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 ‘Steve Jost’

Thus far, is the 2010 Census a success or failure?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Obviously, for me, the jury is still out on the above question. But on Monday, Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post tackled this question:

At least 72 percent of American households returned their forms to the U.S. Census Bureau this year, matching returns for the 2000 headcount. Final numbers will be announced on Wednesday and Obama administration officials cheered the early numbers late last week as evidence of successful outreach efforts.

But a leading Republican Census critic phoned The Eye within minutes of Friday’s announcement and raised an interesting point:

“This census cost more than double what the census cost in 2000,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). He finds it curious that officials would be happy to only match 2000 figures despite a 2010 budget that was more than three times what was spent ten years ago.

“They spent $300 million on advertising that a lot of us were critical of and they’re getting poor results in the places we know we have problems,” he said, referring to a controversial Census Bureau Super Bowl ad panned by critics.

The agency’s 2010 budget was the same as 2000 on an inflation-adjusted basis, said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

“We spent just 5 percent more in equivalent dollars this year on a population that was 10 percent bigger,” he said in an e-mail. The 2000 Census was also the first conducted with a paid advertising campaign, so 2010′s headcount needed an equally robust ad strategy to stay even with previous numbers, he said.

In his e-mail Jost listed other reasons for only breaking even with 2000: The country has grown in size and diversity since 2000 and the last headcount was conducted at a time of economic prosperity when Americans had a better opinion of government.

“Most observers of the census during the last several years predicted these factors would make the job tougher in 2010 but so far the public has got us off to a great start,” Jost said, noting that the second part of Census operations kicks off soon when census takers start knocking on doors.

So who’s right? Chaffetz or Jost?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

We must have missed the following report when it was originally published two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to learn about these problems as MyTwoCensus.com has repeatedly criticized the Census Bureau and its contractor Diplomatic Language Services for doing a shoddy job. Thanks to the Queens Courier in New York for the following:

Slam errors in census forms

Koreans, Chinese, Latinos complain

BY VICTOR G. MIMONI
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2:06 PM EDT

Assemblymember Grace Meng says she’s “angered” over translation errors in the Korean version of 2010 census forms and communications trouble on the Census’ language hotline.

Meng is one of several lawmakers who have called on the Asian community to respond to the census forms. “We have stated over and over again that our schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, police and other services depend on the census,” she said.

But now, constituents have told her that where the English language form asks for “County,” the Korean form asks “Country;” instead of “State” the Korean form asks “Province.”

“It’s confusing. In Asia, ‘Province’ has a specific meaning,” she said, speculating that people who get stumped on a question might not mail in the form.

Meng also complained that some Chinese and Koreans in her district said that the persons on the hotline “do not speak their native language fluently.”

“Someone didn’t understand ‘House Number’ and the help line operator could only explain what ‘house’ and ‘number’ meant,” Meng recounted. “They couldn’t or wouldn’t explain that it meant the address,” she said.

Northeast Queens Census Supervisor Nan Min was distressed. “I heard about the forms – they came out of Washington months ago,” she said, powerless to do anything about it. Min explained that the toll free help number directs to the Washington, D.C. area.

“We have a local help line number – 347-783-1049 – that is staffed with people from around Flushing,” said Min, who is fluent in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

“We have speakers of at least four of the more popular Chinese dialects, Korean and other languages spoken around this area,” she added. “We’ve been working hard – we’re 10 percent ahead of the response in the last census.”

Some people, especially in the Hispanic community, have expressed confusion about questions 8 and 9, relating to “origin” and “race,” but Min explained that you can check all boxes that apply to you. “We want you to self-identify – write-in or check off what it takes to describe yourself.”

“I can’t comment on that,” regional census supervisor Patricia Valle told The Queens Courier, promising to contact the supervisors at the language hotline.

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

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Different Mailback Rates

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOIA Request: Give us the e-mails of the following people who should be held responsible for tech failures

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com is hoping to get to the bottom of the Census Bureau’s IT woes:

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting all e-mails sent to and from Brian Monaghan, Barbara Lopresti, and Marilla Matos from February 4, 2010 through February 12, 2010.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com,governingpeople.com, and other publications. Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.
If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. If you have any questions about handling this request, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

PS – I’m not sure why, but you never responded to my FOIA request for hotel information from February 25, 2010. Any updates on that situation?

