Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Census is Blowing in the Wind -- UPDATED!

And it just keeps getting better. . . .

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports today that there are more Census shenanigans afoot in northwest Arkansas. It seems that several folks in Springdale, Arkansas, have received personalized, bar-coded Census forms that list Fayetteville as their town of residence. Trust me -- there is little love lost between Fayetteville and Springdale, so the Springdale mayor is all over it making sure that Springdale won't come up short.

Nonetheless, several folks were perplexed by the Census foul-up and contacted the Census Bureau to get some answers. Carl Henson, a Census office manager, said, "he does not know how many questionnaires were listed under 'Fayetteville' addresses, and . . . doesn’t know how Fayetteville made it onto the Springdale forms. 'It would be very unprofessional for me to speculate on that.'”

So, it looks like we now have federal employees whose "profession" is "Census Expert."

Bar-codes being bar-codes, and Springdale's mayor aside, there is little likelihood that Fayetteville will be glomming onto a bunch of Springdale's "federal funding" because the zip code will be the ultimate arbiter. But, there is something else that troubles me a little bit more -- at least one lady in Springdale received two incorrectly addressed sets of forms and she sent them both in, appending a note to the second form notifying the Census Professionals that she received 2 forms, filled out 2 forms, and mailed in 2 forms. She said the whole experience left her "less than confident in the process."

You gotta love understatement!

And there's more!

The above photos depict the source of my "less than confidence" in the Census process.

Down here in post-Katrina New Orleans, we have experienced what has come to be known as "diaspora" -- lots of our population remains scattered to the winds after The Thing in 2005, and lots are living in less than upscale (think: deplorably inhuman) conditions, some without official "mailing addresses." So, to try to get the very best nose-count of folks living in our fair metropolitan area, the Census Professionals hired oodles of folks to stump around the area not only to verify addresses, but also to do a little one-on-one face-time with everyone who would answer the knock at the door to explain how very important the Census numbers are. I expect that many of the Face-Time Census Professionals are bi-lingual.

Perhaps a good idea, probably poor execution.

The Face-Time Census Professionals' marching orders included instructions to leave the Census forms hooked on the doorknob in a nicely labeled plastic sack (think: personalized car wash trash bag) if no one answered the door. There are some problems with that process, to-wit:

No one can get access to our doorknobs without our fore-knowledge because we leave the wrought iron gates locked to keep dogs in and undesirables out. Accordingly, our neighborhood Face-Time Census Professionals left our car wash trash bags hooked onto the gates for both street numbers assigned to our house (we're zoned for an apartment in one part of the house that we now use as guest quarters).

Note that the Face-Time Census Professionals hooked the all-important Census car wash trash bags on the inside of the fence where Bouie probably would've had a shred-fest field day if he had gotten to the bags before I did!

Now think about the Face-Time Census Professionals leaving the bags on our gates shortly before a whopper of a cold front moved through the state. And think about them attempting the same for several neighbors whose doorknobs aren't quite as long as the posts on our gates.

You guessed it -- I can't tell you how many personalized car wash trash bags I saw blowing down the streets of Uptown New Orleans. It looked kind of like a kite-flying festival. A very expensive, taxpayer-funded kite festival.

So, let's review -- the Census Professionals' office:

(1) sent out paid canvassers and used satellite GPS to verify addresses all last year;

(2) mailed first-class-postage letters to all of us letting us know our Census forms were on the way to generate excitement and anticipation (cue Carly Simon);

(3) mailed first-class-postage forms to most of the country, sometimes twice, addressed to the wrong city, and containing yet more postage-paid return envelopes (cue The Box Tops to open with "The Letter");

(4) ordered and purchased a substantial number of personalized car wash trash bags;

(5) sent out paid Face-Time Census Professionals in southeast Louisiana to tutor about and/or leave the forms, many of which weren't adequately secured to withstand weather conditions, thus leaving many postage-paid envelopes blowing in the wind (cue Peter, Paul, and Mary); and

(6) will send out more face-time Census Professionals to try to locate folks whose bar-coded forms aren't returned in some April-ish time-frame (cue Dr. John to belt out "Right Place, Wrong Time").
(7) See below.

Whew. Once again, I assert that you can't make this stuff up.

Or pay for it.

Cha-ching!!! Warm up the currency printing presses.
UPDATE: I need to add a #7 up there. Today's mail brought 2 thoughtful postcards (one for the house, one for the apartment) letting us know that the Census Professionals have yet to receive our Census forms. There's another little gazillion dollar expenditure to add to the tally.
I'm still debating whether to check the box on the "race" question as "Other," and fill in "Human." We'll get 'em postmarked by April 1st somehow, I reckon. Kinda like we get that 1040 Extension postmarked by April 15th. April promises to be a busy month for the Postal Service.


  1. Wonder how many reapportioned Congressional seats the Dems think they can finagle out of all this nonsense.

  2. ...to generate excitement and anticipation (cue Carly Simon) (et al)

    Heh. Nice soundtrack. ;-)

    No Census Professional has come calling in these parts. Yet. But I DID receive a postcard telling me a census form had been mailed to my address and the Census Professionals had yet to receive it, so would I kindly fill it out and mail it in? Well, yes. Yes I will. When I get around to it.

    wv: copyin. Heh. I guess Google wants a copy of my form. Or Blogger. Same-o, same-o.

  3. Moogie, I got all the cards and form in the mail. I got two also. I have an old garage apartment that we've never rented out...just used it for the teenagers to live in when they were still at home.

    A blessing from God, btw... I could have easily listed residents there so that Bossier could get more of it's "fair share."

    There's gonna be a problem, though. The Census form only has 12 spots to list people at one residence. Some of these Mexican households around here are gonna have to use an extra sheet of paper. Or two.