I sent my letter about the American Community Survey to several politicians… from the mayor of my little town, to the mayor of Pittsburgh, to Pennsylvania representatives & senators, our US representatives & senators, and even the President Himself.
Only one politician has replied so far, and it’s been about 2 weeks since my missive first went out. I figured it’s time to share, although I may keep trying. Maybe this warrants some more snail mail. Our first response comes from Pennsylvania State Representative John Maher:
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from: John Maher <email@example.com>
date: Fri, Oct 22, 2010
Congratulations on creating the most notable email nomme de plume that I have seen in some time!
I have a special appreciation for your experience, having been selected myself for the extended census exercise in 2000 AND 1990. (While that is certainly not a statistical impossibility, it did cause me to ponder the veracity of the sampling method.)
Across the decade ahead, trillions of dollars of taxpayer money will be “driven out” to states, school districts, local governments and others feeding from the trough of the taxpayer using formulae anchored to the census results. Getting the data right to begin with strikes me as a desirable goal. Could the Census folks be more efficient? I thought so before and am emphatic now. Those selected for the expanded survey should be provided an access code and directed to a web site to complete the process. Not only will forests of paper be saved, but tallying the results will require no human processing either. Those without access to computers would dial a toll-free number, tap in the access code, and the pound of paper could be delivered.
I recall attaching a note to that effect with my response to the 2000 survey but the federal government is generally uninterested in the thoughts of a state legislator.
A larger complaint for me arises from seeing how census and other data is not used thoughtfully to measure or address concerns in a scientific, unbiased manner, but rather exploited selectively as raw ingredients to contrive formulae that accomplish what those with such power wish to accomplish. When government behaves that way (which seems to be frequent), why bother collecting the data at all?
Thanks for taking time to send along such a thoughtful note.
John A. Maher
Member, House of Representatives
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
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I like this guy. His words aren’t calculated, his opinions aren’t guarded, and he has an obvious disdain for the large bureaucracy of the federal government. (…perhaps a little animosity there too, or is that just me?) I have to agree with his last paragraph there, it seems like that backwards science all the conspiracy theorists spout about. Just how is this data being put to use? Shouldn’t the government already know how many people are living here and how much I made last year by looking at my Taxes?
I wrote back, and haven’t had a second reply, so I’ll leave you with my last communication:
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to: John Maher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Mon, Oct 25, 2010
subject: Re: ACS
Thank you for your swift & thoughtful reply, Congressman Maher! I’m also gald you enjoyed my nomme de plume, ha ha. I almost feel a fear for speaking my mind… something I was raised to believe should never be a problem in the great country in which we live.
I can understand your frustration with the federal government as a state legislator. The states were originally given the majority of power.. and it seems to have shifted over the last century.
I agree completely with your assessment that we ought to be given an access code to complete the survey via internet or toll free phone number. I’ve been e-filing my taxes since I was able, and before that I remember doing them by phone along with a simple questionnaire/help sheet on news print… that had to be over a decade ago now. The waste associated with this whole thing is just mind-boggling.
While I understand the need for the federal government to collect data for programs they deem necessary, why not let local governments address the problems in their area, then ask the federal government for support to create their own solutions?
I really do appreciate your reply, and I will pass your name on to other voters as someone who cares about the people that they represent, and is up to the times with electronic communication. You may be interested to also know that yours is the first reply I received out of the dozen or so politicians, government agencies, and political pundits that I’ve contacted via webforms or email… and so far the only politician to reply!
Keep up the good work, and as a citizen, I thank you for your service & commitment to the people!
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