Friday, June 29th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
Gerrymandering Critics Suffer Twin Blows at the Supreme Court (Governing)
The Texas case involves racial gerrymandering, while the North Carolina case deals with partisan gerrymandering -- something the justices have hinted is unconstitutional but have yet to rule against.
The latest sign of political divide: Shaming and shunning public officials (Washington Post)
Anger and division in American politics are creating a rising phenomenon: the public shaming and shunning of political figures while they are going about their private lives.
How we know journalism is good for democracy
(Local News Lab)
According to new data being released later this month, at least 900 communities across the United States have faced profound erosion in their access to local news and information since 2004.
The Minimum Wage Just Turned 80. Economists Don't Give It Enough Credit(Fortune)
At the deepest level, the minimum wage embodies justice. It speaks to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that "all labor has dignity"-and so deserves a decent rate of pay..
'Squeezed' Explores Why America Is Getting Too Expensive For The Middle Class (NPR)
Author Alissa Quart writes that the costs of housing, child care, health care and college are outpacing salaries and threatening the livelihoods of middle class Americans.
An autopsy of the American dream
Brill has been writing about class warfare in the US since 2011, and the picture he paints is as depressing as it is persuasive.
Re-released, Infogagement: Citizenship and Democracy in the Age of Connection
So much about our lives, communities, and social compact is being re-envisioned. Yet here, in the intersection of information, technology, engagement, and public life, are seeds of current American upheaval.
Civic engagement declines when local newspapers shut down
Studies have found that areas with fewer local news outlets and declining coverage also have lower levels of civic engagement and voter turnout.
Smart Cities 3.0: 5G, Edge Computing and Citizen Engagement(State Tech Magazine)
With advanced technology and careful planning, city governments can alleviate growing problems seen in many of today's urban communities and become more sustainable for future generations.
AmeriCorps 'volunteers' in Denver schools were district employees, investigation finds
The AmeriCorps program in Denver Public Schools has been terminated after an investigation found the district broke rules by recruiting its own employees to serve as volunteers, according to a report released Wednesday.
New education budget threatens dozens of low-performing Detroit schools with closure - again
Dozens of struggling Detroit schools could face closure once again after Gov. Rick Snyder signed an education budget on Thursday that seeks to stiffen consequences for low-scoring schools.
A $1 billion Gates Foundation-backed education initiative failed to help students, according to a new report - here's what happened
A seven-year, nearly $1 billion education initiative centered on improving teaching quality in low-income schools - and bankrolled in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - largely failed to help students, according to a new report from nonprofit policy think tank RAND.
Vocational Programs Get Boost From Congress(Wall Street Journal)
Bill that provides incentives for technical training programs set to pass, in rare moment of bipartisan agreement.
Should America's Universities Stop Taking So Many International Students?
Critics say the country's higher-education institutions should focus on ensuring more Americans get four-year degrees, but college presidents highlight the benefits of global diversity on campus.
Can Low-Intensity Care Solve High Health Care Costs? (The Upshot)
The shift toward cheaper settings like outpatient clinics and homes is a worthy goal, but new research is showing us where we shouldn't cut corners.
White House wants to cut this public health service corps by nearly 40 percent
The White House is proposing to reduce by nearly 40 percent the uniformed public health professionals who deploy during disasters and disease outbreaks, monitor drug safety and provide health care in some of the nation's most remote and disadvantaged areas.
Fewer Americans are spending their final days in the hospital and more are dying at home(Los Angeles Times)
The American way of dying seems to have become less frantic, desperate and expensive. That's the upshot of a new study that finds that seniors insured by Medicare who died in 2015 were less likely to do so in a hospital and more likely to pass away in a home or other community setting than those who died in 2000.
Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 | WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D.
Four years ago, Matt Leighninger, Public Agenda's vice president of public engagement, wrote a paper called "Infogagement" for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE). In the paper, Matt predicted that journalism, technology and civic engagement were on a collision course. It seems today we're witnessing that collision and its harmful effects on our democracy in the form of fake news, echo chamber groupthink, information overload, populist instability, the erosion of local journalism and the acceleration of society's trust crisis.
Last week, PACE, in partnership with Public Agenda, re-released this important paper which contains a new introduction from Matt and a series of commentaries from thought leaders across the fields of civic engagement, journalism, technology and philanthropy. How can we engage people constructively and productively in the digital age? What are the dangers we must overcome, and how can we do so?
The challenges are vast, but, as Matt notes, "... it isn't all bad news."
