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Consensus for 5-Year Census Director Term

By Ed O'Keefe

Congressional hearings on the fate of the 2010 Census started with the House this morning and ended on the Senate side this afternoon. Representatives from the Government Accountability Office reiterated their concerns that the Bureau has not properly prepared for the count and most witnesses seemed to support proposals to give future Census directors five-year terms.

"The problem is that the ten-year cycle of the decennial census and the five-year cycle of the economic censuses is just out of tune with a four-year cycle" of presidential elections, said Barbara Everitt Bryant, who served as director during the 1990 Census. She noted the proposal has the support of every living former Census director.

Robert Goldenkoff, director of strategic issues for GAO agreed: "You need someone who’s not really going to be a temporary employee, someone who’s not going to be in and out.” Former Census official Dr. Robert Hill noted that “Most critical decisions on a Census occur three to five years before a Census."

The witnesses appeared before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee with oversight of the Census Bureau. Bryant also warned that several Americans, especially Latinos in the Southwest, may resist participating in next year's headcount due to privacy or legal concerns.

“Only trusted sources can convince the reluctant, fearful or uninformed that the Census Bureau does not give information to the INS, the IRS, landlords, ex-spouses or mothers-in-law," Bryant said. Elaborating in her prepared remarks, she said "The current immigration and naturalization raids on employers and neighborhoods to identify and deport undocumented immigrants is bound to make residents unwilling to be found or, if found, to give information to the government."

One other interesting fact gleaned from today's events: the Census Bureau received more than 1 million applications for its 140,000 temporary positions to perform address canvassing later this year, according to Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner. The application process ended in December.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 5, 2009; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Congress, Oversight  
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Next: Eye Opener: March 6, 2009

Comments

Ed: Either Stephen Buckner is wrong, or your commentary is wrong in the last part of the article. The Census Bureau is still actively hiring many thousands of applicants throughout the country. Can you please let me know who is wrong?

Thanks,

mytwocensus @ gmail.com

Check us out at mytwocensus.com

Posted by: MyTwoCensus | March 6, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

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