, Census Bureau officials said, reversing a decision of the Bush administration.

Steve Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said same-sex couples would be counted, “and they ought to report the way they see themselves,” adding, “In the normal process of reports coming out after the census of 2010, I think the country will have a good data set on which to discuss this phenomenon that is evolving in this country.”

Same-sex couples could not be married in the United States during the last decennial count. But last year, after two states had approved same-sex marriages, the bureau said those legal marriages would go uncounted because the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevented the government from recognizing them.

Since President Obama took office, his administration has been under pressure from gay rights advocates to take a fresh look at the issue.

The White House announced Friday that its interpretation of the act did not prohibit gathering the information.

Interesting 2010 Census Op-Ed from The Huffington Post

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Michael J. O'Neil

Michael J. O’Neil

President, O’Neil Associates

Census Pick Illustrates Broader Obama Strategy

Posted: June 15, 2009 04:07 PM

A strategic retreat on the matter of employing estimation in the Census is thus one illustration of a selective approach the Obama administration has taken to many issues. Choose your battles carefully, prioritize, and do not give the opposition the opportunity to define you.

What does the testimony of a Presidential nominee to a nonpolitical federal statistical agency tell you about the strategic approach of the Obama administration? If you observe how it fits a pattern, it tells you quite a bit.

Robert M. Groves is President Obama’s pick to head the Census Bureau. From a purely technical standpoint, he could hardly have picked a more qualified candidate to head the bureau. Groves is among the most respected survey researchers in the field. In that sense, the pick resembles the choice of Nobel Laureate Steven Chu as Energy Secretary: each is a highly respected scientist and neither has discernible political leanings.

But an 800 pound gorilla loomed over any pick to head the Census Bureau: whether to use statistical estimation to adjust the results of the Census for purposes of congressional apportionment. The issue is a political hot potato: any hint of using estimation for apportionment would result in screams from the Republican side of the aisle that the Census was being manipulated for political purposes.

Why? While the Census attempts to interview everyone, complete enumeration is an especially imperfect business. And the professionals at the Census Bureau not only know this, they know the characteristics of those they miss. Poor people (particularly homeless ones), minorities, and immigrants are those most likely to be missed — over 4 million of them according to a study of the 2000 census. And these groups tend to be Democrats — and live in areas with disproportionately more Democrats. So applying statistical estimation would inevitably increase population estimates in Democratic areas, and thus result in more Democrats in Congress.

Which is more accurate, imperfect enumeration or statistical estimation? There is really no scientific dispute here. The Census conducts hundreds of surveys and produces tens of thousands of population estimates. The Census uses estimation, to my knowledge, for every one of these estimates — except for congressional reapportionment. The users of the Census want the most accurate data possible. The apolitical scientists know what is accurate and how to derive accurate estimates, and that is achieved through the application of carefully derived and tested estimation models rather than a highly flawed actual headcount with known and systematic errors.

(If you need a non-statistician’s explanation of why sampling and estimation is as accurate as an actual enumeration, consider your last blood test: did they remove and test ALL your blood?). These matters are beyond any scientific dispute. Yes, sampling is theory — the same way gravity is theory.

Groves is a professional sampling statistician. He knows all of this from a lifetime of work in this and related arcane methodological matters. If a purely scientific panel of the most eminent sampling statisticians in the country were commissioned to make recommendations in this area, Groves name would be on the top of almost any list of preeminent experts in this area. Indeed, while serving as Assistant Director of the Census after the 1990 Census, he recommended using sampling and estimation to correct for the known errors in that Census. While from a scientific perspective the issue is a complete no-brainer, Republicans in the Senate have seized on this to assert that he has a partisan agenda.

They clearly do not know the man. I do. I have known Bob Groves for over 30 years as a professional colleague. I have read his work, and even collaborated with him on a couple of papers on some of the specialized methodological issues of survey research that have been his life’s work.

And after 30 years of professional acquaintance, I can tell you that I have not a clue about Bob’s political leanings. (And those who know me for the political junkie that I am will find this astounding, for the political realm has always been my personal passion: it tends to be among the first topics I gravitate to in any casual conversation). This fact, I think, attests to Bob’s nonpolitical nature. He is not motivated politically, he is a Scientist, and one of the first order.

