Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:
Our History of Access Letters
[Set against the background of a fill-in-the-blanks, multi-part, Census Form Letter, complete with Census seal, to use for locked buildings and gated communities]
We’re in an urban area.
My district has only apartments or condominiums. All of these have external control devices/call boxes, with the exception of one building that has a locked door and no identifying marks other than the street number.
I have been surprised by the the number of property management organizations and condominium owner’s associations that have actively impeded Enumerators in pursuit of the data. This includes posters from “management” stating “do not allow Census workers into the building” or stating “access to the building is only available by invitation of each individual condominium owner.”
Our LCO has offered an amusing stream of “access” letters aiming to help us gain access to the buildings to enable the sacred first visit in person.
Our Enumerators hit the streets on Apr 29.
First letter, May 13th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, toughest language “Please allow our Census Bureau employees to enter your building(s) or community to perform their official duties.”
Second “letter,” May 17th, , on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, text labeled as a copy of US Code, Title 13, Chapter 5 [sic], Subchapter 2, Section 223, substituting at the end “….(it goes on to describe the penalties).” for “shall be fined not more than $500.”
Third Letter, later in the day on the 17th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, placed the above Title 13 extract between an opener of “At the XXX Census Office, we have been experiencing a high number of apartment managers and other facility managers who do not understand their obligation to provide information to US Census workers. Here is the official language from the document which gives you the authority and responsibility to provide this information to the sworn federal employee” and closing with the AMFO’s signature block, but no signature.
Fourth Letter, May 19th, essentially the third letter with the AMFO’s business card attached.
Fifth letter, May 20th, on copy paper, no Census Logo or letterhead, essentially the third letter but with the full text of sections 223 and 224, i.e., containing the full language on fines.
Sixth Letter, May 21st – Fifth Letter retracted, revert to Fourth Letter
Seventh Letter, May 23rd, on copy paper, no Census Logo but with a mockup of the Census letterhead, similar to Fifth Letter but containing only section 223, with the text of the section within a ruled box.
Eighth Letter, May 24th, Seventh Letter retracted for “looking too official [sic],” revert to Sixth Letter, i.e., the Fourth Letter.
Ninth, and current, Letter. May 27th. on copy paper BUT it is a copy of an RCC’s official letterhead paper, signed by the RCC director, dated “May 2010,” with text extolling the recipient to assist the Census and read the enclosed “Section 223, Title 13 [sic].”
On the reverse the top half is entitled “SECURITY/PROPERTY MANAGER INFORMATION SHEET.”
The bottom half is a photocopy of US Code Title 13, Census, Chapter 7 – Offenses and Penalties, Subchapter II -Section 223, from the United States Code Annotated.
All of this would be somewhat amusing if it weren’t so timid, unprofessional and unproductive. It is on par with the Enumerator’s Manual suggestion about gain access to an access controlled building by tapping on the door glass with your keys.
What works for me….
When I first talk with property managers on the phone, they all seem to be reading from a script.
The script is along the line of “Our clients are very wealthy and very famous. They pay us great sums of money so they aren’t bothered. Further, we can’t have seasonal employees scampering down our halls.”
I then arrange for a meeting in person. Before the meeting I send a copy of the very first, timid, letter, telling them that this is just a draft of our first-level letter for them to examine. I then arrive at the meeting in _full_ business attire. The meetings have been short and the result has been access for our Enumerators.
In my briefcase I have the Ninth Letter copied on to heavy, white, laid bond paper, with a copy of §223 on a second page. So far it has staid in my briefcase.
[This is just one of twenty of more exercises where everyone in the field is saying "They've done this before, right?" and "Surely this isn't the first time the Census has encountered this situation."]