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Local Census Worker Calls Program "a Huge Waste"

Martin Menter, a retired salesman, started working for the U.S. Census Bureau in late April. About 50 percent of Broward residents did not return their census form earlier this year. Menter is one of the people paid to knock on doors, trying to gather all the information the government needs about who lives where. He's part of a 12-person crew assigned to cover the territory on the east side of Pompano.

Menter says that he believes the Census is an important and necessary program but that there is way too much money wasted on it.

He says six days a week, his crew is supposed to gather in Pompano for a morning meeting. The meetings, held in the condo of his crew leader, usually last about two hours. "It's a lot of yelling about who went where and who did what," Menter says. "It's a huge waste of time and money."

Those meetings aren't just costing him his time; they're costing the taxpayers of Broward a lot of money, he says.

Menter says he makes $15 per hour working for the Census ($17.25 after 6 p.m.). There are at least ten people from his "crew" at each of the morning meetings. "Think about how much money that is," he says.

Some quick math: First take his $15 per hour wage and multiply it by two hours ($15 X 2 hours = $30). Now multiply that by the 12 people in the crew ($30 X 12 people = $360). And multiply that total by six days of meetings per week to see how much taxpayers are spending each week on just those meetings ($360 X 6 days = $2,160).

Menter says that $2,000 buys the residents of Broward "nothing productive at all." He says that often, he didn't even receive a list of which households to visit. Other times, the work is minimal.

Once he was told to go to a condo building on the beach from which the bureau did not receive a single response. Menter says he found the building abandoned, ready for demolition. "I got to check off 41 households," he says. "And I filled out all the forms at my kitchen table in about ten minutes."

He says he wanted to go above his crew leader and contact the Local Census Office. "They told me, 'Never come up here, and don't ever call.'" He says the last member of his crew to complain about the gross inefficiency of the crew's work schedule was fired the next day.

"It's just a shame," he says. "I really do believe in the Census. I know how important it is for this country. It's just sad that this is how it operates, like one giant bureaucracy."

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Michael J. Mooney

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