Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bill to make Census Bureau independent agency introduced

From the office of Rep. Maloney:

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation to elevate the Census Bureau to the status of an Independent Agency in the federal government hierarchy, moving it outside of the massive Commerce Department. Joining Maloney as original cosponsors the "Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008", H.R. 7069 are Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), William Clay (D-MO), Michael Honda (D-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"After three decades of controversy surrounding the decennial census, the time has come to recognize the Census Bureau as one of our country’s premier scientific agencies and it should be accorded the status of peers such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation," Maloney said. "This action will be a clear signal to Americans that the agency they depend upon for unbiased monthly economic data as well as the important decennial portrait of our nation is independent, fair, and protected from interference," the Congresswoman added.

Maloney’s bill was endorsed in a letter signed by every living former Director of the Census who collectively served seven Presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.

"Although appointed by different Presidents we are of one mind in our strong endorsement of the proposed legislation known as ‘Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008’ that will establish the Census Bureau as an Independent Agency. We believe that this is an Act whose time has come, and that its enactment will ensure that the Census Bureau can discharge its constitutional obligation to conduct the Decennial Census and carry out other statistical operations – such as the Economic Census and the Census of Governments – that the Congress requires," wrote the seven former Directors.

"Nearly every economic statistic reported in the news and relied upon by Americans is derived from data collected day in and day out by career professionals at the Census Bureau. Yet, the average American would be hard pressed to find this vital agency even on the Commerce Department’s own organizational chart on the government’s website where it is buried in the basement of 32 boxes on the chart!" Maloney said.

The bill would take effect in January 2012 after completion of the 2010 Decennial Census so as not to interfere with preparations for that important event. It also calls for a five-year term for the new Director by nomination of the President and confirmation by the Senate. A new independent Census Inspector General would be created by the legislation as well.

"Our goal with this bill is to begin a serious national discussion in advance of hearings next year in the new Congress. Census stakeholders, the Congress, and America’s businesses and universities that are the biggest consumers of Census Bureau data are encouraged to offer their views on what I believe is a long overdue step to ensure the professional independence of this agency," Rep. Maloney said.

"At the dawn of the American republic, both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison felt the Census was so vital to our democracy that they each took responsibility for our earliest censuses. It is indispensable to the basic principles of democratic representation that the decennial census itself is seen by the American public to be completely independent and nonpartisan," she concluded.

Commerce Dept. current organizational chart (PDF)

H.R. 7069 in PDF
September 23, 2008

To: Carolyn Maloney, Member of the House of Representatives

From: Vincent P. Barabba (1973-76 and 1979-81)*
Bruce Chapman (1981-1983)
John G. Keane (1984 – 1987)
Barbara Everitt Bryant (1989 -1993)
Martha Farnsworth Riche (1994-1998)
Kenneth Prewitt (1998-2001)
Charles Louis Kincannon (2002 - 2008)
*Years of service as Director of the U. S. Census Bureau

The signatures to this Letter served as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, appointed by Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, G. H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and G. W. Bush. Although appointed by different Presidents we are of one mind in our strong endorsement of the proposed legislation known as “Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008” that will establish the Census Bureau as an Independent Agency. We believe that this is an Act whose time has come, and that its enactment will ensure that the Census Bureau can discharge its constitutional obligation to conduct the Decennial Census and carry out other statistical operations – such as the Economic Census and the Census of Governments – that the Congress requires and the nation needs.

We offer three reasons for our endorsement. First, following three decades during which the press and the Congress frequently discussed the Decennial Census in explicitly partisan terms it is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau.”

Second, the Commerce Department is responsible for many activities and several very large agencies. For the Commerce Department, the importance of the Census Bureau waxes and wanes, peaking as the Decennial approaches but then drifting down the Department’s priority list. The Census Bureau, however, conducts extensive preparatory activities for the Decennial Census during the entire decade preceding it. It also has other major statistical responsibilities in the years that intervene between Decennial Censuses – including producing the nation’s ongoing economic monitoring measures. As an Independent Agency it will more efficiently focus on these continuous responsibilities.

Third, as Directors each of us experienced times when we could have made much more timely and thorough responses to Congressional requests and oversight if we had dealt directly with the Congress.

