Governor Andrew Cuomo, channeling the presidential campaign positions of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, has proposed eliminating college tuition for all families with income below $125,000. I was a tenured SUNY college professor in a former life—shouldn’t I be cheering Governor Cuomo’s call for free tuition for the children of nearly three-quarters of New York’s families?
But I’m not. Let me try to explain. Read more »
Newly appointed NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will require the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, the confidence of Donald Trump and the guile of Machiavelli to succeed in her new job. The divisions both between and within stakeholder groups have never been deeper.
First, she has to figure out who she’s working for. Is there a more complicated reporting relationship in state government? The Commissioner of Education is hired by the NYS Board of Regents. Which is appointed by the NYS Legislature. Not the NYS Senate or the NYS Assembly, but the entire legislature sitting in joint session. As there are 150 Members of the Assembly but only 63 Senators, the Assembly really makes the decision. Since 2009, the Chancellor (the person who leads the 17-member Board of Regents) has been Merryl Tisch, ally of the formerly-all-powerful Sheldon Silver. After Silver lost his post, the Assembly has shown more independence, replacing two regents who were supportive of Tisch and her endorsement of the Common Core and strong teacher accountability. If you have to report to a committee of 17, you’d better hope that the committee is either unified or strongly led, conditions that appear to be waning. Read more »
I attended a Great Schools for All event on November 10, a discussion of the school reform efforts of Raleigh, NC. Underlying the discussion was the proposition that when a substantial share of children in a classroom are in poverty, it is nearly impossible for students to achieve at a high level. Raleigh, part of the Wake County school district, responded to poverty concentration by establishing and preserving a balance of poor and non-poor children in every school in the district. Raleigh points to trends in graduation rates and other indicators that suggest that the policy has been effective. See Hope and Despair in the American City: why there are no bad schools in Raleigh, by Gerald Grant, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University. A book review and summary can be found here. Read more »
Remember the Fast Ferry connecting Rochester and Toronto? Although the idea failed in execution, connecting with the vibrant “Golden Horseshoe” economy made sense then—and still does today. When we compare Rochester to, say, Charlotte or Atlanta or Austin, we can always blame the snow. But that doesn’t work when we look across the lake. What’s their “secret sauce?”
We may be separated only by a bit of water and a line on a map, but it is clear that Canada’s Golden Horseshoe Region, powered by Toronto, has prospered while Upstate New York (defined here as Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse) has just held its own. Although these neighboring regions share much—that climate, access to markets, and transportation infrastructure—since 1996 the Golden Horseshoe added more than a third to its employment base and a quarter to its population. Read more »
Elections bring change – an opportunity to “reset” the policy agenda. Any newly elected governing body brings with it new policy priorities – some collective priorities shared by multiple members, and some unique ones espoused by individual officials.
The key challenge of any new governing body is effectively managing those priorities. Doing it well positions a new government to deliver results; failing to do so invites distraction to the governing process, treating all issues equally and encouraging less-than-strategic governance.
The challenge was magnified in Princeton, New Jersey this year. Its transition to a new governing council in January coincided with the launch of a newly consolidated municipality, the state’s most significant in more than sixty years. Thus in Princeton, the new ideas and priorities that typically accompany new governing bodies existed alongside consolidation-related issues and transition matters that, in some cases, required more urgent attention. Read more »
New York Fire District Election Day for FIRE DISTRICT commissioners is Tuesday, December 11. Surprised? You are not alone. In 2010, only 20 people showed up to vote in the Monroe County Town of Brighton’s fire district election. The year before, only 19 voted in the county’s Town of Henrietta. These elections have a real impact on fire district tax rates, but few people vote in them.
By submitting Freedom of Information Law requests to several Monroe County towns in my own community, I was able to secure voter turnout for a number of fire district elections held in the past 3 years. Average voter turnout across these districts was under one-half of one percent—fewer than 5 of every 1000 registered voters cast ballots. Unlike the election day that just passed, there is no “Get Out the Vote” effort attached to fire district elections—these elections are little noted, unless there is a specific financial issue such as bonding for a large purchase. Read more »
Remember “mutual assured destruction?” MAD was the dominant principle of the Cold War: The Soviet Union would not attack us as long as we retained the ability to retaliate. They might surprise us and obliterate New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, but our nuclear subs and hardened silo-based missiles would respond in kind, turning Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Vladivostok into historical footnotes (if mankind survived to write any more history).
A kind of financial “MAD” became our consolation in the 1990s as China continued to accumulate foreign exchange, the vast majority of which was in dollars (or financial assets like bonds that were priced in dollars). At present, China’s holdings of dollar assets top $1.5 trillion, says the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
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When I was a child, my grandparents hosted a gift orgy on Christmas Eve—the whole family gathered in Chicago and every aunt & uncle brought something for ME. My cousins and I had eyes only for the pile of gifts under the tree.
Remind you of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)? The ARRA orgy begins with the reasonable assumption that the economy needs a healthy dose of Christmas cheer. Congress and the Administration joyfully decreed that we could save the world and spend money, too. Every lobby and interest group joined in the happy chorus. Presto! Christmas in February.
Yet “killing two birds with one stone” only works if you’re a very good shot. ARRA is riddled with Congressional multitasking, using the occasion of the stimulus (and its virtually unlimited spending) to implement specific social goals.
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Consolidating local governments in New York is a hot topic across the state. Proponents maintain consolidation is a way to make local governments more efficient and less costly. Opponents argue that services will be cut, local representation will be lost, and savings will be minimal at best. Every week, I receive calls from local government officials across upstate asking what is involved in studying how to share or consolidate services. Almost invariably, the caller starts out by saying, “I’m not necessarily in favor of dissolving or consolidating, but I feel it is my responsibility to the taxpayers to look at every avenue to reduce our local taxes.”
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I’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.
Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.
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