Editorial

Census offices: Why spend less?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The congresswoman from Cape Girardeau, Jo Ann Emerson, is rightfully irate over spending by the federal government for temporary office space for Census Bureau workers. The General Services Administration, which handles such negotiations, is outfitting space on South Silver Springs Road for the Census Bureau. The cost: $411,052 for 16 months. "For that kind of taxpayer money, you could buy a whole building for the Census," Representative Emerson said.

The excessive spending -- which is being repeated in hundreds of communities across the nation as the Census Bureau gears up for the 2010 national head count -- comes as the federal government is on a spending spree that will result in annual deficits in the trillions of dollars. But the GSA says its plans for the Census Bureau office space in Cape Girardeau is not out of line. Officials cite the expense of turning basic space into offices suitable for census takers.

How suitable does a census taker's work space have to be?

What makes this expense all the more galling is the fact that the GSA oversees an entire federal building on Broadway that has been declared surplus property. The government is in the process of disposing of the building. As a result, the GSA says, that space wasn't even considered for the Census workers.

How long has the GSA known it would need office space for Census workers? Let's see. The Census takes place every 10 years, like clockwork. Even if the old federal building is being closed down, doesn't that make it even more suitable for temporary offices? Surely that space could have been used -- temporarily -- at a cost far below $411,052, even if it delayed disposing of the building for a few months.

The handling of this expensive office space is just one of thousands of similar stories involving the federal government. If anyone wants to know why taxpayers are so disgusted over the way tax dollars are spent so cavalierly, here's Example A for Cape Girardeau.

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