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 »
On January 1, 2012, the Town of Seneca Falls became a unified municipality for the first time since 1831. Communities across New York State have their eye on Seneca Falls to see what lessons can be learned from the dissolution of the historic village. As the largest village to dissolve in New York State, the process and outcomes will serve as a great test case for many years to come. However, some may be prone to draw conclusions from the outcomes that aren’t warranted.
Dissolution studies in most villages are initiated by citizens or elected officials because they believe it will save them money. The most common argument is that two layers of government are more expensive than one, and eliminating a duplicate layer must produce savings that will cause a tax bill to go down. When CGR models the fiscal impact of dissolutions cost savings are typically modest, usually in the 3-10% range. This was true in Seneca Falls as projected cost savings were a little over 7% of the combined budgets. Cost savings was not what pushed the lever in favor of dissolution. Read more »
Despite pledging in 2010 to reform the process of drawing new lines for state legislative districts, lawmakers instead employed the usual process where they themselves make the maps. And the results, released a few weeks ago, were entirely predictable: The proposed maps would likely enhance the current partisan dominance in each house.
In Rochester, this preserves what is an unnecessary fragmentation of the City of Rochester into multiple state Senate districts—three in the current map and four under the proposed maps. It seems indisputable that the interests of an aging urban center and its residents differ sharply from those of suburban or rural communities. The current and proposed maps significantly dilute the voice of the City and its residents. Adding a fourth district leads to an even more curious outcome: the reconfigured District 61 puts the University of Rochester, one of the key drivers of the Greater Rochester economy, into the same district as the University of Buffalo. And the new lines for District 59 places RIT into another Erie County-dominated district. As Tom Richards, Mayor of Rochester, observed at the recent Rochester redistricting hearing, the state’s new economic development model is a competitive one—while we may have common cause with Buffalo in Washington, we certainly compete with Buffalo in Albany. See the City’s analysis here.
Read more »
Welcome to the main event!
In this corner, leaders of cities, long accustomed to controlling their destinies! And in the other corner, state governments, anxious to protect the rest of the state from the city’s crisis! It’s a battle playing out in two major communities – Michigan’s largest city and the capital of Pennsylvania – and has the potential to rewrite the book on state/local relations.
Let’s review how we got here. Read more »
In Triumph of the City, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser attempts to explain why some cities—think New York or London or Bangalore—have prospered, even as the cost of communication has plummeted. The “death of distance” suggests the death of cities. Why do some defy the prognosis?
Glaeser reminds us that cities are “density, proximity, closeness. . . . [T]heir success depends on the demand for physical closeness.” He asserts that electronic communication is not a substitute for face-to-face contact (a proposition anyone who has endured a few conference calls will accept). Even sophisticated “virtual meeting” suites fall short. (Maybe it looks like Nathan is in the same room, but you can’t go out for a beer after the meeting.) 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 »
Despite issues weighing down the US economy –fiscal stress in Europe, continued high unemployment, and gridlock over federal fiscal policy – the Rochester, NY economy is a bit of a success story. As summarized in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Rochester, “ticks many of the standard Rust Belt boxes” yet has held relatively steady through the recession.
As a participant in the Rochester Downtown Rotary’s annual economic forecast luncheon, I was pleasantly surprised by the generally upbeat expectations of my fellow panelists. Moderated by Sandy Parker, head of the Rochester Business Alliance, it included Steve Babbitt, chairman of the board of the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors; Brad McAreavy, president of the Rochester Auto Dealers’ Association; and Clayton Millard, first vice president of wealth management at Merrill Lynch.
Read more »
“What (or whom) should we occupy?” has become shorthand for a bit of communal soul searching. We know that our economy fails to measure up. For some the pain is very personal, “Why can’t I find a job?” or “Must I work so hard for so little?” or “Why can’t employers see what I see in my daughter or my son?” Or one step removed, “What do we do about single moms stuck in a continuing cycle of poverty?”
We want answers. We blame globalization or automation or the school system. Or we blame government or regulation or some shadowy conspiracy. And we blame each other. The Occupy Wall Street movement blames the greed of the rich and powerful and their agents in government. The Tea Party movement blames the power of Big Labor—and their agents in government.
What we want changed depends on who we think is guilty. The Tea Party wants less government. The Occupy movement wants more. Read more »
If we could redraw the map, we would never create the patchwork quilt of local governments we have now. That’s a familiar refrain among people who observe local government—and not just in NYS. But the opportunity for a complete overhaul of the current – inefficient – system in many states rarely comes along. Usually, the most that can be done is to “rearrange the furniture”.
The City and Town of Batavia, NY are an exception. They are two communities reinventing themselves. The endeavor began in 2008 when Town and City leaders launched an exploration of service sharing options. From combining highway operations to merging the police department with the County Sheriff, the municipalities looked at feasible courses of action to save money. By the end of the study, the idea of merging into one new city had captured their imaginations. Becoming one city presented the most opportunities to streamline the local governments, cut costs, enhance services and improve the communities’ image in the region. Read more »