MyTwoCensus Editorial: My Mad Men moment…What 2010 Census ads should have said…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’m a few years behind the rest of the world as I only recently started watching Mad Men, the hit TV series about the world of advertising. The show got me thinking about many things related to the 2010 Census ad campaign. Rather than advertising with “Portrait of America” themes, Christopher Guest nonsense, and other ads that seem to be unclear, unpointed, and uninteresting flops. Why not go straight to the numbers? The simple ad campaign I would have created for the Census Bureau would have gone as follows:

Cost to mail back your census form: 42 cents.

Cost to send a Census Bureau employee to your house if you fail to return your form: $57.

Amount of federal money at stake if you aren’t counted: $1,333.*

Total amount of available funding that you are community should get its fair share of: $400 BILLION.

2010 Census – Mail it back and Participate.

(Back in February, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost told readers of this blog — see the comments section — that the Census Bureau and Draftfcb were in the process of creating a 2010 Census ad competition for the public to compete in…clearly that never happened!)

*The Census Bureau uses the term $400 billion for the total amount of money at stake. $400 billion divided by 300 milli0n people (an approximation of America’s population) is $1,333 per person. Some estimates determine that it is about $3,000 per person missed. Shelley Lowe of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office said of the per person figure, “We don’t calculate that, but other organizations have attempted to.”

Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/20/2010 09:52 AM

Subject:

PBOCS and NRFU

OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/14/2010 09:48 AM

Subject:

PBOCS

As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

fld.regional.directors@census.gov

Cc:

fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

Date:

04/08/2010 05:57 PM

Subject:

Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

    Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

—– Original Message —–
From: Barbara M LoPresti
Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
Brian,
In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
Thanks
Barbara


In Focus: How your $timulus package money is being $pent by the Cen$u$ Bureau

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

H/t to Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporting outlet Pro Publica for sharing the following data with us. Here are some screen captures that depict how your taxpayer dollars are being spent (…interestingly, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost’s former boss Carolyn Maloney represents New York City and the areas where $125,000,000 in stimulus money is headed in communications contracts!). The amount of money being spent on partnership support is particularly disturbing as I have received multiple reports of partnership materials being DISCARDED by the palette!

MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census Partners Google and YouTube Should Remove Propaganda Video Immediately

Monday, April 5th, 2010

When you search for “census” on YouTube, the first video that appears is by some nutcase named Jerry Day (representing some obscure outlet called Matrix News), who doesn’t have his facts straight and inaccurately describes Census Bureau procedures. This video has nearly two million views. It spouts many lies, as well as very biased statements. (Part of the problem is that the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office wouldn’t speak to him on the phone, but I’ll save that criticism for another day…)

Google and its subsidiary YouTube  should remove this video immediately. It is more shocking that these organizations are enabling this nonsense, because they have already created a partnership with the Census Bureau. At the very least, it should not come up  so frequently in searches. The video likely only gains more and more viewers because it is the first video that appears on searches. The Census Bureau’s communications department (including Steve Jost and Stephen Buckner) as well as Census Director Dr. Robert M. Groves,  have failed in that they have not pressured Google to remove this video. Yes, Jerry Day is entitled to freedom of speech, but his reporting is full of lies, so Google, a private company, should not be propagating this anti-2010 Census propaganda.

Here’s a screen capture of a typical YouTube search:

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Why is the Census Bureau pointing at some cities to improve while others are left lagging behind in silence?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Imagine you’re in first grade and you’re playing soccer for a team. Imagine if you’re one of a handful of kids who isn’t playing as well as the others. Now, imagine that the coach tells a few kids who are playing poorly what they’re doing wrong, but he doesn’t tell you anything. So what do you do? You keep doing what you’re doing, which is lousy. It’s lousy because you will never get better. Well, this is what the Census Bureau has done in recent days by pointing out that some states, cities and towns have poor “participation rates” while letting others linger in the darkness.

