How’d you like to be a county executive, legislator or member of a board of supervisors and have to decide the future of a financially-troubled county-owned nursing home? Often one of the area’s major institutions and employers, it provides an important community service, even though typically costing the county taxpayers significant amounts of money. No matter what you decide, you’re likely to be criticized from one or more directions. That is the unpleasant reality currently being faced by public officials in counties throughout all regions of New York State.
As recently as 2005, more than 40 counties outside New York City owned and operated public nursing homes containing some 9,900 beds. Now those numbers are closer to 35 counties and 8,100 beds, and those totals are likely to dwindle further over the next few years. Why the sharp declines in such a short period of time? Rising costs and declining revenues combine to force county taxpayers to plug steadily-rising deficits. Read more »
Closing failing schools and replacing them with new–hopefully better–schools is at the heart of the Portfolio Plan strategy in place in the Rochester City School District. It sure sounds appealing, especially to those who have long felt that education is a world shielded from the consequences of failure. But does it work?
The answer is critically important, not only for the obvious reason that we all want effective schools for children, but also because closing a school necessarily means dismantling a school community. Perhaps that community was dysfunctional, unhealthy, even dangerous, but it was still the daytime home for the students and staff members in it.
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Pessimism about the economy comes easily to most of us. We’ve been told that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Nonsense. Pessimism is our natural state.
And when the Rochester economy outperforms the state consistently over a three-year period, we suspect either mischief or incompetence: Someone at the Department of Labor made a mistake that will soon be discovered. Yet while the rest of the state has been shedding jobs since September 2008, we’ve pretty much held our own here in Rochester. Read more »
In their fourth time to the altar, the two Princeton, New Jerseys—township and borough—said “I do,” and agreed to merge. With the vote, Princeton becomes the first municipal merger in the State of New Jersey in nearly 60 years. (Well, not the only. There was the 1997 consolidation of Pahaquarry, population = 7). Unlike the three previous attempts—the latest in 1996—voters in both the Township and the Borough agreed to join their governments.
In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised the vote passed. These two communities already share more than a dozen critical public services, major community assets, and a history and profile recognized the world over. Working together – indeed, working as “one” – has long been ingrained in the two communities. Read more »
Dirty little secret #1—When you say “We do program evaluation,” typical reactions include polite but confused nods and rolling or glazed-over eyes. Unfortunately, the real value of evaluation is often crowded out by rhetoric about investing only in “evidence-based” programs on the one hand and pressures of grant compliance on the other.
CGR’s clients operate in the real world, where program evaluation isn’t quite as pristine as it is in academia. Some of CGR’s evaluations have formal designs with control groups, sophisticated statistical analysis, and measurable “hard” outcomes. But the vast majority of evaluations are not as “pure”—and this is where the fun begins. Real programs serve real people who are affected by many things besides the program in question. They have real limited budgets, real funders funding different outcomes, real challenges getting data, and operate in real dynamic contexts. Evaluation often gets a bum rap—either it’s watered down to the point of PR or it’s done just for compliance. So what’s the point? Read more »
Governor Cuomo set November 14 as the deadline for the state’s ten regions to submit economic development strategies. Led by Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, many in our community are working furiously to articulate plans, goals and measurable objectives.
While we hope to be one of the winning regions—earning a promised $40 million in state support—the process itself has already been valuable. In my 20 years here, I cannot recall a time when leaders of business and government from the Finger Lakes’ nine counties have gathered to talk about what makes our economy successful and what might make it better. The process would have been even more valuable had it been less of a fire drill—a February deadline would have been better, although still ambitious—but we can be proud of the diligent efforts of the Council members and participants in eleven workgroups. The plans they have developed are a testimony to the vitality of particular economic clusters and the many vital economic institutions in the region.
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Did you know that the Finger Lakes Region is number one in New York State in sales of milk, fruits and nuts, corn and organic products? I didn’t until recently. Many of us know intuitively that agriculture is important to our region’s economy, not to mention our health and well being. Just ask my wife who regularly braves the large crowds on Saturday at Rochester’s downtown farmers market for our weekly supply of produce. Our region is rich in productive farmland. Despite a relatively short growing season, we produce one-third of the State’s ag output by value, benefiting people all over the country.
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It stands to reason, say some, that eliminating some of the overlapping layers of local government—villages, in particular—will save lots of money. The facts are more complicated.
In CGR’s experience after studying more than three dozen communities in the last five years or so, the operational savings from a simple merger are typically modest. Yet this misses one of the important reasons for communities to review their local government structures—the capital budgets of local governments. Decisions about capital investments are often made through the lens of a single local government—the individual town, village or school district. Even though these individual governments may be running their governments efficiently, many studies show that taxpayers are paying for more buildings, more equipment, and more people to manage them than would be needed if local government services were managed by thinking regionally. Four examples illustrate this point. Read more »
It was Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario, who famously declared that you “campaign in poetry, but govern in prose.” Part of the poetry of the campaign was the usual rhetoric around job creation—Candidate Cuomo pledged to focus the resources and energy of the State of New York on the economy, particularly Upstate.
The Regional Economic Development Councils is the vehicle by which Governor Cuomo is translating that bit of campaign poetry into energetic prose. The concept comes partly from Cuomo’s tenure at HUD, partly from a similar venture launched by the first Governor Cuomo in the late 1980s. The concept has merit—by appointing key leaders to ten councils across NYS, he is engaging the state’s leadership in a manner that is largely unprecedented. With Lt Governor Bob Duffy as the chair of every council, he has assured both that council members participate and that the state agency representatives show up and provide support.
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On April 12 the Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll released the first statewide survey of NYS residents’ opinions on local government consolidation (see www.nylocalgov.org). While restructuring is central to Governor Cuomo’s strategy to cut the tax burden, the results suggest that change will be slow without further state action.
- Support for restructuring is hardly universal, despite the bewildering complexity of NYS local government.
- Support varies by function: Highway services are more readily shared than public safety or education—why?
- Experience shows that the status quo is hard to dislodge, even where support is strong. How might state action spur cost-effective re-invention?
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