The Census Bureau is the nation’s largest, general-purpose statistical agency. Establishing it as an Independent Agency, in the government’s highly decentralized system of statistical programs, will be broadly beneficial to other statistical agencies and programs in emphasizing that the nation’s statistical products are scientific and independent of partisan considerations. This is a valuable signal for the American public in a time of economic uncertainty and the corresponding high level of dependence on the numbers generated by the federal statistical system.

We congratulate you and your colleagues for initiating the Bill, and offer our services in any way that you might find useful.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hearing on reducing the census undercount

Testimony from September 23 hearing from:
Steven H. Murdock, Director, U.S. Census Bureau
Robert Goldenkoff , Director of Strategic Issues, GAO
Kenneth Prewitt, Former Census Director, Columbia University
Roderick Harrison, Consultant, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director , Asian American Justice Center
Joseph Salvo, Director, Population Division , New York City Department of City Planning
Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

Not so incidentally, we count Joe Salvo as one of our own.

You are Like a Hurricane

An online tool, Historical Hurricane Tracks, helps users get a quick picture of coastal areas with the greatest frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms -- and that historical "snapshot" can help community members and local emergency managers develop better plans for storm preparation and recovery.

NOAA Tracking Site Looks At Historical Hurricane Activity.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

One-in-Five Speak Spanish In Four States

At least one-in-five residents of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas spoke Spanish at home in 2007, according to new American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationwide, an estimated 35 million, or about 12.3 percent, hablan espaƱol at home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Well, maybe you do where you are. But what about Bangkok, Thailand or Barcelona, Spain? Heck, what DAY is it in Bangkok when it's 5 pm in the US? I use timeanddate.com. I don't have to keep track which countries experience Daylight Saving Time differently from the U.S. or not at all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's Your Signage? - Signs for Small Biz

Since the JJ Hill Library plugged it, how can I not?

If you run a retail shop or have an office to meet with clients, what's the first thing your customers see when they get to your location? Your sign! So you want to make sure it presents the same good face for your business as you do.

The What's Your Signage? site includes articles detailing the importance of signage to a business and provides background on the elements of a well-designed sign. You can use this information to become an informed partner with the sign-maker of your choosing, or use the site's manufacturer locator to find recommendations.

What's the most important thing a good sign will do for your business? Reassure your customers that they've found the right place.

My reluctance to promote this is a function that this is product of the NYS Small Business Development Center, where I work, and I didn't want to seem self-serving. Well, if it's good, it's good.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Projections of Education Statistics

Projections to 2017.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Continuing resolution boosts funding for Census Bureau

From the 9/24/2008 Federal Times

The Census Bureau would get extra funds to conduct the 2010 census under the continuing resolution passed by the House today.
While the bill holds most agencies’ funding to current levels, the Census Bureau would receive $2.9 billion in 2009, up from $1.3 billion in 2008.
The vote comes one day after the head of the bureau told lawmakers that its efforts to launch the 2010 census would be set back significantly if Congress opted to simply extend current budget levels into 2009 under a continuing resolution.

This shows the danger of continuing resolutions. Census needs more money heading towards the decennial census than it does in some other years, and Congress actually responded to that fact.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Economic Freedom of the World: 2008 Annual Report

Source: Cato Institute

From the press release:
Economic freedom around the world remains on the rise but it has declined notably in the U.S. since the year 2000, according to an authoritative study released today by the Cato Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute.

In 2000 the U.S. was the second-freest economy listed in Economic Freedom of the World, an annual report written by James Gwartney from Florida State University and Robert Lawson from Auburn University. This year the U.S. has fallen to 8th place, behind Hong Kong (ranked in first place), Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Canada.

More significant than the U.S.’s drop in the rankings is its fall in the freedom ratings: on a scale of 0-10, the U.S. fell from 8.55 in 2000 to 8.04, according to the Economic Freedom of the World Report: 2008 Annual Report. Only five countries have experienced a greater decline over the same time period: Zimbabwe, Argentina, Niger, Venezuela, and Guyana.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Which States Have Most Economic Freedom?

The Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a free-market think tank based in California, today released the U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2008 Report, a ranking of economic freedom in the 50 states. Published in association with Forbes, the Index scores states based on 143 variables, including regulatory and fiscal obstacles imposed on businesses and residents.

