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 ‘Steven J. Jost’

Washington Post: Tales of abuse against census workers

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Today, The Washington Post published a very detailed story about incidents involving census workers. Click HERE for the full article. Some highlights:

“So far, the Census Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats on the nation’s 635,000 census workers, more than double the 181 recorded during the 2000 census. Weapons were used or threatened in a third of the cases.”

“Steven Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said it is unlikely that the policy prohibiting census workers from carrying weapons will be rescinded.”

“The number of verified incidents might go down after analysis.”

Crew leader shot and killed in #Baltimore

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This is a tragedy. H/t to Carol Morello of The Washington Post for the following:

A Baltimore man who was working for the Census Bureau has died after being shot while dropping off a co-worker — the first killing of a Census worker on the job this year.

Spencer Williams, 22, died Friday after being shot June 7, according to Baltimore police. He was found inside his car, resting in the median near an intersection, and had multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Williams was a crew leader responsible for a group of census takers doing follow-up visits to the homes of people who did not mail in their questionnaire by April. Census Bureau spokesman Steven J. Jost said Williams was returning home after driving a co-worker home at the end of the day and was considered to still be on the job. Police and Census officials said the shooting is not believed to be related to the agency’s work.

Since follow-up house calls began in late April, there have been 252 incidents in which Census workers have been harmed or threatened, including 11 times when shots were fired at them and 86 times when they were threatened with such weapons as guns, axes and crossbows.

Let’s hope the person who did this is caught and brought to justice.

Breaking News & MyTwoCensus Payrollgate Investigation: The Census Bureau has failed to pay thousands of employees!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of employees working for you, pay them on time. MyTwoCensus.com has received more than a dozen complaints within the past 12 hours from Census Bureau employees, at offices throughout the nation, who have not been paid on time. It is unknown whether this inexcusable error by the Census Bureau is a result of computer system failures (a problem that has plagued the Census Bureau for months if not years — even though Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said two days ago that the problems were fixed). Even though most of the 500,000+ Census Bureau employees who are out in the field this week are temporary employees, they still depend on this income from the federal government. A great number of these temporary employees were unemployed before their Census Bureau work came about, and thus are now living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, when those paychecks don’t come, everyone is hurt. This is particularly damning because many employees lost their unemployment benefits to take Census Bureau jobs, and will have an extremely hard time getting these payments again once the work is finished.

(Interestingly, a marketing firm called GA1 that had a contract with the Census Bureau publicly accused the government of not paying them on time back in March, but it’s unknown to me at this time whether the situation was resolved.)

One disgruntled employee wrote me the following about her experience, which sounds more like a Kafka novel than an account of living and working in the world’s greatest democracy:

I started working for the census on April 12, 2010. My first paycheck was supposed to be deposited on April 28 but it wasn’t. I called my LCO that day and was informed they entered the wrong account number into their system. They asked me for the correct account number and told me that they updated the system. Next they told me that I had to call the hotline to start the re-issuance process for the missing check. I did as instructed and was told it would take 5-7 business days to be deposited into my acct. The next payday was May 5 and check #2 isn’t there and #1 is still “missing”. I again call the hotline (got the answering machine the first 20+ times) when I finally found a human they wanted to take a message, I refused because I had left countless messages with no return call. So I waited on hold for over 25 minutes. I was told again that the check would be reissued in 5-7 days. Week 3 pay date May 12, finally a paycheck! However it was only for the last pay period. #1 and #2 still missing. I called the hotline today and I’m getting the run-around. They won’t tell me anything! I called DOL and was told they can’t help because technically I’m a federal employee and they gave me another number to call. I called this number and was told they couldn’t help because I was a temporary employee. What can I do? I need my money, I am a single mom with kids to feed. Right now I’m wishing I would have just stayed on unemployment. To top it all off, the uncaring attitude of my LCO doesn’t help… they just say don’t worry. You’ll be paid eventually, we don’t know when but eventually.

To the hundreds of thousands people who are victims of this lax payment plan by the government, know that I am here to fight for you. Please submit your stories in the comments section below. This behavior by the Census Bureau is unacceptable. Today, I am calling Dr. Groves (the Census Bureau Director), Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s Communications Director), the Public Information Office, and officials who are responsible for the payroll to get to the bottom of this mess.

For now, MyTwoCensus.com urges ALL EMPLOYEES who have not been paid to contact your Member of Congress and your Senators. Go to their offices if you can, but if not, lodge complaints by phone and e-mail. If you wish, please send me your complaints privately as well. MyTwoCensus is in contact with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress who will hopefully be able to have some clout to get this problem resolved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s another update from an anonymous Census Bureau employee Asheville, North Carolina, which to my knowledge is the only place where the media has actually reported these problems:

No one out of the Asheville office was paid properly today. I received 0. Three of my crew also received 0. two got 1 days pay/ 5 got 2 Days pay.
When manager raised cain was threatened with firing.
One enumerator had to borrow 8 dollars for gas to get home. One is threatened with eviction from her trailer.
Asheville LCO told another enumerator to expect to be paid on the 26th.
Asheville LCO said not to worry it was a nationwide computer glitch.
Asheville did not care that these folks had been out of work and need the money…especially the gas they have been buying to do the job.
Please do not use my name or email or I will get fired too.
We heard from other census workers in different cld that they also had widespread pay issues.
No one we heard from in Asheville district got the correct pay.
What can we do? If we raise a stink they will fire us.
The Census is now hiring at $9.00 per hour. we were hired at $11.50/ Are they trying to force us out to hire cheaper workers?

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%.

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!