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 ‘real estate’

Orlando workers walk off the job

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel brings us the following story:

3 census workers quit, citing waste and inefficiency

Census complaintFormer census worker Andy Miller, who quit over procedures he considered wasteful and illogical, in front of the Volusia County office of the U.S. Census Bureau –with his complaint papers in hand– in Daytona Beach, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. (JOE BURBANK, ORLANDO SENTINEL / July 27, 2010)

By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel7:39 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2010

As the 2010 census winds down, three Volusia County census takers couldn’t wait for the latest phase of the headcount to end. They walked off the job three days after they started, adding to the complaints that the effort is wasteful, inefficient and frustrating.

Andy Miller, 54, of Daytona Beach said he quit after being told by his supervisor to return three times to a vacant house that he verified with a real-estate agent had been empty for more than six months.

“It was clear to me the Realtor had the information, but I was told, ‘No, go back. You might find someone who was living there that the Realtor didn’t know about,’” Miller said.

The same instructions — go back three more times — applied to an apartment above a store; the owner said the apartment was used for storage and was unoccupied. Miller also was told to go back another three times to a home where a relative of the homeowner provided all the information by proxy.

“If you get the person who lived there, you don’t have to go back. But if you get a proxy, you had to go back,” Miller said.

A Census Bureau spokeswoman said the check-back-three-times routine is standard procedure to make sure the census takers get the best information possible.

“That is the policy we expect people to follow,” said Pamela Page-Bellis. “We don’t want people to take the easy way out. They are to gather the most accurate information possible.”

Miller was told the same thing by his supervisor when he appealed what he considered absurd and illogical instructions. That was when Miller and two others in an eight-person crew walked out July 10 — three days into their summer job of checking for vacant houses and addresses that should be deleted.

Jeanne Tanke said she walked out with Miller because she was frustrated with the policy of going back to a vacant apartment or condo three times before being permitted to talk to the building manager about whether anyone was living in the units. In some cases, the same addresses had been visited three times by the door-to-door enumerators in the previous phase of the census.

“It didn’t seem logical to me that we kept knocking on the door when nobody answers, but we can’t ask the manager until we’ve been there three times,” said Tanke, 71.

The third person who quit said he objected in particular to having to go back three times to empty houses that are verifiably empty.

“It’s just inefficiency. That’s all it is,” said the 68-year-old retired sales manager who didn’t want his name used for fear it would jeopardize any future employment by the government.

All three former census takers worked during the manpower-intensive, door-to-door part of the census that ended in May. Thousands of enumerators were laid off, but they were among those chosen to continue in the slimmed-down follow-up efforts that started June 28 and are scheduled for completion by Aug. 25.

What the Census Bureau defends as being as thorough and accurate as possible, Miller and the others regard as a system designed to take as much time as possible. The attitude of managers, they said, was that the three-visit rule was a good way to make the job last longer.

“They alluded to this can take three days or three weeks. It’s up to us,” said the retired sales manager. “I don’t feel right about padding hours.”

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Brooklyn scandal is just the tip of the iceberg

Monday, July 12th, 2010

What happened last month at the Brooklyn LCO was indeed unfortunate. But let us not be naive: Data collection inaccuracies and falsifications are happening throughout the entire New York Regional Area and possibly the entire nation, though perhaps on a smaller scale than in Brooklyn.

There are many luxury rental and condominum buildings where real estate management companies have a strict “no enumerator” policy, as well as tenement buildings  and brownstones where it is impossible to gain access. There are also one or two family houses where it is unclear how many people live there and a knowledgeable proxy could not be located.

For these units, some enumerators went to public search records on the Internet or merely wrote the names off the mailboxes. The mid and upper level census managers encouraged field staff to use techniques to “guesstimate,” creating major operational ambiguity for the once in a decade headcount.

What was acceptable inside the questionnaire was another problem. Most enumerators tried to get all the information but those who went to a proxy who gave them little, no, or inaccurate information, finished their areas quickly. These same field staff were rewarded with more work and allowed to clean up districts that were lagging behind.

These cases are the same ones where quality assurance suspects poor data collection practices or data falsification. However, in some cases re-interview staff are unable to locate the respondent to verify whether the interview was actually conducted and prove it definitively. Many other quality assurance managers are told to “just pass it” or are afraid to accuse enumerators of poor quality work, fearing that they will be stepping on people’s toes.

For two years municipalities and city officials preached about the beauty of the census through media and print advertising. They encouraged people to send back their census forms saying it was the only way to ensure that their residents were counted and for their community to receive the federal funding it was entitled to.