Infogagement: Citizenship and Democracy in the Age of Connection is a must-read for anyone who wants to explore the implications of digital information and communications for democracy.
Friday, June 22nd, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
What Role Does Religion
Play In American Politics? (NPR)
Rachel Martin talks to Cokie Roberts, who answers listener questions on how religion has influenced public policy in America. Continue Reading
Factual and Opinion Statements in the News (Pew)
The politically aware, digitally savvy and those more trusting of the news media fare better; Republicans and Democrats both influenced by political appeal of statements. Continue Reading
** And take the quiz!
Video- Money in Politics with Robert Reich
and Debbie Dooley (Living Room Conversations)
A conversation co-hosted by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Debbie Dooley and President Clinton's fmr. Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich. Continue Reading
Living Paycheck to
Paycheck, and Hour to Hour (CityLab)
A new survey finds that service workers in Connecticut are hungry for more hours, and for more predictable schedules. Continue Reading
It's time to move
beyond the word gap (Brookings)
In our recent article in Child Development we sought to test the claim of Hart and Risley of a 30-million-word gap between the amount of vocabulary heard by our nation's poorest and most affluent children. Continue Reading
Poor Americans Really
Are in Despair (The Atlantic)
The wealth gap is also a happiness gap. Continue Reading
Not That Long Ago, New
York City Really Was Run From a Smoke-filled Backroom (New York Magazine)
As late as 1989, an undemocratic entity called the Board of Estimate made the city's key decisions. When it was banned, a new political era was born. Continue Reading
Inclusive Growth and
the Happiness Factor (Governing)
Tracking residents' feelings of well-being can guide cities toward policies that create opportunities for everybody. Continue Reading
To Build a Better Bus
System, Ask a Driver (CityLab)
The people who know buses best have ideas about how to reform the system, according to a survey of 373 Brooklyn bus operators. Continue Reading
The Costly Downside to
Ditching AP (Inside Higher Ed)
While the program has its downsides, schools looking to give their students a more equal footing as college candidates shouldn't overlook the benefits, argues Ali Lincoln. Continue Reading
Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Suit Says
(New York Times)
Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like "positive personality," likability, courage, kindness and being "widely respected," according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university. Continue Reading
Problem All States Have (The Atlantic)
Across the country, black and Latino adults are far less likely to hold a college degree than white adults. Can better support for colleges that serve a high percentage of minorities change that?
How bad is teacher pay?
Nearly 1 in 5 teachers works a second job, report says (Washington Post)
Across the country, 18 percent of teachers earn income outside the classroom, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report released Wednesday. The finding comes from a nationally representative survey of teachers conducted in the 2015-2016 school year. Continue Reading
Why Are Rich, White
Girls Struggling in Math? (The Atlantic)
A new study reveals the extent to which children's geographic surroundings contribute to gender disparities in schools. Continue Reading
After five years, the
Tennessee-run district isn't performing any better than low-performing schools
receiving no intervention, research says (Chalkbeat)
After five years of trying to turn around low-performing schools, Tennessee's state-run schools aren't performing any better than schools that haven't received any intervention, according to new research released Tuesday. Continue Reading
Healthcare price transparency in U.S. not improved in recent years (Reuters)
Although government measures and healthcare industry initiatives have tried to make prices more accessible to U.S. patients recently, researchers say there has been little improvement. Continue Reading
Is This the Hospital That Will Finally Push
the Expensive U.S. Health Care System to Innovate? (Harvard Business Review)
There was a time when the American steel industry seemed invincible. The American automotive industry looked rock-solid. American consumer electronics industry seemed untouchable. In every one of these cases, global competition changed the game forever. Will the same happen to health care in the United States? Continue Reading
Friday, June 15th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
Maine Tests a New Way of
Voting, and Opts to Keep It (Governing)
On Tuesday, the state became the first to use ranked-choice voting, a system that could prevent "spoiler" candidates from causing havoc in crowded races. Continue Reading
Poll Finds Most Parents
and Kids Agree on Trump, Economy (US News & World
A survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV finds that parents and their kids agree about a lot of things when it comes to politics. Continue Reading
Cali-Three-Nia? Proposal To Split State Will Be On Ballot In November
A proposal to divide California into three separate states will appear on the ballot in November, after an idiosyncratic, years-long quest by a venture capitalist. Continue Reading
What To Do About the Rise
of Mega-Regions (CityLab)
We need to make urbanism more inclusive and democratic if we want to realize a better future, and that means devolving power from the dysfunctional nation-state to cities and neighborhoods. Continue Reading
Building a strong middle
class in the American Mountain West (Brookings)
In a new paper for Brookings Mountain West, "Upward Mobility in the American Mountain West," Mr. Reeves digs into some of the data on mobility, education, and class in the major cities and institutions of the region. Continue Reading
A radical plan to fix
inequality is making waves with its many moral dilemmas (Quartz)
