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 ‘waste’

The latest from the Inspector General’s office…

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We failed to post a piece from the Inspector General about the Census Bureau’s “partnership” programs that MyTwoCensus criticized heavily for its lax spending procedures. Check out the November 18, 2010 report HERE.

And if you turn to page 20 of this Inspector General’s office document that was released on December 20, 2010,  you will find an update on recommendations being made for the 2020 Census.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Who estimated the 2010 Census supplies and printed materials contract? (RIP dead trees!)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
The following article comes from a former 2010 Census manager:
A month ago, MyTwoCensus posted a picture of hundreds of boxes of materials that were being recycled. Although no one will argue that recycling is good for the environment, the truth is none of this should of been printed in the first place. The Census Bureau estimate of the census forms they needed were off completely wrong and here’s why:
The company contracted to print the enumerator questionnaires (D1-E) printed over 200 million questionnaires. However the NRFU workload was only estimated to be 47 million households. Critics could argue that the NRFU workload was unknown before the printing contract was awarded however the American Community Survey estimate of 2008 only showed 128 million households in the United States. If America had a zero percent response rate they would still require only 128 million questionnaires, not the 200 million that was printed. There were 15 million enumerator supplemental questionnaires (D-1E SUPP) printed which field staff used when there were six or more household members. Information on how many households have six or more people was unavailable however only 23.4% of American households have 4 or more members. Any statistician can say with confidence that households with six or more members is negligible.
The errors in estimate cascaded to other printed materials such as information sheets and notice of visits also being overprinted. For example even though census procedures specifically allowed only three personal visits; in some regions to increase accuracy and avoid going to a proxy some enumerators made more than three visits. However Stephen Morse’s picture clearly shows there are still hundreds of boxes of these forms unused. Another example were the forms for eligibility employment verification (I-9) forms. The contract for the I-9 forms was 20 million, yet the census only ended up hiring about 600,000 employees across the nation and estimates show only a couple of million applicants.
None of this news should be surprising, Census models are completely inadequate. In 2009 during address canvassing they threw away millions of taxpayers’ dollars on training employees for which there was little or no work available. Each office returned palettes and palettes of office supplies such as pens, pencils, paper clips and rubber bands. The companies contracted to provide these were the ones who received the money.
If Census managers are infuriated over this picture perhaps they should be funneling their energy towards ensuring that their money is spent on technology that actually works and the proper amount of printing. Surely printing 200 million questionnaires for just 48 million households assuming assignment prep error is a little overkill.

Update to photo contest: The $500 photo of 2010 Census WASTE is here!

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The following photo of 2010 Census waste comes from a local census office in a major city. To protect the employee involved, I will not say which region until that person grants me permission to do so. Feel free to write your captions for this photo in the comments section below. Be aware, there is no Title 13 or PII-protected information in this photo. We are also curiously wondering why some leftover items have been donated to schools while others headed straight to the dump, depending on which office was responsible. MyTwoCensus is awaiting the Census Bureau’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was filed a couple of months back that further examines the 2010 Census waste disposal contracts. Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words:

Follow up: Census Bureau gives “awards” to organizations that did “nothing more than cover” the 2010 Census

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I came across a cheeky and informative post from the Willammette Week, a publication based in Portland, Oregon about the Census Bureau’s “awards” scheme. Here’s the post:

IMG_0066
Look what we got recently! It’s a plaque from the United States Census Bureau!

The Census Bureau tells us in an email the plaque cost $6.95 and that it sent 135 of these plaques to organizations in Portland as a token of gratitude for helping out with this past census. That works out to about $938 in Portland, not including shipping,

Wondering how that played out around the country? We did too. About 59,000 of the plaques were sent nationwide. Multiply that by their $6.95 cost and that’s about $410,000 worth of gratitude, again not including shipping.

These plaques and thank-you letters were sent to organizations “that collectively provided countless donated goods and services to the 2010 Census effort,” according to an email from Census Bureau spokeswoman Michelle Lowe. Lowe’s email also states that some of the plaques went to organizations that helped save the census bureau $23 million by providing resources to help “test and train” census workers and to other news organizations who did nothing more than cover the census like we did.

