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 ‘training’

Census Bureau re-interviewing thousands of people in Brooklyn

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Well, folks, you heard it here first. (Don’t forget that!) Now, let’s hope that the New York news organizations will pick up on the following info. As usual the Census Bureau releases critical information on a Friday afternoon in the summer time hoping that the media mavens in New York are already on their way to the Hamptons and will forget about this by Monday. How much will this operation cost taxpayers? Will the fired officials be charged with crimes? Here’s a Census Bureau Press Release:

Brooklyn Households May Get Additional Visit From Census Bureau

Quality checks reveal work must be redone to ensure complete accurate count

WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Census Bureau today announced that checks on the quality of some of the work in the Brooklyn North East local census office (LCO) have led to a replacement of the management of that office, and to the judgment that at least 10,000 household interviews will have to be redone to ensure a complete and accurate count.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090226/CENSUSLOGO)

“I want to stress that our highest priority is to get a complete and accurate count in 2010 for Brooklyn, and while I regret some of the work must be redone, I’m sure the people of Brooklyn share in the goal of getting this right,” said Regional Director Tony Farthing.

Census officials from the New York Regional Office and the Suitland, Maryland headquarters visited the LCO this week following up on concerns raised by some employees in the LCO that the management there was not following established procedures. Senior managers confirmed that a variety of training and processing standards had recently been neglected in the LCO.  The New York Regional Office has replaced the LCO management with two experienced managers who are very familiar with the communities in the affected area. The systematic review of processing steps continues, and may lead to more household re-interviews. A physical inspection of a sample of census questionnaires pointed to a recent breakdown and failure to follow quality standards that must be met by every local census office.

Regional Director Tony Farthing said that the new LCO team will be in the field beginning this weekend to ensure all enumerator interviews are conducted properly and that any suspect interviews will be redone with new interviews of the households. He said he felt confident all the work can be completed before the end of door to door enumeration, but that work would continue until the Bureau is satisfied of the quality.

Editor’s note: News releases, reports and data tables are available on the Census Bureau’s home page. Go to http://www.census.gov and click on “Releases.”

Must-Read: New York’s 2010 Census nightmare

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The following report comes from a Census Bureau official whose identity has been confirmed but will remain anonymous as she is a current Census Bureau employee:

The five boroughs of New York City and its diversified population of eight million have long eluded demographers and census employees in producing an accurate count. Having worked in three censuses now and living in New York for almost my entire adult life I notice that the socioeconomic spectrum of New Yorkers has widened, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. In the last ten years there is an influx of immigrants; some legal some illegal. It makes what was once a one family home in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx a two or even three family home. These people are living in converted basements or the second story of the houses some legal some illegal. On the other end of the spectrum, luxury rentals and condominiums have become even more exclusive with price tags in the millions of dollars. In both cases the immigrants and residents of these upscale housing units and their exclusive real estate management companies have ignored repeated attempts by phone or mail to allow enumeration.  Even in the face of a fine, the management companies are adamant about their policy and would willingly pay the fine rather than to allow enumerators to count their residents. The problem is the Census’ Bureau’s threat of a fine is merely used as a scare tactic. When a real estate mogul calls their bluff the actual fine like many other Census Bureau promises is empty.

As native New Yorkers we anticipated these problems. And sitting through four days of verbatim training where someone read through a book, we knew that it wasn’t as simple as the script made it to be to persuade these respondents about the importance of the census and their participation. As a group we brainstormed and created techniques through trial and error to get those who were non-responsive to fill out our questionnaires. Some of these tactics included: sending another enumerator of a different race or creed after several visits with no contact; leaving blank enumerator questionnaires under their door allowing them the privacy of completing it in their own home. One of us even went as far as sending well dressed suits or female fashion models to coerce participation. But all this takes time and money. All of which with 15 billion price tag the Census Bureau doesn’t have.

