What’s the Cost of Fire Safety in Your Community?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Paul BishopAccording to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration, from 1995 to 2010:

  • The number of residential building fires fell 15%.
  • The number of deaths and injuries in residential fires fell 31%. [i] [ii]
  • The number of paid firefighters increased by 30% and the number of volunteer firefighters decreased by 8%.[iii]

With the increase in dependence on paid staff, there has been an increase in cost for the fire service. From 1995 to 2008, the cost of Local Fire Protection has increased 65% to an inflation adjusted $39.7 billion.[iv] Read more »

It Takes a Community to Serve a Veteran

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kirstin PryorThe 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 »

Merci, Jacques et Marie

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent GardnerThe French have voted with their hearts and picked Francois Hollande as President. And who can blame them for wanting to be more like Italy and less like Germany? More Roman Holiday and less The Spy Who Came In from the Cold?

We should be grateful to the French. We need exemplars—countries whose policies we embrace and countries whose polices we avoid. France seems determined to set a bad example, if they expect Hollande to follow through on his promises. This is a nation that hasn’t run a budget surplus in 35 years, where labor costs have been rising in the face of blistering global competition, and where the public sector controls more than half of the economy. Hollande promises to hire more public sectors workers, raise the marginal tax rate to 75%, and reverse Nicholas Sarkozy’s feeble encroachment on the entitlement mindset of the French worker. Read more »

Transitions to New Municipal Boundaries

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

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 »

Tax Reforms Starts with Simplification

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerThere is nothing like the IRS Form 1040 and NYS Form 201 to get you in the mood for tax reform.

We need a simpler system. Complexity is expensive by itself—we spend money simply keeping records and paying professionals to figure out what we can and can’t claim. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Service (TAS) of the National Taxpayer Advocate (appointed and funded by Congress) estimated in 2010 that taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours filling out taxes each year (down from an estimated 7.6 billion hours in 2008, probably courtesy of tax software). 60% of Americans pay someone else to complete their tax forms. In 2008, TAS put the total cost of compliance at $163 billion, about 11% of total tax receipts. Read more »

Great Leaders Don’t Rely on Data Alone

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Scott SittigEvidence-based decision making is best when data are properly used, when good judgment hasn’t been trumped by bad numbers, or good numbers twisted to support an inappropriate conclusion. Just collecting data, tying it to outcomes and using it to make comparisons isn’t enough.  Numbers must be accurate and they need context. Data are essential to great leaders, but numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Let’s say I wanted to invest in a technology company.  Being a devoted iPhone user, I am predisposed to liking Apple products.  With a few clicks of my mouse I find Apple has earnings per share (EPS) of $13.87.  Is this good?  I quickly search for Google and learn its EPS is at $8.75.  Should I be convinced that Apple’s numbers make it a better investment?

As a good consumer I should ask: Are the metrics accurate?  EPS is a well-known measure of corporate profitability and my source was reputable.  Are the metrics comparable?  In this case, yes, but only after I checked that the EPS numbers covered the same time period.   What do the metrics tell me?  They give me insight into Apple’s and Google’s profitability. Read more »

Redistricting Reform in NY – Maybe in 2022?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Erika RosenbergState lawmakers pulled a neat trick when it came to redrawing the boundary lines of their districts: Though 138 of them (out of 212) signed pledges while running for re-election in 2010 to support redistricting reform, they instead used the usual process under their own control, while promising to do different in 2022. Ten years from now.

It’s not all that surprising, given the political realities: Senate Republicans depend upon redistricting and other elements of the political status quo to maintain control of the chamber despite having less than a quarter of all registered voters enrolled in their party. Assembly Democrats have been all too happy to respect their “gentlemen’s agreement” with the Senate Republicans to each draw the lines in their respective houses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also promised to support independent redistricting, had other priorities. And voters, well, we don’t care enough about this once-a-decade process of truing up legislative boundary lines to population changes measured by the decennial census to scare the lawmakers into giving up control of it. Read more »

Cross-District Approaches to Urban Education

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Donald PryorA previous CGR Policy Wonk blog, Transforming Urban Education: From Despair to Hope? discussed Raleigh, North Carolina’s countywide solution to addressing urban education issues.  The Raleigh experience offers a model for breaking down barriers of poverty and uneven resources and opportunities that help create widely-divergent outcomes across city, suburban and rural boundaries in our community.

The Raleigh model, while promising with its documented levels of success, would also be practically and politically difficult to implement locally—not least because of the multitude of school districts in most counties across New York (18 in Monroe County).  Merging two school districts in Raleigh/Wake County, while not easily accomplished, seems like a walk in the park compared with changing the current educational landscape in Monroe County.  As several responses to the original article suggested, we need the type of strong cross-sector leadership around this issue that surfaced in Raleigh.  Is that realistic locally, given our entrenched multi-school-district profile? Read more »

What Recovery? State and Local Governments Not Sharing in the Economic Optimism

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Joseph StefkoAt long last, we’ve been treated to a streak of positive news on the U.S. economy.  Job growth continues, with 227,000 added in February and 900,000 over the past five months; the application rate for jobless benefits now stands at a four-year low; and the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.0 to 8.3 in a year.  And while the sharp decline in the unemployment rate appears to have slowed in the past three months, there’s even a silver lining there as more people resumed their search for work in the face of a better employment outlook (about 500,000 in February).  It’s tough to argue that’s anything but good news.

Read more »