What if everything was for sale? What if you had to name a price for everything you owned and be willing to sell it if a buyer matched your offer? And you couldn't cheat by overestimating the price to keep your property because your taxes would be based on the value you chose. It's enough to make even the most ardent believers in free markets squirm a little. Continue Reading
Digital Equity Lab
Launches in NYC (Government Technology)
The effort, based out of The New School, is led by Maya Wiley and addresses equitable models of digital access, digital equity frameworks for online issues, and the ways that smart cities create both benefits and risks for vulnerable communities. Continue Reading
The Future of Civic
Engagement (Government Executive)
From its earliest days, American democracy has been rooted in vigorous civic engagement. More recently, there have been fears that increasing distrust in institutions will lead to large scale disengagement in civic life. Continue Reading
Community Engagement in
Public Schools and How Not to Do It
Community engagement provides the opportunity to open dialogue and hear different voices. Especially if you're a governmental entity, bureaucratic invitations and biased polling is no way to engender trust in the process. Continue Reading
At Christian Colleges, a
Collision of Gay Rights and Traditional Values (New York Times)
Christian colleges are also grappling with a giant generational rift over what it means to be Christian - from students' more accepting views of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals and the conviction that faith demands social justice activism, to their comfort with using social media to organize a counter movement. Continue Reading
Colleges and State Laws
Are Clamping Down on Fraternities (New York Times)
There has been at least one school-related hazing death each year in the United States since 1961, according to Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of multiple books on hazing. Most, but not all, have occurred during fraternity initiation events. Continue Reading
A New Spelling Champion;
And Walmart Adds A College Option For Workers (Southern California Public
One dollar per day is all that Walmart employees will need to pay to take online classes towards a college degree. The company announced this week it will cover the rest - including books and other fees. Continue Reading
Dividing World History
(Inside Higher Ed)
Another AP history exam comes under scrutiny, with critics saying a proposed rewrite of the AP World History exam, focusing on events after 1450, is too Eurocentric. Continue Reading
As caregivers struggle to
make ends meet, 28,000 Detroit children go without care (Chalkbeat)
The financial demands of providing early education in Michigan have contributed to Detroit's status as a "child care desert," a place where access to quality early learning is limited or unavailable. The city is short licensed or registered early child care and education slots for at least 28,000 children ages birth to 5, according to IFF, a nonprofit community development financial institution. Continue Reading
Parkland students to
travel cross-country to register young voters (Christian Science Monitor)
Students will also be advocating for gun control measures such as tighter regulation, universal background checks, and training for individuals who own an AR-15 and other semi-automatic riffles. Continue Reading
More independent rural
hospitals will seek some type of affiliation with a larger hospital. (Modern
More than 40% of the country's rural hospitals that have been operating in the red as they try to manage care for a declining population that is often older, sicker and poorer than their urban counterparts. Continue Reading
NJ Passes Healthcare Price
Transparency Law to Stop Surprise Bills (RevCycle Intelligence)
Providers in New Jersey must give patients information on out-of-network services and publicly post their standard charges under a new healthcare price transparency law. Continue Reading
Would a Single-Payer
System Require Painful Sacrifices From Doctors? (New
It is true that there clearly would be constraints on the income of doctors and other service providers in a single-payer system, and many of them would surely feel aggrieved by any attempt to reduce their salaries. But cutting their pay directly probably wouldn't happen, nor would it make sense. Continue Reading
Friday, June 8th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
A How-To Guide for Politics (New York Times)
American politics today is rife with cynicism. Many Americans don't vote. Others do, while lamenting polarization in Congress and distrusting the two major political parties. Continue Reading
Unexpectedly, Congress has begun to make bipartisan progress (The Hill)
At the end of March, pundits in Washington believed the legislative process was sputtering to a halt. As The Associated Press reported: "With passage of an enormous budget bill, the GOP-controlled Congress all but wrapped up its legislating for the year." But then something happened. Continue Reading
Please be polite: civility is the key to winning midterm
elections in 2018 (USA Today)
In a time with so much political vitriol, candidates will win by being polite but firm. Without civility, our leaders cannot work together to govern. Continue Reading
Seven reasons to worry about the American
middle class (Brookings)
We have already wrestled with how we define this group, considered its changing racial composition, and called upon experts to outline major policies geared toward improving its fate. But why all of this attention? Here are seven of the reasons we are worried about the American middle class. Continue Reading
The stark relationship between income inequality and crime (The Economist)
Both theory and data suggest that if you've got it, don't flaunt it. Continue Reading
American Job Openings Now Outnumber the Jobless (Wall Street
U.S. job openings rose to 6.7 million at the end of April, compared with the 6.3 million Americans who were unemployed. Continue Reading
Mapping Tool Takes Regional View of New York City Tri-State Area
The Metro Region Explorer has revealed shifts in demographics, housing and workforce, which could impact the region's transit needs and overall economy. Continue Reading
City restarts program for new community ambassadors (WTOL)
Engage Toledo started an ambassador training program Wednesday night.