With inaccurate workload estimation models and front loading the Census Bureau overrecruited, overhired on many operations in preparation for the final major operation: non-response followup. One of the major costs was the paper based operational control system PBOCS which has been the subject of intense scrutiny by media, Congress and employees because of its inability to check out, check out and ship questionnaires and generate management reports. The managers who are monitoring productivity and costs are trained to believe if the reports don’t show it’s done then it isn’t done. With only erroneous reports to rely on, headquarters and regional offices are using a take no prisoners do whatever it takes attitude to pressure temporary employees to complete the task. PBOCS also moves assignment areas fooling LCO managers and field staff into thinking they have more or less work than they have. And ultimately this may have long term geography problems when the Census is completed and used for congressional redistricting.

Since PBOCS doesn’t work correctly and fails to handle the workload, The Census Bureau runs on a more is better attitude. The solution is hire more employees for manually counting and reviewing enumerator questionnaires when they should have slowed enumerator production. Local Census offices have gone from a simple 9am-5:30pm operation to running three shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week with triple to quadruple what their staffing authorizations originally allowed. This compounded the bottleneck, increased the backlog of questionnaires waiting to be checked in and slowed the re -interview and quality assurance phase. There is overwhelming suspicion of data falsification and false proxies but by the time this is figured out the operation will end and the enumerators already released for lack of work.

Now what was originally touted as the most accurate decennial count ever has quickly turned into a race to meet production goals and wrap up the operation as quickly as possible with procedural changes.  We have enumerators, telephone clerks in the LCO, and enumerators from other LCOs taking interviews ignoring the fact that PBOCS will only let you check it in under an enumerator and that if data falsification is happening it will be difficult to find the culprit. What were originally any six personal and telephone visits is now three visits go to a proxy. What used to be try to get the household member because he knows his own name, sex, age, DOB, Hispanic origin and race and whether he rents or owns has become going to a proxy on a first visit and sometimes writing don’t know on most if not all of those questions. Sadly this actually passes the office review portion and nothing in the enumerator procedures disallows that. If a respondent refuses and a proxy is able to give any of the information no matter how knowledgeable he/she is that doesn’t constitute marking it as a refusal, skewing the accuracy of the data.

The incentives of career census employees at RCC and headquarters are in contradiction with each enumerator who wants our city to be accurately counted. The career census employees’ evaluation of performance is purely based on numbers how many cases are completed with little regard to the demography or difficulty of enumerating the population. Their expectation is that the enumeration of traditionally undercounted minorities of Bedford Stuyvesant be just as quick as the white, upper middle class of Upper West Side of Manhattan. The very same agency whose motto has always been the leading source of data about the nation’s people and economy has become a competition between area managers and local census offices.

The leadership in the local census offices isn’t the strongest either. Those who made hiring decisions in New York RCC had every chance to hire the best managers but instead resorted to nepotism to make decisions. When it was clear these decisions were poor the career census employees terminated LCO managers’ employment to cover it up. But then found another disappointing replacement. In an attempt to bring operations up to speed the Census Bureau flew in managers from Denver into Manhattan and headquarters to Staten Island.

The goal is for enumerators to get as many cases in and clerks process work as quickly as possible doing whatever it takes to get the job done, otherwise there will be a formal written reprimand and termination of their employment. It is the chest beating, gorilla apelike attitude of the managers that will ultimately be the demise of New York City.

Lester Farthing, the Regional Director and his managers of the New York Regional Census Center have no intention of an accurate count in the five boroughs. Instead their goal is to appease headquarters, finish as quickly as possible so that the career census employees will be viewed as productive team players who are not questioning the possible inaccuracy of this count. As one of our area managers will say “it’s a hot mess.” I only hope the mayor of our great city Michael Bloomberg, city census coordinator Stacey Cumberbatch, politicians and congressmen are reading this letter and will intervene because ultimately it is the city that will suffer for the next ten years. They were quick to make public announcements touting the importance of participating in the census by returning the forms. But have yet to do anything to persuade non cooperative households and real estate management companies to allow enumerators in to complete their job. The sad reality is that it may be too little too late.