Um, thanks.

IMG_0072

Note: Somebody at the Census Bureau has decided to make the word “newspaper” into the words “news paper.” The grammar police who have commented on MyTwoCensus so many times should be all over the Census Bureau for this egregious error.

Waste in New York – Please take photos!!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
If you want to see about one thousand boxes of materials that were printed and never used being thrown out, the waste hauler is coming to these offices after 2pm today. The boxes will be sealed with the word RECYCLE marked on it. 1361 Amsterdam Avenue between West 125th and West 126th Street, (the freight entrance is around the corner) and 423 West 127 Street (no freight entrance)
$250 for any photos of this waste!

$500 for Best 2010 Census Waste Photo

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Last week, I announced a photo competition to discover the best photo of 2010 Census waste. Well folks, an anonymous donor has guaranteed that he/she will pay $500 to the best photo, provided that there are 50 or more entries into the competition. So please send in your photos by the Monday of Labor Day Weekend and a winner will be voted on/announced soon after!

PS – We have confirmed that 2010 Census offices around the country have now have upper managers squirming as a result of this competition…Rock on!

Luncheons at ranch resorts on your dime…

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I cannot make this up. Here’s how your tax dollars are being spent: On luncheons…at ranch resorts…for 2010 Census Partnership specialists and coordinators and 2010 Census partners. An article from Arizona reads as follows:

The 2010 Census Partner Appreciation & Thank You Luncheon was held on Thursday, August 12th, at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

The event was held to recognize partners that participated beyond the requirements to aid in the success of the 2010 census.

The luncheon agenda included:
Welcome – DarLene Burkett and Laura Cummings, Partnership Specialists
Words of Appreciation – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center
Data Overview & Next Steps – Pamela Lucero, Partnership Coordinator, Denver Regional
Census Center
Presentation of Awards – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center

Does this mean that people were flown from DENVER to ARIZONA for a luncheon? My initial guess is “yes” and I will get to the bottom of this immediately.

MyTwoCensus has already contacted Steve Jost of the Census Bureau to determine how much this luncheon cost and how many other luncheons or similar celebrations are taking place or have taken place throughout the country.

MyTwoCensus Photo Challenge: Best photo of 2010 Census waste gets a cash prize

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

MyTwoCensus is running our first photo challenge. After receiving many reports from readers that Local Census Offices around the country are now  recycling and throwing out hundreds to thousands of boxes worth of 2010 Census materials (including,  as one source says, “A truck completely filled with rubber bands, erasers, and pens…”), MyTwoCensus wants to document this waste.

The Census Bureau is trying to do all of these activities on the down-low (ever  since MyTwoCensus posted a photo of boxes on the sidewalks of New York).  So to further expose the Census Bureau’s practices, use your camera phones to take photos of Census Bureau waste at your local census office.

Please send your photo with a caption to mytwocensus [AT] mytwocensus.com. I will post the top entries before Labor Day Weekend and let readers vote on the outcome (with a cash prize for the winner if the person chooses to be identified). All photos will be posted anonymously unless the photographer says otherwise.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Detroit Ponzi Schemer STILL employed by Census Bureau

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Toine Murphy making a 2010 Census presentation. Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Chronicle

Despite being indicted in Michigan in June, 2010, Toine Murphy, a one-time basketball player turned US Census Bureau partnership specialist (and apparently a major Dwight Dean crony) is STILL employed by the Census Bureau. As MLive.com reported back in June:

Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation today announced it has shut down a $1.9 million Ponzi scheme after records showed sales of securities products were used to fund shopping sprees and trips to strip clubs.

Investor Martin Royster, a partner in Royster, Carberry, Goldman & Associates, was accused of “promising outrageous returns” of up to 240 percent annually in a fraudulent oil investment company, according to OFIR

OFIR’s investigation showed that Royster’s wife, April Royster, Toine Murphy, Lloyd Banks III, Shannon Steel and Royster’s firm all were associated with the sale of unregistered securities products, a violation of the state’s Uniform Securities Act.