The initiative was launched last year to inspire civic engagement and participation. Continue Reading
Civic Innovation Day poses new challenges for local
technologists, urbanists (Charlottesville Tomorrow)
Technology professionals, university students and other community members worked together on projects to improve local quality of life at the second annual Charlottesville Civic Innovation Day. Continue Reading
In the Age of Trump, Civics Courses Make a Comeback (New York
For those teaching civics and civic engagement, the goal isn't to get students to finish one project, but to make community involvement a habit - and one type of action often does lead to another. Continue Reading
Can lowering class size help integrate schools? Maybe, according
to new research (Chalkbeat)
A recent study suggests a concrete way that schools can attract and keep white families, while also boosting student achievement: lower class sizes. That approach drew in tens of thousands of students from California's private schools into the public system, according to the research. Continue Reading
D.C. passes emergency law to allow chronically absent students
to graduate (Washington Post)
High school seniors who missed more than six weeks of class would still receive their diplomas under an emergency measure approved by the D.C. Council, even as the city remains mired in a graduation scandal. Continue Reading
Another big-name university drops SAT/ACT essay requirement
On Friday, Yale University said applicants will no longer be required to submit an essay score from the SAT or the ACT. The policy will take effect for rising high school seniors who seek to enter the university's Class of 2023. Yale's action comes weeks after Harvard University and Dartmouth College dropped the requirement. Continue Reading
Colleges Grapple With Where - or Whether - to Draw the Line on
Free Speech (New York Times)
Higher education is struggling to balance the demand by some students to be protected from offensive speech while guaranteeing freedom of speech to others. Continue Reading
The Confusing Information Colleges Provide Students About
Financial Aid (The Atlantic)
Families need clarity when it comes to figuring out how much higher education is going to cost them. Unfortunately, that's not what they're getting. Continue Reading
Sharing health costs with faith: Ministries
offer coverage, savings as an alternative to traditional insurance (Duluth News
"We're not a health insurance company, but it does meet the requirements to have some sort of health care solution," Gardner said.Continue Reading
Ideas to Make Health Care Affordable Again
(Senator Bill Cassidy)
Price transparency mandates are catching on. But they may codify that which hasn't worked all that well so far. Continue Reading
If You Make Them Build It, They Still May Not
Come (Managed Care Magazine)
Price transparency mandates are catching on. But they may codify that which hasn't worked all that well so far. Continue Reading
Friday, June 1st, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
Takeaways From Tuesday's Primaries (New
It was a night for upsets and breakthroughs: In Georgia, a black woman was nominated for governor by a major party for the first time in any state. In Kentucky, a math teacher defeated a Republican power broker. And in Texas, the vice president of the United States faced the limits of his clout.
More Young People Say Politicians Care What They Think
(US News & World Report)
A growing number of young people in the U.S. say politicians care about what they think, and more now believe they can have at least a moderate effect on government, according to a new poll.
primeval tribalism of American politics (The
They are from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they are happily married because they obey the oldest rule of politics.
Cash to Fight Income Inequality? California City Is First in U.S. to Try
(New York Times)
Long plagued by poverty and desperation, Stockton, Calif., is testing universal basic income as a means of improving the lives of its residents.
inequality is changing how we think, live, and die
Why society might be more stable if we had more poverty and less inequality.
alarming statistics that show the U.S. economy isn't as good as it seems
The U.S. economy has a problem. The usual economic benchmarks look really good: America in 2018 is enjoying faster growth, low unemployment, record numbers of job openings and a stock market near an all-time high. Yet an alarming number of Americans are still struggling to get by.
Trump's Blocking of
Twitter Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says (New York
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, addressing a novel issue about how the Constitution applies to social media platforms and public officials, found that the president's Twitter feed is a public forum.