With the way the census works can any of us ever trust census data again?

Census Bureau’s official response to James O’Keefe scandal

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

The following statement comes to me from Stephen Buckner of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office:

Statement on O’Keefe Taping of Census Bureau Staff


“Census Bureau policies and training are clear and require all employees to honestly submit accurate time records. Workers are instructed to report hours they work, which would include their time traveling to and from training. This is no different than the training session that Mr. O’Keefe attended in New Jersey, and during his previous employment with the Census Bureau last year. In his video, Mr. O’Keefe, an admitted criminal, does not disclose that he previously worked for the Census Bureau for nearly 2 months in 2009 without incident, allegation or complaint. That employment with us was well before his indictment and prior to his conviction of a federal crime last week.  The Census Bureau obviously does not condone any falsifying of or tampering with timesheets by its employees. We are investigating the allegations in Mr. O’Keefe’s selectively edited video
and will take appropriate administrative action with staff as warranted. ”

Background:

· Policies, procedures and training sessions clearly instruct employees to record the hours they work, which includes payment for the actual time traveling to and from training sessions. Mr. O’Keefe clearly did not include that, or the fact that part of his raw footage also shows trainers instructing new employees that they must record their mileage accurately.

· Mr. O’Keefe implies that the tapings occurred while he was still employed by the Census Bureau.  In fact, most of his video taping took place after his Census Bureau employment ended.  The Census Bureau’s stringent background check disqualifies individuals with pending federal charges or criminal offenses.  After O’Keefe’s background check came back, he quit before any action could be taken.

· None of the other new hires or Census Bureau staff attending the training sessions that were taped were notified or granted permission to be filmed in Mr. O’Keefe’s video. Many states have laws against such surreptitious tapings.

· Mr. O’Keefe, like all census workers, took a confidentiality oath for life to protect census data — the Census Bureau cannot by law disclose any personal information about a household or respondent that could identify them. We take this very seriously at the Census Bureau.

Census Bureau Official: The Worst Local Census Office In the Nation

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The following piece comes from an anonymous Census Bureau official in New York whose identity has been verified but will remain protected by MyTwoCensus.com. This work below does not necessarily represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com:

From the outside our LCO looks great. It sits in a high end commercial office building with beautiful views of Park Avenue and the Grand Central Terminal. But on the inside the office is the prime example of the appalling waste, lack of accountability, sabotage and finger pointing that has become widespread here at the 2010 Census.

Our LCO contains the upscale doorman buildings of the East Side, the multi-million dollar condos in Union Square and the Lower East Side, Fifth Avenue retail stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman and famous restaurants such as Tavern on the Green and Smith & Wollensky. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is upwards of three thousand dollars a month. For months, numerous employees warned everyone the demography of the residents and the high real estate prices was going to be a problem finding applicants for $18.75 an hour and free training space. The recruiting and partnership assistants had trouble finding partners that would donate space that we could use five days a week for eight hours a day. The LCOM made clerks cold call high end banquet halls, and conference rooms in private office buildings but most of them refused because in such a recession these businesses could be generating revenue instead of donating their space. Some spaces though were nice enough to say that if we would be willing to offset some of their custodial, security costs or even the cost for toilet paper they would offer us the space. But the Census Bureau was adamant about not paying a single cent for space.

The other problem was recruiting enough applicants. The office clerk rate of $14.25 and field employee rate of $18.75 an hour was chump change for what is considered one of the highest real estate prices in the country. Most of the people who take a job for these pay rates are students, public housing or subsidized housing residents or retirees. For this very reason we were ranked last in the nation when it came to recruiting enough applicants to do the census.