South Dakota, which ranked 15 in 2004 (the last time the Index was published), has assumed the notable spot as the nation’s most economically free state, while New York consistently remains the most economically oppressed state, ranking 50 in all three editions of the Index.

The net migration rate for the 20 freest states was 27.36 people per 1,000, while it was a low 1.17 people per 1,000 for the 20 most economically oppressed states. "People are moving to the freest states and fleeing the least free states as our market-based migration metric of economic freedom predicts," said Lawrence J. McQuillan, Ph.D., director of Business and Economic Studies at PRI and director of the project.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Personal Income Tax: Analysis of 2005 Personal Income Tax Returns

From your friends at the NYS Tax Department comes a report describing "the prominent features of New York's personal income tax, with particular emphasis on the 2005 tax year. It also includes taxpayer profiles consisting of number of taxable returns, sources of income, federal adjustments, New York modifications, deductions,
dependent exemptions, tax liability and credits by NYAGI class, filing status and
return type. In addition, it includes separate sections on income, itemized deduction amounts, exemptions, available credits and information on refundable credits. Finally, it compares statistics for 2005 with those from the prior year for most of these items.

Accompanying this report are statistical tables that cover resident, part-year resident, and nonresident returns. The report also includes a description and statistical information from returns filed by fiduciaries of estates and trusts."

So go view the entire publication and download statistical tables.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Handbook of New York State and Local Taxes, August 2008 Edition

I'm such a geek for these things:

The Handbook of New York State and Local Taxes provides a general descriptive overview of the taxes which New York State and its local governments impose, and is revised periodically to reflect recently enacted law changes. It does not include non-tax revenue sources such as motor vehicle fees and the Lottery. Instead, it focuses on taxes, especially those administered by the Department of Taxation and Finance.

Download the entire publication.

Health Insurance Coverage for Small Businesses

As we'ver seen, the health insurance crisis isn't just for those 47 million Americans who don't have health insurance, it's for the 250 million that do. Many are offered - or not - by small business.

The Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Health Policy Research Center has issued a series of reports on private insurance coverage for small businesses. The reports, which were funded by the New York State Health Foundation, include a paper titled "From Access to Affordability," which is a nationwide scan of the various strategies states are using to try to address the growing problem of health insurance coverage for small businesses. In addition to the 50-state research, there are also three in-depth case studies on the strategies being used by Maine, Minnesota, and New Jersey and a comprehensive report that combines what was learned from the state scan and field research. For copies of the reports, please visit www.rockinst.org. Read the press release.

Friday, September 19, 2008

2007 American Community Survey Characteristics Data

On September 23, 2008, the Census Bureau will release 2007 data on social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics. These data cover topics ranging from language to education, from family size to work commute, and are available for more than 7,000 areas, including all congressional districts as well as counties, cities, metro areas, and American Indian and Alaska Native areas of 65,000 population or more. Special population profiles and Public Use Microdata Sample data will also be released. Data will also be available from the Puerto Rico Community Survey.

Help Improve the Census Bureau Web Site!

please take 10 minutes to fill out the 2008 Survey of Census Bureau Web Site Visitors. The U.S. Census Bureau is conducting this study to evaluate its online presence, products, and services to you. Your opinions and ideas are important to them. Your responses are voluntary and will remain confidential. This survey is being conducted under OMB Clearance Number 0607-0760, which expires on November 30, 2010. For further information regarding this clearance, please contact the Customer Liaison and Marketing Services Office at 301-763-4094.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

FBI Releases 2007 Crime Statistics

After rising for two straight years, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation declined from the previous year’s total. The declining trend continued for property crimes, as those offenses were down for the fifth year in a row.

Statistics released...by the FBI show that the estimated volume of violent crime was down 0.7 percent, and the estimated volume of property crime decreased 1.4 percent in 2007 when compared with 2006 figures. The estimated rate of violent crime was 466.9 occurrences per 100,000 inhabitants (a 1.4 percent decrease from the 2006 rate), and the estimated rate of property crime was 3,263.5 per 100,000 inhabitants (a 2.1 percent decline).

Here's the paragraph I think is 1) most important and 2) most likely to be ignored.