Just yesterday, I worried that Connecticut didn’t have enough resources for its Questionnaire Assistance Centers. Today, my fears were confirmed when the Census Bureau called out Connecticut on its low response rates. The Census Bureau sent out a press release with the following:

2010 Census Mail Participation Rates in Parts of Connecticut
Behind Rest of the Nation

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves noted today that some areas are
lagging behind the rest of the country in mailing back their 2010 Census
forms. With Census Day on April 1, parts of Connecticut still have some of
the lowest rates of mail participation. Nationally, 50 percent of
households have mailed back their forms. But in parts of Connecticut, the
participation rate is significantly lower, with Hartford one of the
farthest behind at 32 percent.

“We’re concerned about the relatively low response from parts of
Connecticut,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “Every household
that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a
census taker starting in May — at a significant taxpayer cost. The easiest
and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your
form by mail.”

Why single out Connecticut and Chicago when other states and cities are performing even worse? (Conspiracy theorists may start here when they notice that both of these regions tilt Democratic and it would be an insult to the President if Chicago underperformed…)

On Tuesday, a concerned reader wrote to me (note the following numbers have changed since Tuesday…), “This morning the Bureau issued a press release calling out a number of cities and states concerned with their mailback response.  The Bureau called out Anchorage, AK (41% participation response) and Montgomery, AL (41%) as low performing areas.  They also called out several cities in Florida and Jackson Mississippi which have participation rates in the 30’s.

Why did the Census Bureau single out some areas in press releases and not others?  As of Tuesday’s update, these major cities all had participation rates in the 30% range – Houston, TX 33%, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Dallas each at 37%, Austin, TX 33%, Columbus, OH 35%, and Memphis, TN 31%  — yet weren’t mentioned anywhere.

Why call out some locales and not others? If there is a method to this madness, Dr. Groves, Mr. Jost, Mr. Buckner, and other Census Bureau officials are requested to let us know in the comments section why there is such disparity in the levels of attention given by the Bureau to specific poorly performing areas.

Census Bureau + NASCAR = Conservative Outreach Efforts

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Back in October, I learned from Steve Jost that the Census Bureau would be sponsoring a NASCAR vehicle. Today, driver Greg Biffle will debut this 2010-Census emblazoned speed machine (the No. 16 Ford Fusion) for  the first of three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Today’s race will be held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and the other races will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 21 and Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, March 28.

I’ll never forget when my dad told me that NASCAR is America’s number one spectator sport, so I hope that with an average of 120,000 spectators at each Sprint Cup Series event, many eyes will be on the the 2010 Census logo and “mail it back!” on the hood, rear quarter panels and rear bumper of Biffle’s car. Additional elements stemming from the $1.2 million sponsorship deal include television spots on Fox during the races, a public service announcement from Biffle and 10 show car dates across the country.

(I’m hopeful that Greg Biffle — though I’d never heard of him before –  is the right man to carry the message. I’m not a NASCAR fan myself, but I wouldn’t be opposed to settling down with a beer and a bar-be-que for a few hours on a warm spring day with 120,000 of my dearest friends to watch Biffle’s car in action..)

Census Bureau Sends Out Press Release About New Mapping Tool…But Fails To Let Us Know Where On The Internet It Can Be Found!

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

UPDATE: I found the mapping tool on the Census Bureau’s web site under the “Press Release” section. Click HERE to access it. Now, what I can say is that I hope this data is regularly updated throughout the headcount. BUT I have already noticed that data from some towns and cities is present while it is missing for others. The map is filled with blank spots. Why? I’m not sure, but I just e-mailed the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office for answers…

I’ve actually been waiting for the below press release for a really, really long time — ever since Steve Jost told me about this long-awaited new function of the Census Bureau’s web site when we met in Suitland back in October. However, the Census Bureau managed to screw this one up, because they didn’t include a link to the mapping site they are speaking of in their press release. A cursory check of 2010.census.gov reveals nothing of this new mapping tool to check response rates. Nor does a Google search for “2010 Census mapping tool” reveal anything other than the site that allows people to track the Census Bureau’s “Road Tour” vehicles. Come on Census Bureau…tell us where to find the tool!

