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 ‘Seattle’

Another census lawsuit; this one focuses on race

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

From Giselle Springer-Douglas, the Seattle correspondent for Examiner.com:

A potentially controversial lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that on both the 2000 and 2010 Census forms, the U.S. Census Bureau’s and the Office of Management and Budget’s “representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive, and, therefore, fraudulent,” and that its “negligence contributes to a historical and sustained pattern of personally-mediated, institutional, and internalized racism in this country…”

The lawsuit, Koe v. U.S. Census Bureau, focuses on the 2000 and 2010 Census forms because the plaintiff, using the pseudonym “Jane Koe,” states that she participated in those Census periods by completing and returning the Census forms.

In her complaint, Koe requests a number of remedies, including a petition that the court order the defendants to notify every recipient of the 2010 Census form that “race in this country is defined by the Office of Management and Budget, reflects a social definition of race, and in no way conforms to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria.”

In framing her complaint, Koe claims that verbiage on the 2000 Census site in a section entitled “Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race” acknowledges that race is merely a social construct (a concept that is the artifact of a particular group rather than the product of science).

Koe says that she had, up until recently, believed “race was a concept grounded in scientific fact” and attributes this belief partly to “the federal government’s historical propagation of the genetics-based race ‘fact.’” Koe argues that, “By failing to explicitly correct this erroneous belief, despite knowing that the general populace believes race to be based on scientific fact, the Defendants’ representation of race was false, misleading, deceptive and, therefore, fraudulent.”

As Koe is presently representing herself, the complaint is currently undergoing judicial review—a process that is standard for complaints filed by self-represented plaintiffs.

A copy of the complaint, originally filed July 14, 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (case 10-CV-1142), can be found on Seattle, WA-based group I Am Malan’s website at http://www.iammalan.org/greatracecase.htm.

The MyTwoCensus.com verdict: This sounds like a farce that won’t go anywhere. Case closed?

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Investigation: Census Bureau’s lack of photo IDs for employees and use of cheap black canvas bags as “uniforms” aid scammers because impersonating a Census Bureau enumerator is all too easy

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

UPDATE: FOR THOSE WHO READ AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS PIECE, SEE THE UPDATE  PRESENTED NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.

On Sunday, I discovered an alarming piece of news from Washington state: Census Bureau polo shirts and black canvass bags were on sale at a local Goodwill store. As Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote in a blog post yesterday, “Census workers will be easily identifiable: Each will have an official government badge (identifiable by the seal of the Census Bureau) and a black canvas census bags.” This should raise red flags, because by giving out these materials (that were subsequently donated) the Census Bureau is actually enabling fraud to take place. The other way that the Census Bureau has enabled fraud to take place is by failing to give its 600,000 door-to-door workers photo IDs. In a day and age where photos can be printed instantly on an office computer, this is ridiculous. The Census Bureau’s ID cards used by these employees are flimsy and extremely easy to replicate.  Yesterday, I questioned the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office about this, and received the following DENIALS from the Census Bureau:

E-mail from Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com: It came to my attention that  polo shirts with 2010 Census logos and black 2010 Census canvas bags have appeared in thrift shops and on Ebay – presumably these were leftover partnership materials. As you said, there are two ways to identify Census workers – by their black bag and their name badge. I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, may be duped by scammers.  I have two questions: 1. Why, knowing that black canvas bags are used by enumerators, did the Census Bureau distribute black canvass bags with 2010 Census logos as partnership materials?  2. Why did the Census Bureau choose not to use photo identification for official Census workers? I worry about this because it is extremely easy for criminals to replicate the ID badges.

E-mail back from Michael C. Cook,  a Senior Marketing Specialist at the Census Bureau: A search of Ebay by Census staff found only Census 2000 shirts.  There are no 2010 enumerator bags or back packs currently on Ebay.  The child’s drawstring backpack for 2010 and the enumerator shoulder bag share nothing in common, not size, not logos, not shape, not dimensions, other than the color black.   If a member of the public is not certain of the identity of a census employee, they may ask for a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, or a phone number for the local census office to call and confirm the individual’s employment.