To no one’s surprise since recruiting numbers were not being met the career census employees at regional census center (RCC) and headquarters pointed fingers, blamed the local census office managers and bring in outsiders. They brought in regional technicians and other recruiting assistants from Queens to show us how to plaster and flier neighborhoods with posters. Nevertheless they didn’t even make a dent in the recruiting numbers. Looking for someone to blame the RCC fired the recruiting manager and asked another one to take over. When the second one refused to work with the LCOM, the solution was fire her too. Then they offered it to a Westchester manager who declined also. (smart move) And the regional technician from Queens spent a week there before he was fed up. Are you starting to notice a trend? You know there is a problem when people would rather be fired than work with the LCOM.

The employees refused to work with the LCOM because she was condescending, oftentimes publicly humiliating and sabotaging other managers from getting their job done. Most of all, the LCOM had it out for the AMQA. She [LCOM] diverted a strong OOS from quality assurance to recruiting and told recruiting assistants to refrain from finding training sites and questionnaire assistance centers (QACs). When the area manager sent partnership assistants to help look for additional QAC sites the LCOM diverted them also. Then they sent a regional technician to help her. He mapped the geographic location of all the QAC sites and figured out the hours they would be most effective. Then he coordinated some recruiting assistants to help telling them exactly where he needed QACs and what hours he needed them. She threw away the work and tried to get the regional technician fired.

At the climax, when the LCOM resigned her going away party featured a clerk who impersonated her in a wig and stormed the lobby like a drama scene from a reality television show. After the LCOM left, an RCC employee became the acting LCOM. Like other RCC employees he offered little constructive help but sitting at his computer falling asleep or basically hovering, standing over, watching as temporary hourly employees slave away at processing work on an antiquated system that does not work.

When it came time to hire enumerators for non response follow-up our office still didn’t have enough training spaces but told to select applicants anyways. Despite being the worst LCO in the country the office managed to select almost 2,000 applicants, hiring a negligible number of non-citizens and those who scored below 70 from an applicant pool of about 5,000. (the original applicant testing goal was over 12,000 applicants) Instead of finally compromising and paying for much needed space RCC asked the LCO managers to create a schedule to take advantage of every single seat in a classroom, moving and splitting crews of enumerators from one training site to another each day. A great idea from the outlook; but when you try to implement this it can be a logistical nightmare. We promised jobs to thousands of applicants but couldn’t fit them into training space so all this week we fielded phone calls from thousands of irate applicants who were desperate for work or enumerators who don’t even know where and when their next day of training is. While the office is fielding phone calls headquarters is making sure we key enough hires in the system. The office resorted to training their employees in the hallway of a high end commercial Park Avenue South office. The managers have to work from morning to midnight, sometimes through the night and everyday there are employees who basically break down and burst into tears in the office. The Census Bureau could of saved themselves money simply by pay their partners a stipend to offset custodial or security fees or even the toilet paper than pay the wages and overtime for the entire office which is probably in the tens of thousands.

Another example of government waste at its finest is how they bring in huge cubic dump containers to throw out entire storerooms of materials for the group quarters enumeration, recruiting brochures, and questionnaires. I ask myself if it was worth firing our AMQA over lack of Questionnaire Assistance Center sites when entire cubic containers of be counted census forms were just thrown out? In a few weeks during the non-response follow up operation we have to enumerate all the housing units in entire high rise apartment buildings in Manhattan because no one received census forms. This is simply because headquarters and RCC rushed and told people to work faster last year. If New York City is missing entire high rise apartment buildings imagine how many single family homes are missing across America. The joke of the office is if things don’t work headquarters will fly in people who will come in take over and magically “finish the job”. This is simply why places like New York City get undercounted.

So when the newspaper reporters are standing outside our office demanding interviews about why the office won’t respond to applicants request about job training. Why don’t they ask the RCC and headquarters? From the first look you can blame the temporary local census office but the real blame falls onto the RCC and headquarters who evaluate purely on numbers with little regard to the demography and real estate costs of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America. The New York East 2230 office is the prime example of career level census managers who have tunnel vision. These people are former statisticians, mathematicians and geographers who are great at quantitative analysis but have little management experience and strategy.

