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 ‘pork’

Follow up: Census Bureau gives “awards” to organizations that did “nothing more than cover” the 2010 Census

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I came across a cheeky and informative post from the Willammette Week, a publication based in Portland, Oregon about the Census Bureau’s “awards” scheme. Here’s the post:

IMG_0066
Look what we got recently! It’s a plaque from the United States Census Bureau!

The Census Bureau tells us in an email the plaque cost $6.95 and that it sent 135 of these plaques to organizations in Portland as a token of gratitude for helping out with this past census. That works out to about $938 in Portland, not including shipping,

Wondering how that played out around the country? We did too. About 59,000 of the plaques were sent nationwide. Multiply that by their $6.95 cost and that’s about $410,000 worth of gratitude, again not including shipping.

These plaques and thank-you letters were sent to organizations “that collectively provided countless donated goods and services to the 2010 Census effort,” according to an email from Census Bureau spokeswoman Michelle Lowe. Lowe’s email also states that some of the plaques went to organizations that helped save the census bureau $23 million by providing resources to help “test and train” census workers and to other news organizations who did nothing more than cover the census like we did.

Um, thanks.

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Note: Somebody at the Census Bureau has decided to make the word “newspaper” into the words “news paper.” The grammar police who have commented on MyTwoCensus so many times should be all over the Census Bureau for this egregious error.

Census Bureau official criticizes $1.6 billion savings

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

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

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

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

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

Luncheons at ranch resorts on your dime…

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I cannot make this up. Here’s how your tax dollars are being spent: On luncheons…at ranch resorts…for 2010 Census Partnership specialists and coordinators and 2010 Census partners. An article from Arizona reads as follows:

The 2010 Census Partner Appreciation & Thank You Luncheon was held on Thursday, August 12th, at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

The event was held to recognize partners that participated beyond the requirements to aid in the success of the 2010 census.

The luncheon agenda included:
Welcome – DarLene Burkett and Laura Cummings, Partnership Specialists
Words of Appreciation – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center
Data Overview & Next Steps – Pamela Lucero, Partnership Coordinator, Denver Regional
Census Center
Presentation of Awards – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center

Does this mean that people were flown from DENVER to ARIZONA for a luncheon? My initial guess is “yes” and I will get to the bottom of this immediately.

MyTwoCensus has already contacted Steve Jost of the Census Bureau to determine how much this luncheon cost and how many other luncheons or similar celebrations are taking place or have taken place throughout the country.

Yes, I am still harping on the $23K totem pole!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The Juneau Empire brings us the following story about the $23,000 totem pole:

Totem pole, after boosting 2010 census count, heads to new home
By Pat Forgey | JUNEAU EMPIRE

Traditional dancers gathered at the base of Mount Roberts Monday for a ceremony sending off the “Census Totem Pole,” carved to tell the story of the 2010 Census.

This year has marked an unprecedented effort by the U.S. Census Bureau to get a complete enumeration of some of Alaska’s most difficult to count populations, the widely scattered, predominately native villages throughout rural Alaska.

That included commissioning a totem pole to tell the story of the census.

Sitka carver Tommy Joseph called a census-themed totem “out of the ordinary,” but said its mission and symbolism was important.

The totem itself contains representations of Raven and Eagle at either end to reflect the two Tlingit moeities that make up all the people.

“Everybody needs to be counted,” Joseph said.

Also on the totem are multiple hand prints, contributed by visitors to Joseph’s studio at the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in Sitka.

The Census 2010 logo of a hand, along with the motto “It’s in our hands,” are represented by the hand prints, Joseph said.

Those contributing the prints included a schoolteacher, a janitor, a fisherman, a judge, a weaver and a young girl, he said, reflecting the challenge.

“Everybody needs to be counted,” he said.

The Census 2010 took a step towards closing down its counting operations Friday, with the shutting down of its toll-free telephone questionnaire assistance line.

Now, the Census totem will be shipped to the U.S. Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C.

Early Monday morning, before the day’s four cruise ships had arrived, census officials, local dignitaries, dancers and honorary bearers showed up for the send-off. The census totem has already visited several other Alaska and Pacific Northwest communities to help the Census 2010 campaign.

State Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and chairman of Sealaska Corp., said it was an appropriate way to mark the movement of the totem from Alaska to its permanent home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters.

The totem is more than just the wood, in this case red cedar from Prince of Wales Island, from which it is made.

“The totem and the culture are the same,” he said.

The complete count is important to Alaska’s Native population, he said, because undercounting will result in less influence when it comes to representing rural and Native issues, he said.

“We lose representation in the Senate if we don’t get a good count,” he said.

Katherine Eldemar, who with Assemblyman Bob Doll chairs the city’s Complete Count Committee, praised the Census Bureau for the steps it took in 2010 to reach out to the communities it has had difficulty counting in the past.

She called the team handling Alaska “outstanding civil servants.”

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, said he hoped the efforts pioneered here this year will be used in future censuses.