Now, this is truly a great way to dodge the questions I asked. Fortunately, I was also able to get Mr. Cook on the telephone and he said that the Census Bureau couldn’t make the photo IDs because “it had to do with the volume and the fact that there is a short amount of time between the time we identify the workers, to the time we hit the street — it wasn’t cost effective to take photos.” So the Census Bureau has no problem spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ads, but has no budget to authenticate its workers’ identities in picture form to protect people from scammers…

*Note: My one mistake in this investigation was not taking a screen capture of the black canvas 2010 Census bag that was being sold on EBay. For all I know, the Census Bureau Public Information Office could have purchased it in the time before they responded to my query. Nonetheless, most Americans wouldn’t know that Census Bureau employees only use black bags. And despite this, there is still a 2010 Census tote bag on EBay that the Census Bureau PR team scouring the internet failed to notice. This time, I took a screenshot:

I’m not saying that scammers even need Ebay or thrift stores to obtain these materials. In fact, the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists have handed millions of them out for free! Did you get any Census Bureau swag? If so, let us know in the comments section!

Here is a photo of the all-too-easy-to-replicate canvas bags and non-photo IDs used by actual 2010 Census enumerators:

UPDATE: A READER JUST SUBMITTED US A PHOTO OF A BLACK CENSUS BAG THAT WAS FOUND ON EBAY…IT LOOKS AMAZINGLY SIMILAR TO THE 2010 CENSUS BAG. IN FACT, I AM 99.99% CERTAIN THAT THE PERSON WHO LISTED IT ON EBAY PUT IT UP AS A CENSUS 2000 BAG IN ERROR. TO ME, IT APPEARS TO BE A 2010 CENSUS BAG…ANY RESPONSE TO THAT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE?

Chaos at Eastern Washington Census Office

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

From the Tri-Cities Herald in Washington state (which was my local newspaper when I worked the grape harvest at Pacific Rim winery):

4 census managers announce resignations

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writer

Most of the managers at the Kennewick census office quit last week, but the interim manager said the vacancies shouldn’t affect completing the local 2010 Census.

Ford Carlberg, interim local census office manager, said the office had four resignations last week. He said he couldn’t discuss it further because it is a personnel issue.

However, he said, the local office is on schedule with the 2010 Census.
Dave Donaldson of Finley, who was an assistant manager at the Kennewick office, said he, two other assistant managers and the office manager quit last week.

Donaldson, who was in law enforcement for 22 years, said he has been a supervisor before and had never experienced the lack of support and concern for employees that he did with the regional census center in Bothel.

Donaldson said he enjoyed working with the other employees at the Kennewick office, and felt like they were doing a good job. But the local office would be given last-minute changes to procedures, sometimes without enough time to implement them, he said.

The regional census center was concerned about the numbers but not about quality and doing the job right, Donaldson said.

Donaldson said he hopes the local census work isn’t negatively affected by the resignations.

Carlberg said the census has a practice of training others in the office to take up tasks if someone is unable to continue. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has regional technicians, including Carlberg, who are trained to fill in at needed positions.

Now that the deadline to return the census forms by mail has passed, officials are set to begin follow-up work in the region on May 1 with about 1,200 employees, also called enumerators, Carlberg said.

Currently, the office is hiring and training those enumerators, he said. Training likely will be during the weeks of May 3 and May 10 as the office gets a better idea of what will be needed.

“We don’t know yet what the specific workload will be,” Carlberg said.
The mail-in response rates provide an estimate, but the official data from the national processing center won’t be available until the end of the week, Carlberg said.