If this LCO works just like any other office in terms of the waste it shows what must be happening in 494 offices across the nation every day. The Census Bureau MO “when things don’t work throw more money, resources and people at it.” This is why the census costs 15 billion dollars. The Census needs someone with real management experience and who is a real visionary. The employees at regional census center and headquarters should be ashamed of themselves. And to think the inspector general’s office was here just weeks ago makes it even more appalling. You can be sure I’ll be writing the congressional subcommittee about this.

Questions for Census Bureau Field workers

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

MyTwoCensus has received unsubstantiated reports about the following issues, and we are hoping for our readers to share their knowledge with us so we can further investigate:

1. Have you ever been threatened by Census Bureau employees who are higher up on the food chain than you? One reader recently reported, “The ELCO threatened that if I did not collect all the handhelds before the weekend, they would ‘call the police’ and ‘have them go after the listers to get the handhelds back.’”

2. Have you ever received a text message alerting you that “Census Bureau employees were killed in a car crash?”

3. Please let us know if you have heard something similar to the following: “During training, employees were told that a female census worker in Alaska who had been to a certain address was later stopped by police who demanded to know if she had been at that address.  She refused to tell him because of the confidentiality rules, but then the officer showed her a photo and asked if she had seen this person, and she said, ‘yes.’ Subsequently she was fired for breach of confidentiality.”

If you have anything to report or feel that we should look into a problem, individual, piece of technology, or procedure, or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us at mytwocensus at mytwocensus.com.

The Insider’s Guide To Training For The 2010 Census

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

With hundreds of thousands of Americans working for the Census Bureau, we at MyTwoCensus are surprised that there haven’t been more first-hand accounts of life on the job appearing throughout the blogosophere. Yesterday, we were able to read a great behind the scenes account of life training for the 2010 Census on Ryan’s Ridiculous Real World blog. Here’s Ryan Pope’s interesting and thought-provoking post:

By Ryan Pope

Last week I completed my training to become a Quality Control Lister for the US Census Bureau. What this means (in English) is I am now qualified to spot-check and verify address lists already compiled by the Bureau by physically canvassing neighborhoods and entering the appropriate information into my nifty four thousand dollar handheld computer. This may sound simple enough, but as is so often the case, the training I underwent last week turned out to be something of an adventure.

My training took place in the rec room of a family planning/continuing education center and computer lab in Oceanside, and I trained with 22 other people who likewise passed the test to qualify for Census work. The training started with our CL (crew leader) informing us that we were training for Phase One of the Census, (which basically consists of gathering address information for neighborhoods throughout San Diego county) and that we would complete our training by Thursday. Unfortunately, he told us, it was unlikely any of us would be called out into the field because Phase One of the Census was scheduled to be completed by Monday, thus the only way we would put our training to use would be if someone contracted swine flu and called in sick because they couldn’t finish canvassing their assignment area. After receiving this bit of good news, our CL informed us that training would consist of him reading a giant manual to us verbatim, and that this was unavoidable because the Census Bureau wanted to make sure all its staff received the exact same training. Thus we were essentially being paid $16.50 an hour to sit in a room and listen to a written description of how to do something we would never end up doing in the first place.

You would think this would put people at ease during the training session since, in all likelihood, they would never be called upon to perform the tasks being discussed in class. Much to my dismay I found the exact opposite to be the case: several people in my class were practically freaking out and asking question after question about what to do in different situations. For example, we had one ten minute class discussion on what to do if there’s a big scary dog barking in the yard of a house you need to canvass, and what to do if there’s a medium sized dog that isn’t barking but looks like he could be mean sitting in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and what to do if there’s a small sized dog that is yapping aggressively at you in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and what to do if there’s a a small sized dog that isn’t yapping AND a big sized dog that isn’t yapping in the yard of a house you want to canvass, and so on and so forth. Admittedly, some of the concepts being covered were difficult to grasp, like how to determine the proper code for different residences and enter the information properly into the computer (for example, an apartment complex is coded differently than a group of condos), but these people were totally going overboard.