Caution Against Ranking—Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Star Rebate Check Mailing Starts September 29

New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Robert L. Megna announced this week that the Department will begin to mail rebate checks the week of September 29 to New York homeowners who qualify for the 2008 Middle Class STAR Rebate Program.

The mailing will continue through the end of October.

Unlike 2007, most homeowners will not have to apply for this year's rebate. If a household's 2008 property information remains unchanged from 2007, no reapplication is necessary. These homeowners will get their checks automatically.

Property owners who did not apply in 2007, and homeowners whose property information changed during the past year, will have to apply. Applications to these households will also be mailed automatically beginning September 29.

Nearly 3.3 million households may be eligible for a STAR rebate, which is in addition to the STAR property exemption on taxpayers' school tax bills. It is expected that more than $1.1 billion will be turned back to homeowners through this year's rebate program.

Commissioner Megna said, "Every eligible household should take advantage of this benefit, which is targeted to middle class homeowners and senior citizens. It is income based, so those who need it most will receive the largest benefit."

Rebate checks and applications will be mailed automatically in alphabetical order, by county, meaning that Albany County homeowners will receive their checks or applications first, followed by homeowners in Allegany and Broome Counties. Mailing to all of the state's counties, including the City of New York, will be completed by the end of October.

Residents can access the Tax Department's website at www.nystax.gov to find out when their checks will be mailed and the amount of the rebate they will receive. Information for senior citizens getting the Enhanced STAR rebate, and information for homeowners who need to apply for the 2008 program, can also be found on the website.

Last year there were about 635,000 rebate checks mailed to senior citizens who receive Enhanced STAR, and about 2.3 million checks mailed to homeowners who get the Basic STAR exemption.

The maximum benefit for those receiving the Basic STAR rebate goes to upstate homeowners earning $90,000 or less, and New York City metropolitan region homeowners earning $120,000 or less. The benefit diminishes until a homeowner's income reaches $250,000. Taxpayers earning over $250,000 are not eligible for the rebate, but continue to receive the STAR exemption on their school tax bills.

Applicants are encouraged to apply on line at www.nystax.gov. All applications must be received by December 31, 2008. Enrollment is easy and the rebate checks are mailed to homeowners as the applications are processed. Online applications take less time to process and the check is issued faster than with a paper application.

To apply, the homeowner only has to verify the property information provided on the application, enter the names, social security numbers, and all required information for all resident property owners and their spouses, verify the mailing address, and submit the application.

This year, rebates for Basic STAR recipients are subject to offset for debts owed to New York State agencies, the Internal Revenue Services, and certain other states.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Report Finds Retrenchment in State/Local Social Welfare Spending

Instinctively, this seems a logical result of belt tightening by states and localities, but it still shows the scary state of the "safety net". A new report entitled The New Retrenchment: Social Welfare Spending, 1977-2006 is now available on the Rockefeller Institute’s website. The report shows recent declines in social welfare spending — including cash assistance, medical assistance, and social services — as well as major shifts in the relationship between state fiscal capacity and social welfare spending. Read the news release.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Review

Newsletter of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council

Volume 5, Number 3, Fall 2008 available here includes:

Preparing Village "Main Streets" for Planning Guidebook Complete
Why Downtown Planning?
G/FLRPC Revolving Loan Fund: Helping to Create Jobs in the Region
A Sense of Place
Upcoming Events
Recent G/FLRPC Publications
Recent G/FLRPC Presentations
G/FLRPC Staff Comings and Goings

Company Insight Center

J.J. Hill Library's recommendation this week is Company Insight Center from BusinessWeek magazine, which "profiles 42,000 public and 322,000 private companies from across the globe. For public companies you'll find detailed financial data, executive pay, news stories, and stock performance. Private company coverage is much thinner and includes contact info and varying degrees of news coverage."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion

Here's a scary story for data users from the New York Times by ROBERT PEAR.
Published: September 12, 2008

WASHINGTON Countless federal records are being lost to posterity because
federal employees, grappling with a staggering growth in electronic
records, do not regularly preserve the documents they create on government
computers, send by e-mail and post on the Web.