Benton County has a preliminary participation rate of 73 percent as of Monday with the cities of Kennewick at 70 percent, Richland at 75 percent and West Richland at 76 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Franklin County, the participation rate was 71 percent as of Monday. Pasco had a participation rate of 71 percent, which already is 2 percent more than the overall 2000 Census participation rate for the city.
The Kennewick office staff is dedicated, Carlberg said. “We will get the number right,” he said

Read more: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/04/20/983127/4-census-managers-announce-resignations.html#ixzz0liuodnsx

Seattle fortune cookies hold census message

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

From the Seattle Times:

The U.S. Census has launched a unique way of urging people to be counted: Tsue Chong Co. of Seattle is inserting five different messages urging census participation into 2 million fortune cookies being shipped to restaurants and groceries across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

By Lornet Turnbull

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Census Bureau is partnering with Tsue Chong Co. to create fortune cookies with a message about the upcoming count.

Enlarge this photoDEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Census Bureau is partnering with Tsue Chong Co. to create fortune cookies with a message about the upcoming count.

Sporting caps promoting the U.S. census, visitors to Thursday's fortune-cookie rollout watch the cookies being made, then have a taste. Tsue Chong Co. is inserting five different census messages into 2 million cookies

Enlarge this photoDEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sporting caps promoting the U.S. census, visitors to Thursday’s fortune-cookie rollout watch the cookies being made, then have a taste. Tsue Chong Co. is inserting five different census messages into 2 million cookies

Next time you crack open a fortune cookie, check the flip side. The federal government may have a message for you.

Tsue Chong Co., a fortune-cookie factory in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, is inserting five different census messages into 2 million cookies being shipped to restaurants and groceries across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Like the usual predictions of wealth, fame and long life you’ll find on one side, the census missives on the opposite side are a bit … well … banal.

“Put down your chopsticks and get involved in Census 2010,” reads one message. “Real Fortune is being heard,” reads another.

It’s all part of a broader effort by the Census Bureau to spread the word about the upcoming population count on April 1. The nation’s 112 million households will begin receiving forms in the mail beginning in late March.

The decennial count helps allocate more than $400 billion a year in federal funds to state and local governments for programs such as public housing, highways and schools.

Census results help determine political boundaries as well as the number of representatives each state will send to Congress. Because Washington’s population has steadily grown, the state could pick up a 10th congressional seat after this year’s count.

There’s great financial motivation: Each uncounted person means a loss of about $1,400 in federal money per year, according to the Census Bureau.

Bessie Fan, co-owner of the family-run cookie and noodle factory, Tsue Chong, called it a “great thrill to partner with the census for such an important effort.

Uncle Sam Says: I Want You for the U.S. Census Bureau…errr…but not really…

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

want-you1

In mid-February, I went undercover and sat for the exams to become a U.S. Census field worker and supervisor. I studied hard and passed both exams with flying colors. However, despite my perfect test scores, exemplary educational background, and advanced foreign language skills, I never received a call from the Bureau to even interview for any position. This was shocking, because some 6,000 people in the San Francisco area were hired to work for the Census Bureau. Without sounding cocky, were there really 6,000 people out there with perfect test scores and other qualifications equal to mine? Apparently so, even though the local Census Bureau employees I’ve dealt with have been sub-par, as one employee told me to lie about my address and the other employee couldn’t speak English!

But yesterday, I received a postcard in the mail from the Census Bureau’s regional headquarters in Seattle. The headline was, “New Management & Supervisor Jobs Are Opening Soon At The Census!” The body of the letter reads, “Our records indicate that you have passed the test for management and supervisory positions with the 2010 Census…” It then goes on to give me the name of the web site where I can search for job openings.

When I went to this site, there were only two positions open in the Bay Area. One was for an Office Manager position and the other was to be a Partnership Specialist. Now you may ask, “What the heck is a partnership specialist?” In this case, it is someone who has “the ability to develop relationships and productive partnership agreements with leaders in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender community.” Well, this is San Francisco, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find someone qualified…I know I’m surely capable.

But the problem I have with these jobs is that unlike other federal jobs which can easily be applied to online at USAJOBS.GOV, the Census Bureau requires applicants to mail a bulky application packet to Seattle, making the process of applying all-the-more difficult and tedious. This, my friends, is bureaucracy at work. More on this story coming soon!