Mr. Murphy has not returned calls or e-mails, but it has been confirmed by a secretary at the Detroit Regional office that Murphy “works from home” but stops by the office “almost every day.” Mind you, Census Bureau “partnership” activities finished in early June, and in mid-August with Census forms all returned, who knows what this guy isdoing while remaining on the government’s payroll…

Burton Reist, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications,  denied any knowledge of this situation.

Stay tuned for more!

Sending a 2010 Census totem pole from Alaska to Washington – On your dime!

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

UPDATE: Steve Jost just wrote the following to me:

The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem.  You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY

Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.

In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event.  Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months  to promote participation in the 2010 Census.  The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.

The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000.  The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111.   We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes.  The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.

Now, this must be one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about. A “totem pole” that has been created to celebrate the 2010 Census is traveling thousands of miles from Juneau, Alaska to Washington D.C. I’ve already e-mailed Steve Jost at the Census Bureau to find out some more info about the cost of this commission and the transportation of this object. Here’s the report from the Juneau Empire:

JUNEAU – For the first time in history, the 2010 Census commissioned Sitka carver Tommy Joseph to design and carve a totem pole specifically for the Census. Since its completion this spring, the totem pole has traveled throughout many communities in Southeast Alaska during the census data collection process. The totem is currently on display at Goldbelt’s Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau.

A celebration and dedication will be held as the totem begins its journey to its new home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C. All are invited to attend the celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 at the Mount Roberts Tramway. Meet the artist, enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the Children of All Nations, and join the event with other special guests.

Orlando workers walk off the job

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel brings us the following story:

3 census workers quit, citing waste and inefficiency

Census complaintFormer census worker Andy Miller, who quit over procedures he considered wasteful and illogical, in front of the Volusia County office of the U.S. Census Bureau –with his complaint papers in hand– in Daytona Beach, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. (JOE BURBANK, ORLANDO SENTINEL / July 27, 2010)

By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel7:39 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2010

As the 2010 census winds down, three Volusia County census takers couldn’t wait for the latest phase of the headcount to end. They walked off the job three days after they started, adding to the complaints that the effort is wasteful, inefficient and frustrating.

Andy Miller, 54, of Daytona Beach said he quit after being told by his supervisor to return three times to a vacant house that he verified with a real-estate agent had been empty for more than six months.

“It was clear to me the Realtor had the information, but I was told, ‘No, go back. You might find someone who was living there that the Realtor didn’t know about,’” Miller said.

The same instructions — go back three more times — applied to an apartment above a store; the owner said the apartment was used for storage and was unoccupied. Miller also was told to go back another three times to a home where a relative of the homeowner provided all the information by proxy.

“If you get the person who lived there, you don’t have to go back. But if you get a proxy, you had to go back,” Miller said.

A Census Bureau spokeswoman said the check-back-three-times routine is standard procedure to make sure the census takers get the best information possible.

“That is the policy we expect people to follow,” said Pamela Page-Bellis. “We don’t want people to take the easy way out. They are to gather the most accurate information possible.”

Miller was told the same thing by his supervisor when he appealed what he considered absurd and illogical instructions. That was when Miller and two others in an eight-person crew walked out July 10 — three days into their summer job of checking for vacant houses and addresses that should be deleted.

Jeanne Tanke said she walked out with Miller because she was frustrated with the policy of going back to a vacant apartment or condo three times before being permitted to talk to the building manager about whether anyone was living in the units. In some cases, the same addresses had been visited three times by the door-to-door enumerators in the previous phase of the census.

“It didn’t seem logical to me that we kept knocking on the door when nobody answers, but we can’t ask the manager until we’ve been there three times,” said Tanke, 71.

The third person who quit said he objected in particular to having to go back three times to empty houses that are verifiably empty.

“It’s just inefficiency. That’s all it is,” said the 68-year-old retired sales manager who didn’t want his name used for fear it would jeopardize any future employment by the government.