The questions really got out of hand once our CL distributed handheld computers for us to train with. We were supposed to have one HHC (handheld computer) per student, but it just so happened that after we all finished being fingerprinted on the first day, my CL’s Supervisor showed up and whisked away 18 of the devices, leaving us with four for the entire class to share. For some reason I am yet to understand, my CL chose to assign each of these computers to four of the oldest people in the class. Since these septuagenarians can barely use a cell phone, they were totally lost at sea: a group of chimpanzees would’ve been more tech savy than these people. Thus after every single step of the training, one of these geysers would shout, "WAIT, how did you get that!" or "My screen doesn’t look like that, I think my computer’s broken," or "Where’s the ‘on’ button?" They always asked these questions with a certain amount of panic and desperation in their voices, as if they were asking for directions to the exit of a burning building. They were totally tense and stressed out about using the computers before we even got started, and their intuitive skills (in terms of technology) were for shit, thus there wasn’t a single time all four of them were able to follow along and successfully complete the next step without any assistance. As you can imagine, this made for some riveting action for those of us who did not have handheld computers and had to just listen and try to follow along while the greatest generation suffered a nervous breakdown. The thing is, this wasn’t really their fault; they were all nice people who just didn’t feel comfortable with new technology. My point is this was easily predictable and thus could’ve been easily prevented. Unfortunately, once we started trying to guide the four blind mice through the lesson, we couldn’t stop because the Census Bureau training had to be followed verbatim.

As time wore on I started to people watch and observe the other folks in the room. I’ve always found it interesting to observe how group dynamics work, and it didn’t take me long to breakdown our class into three distinct groups. For our training session, all the people in sitting in the front formed group one. They were all the brown nosers and constant participators who dragged our training session on painfully slow with their illogical butt-kissing (who sucks up during training for a job they’ll never be required to perform?) and question asking (in retrospect I should thank them since we were all being paid by the hour). One lady in this group was working particularly hard to let everyone know that she was deeply engrossed in the material and following along, so much so that she’d answer every question our trainers asked us before anyone else had a chance. It didn’t take me long to dub her "the TA."

I sat in the second row with the second group of people. We were the laid-back mildly intrigued people who followed along but weren’t above having side conversations or cracking jokes, or making sarcastic comments about the butt smoochers in the front. I was fortunate to be seated next to two friendly ladies on my left who enjoyed a good laugh, so we kept ourselves entertained by trading quips about the training material, our classmates, and the whole training charade we were being put through. Unfortunately I was considerably less blessed with the person to my right, a middle aged math who hadn’t bathed for a longtime (if ever) with a penchant for eating stinky foods (the first day he had chilly cheese fries for lunch, while on the second day he opted for the healthier option and ate three friend burritos…when I offered him a piece of gum for fear that anymore rank breath might singe my eyebrows and cause irreparable damage to my vision, I was politely rebuffed…he explained to me he didn’t want any sugar-free gum since he didn’t trust artificial sweetners!) and close-talking. Although he really was a nice person, he was constantly confused during our training sessions, so he’d repeatedly lean in close to me to ask me what page we were on, or to see which answer I’d circled in our workbook, or to ask me a question about how to operate the handheld computer. This made for an extremely long day since sitting next to this fellow required me to harnass all of my mental faculties and powers of concentration simply to resist the urge to vomit.

The colleague ot my right really belonged with the third group of people. These were the people in the back row who, by and large were either disinterested or hopelessly confused. This wasn’t really their fault because there was so much talking going between the trainer at the front, the butt kissers and question askers in the first row, the joke tellers and laughers in the middle row, and all the people having side conversations throughout the room, it was practically impossible for the people in the back to follow the lesson and understand what was going on.