Federal agencies have rushed to embrace the Internet and new information
technology, but their record-keeping efforts lag far behind. Moreover,
federal investigators have found widespread violations of federal
record-keeping requirements.

Many federal officials admit to a haphazard approach to preserving e-mail
and other electronic records of their work. Indeed, many say they are
unsure what materials they are supposed to preserve.

This confusion is causing alarm among historians, archivists, librarians,
Congressional investigators and watchdog groups that want to trace the
decision-making process and hold federal officials accountable. With the
imminent change in administrations, the concern about lost records has
become more acute.

We expect to see the wholesale disappearance of materials on federal
agency Web sites, said Mary Alice Baish, the Washington representative of
the American Association of Law Libraries, whose members are heavy users
of government records. When new officials take office, they have new
programs and policies, and they want to make a fresh start.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Chance at Free Credit Monitoring

"If you opened a credit card account, got a car loan or mortgage or used any other line of credit in the past 20 years, you may be eligible for free credit monitoring for up to nine months because of a recent class action lawsuit settlement with TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting bureaus...

Under the $75 million settlement, TransUnion will provide free credit monitoring... plus the ability to block third parties from viewing your credit history. You qualify if you had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a registered subscriber with a credit bureau between Jan. 1, 1987, and May 28, 2008.

You can choose from two options—six months of credit monitoring valued at nearly $60 and the possibility of getting an additional cash settlement, or nine months valued at $115, which has more services but disqualifies you from a cash settlement.

To receive either, register before Sept. 24 at www.listclassaction.com or call 1-866-416-3470 toll free."

From AARP.

Sales tax data

I do love this stuff:

2007-2008 Annual Statistical Report of New York State Tax Collections - Statistical Summaries and Historical Tables

This publication contains a series of statistical tabulations detailing taxes administered by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The information presented includes revenues and selected tax structure and consumption information for the State's major taxes. It also presents data for some locally imposed taxes.

This edition presents information for New York State Fiscal Year 2007-2008 (SFY 2007-2008) and some historical statistics. New York State's fiscal year is April 1 - March 31.

To download the entire publication and statistical tables, please visit here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Identity theft

From someone who's been a victim a couple times, what to do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fire statistics resources

Next month is national fire prevention month, so here are links to some info.

U.S. Fire Administration. Fire Statistics

Fire Statistics (Center of Fire Statistics) June 2006

Yes, some of it is NOT in English. Still, if you look on page 46 (table 2a) Note row for U.S., as well as figures for other countries (see also p. 12 for some table explanation). Not so incidentally, for U.S.A. in 2003, (country no. 1), population is given in thousands (290789; adding 3 zeros, 290,789,000).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Census Should Only Count Legal Residents, GOP Platform Says

According to an AP wire story,
The 2008 Republican platform...says only those legally residing in the United States should be counted in the next census.

"The integrity of the 2010 census, proportioning congressional representation among the states, must be preserved," says the platform language, which is a reinterpretation of the Constitution that could affect how congressional seats are apportioned. "The census," it says, "should count every person legally abiding in the United States in an actual enumeration."

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution, ratified in 1868, says that representatives to the U.S. House "should be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed."

"Our mandate is to count all residents regardless of legal status," said Mark Tolbert, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.

Interesting, if unfortunate. Will a McCain Presidency actually alter the 2010 census, or is the platform just rhetoric to be ignored if the candidate is actually elected? as far as I know, the Democrats have made no suc statement in their platform.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

2010 Census and the GAO, again

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week released the following report:

2010 Census: Census Bureau's Decision to Continue with Handheld Computers for Address Canvassing Makes Planning and Testing Critical. GAO-08-936, July 31.


Well, yeah. My sense is that the general public has no idea what's involved in the Census in terms of planning and testing; I think most people think they just print up the forms every 10 years, and wait for them to come back in the mail.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Most Movers Stay in the Same County

Geographical mobility, unsurprisingly, is a function of life stages.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

2008 World Population Data Sheet

The Population Reference Bureau’s 2008 World Population Data Sheet and its summary report offer detailed information about country, regional, and global population patterns.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2007 Judicial Facts and Figures

Judicial Facts and Figures is a set of tables containing historical caseload data primarily for the fiscal years from 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2002 through 2007. The tables include data on the U.S. Courts of Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008