U.S. CENSUS BUREAU NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, FEB. 25, 2010

Census Bureau Launches Online Mapping Tool Showing
2000 Census Response Rates to Help Communities
Prepare for 2010 Census

With mail-out of the 2010 Census forms less than one month away, the
Census Bureau today unveiled a new online mapping tool that allows
communities nationwide to prepare for the 2010 Census by seeing how well
they did mailing back their 2000 Census forms.

Visitors to the new Google-based map will be able to find the 2000
Census mail participation rates for states, counties and cities, as well as
smaller areas called “census tracts.” After the 2010 Census forms are
mailed out in mid-March, the online map will be updated to include a
tracking tool with daily updates of the 2010 Census mail participation
rates for local areas across the nation. Users will be able to compare
their 2010 Census progress using their 2000 Census rates as a benchmark.

“The future of your community starts with a look at its past,” said
Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. “The 2000 Census map allows
communities to see which areas need extra attention and reminders to
improve mail participation. We will be challenging communities nationwide
to take 10 minutes to fill out and mail back their 2010 Census forms next
month.” The Census Bureau has also created an online toolkit with ideas
that communities can use to inspire their residents to improve their mail
participation rate.

The emphasis on encouraging mail participation in the census is a
practical one. For every
1 percent increase in mail response, taxpayers will save an estimated $85
million in federal funds. Those funds would otherwise be required to send
census takers to collect census responses in person from households that
don’t mail back the form. After the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau was able
to return $305 million in savings to the federal Treasury because mail
rates exceeded expectations ¯ a move the Census Bureau would like to repeat
in 2010.

In 2000, 72 percent of households that received a form mailed it back.
The mail participation rate is a new measure designed to give a better
picture of actual participation by factoring out census forms that the U.S.
Postal Service was unable to deliver as addressed. It should be
particularly useful in areas with seasonal populations or a large number of
vacancies or foreclosures.

As required by the U.S. Constitution, the once-a-decade census must
count every person living in the United States. Census data are the basis
for our democratic system of government, ensuring that representation in
government is equally distributed. The data also help determine how more
than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to state local and
tribal governments every year. That includes money that could go toward
roads, hospitals, schools and critical social services.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Heads Should Fly…NOW!!!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

UPDATE: The Inspector General’s report is available HERE.

Though we are yet to obtain a hard copy of the Inspector General’s report that will be released within the next two hours that details how the Census Bureau went massively over budget during the address canvassing phase of the decennial census, we believe that Census Bureau employees should be held accountable. Without making false accusations,  here is a list of names of people who, according to the positions they hold at the Census Bureau , should be held accountable and punishedmeaning demoted or fired – for this waste (in order of culpability from worst offenders to more moderate offenders…):

1. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR DECENNIAL CENSUS – ARNOLD A. JACKSON

2. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR ACS AND DECENNIAL CENSUS – DANIEL H. WEINBERG

3. COMPTROLLER -  ANDREW H. MOXAM

4. ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR FIELD OPERATIONS – MARILIA A. MATOS

5.  HUMAN RESOURCES CHIEF -  TYRA DENT SMITH

6. TECHNOLOGIES MANAGEMENT OFFICE CHIEF – BARBARA M. LOPRESTI

7. FIELD CHIEF – BRIAN MONAGHAN

And while these deputies and senior Census Bureau employees are responsible for their actions, they answer directly to three men: Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Mesenbourg, and Associate Director For Communications Steve Jost, who are in that order, the three top dogs so to speak at the Census Bureau. Perhaps the man who is most to blame for the widespread failures is Mr. Mesenbourg, who served as Acting Director of the Census Bureau for more than a year before Dr. Groves was installed in office. Mesenbourg continues to oversee an agency filled with miserable and inexcusable performance results, yet he has done little to enact change. Nonetheless, neither Dr. Groves nor Steve Jost should be let slide for these actions. While both of them consistently discuss looking toward the future, they can’t seem to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess that was present at the Census Bureau when they arrived. To play on Shakespeare’s words, “There’s Something Rotten In Suitland!”

Let us know your thoughts on the Census Bureau’s Super Bowl ads…

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Please comment here and enjoy the game!

Question to our readers…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Do you think it is a good use of money for the Census Bureau to spend a few million $$ on a Super Bowl advertisement? (please comment below!)