But these city officials did little in the way in forcing real estate management companies and reluctant respondents to cooperate when their participation was required. The fact that the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce made empty threats to fine people for not cooperating and then did not follow through on it shows how poorly 2010 Census data has been managed.

The offices in the five boroughs of New York will be the last in the nation to finish NRFU, whereas most areas were done weeks ago. The few career census employees who valued a fair and accurate count and finished last can not be proud of their work. Those responsible for promoting the individuals won’t let them be proud. When it comes time for their annual performance reviews, the fact they finished last will be reflected poorly and jeopardize their careers.

What happened in Brooklyn should not come as a surprise. In retrospect the Census did what it usually does. It set hard line production goals, held managers and field staff accountable and fired them if they failed to meet these goals with little constructive technical support. Those who work quickly are rewarded with more work with little regard to accuracy.

I dedicate this post to the many crew leaders, field operations supervisors and LCO manager who lost their jobs because they valued a fair and accurate count.

What is the legality of Census Bureau employees contacting real estate agents?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Here’s an article that discusses this matter.

Live-blogging Philadelphia’s 2010 Census hearing…

Monday, May 11th, 2009

12:57 – 25 people at this meeting…poor turnout…90% work for the Census Bureau…Sen. Carper not here…will it start on time?

1:04 – Sen. Carper doing introductions…he shook my hand and introduced himself earlier.

1:05 – Sen. Carper discussing stats about 1.4 million Americans working for Census Bureau (largest peacetime hiring effort)

1:06 -  6 million people missed in 2000 count. 1.3 million people counted twice.

1:07 – Hispanics miscounted 4 times as often as whites in 2000 says Carper

1:08 – Mayor Nutter going to speak…he’s in a rush and has to leave in 10 min.

1:10 – Michael Nutter says Philly will lose $2,300 per person not counted in 2010 Census

1:12 – Challenges for Philly: Locating households, encouraging people to return their forms…accurate address listings from US Postal service very important.

1:13 – Nutter: Master list doesn’t have 56,000 addresses that Philly City Gvnt reviewed and updated for Postal Service

1:15 – Nutter: Afro-Americans disproportionately represented in economically disadvantaged and Latinos in linguistically challenged areas

1:15 – Linguistic issues must be addressed by Census Bureau. INS and deportation issues must be addressed.

1:16 – improve response rate: 1. issue exec order 2. city-wide campaign 3. establish multicultural network

1:17 – Only through raising public consciousness that we can make this work – Nutter says his office will help out.

1:17 – Nutter leaves, Sen. Carper thanks Nutter

1:18- 3 minute video will be shown now…forgot my popcorn

1:19 – This is the same propaganda video stuff that’s available on YouTube on the Census Bureau’s channel…but informative!

1:21 – Still awake, still here…they’re playing sentimental “a photograph, a portrait of hopes and dreams” theme song…is Sen. Carper shedding a tear?

1:23 – De. Congressman Castle talking…discussing differences between allocating $ based on population rather than earmarks and pork legislation etc.

1:26 – Boring Del. Congressman Castle talking about why people don’t respond…this is called preaching to the choir, everyone here works for the Census Bureau

1:30 – Now Mayor Baker of Wilmington is speaking…making jokes, got no laughs

1:33 – 50% of Wilmington residents live in rented homes…this=bigger problems for counting.

1:34 – Mayor Baker thinks door to door messaging is important…like political campaigns.

1:36 – They make Joe Biden jokes about talking off the cuff…

1:37 – Baker says, “Who cares what Rush Limbaugh and FoxNews think” now that they’re in the minority…

1:38 – Baker makes more jokes and finishes his statement. Back to Sen. Carper…

1:39 – Philadelphia Managing Director Camille Cates Barnett is speaking…really sad story about her: http://www.kyw1060.com/pages/1430697.php?

1:40 – Barnett: Census data helps draw City Council districts…she cites 2007 Brookings study – $377 billion allocated based on 2010 Census

1:41 – Barnett: For every person we miss counting, $2,263 in funding lost…

1:44 – Barnett whips out 1 page strategic plan for Philly census…

1:45 – Add 75,000 residents in the next 5-10 years=Goal for City of Philly

1:46 – Since 2000 Philly has added 22,000 converted housing units…56,000 additional addressees have been handed over to Census Bureau from Philly.

1:48 – Economic downturn=people get displaced…complicates counting process.

1:49 – Only 23% of AfroAmerican Philadelphians have high school diplomas and 13% have college degrees.

1:52- Barnett repeats every single thing Mayor Nutter already said…eyelids shutting…

1:53 – Barnett finished with positive message…back to Sen. Tom Carper

1:55 – Carper asks Barnett what she learned from 1990 and 2000 Census.

