If you live in Monroe County NY, and especially if you reside in Rochester, you have an immediate opportunity to weigh in on what you want your public library to be. Take a brief survey, developed by CGR, about how to shape Rochester Public Library’s future: www.cgr.org/RochesterPublicLibrary .
Just what do we want from a bricks and mortar public library in our digital age? Just over half of Americans, age 16 and up, visited one in the past year, according to the most recent Pew Internet & American Life national survey, and 91% of visitors called libraries an important part of their community.
Further, they said they value, in order of importance, books to borrow, reference librarians and free public access to computers and the Internet. Clearly, most of the traditional aspects of libraries—that quiet hush, the many stacks, the quintessential librarian, and (for some decades now) the rows of computers, matter to a great many of us.
The question communities everywhere are grappling with is how to balance the traditional library with digital world realities. What used to require a reference librarian is now often a quick Google or Wikipedia search. Many of our book recommendations come from booksellers’ “customers who bought, also liked” features or Facebook posts. And countless books, articles and newspapers that used to be print only are now downloadable to e-readers and smartphones. Read more »
Last school year, one of five Rochester schoolchildren tested proficient in reading and one of four in math, according to the just released NYS ELA (English Language Arts) and math assessments given in grades 3-8. Statewide, just over half tested proficient in ELA and two-thirds in math, though rates for African-Americans are much lower at 37% and 46% respectively. Who can argue that raising expectations and achievement beginning in kindergarten isn’t a dire need? Part of the solution could be the newly created and much ballyhooed Common Core State Standards. A working knowledge of these standards is a must for savvy taxpayers, armchair education policy wonks, practitioners and parents. Here’s a primer. Read more »
The predicted irrelevance of cities, offered by some as a consequence of the Internet and the falling cost of communication, has been proven to be false. Scholars like Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute have long recognized and championed the economic significance of regions.
New York State’s Governor Cuomo agrees—since taking office, he’s been working hard to shift the initiative for economic development away from central decision-makers in Albany and NYC to the regions. It is no accident that Bruce Katz has served as an informal Cuomo advisor, the two having worked together when Cuomo was HUD Secretary under Bill Clinton.
Here in the Finger Lakes, the Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) is charged with developing and implementing an economic development plan for the region. A coalition of business, non-profit and government representatives, the FLREDC has been empowered to chart out the region’s strengths and how best to support its growth into the future. At the state level, many grant programs have been brought together in support of the strategies identified locally and set out in the plan. The Governor has also focused the work of state agencies. Attending Monday’s FLREDC meeting were regional representatives from a number of NYS departments and agencies (e.g. State, Labor, Agriculture & Markets, and NYS Energy Research & Development Authority), all part of the State Agency Resource Team (SART). Additionally, the state has identified action that it can take to support implementation, including expediting regulatory review of priority projects. In essence, the state has asked the region to “tell us what you need” so that it can support local efforts for job creation and economic growth. While NYS retains significant discretion over uses of state funds, the Cuomo Administration is making a concerted effort to engage regional players in the decision process. Read more »
In 2009, Joel and Phillip Levy pocketed $2 million between them annually as leaders of a Medicaid-funded nonprofit serving the developmentally disabled. The Levys used tax dollars to purchase multiple homes, luxury cars, pay their kids’ college tuition, and support family members’ living arrangements in NYC. The misuse of public dollars violates the public trust. It makes us angry—and it should.
In January 2012, New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order to limit executive pay and established a commission to investigate excessive nonprofit compensation. Now Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have announced proposals to regulate nonprofit executive compensation. Schneiderman’s proposal–the “Nonprofit Revitalization Act”—was just introduced by Senators Carl L. Marcellino and Michael H. Ranzenhofer. Many of the elements reflect recommendations from the statewide task force (discussed in an earlier blog here).
Governor Cuomo’s proposal calls for a salary cap to limit the amount of state dollars applied to executive compensation to $200,000. His proposal also includes options for waivers to surpass the cap if an organization can justify the difference (hospital executives, for example, often have salaries well above seven figures and argue that this is required in the competitive health care market). Read more »
The decade of continuous combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has created a demand for veterans’ services that the US has not experienced since Vietnam. The sheer numbers of veterans (almost 2 million troops deployed since 2001) would be hard enough for the Veterans Administration (VA) to address. But the heavy reliance on National Guard and Reservists has changed the veteran population, subsequent needs and community impact substantially. Read more »
Over many years, CGR has assessed the full range of local government reorganization—pairings of village/town, town/city, town/county, city/county, or two or more school districts. Structure change is often contentious, in part because reorganization frequently results in tax increases for some taxpayers and decreases for others. For instance, when a village dissolves, village residents may see their tax rate fall while town residents see an increase, even if total taxes decline. Unfortunately, this means that a change that improves efficiency and effectiveness can get blocked solely for distributional reasons.
Are there ways to mitigate these tax shifts? As a relative newcomer to New York State, I’m wondering whether or not the approach to structure change through annexation in my former home of British Columbia might resonate in this part of the world. Read more »
Since No Child Left Behind took effect in 2001, tens of thousands of our country’s schools have been tagged “persistently low performing” and “in need of improvement.” Here in NYS, those names are poised to change to the less punitive “priority” and “focus” schools, if the waiver applied for last month is approved by the US Department of Education. Do the names matter?
The cynical point of view is that some of the fundamental critiques of NCLB—that it points a finger instead of lending a hand, and that it sets an impossible target of 100% student proficiency by 2014—were not taken seriously until they began adversely affecting high-performing schools in more affluent districts. But there is a bit more going on behind this waiver story—and it raises difficult questions about the role of the feds in education. Read more »
I remember the looks on the faces of my undergrad sociology classmates when they learned I was also majoring in business. A traitor was in the ranks! How could I possibly be one of the good guys while learning about global markets? Conversely, in my business courses I was suspect for having an affinity for the “softer” side of academia—subjects that surely weren’t as important or rigorous as microeconomics.
This stereotyping divided our student body – groups were aware of each other, but rarely interacted and certainly didn’t recognize their commonalities in perspective or purpose. During my professional career I have witnessed similar antics between our sectors – nonprofit, business, and public. Sure, we know the others exist, but we aren’t really playing on the same team. Read more »
Ontario County’s discussion of regionalizing high schools has made a few headlines of late, and dovetails with potential policy moves at the state level. Part of the Rochester metro area, Ontario encompasses urban, suburban and rural communities. Its 760 square miles are home to nine school districts each with its own high school. In aggregate, these districts educate 5,500 students in grades 9-12, spending at least $50 million per year. Read more »
To compete for scarce dollars, telling your story with effective use of data is critical. Tough times require a razor sharp focus on your processes, procedures, and above all – your bottom line impact.
At CGR, we are often brought in many months (or years!) after a program has been started and asked “well, how’d we do?” only to find that the information needed to answer the question hadn’t been captured. This is a painful discovery. Not only does managing in the dark make it even harder to reach your mission, in today’s environment the case for additional funding to support good work can’t be made without documentation. Read more »