This was too bad for the people in the back because they missed some truly hilarious moments. One such event was when our trainer explained that while canvassing a neighborhood, we should always walk to the right. "Whatever you do, don’t turn left!" The Census Bureau gives you this instruction because they want you to make sure you locate and map every single residence; thus they want you to go in one direction, however, you could just as easily choose left as that direction. Anyway, the funny part was the example our trainer gave to demonstrate this actually required you to turn left to walk around an obstruction in the road before continuing to canvass. However our trainer refused to concede this point and instead gave a complicated (and inaccurate) demonstration of how she was able to walk and turn and keep the houses on her right without ever turning left. It was like watching Derek Zoolander make a left turn by spinning in 270 degrees to the right.

However the funniest thing we heard during our training was from our other trainer. While we were all looking at a map together, she was explaining that north will always be marked in the same direction on all maps. Naturally someone in the front row asked a question about this, to which she responded, “I know, it can be confusing. I used to live in New York so it took me awhile to get used to where north is out here since it’s the opposite out there, but just remember, on all maps north will be the same direction.” My colleagues in the second row and I scratched our heads in amazement, did she really just say that? Was she really suggesting that in New York north is a different direction than in California? What, is Canada below the US out there but above it here? We were in stitches. We finally figured out that she was referring to the direction of north in relation to the water (i.e. is the ocean on your left or your right?) but it came out funny.

Other funny moments were the result of reading the training materials verbatim. The best was when we were instructed to identify a vacant mobile home space as a residence if we observed any evidence of “permanent grass or permanent dirt.” Who the hell knows what “permanent dirt” is? Naturally when one of the folks in the front row asked this question, our trainer didn’t have an answer.

However I think my favorite part of the entire training were the acronyms. The US Census Bureau has an acronym for fricking everything. As we got further and further into the training, the number of acronyms grew, and so we started to see sentences like this one, "Remember, during QC canvassing, after performing DBQ on all HU’s and OLQ’s in your AA, DV will begin ASAP. If it does not, immediately contact your CL at HQ." Laughing to myself I imagined using these acronyms on poor unsuspecting residents: "Look, I need to determine if this is an HU or an OLQ for my AA to complete QC for my CL at HQ, so give me the information ASAP you SOB!"

Overall the training went fine. I was very fortunate in the fact that both my trainers and the other trainees were extremely nice people. Still, after reading a lot of Kafka lately, I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of knowingly training to perform a job I would never be called upon to perform. Fortunately I passed the rigorous exam (I missed one question out of thirty, and to be honest, I’m a little upset by this because I can’t figure out which one I could’ve gotten wrong) at the end of training and thus certified as a Quality Control Lister. Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and someone will call in sick with swine flu and I’ll be called into duty. We can only hope.

Note: The following piece does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

Fear and Loathing in Pahrump Valley: Enumerators face off against people with guns and vicious dogs.

Monday, April 20th, 2009

censusbag2-lo

As hundreds of thousands of Census Bureau employees are now going door to door to verify the addresses of more than 300 million Americans, few people realize the physical risks that these field workers face. MyTwoCensus has called upon the Census Bureau to release statistics that detail how many Census Bureau employees have been injured/killed while on the job thus far in 2010 as well as during he 2000 headcount. While employees of the Postal Service ostensibly also face similar problems to Census Bureau field workers on a daily basis, 2010 Census employees lack the significant training and field experience necessary to deal with hostile individuals/animals/situations.

Also, as MyTwoCensus has previously reported, since Census Bureau employees lack uniforms and formal photo ID badges, they can be more easily targeted by individuals who suspect that someone is trespassing on their property. The Pahrump Valley Times, which serves Nye County in Nevada, reports:

Tony Longo, local Census Bureau supervisor, said crews don’t normally have to knock on doors to verify addresses unless they have a question over additional living quarters on the property.

Longo said a couple of census workers reported dog bites. There was a scary incident at one residence, he said.

“One group was standing in the street at a house on an acre lot and it was tree-lined. He was just trying to verify if there was another unit in the back and the lady sprung out of the trees with a .45 and then her son came behind her with a shotgun,” Longo said. “They were really cool once he explained who he was.”