Bail reform has long been hotly debated in New York – and was finally passed in 2019, taking effect on Jan. 1. Less than a month into its infancy, the new legislation is once again being hotly debated, with supporters and detractors offering widely divergent perspectives on its current and likely future impact.
The bail reform legislation ends cash bail in most misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. It is designed to reduce reliance on money in the form of cash bail as a determinant of whether many defendants—charged but not convicted—remain in custody prior to disposition of their criminal cases. Read more »
In last month’s column, I joined the beleaguered defenders of the Common Core standards. The evidence shows that American children leave school having learned less than peers in other nations—27th of 34 nations tested in math, 17th in reading and 21st in science. Mobility recommends some level of standardization of “scope & sequence”—what children learn when—particularly in the elementary grades. The expressed goals of the architects of Common Core are hard to argue with—that reading instruction should challenge students to think about the content, not simply decode the superficial meaning of the words; that nonfiction should receive greater emphasis; that math should focus on analytical, not simply technical, skills; that instruction across the disciplines should reinforce independent thinking. Read more »
New York isn’t alone in struggling with the financial viability of its public nursing homes. Across the country, public nursing home operators are weighing their options in an era of diminishing state and federal reimbursement. Many counties, especially those in the Northeast, are choosing to sell, or contract out management of the homes, in order to stem financial losses.
In New York, 92% of homes had operating deficits in 2010, as CGR detailed in our in-depth report, The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State. Financial pressures have led 8 of the 33 remaining counties with homes to decide to sell them, and another 5 to actively consider it. If all those potential sales actually occurred, New York would be left with 20 counties with nursing homes, down from 40 just 15 years ago.
From 2005 to 2009, half of states had declines in the number of public nursing homes, compared to 28% that had increases (more recent data aren’t yet available).
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Public Union Impact: Past and Future
Recent and ongoing work by CGR in several counties throughout New York has placed a spotlight on public employee unions and their impact on the cost of governmental services. In particular, the future status of county-owned nursing homes is directly affected by high labor costs and especially high benefit levels that have historically been negotiated with public unions, to the benefit of public employees and at the expense of taxpayers. County nursing home benefit levels, including retirement pensions and health insurance costs, are typically at least double the corresponding level in non-public facilities.
In decades past, county nursing homes were providers of last resort for the poor. While county homes continue to accept some residents that other facilities are reluctant to admit, as Medicaid has become a source of support for the long-term-care needs of both the poor and the middle class, nearly all nursing homes, both private and public, depend on Medicaid funding for a substantial share of revenue. Where county-owned homes are no longer the only facilities caring for the poor, they compete more directly with privately-owned homes. In this more competitive context, counties are questioning how much longer they can ask their taxpayers to cover the employee cost differential created by collective bargaining agreements—especially as counties face increasing fiscal stress, and as nursing homes face the prospects of probable declines in reimbursements looming in the near future. 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 »
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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Across parts of the country, governments and public labor unions are wrestling with tight fiscal times that may require them to forge a new relationship. In Wisconsin, the governor’s success at stripping public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights has Republicans and fiscal conservatives cheering, and Democrats and unions predicting a backlash in their favor. Here in New York, our budget problems are impossible to solve without an overhaul of the government-union marriage.
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For most of 2009, Rochester ranked in the Top 20 in the Brookings Institution’s regular reports on the impact of the recession. Indeed, for 2009, Rochester had the 15th best job report among the nation’s 100 largest metros. New York’s job creation record was the best of the 15 largest states.
By the end of last year, Rochester had slid to #41 and New York State to #11. What happened? Well, not much. In Rochester, at least. Our job performance over the last decade has been quite consistent from year to year: We lost jobs, but never more than 2% in a year. The Great Recession was triggered when the real estate bubble burst, the construction and real estate sectors suddenly cooled and millions found their jobs gone or at risk. Having missed the boom, Rochester also missed the bust and continued the trend of the early part of the century—slow shrinkage as the economy struggled to absorb cuts at Kodak and other large employers. Read more »