The Suitland Files: Inside The Census Bureau (Part 2)

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I apologize for taking so long to post the second half of the series that I started nearly two weeks ago, but I’ve been traveling extensively and things were getting quite hectic. Without further ado, I present to you an inside look into my meeting with top communications/public relations/press officials at the Census Bureau’s HQ in Washington, DC:

After making idle chit-chat about Europe, climate change, and Dr. Groves’ travel habits (like any good reporter, I try to extract information wherever possible) for more than half an hour with two private security guards inside their security booth on the perimeter of the Census Bureau’s fenced off headquarters (they refused to let me sit on a bench outside even though it was a warm day…), I was greeted by Derick Moore (who Steve Jost authorizes to make the official Census Bureau comments on MyTwoCensus posts) and Eun Kim, a new Census Bureau PR official who until very recently was a DC reporter for Gannett (hmmm…I wonder why she jumped over to the dark side…).

After clearing a round of metal detectors, I made my way up the elevator with my two aforementioned handlers. I was led to a waiting room where I made some chit chat with Derick and Eun who each told me about their careers in private sector media. (I pray every day that the allure of a solid government salary with good benefits doesn’t one day catch up with me too…) Steve Jost, chowing down on a sandwich and french fries, returned and had us follow him into his office. We all sat down, with me at the head of the table. With white hair and a bit of scruff on his face, Jost wasn’t the devilish and egotistical Nazi I expected he might be, but rather a jovial guy who immediately poked fun at my comments about him on this site. I replied that I made those comments when I was thousands of miles away in the safety of my own home, and I had never expected to be sitting down with him in person. But I had no regrets. My job is to be a watchdog, and a vigilant watchdog I will be.

Last to arrive at our meeting was Stephen Buckner, the mouthpiece of the 2010 Census (spokesman) who had the boyish charm of a high school quarterback. I’m sure that fifteen years ago he easily cruised his way to a victory during elections for homecoming king.

Jost was the leader of this round-table, so between french fries he started firing off all of the positive accomplishments that he and his team have made, while clearly avoiding any of the shortcomings. Here’s a rundown of the most interesting things that he said:

1. High unemployment rates and homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure will cause problems with the 2010 Census.

2. The hardest group to count is “young, unattached people” who move frequently, only have cell phones, are between jobs or studies, etc. — NOT immigrants or minorities, as one might expect from all of the Census Bureau’s hard-to-count group advertising…(MyTwoCensus will investigate this further in the near future!)

3. The Census Bureau has created a series of ads using pop music…get ready to find these on your TV screens starting in early January.

4. The participation rate in the Census increased for the first time since 1970 in 2000, despite general trends that fewer and fewer people are involved in civic activities like voting, performing jury duty, etc. Hopefully they can once again reverse this trend in 2010.

5. 95% of media consumers will be reached multiple times by 2010 Census advertising campaigns.

6. 53% of 2010 Census advertising is local. 47% is national. (Note: MyTwoCensus has not heard back yet as to whether our proposal to let the Census Bureau advertise for the 2010 Census on this site was accepted…)

7. Spoiler Alert: Sesame Street will be featuring a 2010 Census storyline via The Count and Rosita characters.

8. 2010.Census.gov was redesigned.

9. Though 173 forms of social media have been integrated with Census Bureau awareness efforts, no I-Phone Application has been created for the 2010 Census.

10. The 2010 Census forms will be mailed to all households in America (hopefully) on March 17, 2010. (Let’s hope drunken St. Patty’s day revelers don’t interfere with the efforts of the U.S. Postal Service…)

11. When selecting advertisements for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau asks the creative directors of 12 different advertising firms to submit proposals via a “creative rumble.”

12. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of the 2000 Advance Letter Debacle in 2010…

13. There will be extra Census Bureau staff in New Orleans to personally hand deliver 2010 Census questionnaires to every household.

14. The address canvassing portion of the 2010 Census provided data that there are approximately 134 million individual housing units in the US, down from original estimates of 140 million.

15. Many addresses in places like Las Vegas where construction on homes was started but never finished have been deleted from the 2010 Census rolls.