All three former census takers worked during the manpower-intensive, door-to-door part of the census that ended in May. Thousands of enumerators were laid off, but they were among those chosen to continue in the slimmed-down follow-up efforts that started June 28 and are scheduled for completion by Aug. 25.

What the Census Bureau defends as being as thorough and accurate as possible, Miller and the others regard as a system designed to take as much time as possible. The attitude of managers, they said, was that the three-visit rule was a good way to make the job last longer.

“They alluded to this can take three days or three weeks. It’s up to us,” said the retired sales manager. “I don’t feel right about padding hours.”

Is the 2010 Census road tour still happening?

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Even though nearly all enumerations have been completed at this point, a reader submitted a photo to us from the Whiting, Indiana Pierogi Festival (yum!) that implies partnership/outreach efforts are ongoing. MyTwoCensus.com seeks to determine why money is still being spent on partnership/road tour activities. Take a look at your tax dollars, still at work:

Freedom of Information? Hardly. Access denied!

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Some months ago, after I received credible reports that Census Bureau employees were staying at Ritz Carleton hotels while on official biz, I wanted to know the extent of such spending sprees. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request and waited many, many months to hear back about its status. Today, I was fed up. I e-mailed Grant Book, the (presumably young) Commerce Department lawyer whose job it is to keep telling me “wait longer or sue us for the information.” Now, I’m not in the business of lawsuits, so I choose to wait for the info. Today, Mr. Book told me that my “final response” was sent out on June 22. I am 100% certain that this response never reached my inbox, as I searched for it repeatedly. Either way, here’s what the response looks like. The outcome: Negative. The trend toward increased government transparency continues…not! (And I’ve never seen so many court cases cited in my life for denying a FOIA request) Here it is, in all its glory:

The Commerce Department says “No” to my request for information.

LCO encourages enumerators to falsify timesheets…

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

This came into the MyTwoCensus maibox and demonstrates some wasteful habits at the local census office level:

Subject: LCO is encouraging Crew Leaders to have enumerators falsify timesheets

Message Body:

Re:  U.S. Census – Collect $22.75+mileage tomorrow, if you want

Hi team,

Our job is over, but the Census nonsense continues!!!  NRFU is still not finished in other parts of ******** County… and for some reason (come up with your own theory) the LCO is still asking us to consider this past week a “working week.”

They want me to hold a “non-workers meeting” at which every enumerator can turn in a timesheet of at least 1 hour.  I won’t have any news to report at this meeting.  I know that it sounds silly and wasteful, and trust me, this was a subject of heated debate at my last crew leader meeting.  But the bottom line is that the LCO wants this.  So if you want to show up, fill out a timesheet, and get one last paycheck for this week, it will make the LCO happy.  If you’d prefer not to because of unemployment or any other reason, that’s fine too.

Attendance is completely optional.  You don’t need to stay at ******** for a full hour.  All you will need to do is fill out a timesheet, then you’re free to leave.  Of course if you want to stick around for breakfast, you’re more than welcome.

I’ll be back at ******** tomorrow morning (Friday 7/2) from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.  I will have blank D-308 forms.  Finally, if you do stop by… please bring your ID badge to turn in.  It may save you a trip next week if the LCO asks me to collect badges, which they hinted they might.

Regards,

**********
(***) ***-**** cell
(***) ***-**** home
**********@gmail.com

Census Bureau “Media Specialists” cost taxpayers major $$$$ whenever they travel

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Here is a fascinating story from Louisiana that details an extremely cost inefficient policy…

BY STEPHEN LARGEN

The U.S. Census Bureau is using a travel policy for its media specialists that can cost taxpayers hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a single media interview.

Each time a media outlet like The News-Star requests to interview a census enumerator, a worker who goes door to door in local communities following up with residents who did not mail back their census questionnaires, Census Bureau policy dictates that a media specialist must be physically present at the site of the interview.

The bureau says the policy ensures enumerators do not unknowingly release information about their work that is supposed to remain confidential.

When The News-Star requested an interview with enumerators who are working in local neighborhoods for an update on how the process is unfolding, the bureau responded by flying a media specialist based in New Orleans to Monroe through Dallas.