1:56 – Barnett says major issue in previous Census operations=accurately ensuring population growth is properly recorded

1:59 – Congressman Castle talking about working with clergy…he references US Marshalls getting ministers to have criminals confess.

2:01 – Castle asks if clergy can be of help to get people out…Barnett talks about faith-based groups for outreach.

2:03 – Congressman Castle asks how landlords can help w/ Census. He admits he doesn’t know the legality of this.

2:05 – yadda yadda yadda – hopefully MyTwoCensus gets to ask some HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS. EVERYONE is falling asleep (woman next to me)

2:13- Carper’s aide just passed him a note…he’s now ending with Barnett and Baker…maybe abruptly ending mtg?

2:16 – New panel now on the Dais — Tom Mesoundbourg (acting Census Director) speaking…invoking founding fathers. Also on the Dais now: - Pat Coulter, Executive Director, Philadelphia Urban League

- Norman Bristol-Colon, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, State of Pennsylvania

- Wanda M. Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware

2:20 – Mesounbourg LIES! he says operations are going smoothly and address canvassing in philly almost done! – (THE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT FROM MAY 09 DISAGREES) READ THE MOST RECENT UPDATE: http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/

2:25: Mesounbourg concludes “Our operations are not intended to count many of us, they are intended to count all of us.”

2:26 – Norman Bristol Colon now talking…he has a heavy Latino accent…hard to understand!

2:27 – More Puerto Ricans living in USA than in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

2:30 – Colon urges Census Bureau to have a plan to count undocumented and documented residents in the same way and counts EVERYONE.

2:31 – Colon insists that Census data remains private and is not released to the INS or other immigration officials.

2:33 – This is pretty much turning into a pro-immigration rally…Colon passionately speaking…only 20 people remain in the room here.

2:34 – Colon says that redistricting will help Latino populations so they can have more representation in gvnt.

2:36 – Colon finished speaking…now hearing from Pat Coulter, head of Urban League Philly – Urban League and Census Bureau have worked together since 1970.

2:37 – Coulter just quoted Dick Polman, my journalism Professor at Penn!

2:38 – Here’s the article Coulter quoted from: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/americandebate/Head_counts_and_head_cases.html

2:42 – Coulter finished speaking, now last but not least, Wanda Lopez, Executive Director, Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, State of Delaware

2:46 – Wanda Lopez is very well spoken, but unfortunately no new information added.

2:49 – Congressman Castle asking questions then “calling it a day” as Sen. Carper put it.

2:53 – Congressman Castle asks if celebrities can do public announcements to promote the Census…Director Mesenbourg says the Bureau is pursuing this.

2:54 – Mesenbourg says a PR firm has been hired to do this…which firm is this? Coulter mentions Oprah as possible spokeswoman.

2:55 – Wanda Lopez suggests using local radio in addition to ads on Univision.

2:56 – Castle thanks panel. Carper ending mtg. now…NO HARD-HITTING ISSUES ADDRESSED!

2:57 – Carper says President and First Lady and possibly Sasha and Malia could be used to promote 2010 Census…Wondering: Will they be counted in Chicago or DC?

2:58 – Carper acknowledges problems with handheld computers and asks Mesenbourg to weigh in on correction of problems.

2:59 – Mesenbourg: Handheld only used for address canvassing NOT the non-response follow-up operation in May 2010. Too risky to do that he says

3:01 – 8 million addresses given to Census Bureau from state/local gvnts says Mesenbourg

3:02 – “introduced risk mitigation strategies” – aka 5 different strategies to reduce risk for address canvassing…

3:03 – Mesenbourg says in this economy only 12% of hired applicants didnt show up once they were hired.

3:03 – This explains why we are so far aheadin our address canvassing operation…”highly skilled work force” enables us to finish operation earlier than planned.

3:04 – Carper addresses the Inspector General’s report from earlier to Mesenbourg about failures that we mentioned earlier (top article on http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/census_bureau/)

3:05 – Mesenbourg acknowledges that in 6 out of 15 locations that Inspector General visited, the Census Bureau employees were not following orders.

3:06 – Mesenbourg deflects the criticism that Carper addressed — saying that all employees received a text message on their handhelds to follow procedures more closely.

3:08 – Sen. Carper asks more hard-hitting questions (finally)! Impressed that he addressed these issues, though not satisfied w/ responses…

3:13 – Closing statements from Castle and Carper before they “call it a day.”

3:14 – Carper quotes Richard Nixon: “The only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything.”

3:15 – Carper says his office was originally worried about lack of technology used in this headcount, but his fears have now been alleviated.

3:17 – Carper thanks everyone who joined us and Census Bureau staff. Carper quotes Lamar Alexander “hearings should be called talkings.”