16. Very, very, very few people hired to work for the Census Bureau as temporary workers have quit during the 2009-2010 cycle, as other jobs are extremely scarce.

17. On November 17 at 9:30am, Dr. Robert M. Groves will be holding his next monthly “State of the 2010 Census” address…

I was given some handouts (drawings of a 2010 Census logo on a NASCAR racecar that will be unveiled soon), portions of powerpoints (that showed me data about levels of Census participation), and had the opportunity to see one of the hip-hop music based commercials that was recently shot in LA and will soon be airing nationwide. It was a smooth operation, and my questions were answered well. Were the answers necessarily honest? No. But did the PR team effectively do their jobs to give give off the image of squeaky clean 2010 Census communications operations? Absolutely.

The Suitland Files: Inside The Census Bureau (Part 1)

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

This post is dedicated to the memory Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The other night, I caught Alex Gibney’s biographical documentary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson, and I was once again reminded how exciting political journalism can be, especially when it’s written in the first person. So, here is the first of two installments detailing my trip to the U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, written in a style that I hope would make Dr. Thompson smile:

President Obama must have sensed that I had a whole lot of questions for him, because just as soon as I arrived for my tour of the White House, Marine One arrived to whisk him off to Andrews Air Force Base for a trip to Boston. Nonetheless, after five months in other parts of the world, it was good to be back in the District, which was just as vibrant as when I left it in May.

After a post-White House pit stop at Potbelly Sandwich Works, I jumped on the red line at Metro Center for a minute before changing at Chinatown to the green line that would coast me all the way out to Suitland, Maryland, home of the U.S. Census Bureau’s  HQ. It’s a long and lonely ride out to Suitland, as it’s just about as far as the Metro can take you from any of DC’s attractions. Once the Metro stopped at Anacostia I couldn’t help but be wary, knowing that I was in the highest-crime district in an already high-crime city.

When I exited the Metro at Suitland, I noticed that my fellow riders (no less than three individuals walking with painful limps, a pair of girls who looked to be no more than seventeen –each with a baby in their arms, and a blind man who lacked a cane and got from point A to point B by only by sticking his hands out to guide him –which seems to be a death wish in the vicinity of active train tracks) all seemed depressed. And watching them made me depressed, so I scrambled onward. I walked through an endless parking garage, the whole time during which I was convinced that Deep Throat would sneak up on me from behind. When I finally made my way to its entrance, there she stood, looking completely out of place, like a princess at a soup kitchen, the glass-paneled behemoth that was completed in 2006 and holds unquantifiable amounts of data. When Census employees click their heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home,” this is where they land.

I’d been told to arrive early for my meeting, because after all, I was meeting with some very high-level bureaucrats, and they had, you know, things to do. But I still had forty minutes, which was too early, so I figured I’d take a lap around the building to kill some time. Just as I walked to the edge of the building’s iron-gated perimeter, I peered through the main entrance and saw a familiar face, or should I say a familiar pair of spectacles and a familiar gray mustache. “No way, it can’t be,” I thought to myself. But it was. I knew it in an instant. My heart started to pound. I could feel the sweat dripping down my neck. I wanted to loosen my tie but I suddenly was no longer in control of my hands, which were now involuntarily shaking. Of the thousands upon thousands of employees of the U.S. Census Bureau who are based at headquarters in Suitland, here I was, standing beside the top dog, the king of the castle, the questionnaire czar, the big kahuna, el estadistico grande, the Don Juan of Censusland…it was none other than Dr. Robert M. Groves himself.

Still in a trance, I strode right past the security guards (who were obviously doing a great job keeping the place safe and secure) and shouted “Dr. Groves!” with the enthusiasm of a kid who was about to get his baseball signed by Babe Ruth. (I mean, Census bloggers need heroes too.) Groves stopped dead in his tracks and stared me down. He had the look of a man who’d just been caught by TMZ with his pants down, but it was really just the inquisitive ambivalence of responding to someone who shouts your name as if you’re old friends when in reality you’re hardly even acquaintances.