But, curiously, Groves, in his confirmation hearings, indicated that he had no intention to employ or advocate the use of sampling or estimation in conducting the 2010 Census. What gives?

I think this says something very revealing, but far more about the Obama administration than about Bob Groves. I have no doubt whatsoever what Bob’s private counsel would be if asked about whether applying estimation principles to the Census would increase its accuracy. Indeed, his scientific judgment on this matter is already a matter of public record. But what is interesting here is how this new position mirrors the Obama administration’s approach to dealing with many controversial matters. There is a pattern: President Obama does not want the political distraction of Republicans screaming that the Democrats have “fixed” the Census to produce a partisan result. It would not matter that as a matter of scientific certainty, such claims would be wrong; they could score political points in making the charge. (This is the type of technical issue that is difficult to explain to a statistically lay audience; many intelligent people simply won’t understand it.) Obama looks willing to forgo the congressional seats, perhaps a dozen or so, Democrats would gain in order to avoid this political distraction and pursue higher priorities. He has bigger fish to fry.

This strategic retreat resembles the back-burnering of issues such as gun control and gays in the military. Each has been delayed out of a fear that it could be divisive and derail his core agenda, especially the economy and health care reform. To pursue key objectives, he has been willing to delay action on other issues that could distract or dilute his mandate. While he has pursued many initiatives, he has carefully avoided those with the explosive potential to blow up the broader agenda. And an attempt to use estimation for reapportionment has that potential. While the scientific merits are indisputable, getting the public to understand such arcane statistical principles is a lost cause. The Obama administration has concluded that it is simply not worth the political capital to try.

One need look no further than the impact the gays in the military issue had on the early Clinton administration to see the risks he seeks to avoid. The strategy does not necessarily mean that such issues will be avoided indefinitely. But it does argue that they should be held back lest they come to define his Presidency. And, in the case of gays in the military, it allows time for proposals to percolate up from the military establishment rather than appearing to be imposed on them.

Mayors set to meet with Obama: 2010 Census on the agenda…

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Today, during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which this year was held in Providence, Rhode Island, President Obama offered the many mayors in attendance a chance to visit him at the White House in the near future. In addition to the economic recovery measures that will be discussed at this future meeting, the 2010 Census will also be a high priority agenda item. Check out the report from the AP:

Nickels, mayors accept White House invitation, but not this month

Officials from the U.S. Conference of Mayors said today they plan to accept a White House invitation to meet on economic issues facing their cities. But the conference’s newly sworn-in president, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, says the mayors won’t be able to make the administration’s proposed date of June 29.

By KELSEY ABBRUZZESE

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Officials from the U.S. Conference of Mayors said today they plan to accept a White House invitation to meet on economic issues facing their cities.

But the conference’s newly sworn-in president, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, says the mayors won’t be able to make the administration’s proposed date of June 29 because they want to develop a substantive agenda that reflected the conference’s national meeting in Providence. He wouldn’t say when they might be able to go.

Among the topics on the agenda were federal stimulus aid, gun control and the 2010 Census.

“It’ll take a little longer than two weeks to put together. This took six months to put together,” Nickels said, referring to the group’s four-day gathering in Providence.

Vice President Joseph Biden and other officials skipped this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting to avoid crossing a Providence firefighter picket line, although the White House has said the Obama administration isn’t taking a position on the labor dispute.

“We will continue to listen to and work with mayors, as we have since the beginning of this administration, and look forward to working with Mayor Nickels to identify a date that works for him and his colleagues,” White House spokeswoman Moira Mack said in a written statement today.

Case of the Mondays: Gary Locke’s golf game…

Monday, April 27th, 2009

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that on the heels of Tiger Woods’ visit to the White House, Barack Obama was craving a round of golf. On Sunday morning, two of our fearless leaders, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, enjoyed a round of golf together near Andrews Air Force base. We sure hope that support for the 2010 Census wasn’t on the line during this match, because El Presidente kicked the Census Czar’s butt on the links. However, Mr. Obama’s athletic prowess wasn’t perfect, as caddy-turned-presidential advisor Marvin Nicholson won the round.