“I hope the Census Bureau in (2020) will bring the totem pole back to Alaska,” and make a similarly strong effort at a count, he said.

Among those participating in the ceremony at the Mount Roberts Tramway, owned by Goldbelt Corp., was Goldbelt Chairman Randy Wanamaker, along with Ed Thomas of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council and Kake Tribal Corp.’s Harold Martin.

As the honorary bearers carried the totem pole out of the building to begin its trip east, the Children of All Nations dance group sang.

Then, having seen the totem pole off to its new home, and with the Golden Princess moving in to dock, the traditional dancers left and turned the waterfront over the day’s influx of tourists.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Get the $800 million back from Harris Corp.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Taxpayers and government officials alike are either unaware of ignorant of one major debacle: The failure of the Harris Corp. to get their job done in creating and implementing functional mobile technology for the Census Bureau. Though this contract, signed in 2006, was originally valued at $600 million, it swelled to $800 million. (Reward insufficient and terrible work with more money…sounds like a solid government plan!!!)

If taxpayers have ever been swindled, this is the company that did it. (Harris Corp. was supposed to save the government $1 billion by implementing technology successfully, but in reality cost taxpayers $800 million for nothing!!! )  Unfortunately, higher-ups at the Census Bureau, initially during the Bush Administration, and currently during the Obama Administration, have done very little to recoup these losses. Legal action should be taken against this company for not performing the services that it was assigned to do. A large portion of this money should be returned to the United States Treasury — or at the very least, used to pay individuals working on the NRFU operations that will have to use a pen and pencil rather than a handheld computer.

In the year 2010, this is nothing short of pathetic. The government’s decision to choose the Harris Corporation for this contract was ludicrous. It’s decision to keep fueling the fires with $200 million of additional cash is shady at best.

MyTwoCensus intends to A. File an FOIA request to find out as much information about this contract as possible and B. Bring down Harris Corp. so they are forced to give this taxpayer money back.

MyTwoCensus urges Congress to pass legislation that prevents this company from obtaining more government contracts until the money for the 2010 Census contract is returned. Immediate government divestment from a corporation that robbed taxpayers is the only way to send the right message.

Additionally, MyTwoCensus calls on the government to immediately terminate  the Census Bureau’s 5-year contract with the Harris Corporation, as it is currently in its 5th year, and that means that there is still a chance to withhold 20% of the cash, or roughly $160 million.

On a more cheeky note, if Tea Party activists want to think of a site to hold their next protest, the Melbourne, Florida headquarters of this sleezy corporation would be one of the best and most symbolic places to do it!

A Cohort Of Census Bureau Officials Stay At The Ritz Carlton…On Your Dime!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

From BergersBeat.com:

At least one local purchaser of distressed commercial real estate tells the columnist that a St. Louis Chrysler plant will be hitting the market any edition. Broker? DESCO says the tipster. . .Which three additional local banks are this close to takeovers?. . .Taking a census at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Clayton, an insider noted that a party of 15 from the U.S. Census Bureau stayed there – not even in the City of St. Louis, where Missouri’s Census of Schools was launched by the bureau’s director Dr. Robert Groves.

Are we going to have to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out whether this is true? Hopefully not, as we just inquired about this with the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. To be fair, the Census Bureau could have negotiated a pretty hefty corporate discount at The Ritz, particularly because it’s doubtful that the place is swirling with customers in this economy. But as one GOP insider said to us, “No wonder their budget’s out of control!”

UPDATE: Dr. Groves did NOT stay at the Ritz. And the other government officials stayed there for $110 per night (government rate). Case closed. (See below for the official Census Bureau response!)

Stephen,

Dr. Groves did not spend the night. He flew into St. Louis for the day to
participate in a Census-in-Schools event with Subcommittee Chairman Lacy
Clay and officials from the City of St. Louis. Three Census Bureau staff
members from Headquarters and nine from the Kansas City Region were in town
to support this event, which required a lot of preparation and received
national and local press coverage. Staff also were involved in operational
and partnership activities involving the Director and Chairman Clay. This
is an area that had a low mail response rate in 2000, so extra efforts by
regional staff are critical to improve the response rate and decrease the
undercount. Census Bureau staff stayed at the Ritz-Carlton because it is
centrally located and offers the government rate of $110 per night.

Burton H. Reist
Assistant to the Associate Director
Communications Directorate

Another 2010 Census Contract To Investigate…

Monday, July 27th, 2009

It looks like someone managed to bring some pork home to Utah. Check out this report from the AP:

Census contractor to hire 1,200 in Utah

The Associated Press

Updated: 07/27/2009 09:41:40 AM MDT

Sandy » A government contractor has negotiated a lease on a Sandy office building where it plans to staff a call center for the next U.S. Census count.

Vangent Inc. says it will hire 1,200 workers starting in January at the former Discover Card building.

The Arlington, Va.-based company will operate a hot line for citizens with questions about the 2010 Census.

The operation also will make outbound calls to gather information for incomplete forms or to verify data.

On the Net:

Vangent Inc.: http://www.vangent.com