Surely he didn’t recognize me, as I was sporting a mustache and glasses myself, two accessories I lacked during our only other encounter, which was at his confirmation hearing back in May (The ‘stache and specs were just a coincidence, not an elaborate homage, I swear!). During my first brush with Census royalty, Groves, all but assured of his Senate confirmation said to me, “You should come by Suitland some time soon and I’ll give you a personal tour.” I told him right then and there that I would take him up on his offer and hold him to his word.

As i was still crippled with fear and verbally paralyzed, Groves said to me, “Ah, I wanted to come to your meeting, but I was called to go somewhere at the last second.” You would think that I would be utterly dejected by this, but this wasn’t the case at all, as I had no idea that Dr. Groves was even considering a meeting with me, so this was much more than I’d bargained for. Still overjoyed, all I could think was,  ”Damnit, why didn’t I bring my camera?”

Not knowing what to do as the power of speech suddenly returned to my body, I asked him for his business card. He fumbled around his wallet for a few seconds and told me he was out. Ostensibly he doesn’t want to be on my speed dial, so he played it safe with a solid excuse. That, I can totally understand. (I wouldn’t want me on speed dial either.) Clearly in a rush (his driver was waiting for him), Groves parted with me by saying, “You’re doing a good job.” As I blurted out a terse “thank you, ” he was already on his way.

Still in a relative daze, I only floated back to the real world only when I felt the heavy hand of a security guard on my shoulder. Even if the rest of my Census Bureau HQ experience went to shit, at least I had the approval of the one person who mattered most in Suitland’s Glassy-Glowing-God-like Monolith.

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.

Mr. Morse Goes To Washington

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Hi All,

Just wanted to let you know that I will be arriving in Washington within 20 minutes. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be meeting with Steve Jost, Stephen Buckner, and other Census Bureau officials. I’m not sure what we will discuss or if this meeting is on or off the record. But if you have any pressing questions that I should pass along, please submit them as comments to this post.

Best,
Stephen Robert Morse

Update: More Languages In Advance Letters

Friday, October 9th, 2009

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

Advance Letter from Robert M. Groves in multiple languages

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

Census Bureau Press Release: Independent Panel Commends the 2010 Census Paid Media Plan

Monday, September 21st, 2009

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Census Bureau today announced that an independent
panel of five distinguished marketing and communications scholars
unanimously agreed that both industry and academic best practices were used
to develop the paid media portion of the 2010 Census Integrated
Communications Campaign.

“My overall assessment is that the processes to develop the 2010 Census
Integrated Communications Campaign are fundamentally sound,” said Academic
Assessment Panel Chair Dr. Jerome D. Williams, the F.J. Heyne Centennial
Professor in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. “I feel
the Census Bureau and the DraftFCB team have done an exceptional job and
are to be applauded for what has been developed so far under very
challenging conditions.”

The Census Bureau formed the Academic Assessment Panel in April 2009 to
evaluate the methods used to define and develop the communications
campaign.

This was the first time the Census Bureau has commissioned an objective
panel to review the communications campaign’s work prior to the conclusion
of the decennial census. It is yet one more additional element in a very
extensive external review process by the Bureau, which includes the
Congress, formal advisory committees, stakeholder groups, representatives
of the Census Regional offices, and the Department of Commerce. Obtaining
recommendations from a panel of academic experts at this early juncture
allowed the Census Bureau sufficient time to employ their recommendations
before the media implementation plans were finalized.

“The Academic Assessment Panel’s recommendations have enhanced the 2010
Census Communications Campaign,” said Raul E. Cisneros, the Census Bureau’s
2010 Census Publicity Office Chief. “Their completely independent and
objective review allowed us to look at the work done to date on the
campaign with fresh eyes and make improvements and refinements where
needed,” Cisneros said.

“The Census Bureau must count everyone in this country once, only once,
and in the right place, and a robust and effective communications campaign
is vital to help us reach that goal. We are grateful for the very serious
and intensive work the panel undertook in a short time frame,” added
Cisneros.

The 2010 Census Integrated Communications Campaign is comprised of paid
advertising, public relations, partnerships, online interaction and a
Census in Schools program that have been designed and guided at every step
of the process by detailed research. Each of these components will be
crucial to increasing the public’s awareness of the 2010 Census and
motivating participation in the decennial enumeration.