The specialist stayed in a hotel the night before the roughly 30-minute interview, and used cab rides to travel while in Monroe.

Immediately following the interview with the enumerators, the media specialist headed back to Monroe Regional Airport and flew home

CLICK HERE for the rest of the story…

Census Bureau waste found…on Twitter

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Back in December, Emily Babay added a “Twitter Feed” to the MyTwoCensus homepage. This tool has proved all too valuable in finding out intricate details of Census Bureau problems. If you want to see why/how your tax dollars are wasted, look at the below Tweet for why. Great job payroll system! (FYI the term #lml stands for “love my life.”)

In Nebraska, workers are shifted between Omaha and Lincoln at a tremendous cost to taxpayers

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The Omaha World-Herald has taken on an issue that I have written about extensively in recent weeks. How does the Census Bureau justify the costs of workers traveling large distances and putting them up at hotels while local workers get paid to sit idly or are terminated?

A waste in U.S. Census operation?

By Christopher Burbach
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Census Bureau has brought in more than 30 out-of-town workers to conduct door-to-door surveys in Omaha, even though some Omaha census employees say they don’t have enough to do.

The Census Bureau expects to spend $42,311 on hotel rooms and food for the workers, who are from Lincoln and other Nebraska locations, said Russ Frum, assistant regional census manager in Denver.

He said there are “about 38” such workers. The Census Bureau expects to pay for 315 hotel room nights. That would work out to about eight nights per employee. Most started June 4. They’re scheduled to leave Friday.

The workers, known as enumerators, are knocking on doors to collect census data at households that did not mail back a 2010 Census form. They’re trying to catch people at home to ask them the census questions in person, or on the telephone. It’s what the census calls “nonresponse follow-up.”

Frum and an Omaha census official, Jackie McCabe, said the expense is justified. They said data collection was behind schedule in some areas, especially northeast Omaha.

“We have brought experienced people in to finish an area that did not appear was going to be finished on time,” said McCabe, local census office manager for Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties.

The out-of-town workers are Nebraskans, she said. Local managers had tried to find Omaha crews to complete the surveys in the areas that were behind, she said. (more…)

Breaking News from Breitbart: Census waste caught on tape in undercover sting operation

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Conservative activist James O’Keefe (of ACORN fame) has produced the following video. It will be aired on Good Morning America later today:

Regional Director: Change the label; then throw out information

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The below e-mail is from the New York regional director Tony Farthing to his staff. Note his quote “Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.”

From:  
To:  
cc:  
bcc:    

Date:  
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 05:17PM
Subject:  
Fw: Picture of boxes in NY with “Recycle” on them

Hi Folks:  as you can imagine, in this day and age we have all kinds of people in our offices who are looking to take photos of anything, and even record conversations outside of the offices between Census employees.   At all times, you need to be careful about what you say…you need to say the right things and say it in a way that it cannot be misinterpreted.   Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.

Be advised that whenever anything is to be recycled from a Census office…nothing should be placed in boxes out of the street and left unattended.   At all times Census workers with ID should be guarding this until it is picked up by the approved company.

We need everyone’s cooperation with this…..and unfortunately, and fortunately, this is the most watched census ever…..from those that want to help us, and those who take enjoyment out of finding the smallest flaws and broadcasting them.

Please be diligent in your upholding and enforcement of Census procedures and Title 13 materials….including the appearance of what could be Title 13 materials even if they are not.   If it is a box that says Census on it, the antennas go up automatically.

Feel free to take a look at the link below which pretty much sums up the reason for my email!

Tony Farthing
Regional Director

Photo of the Day: Waste on the streets of New York

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

UPDATE: I have word that the New York regional office is up in arms over this photo. Please note that I received it from a college friend who does NOT work for the Census Bureau. I don’t want anyone to be falsely accused/needlessly fired over something that they didn’t do…

423 West 127 Street, New York, New York

Multiply this by the 494 local census offices around the country…and know that this happens on a daily/weekly basis.