Resident Experience Among Big Ideas in Texas (Government
State officials discussed ways agencies can improve their process and resident experience alike at the annual Texas Digital Government Summit in Austin.
Buffalo Common Council
Paves Way for Community-Driven Development (Next City)
"It empowers people to vet development in the community," said Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Fruit Belt neighborhood. "This is one of my crown jewels in my term as councilmember."
Centers to Offer Positive Support for Suspended Students(Christian
Instead of sending suspended students home, a new pilot program called Positive Alternatives to Student Suspension in Massachusetts offers tutoring, counseling, and other forms of support to address underlying issues that led to the disciplinary action.
Bloomberg Commits $375 Million to Education Initiatives
(Wall Street Journal)
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that he will donate $375 million to a variety of education initiatives nationwide over the next five years, increasing his commitment to an area that has been a core part of his Bloomberg Philanthropies for years.
Find Public Support as Campaign for Higher Pay Goes to Voters
(The New York Times)
After shutting down schools and shaking up politics in six states, teachers are looking to the ballot box in their campaign for better pay and increased school funding. And their demands are meeting with widespread public support.
Defense of the Liberal Arts
(Inside Higher Education)
In an era when liberal arts programs are being eliminated or changed at institutions public and private, two organizations on Thursday issued a joint statement in defense of the values of liberal arts education and of liberal arts disciplines.
Jobs Matter: Avoiding the Underemployment Trap
(The Washington Post)
But underemployment may be far more widespread than we have imagined - affecting up to 43 percent of recent graduates, according to a report. This unprecedented analysis of 4 million unique résumés examines the scope and impact of underemployment on graduates in the years that follow college. It turns out that underemployment can mark the first steps to a permanent professional detour - more than a speed bump on the journey to a prosperous career.
Obama-Era Crackdown, For-Profit Colleges Seek Nonprofit Status
(Wall Street Journal)
Change would save the schools millions in taxes, lessen federal oversight and distance them from a tarnished industry reputation.
and Health Care Price Transparency-Buyers vs Sellers? (Jama
The inaccessibility of price information in the US health care system prevents patients from anticipating and incorporating their health care costs into care-seeking decisions and from choosing the best-value clinician.
pricing transparency remains elusive, study finds
Hospitals are not getting better at providing price estimates for procedures like total hip arthroplasty (THA), despite an industry push to provide that information to patients.
centrist Democrats warm to government-sponsored healthcare, their road to
single payer remains icy
Democrats are gradually inching towards expanded government-sponsored healthcare, but in a time of GOP-controlled government, some wonder what the end goal is.
Friday, May 18th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
Democracies Can Learn From Malaysia (The
Is it possible that the United States and Europe might learn something from Malaysia, a country long seen as a flawed semi-democracy?
group aims to limit big money in politics (Boston
American Promise, a Massachusetts-based, nonpartisan organization founded to mobilize national support for a constitutional amendment addressing the out-of-control dominance of money over our political system, summarizes the problem in a new report titled “Government of Citizens, Not Money.”
just “literate,” how can you help news consumers be “news fluent”?
News literacy is so last decade: Journalists and audiences need to focus on news fluency now, suggests a report from the American Press Institute.
Millennial women say
dismal economy is preventing them from having children (Salon)
A historic drop in the fertility rate was partly due to millennial and GenX women struggling to make ends meet.
What the Future of
Affordable Housing Already Looks Like (CityLab)
Affordable housing construction seems eternally scant in the U.S. If that ever changes, a new exhibit about the other side of the Atlantic Ocean has a few design ideas to share.
Way to Face Marijuana Charges in New York: Be Black or Hispanic
(The New York Times)
The police explanation that more black and Hispanic people are arrested on marijuana charges because complaints are high in their neighborhoods doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Participatory Budgeting the Answer to Cities’ Biggest Questions?
Local governments have always let residents participate in the political process, but some are finding direct engagement is the way to answer difficult funding questions.
Collaboration a Consistent Theme in Illinois
At the first-ever Chicago Digital Government Summit, chief information officers from Chicago, Cook County and elsewhere discussed why collaboration works and how to make it happen.
Is the United States Too
Big to Govern? (New York Times)
What if trust in American democracy is eroding because the nation has become too big to be effectively governed through traditional means? With a population of more than 325 million and an enormously complex society, perhaps this country has passed a point where — no matter whom we elect — it risks becoming permanently dissatisfied with legislative and governmental performance.
Business Exec Save One of the Largest School Districts in America?
Austin Beutner, the new leader of Los Angeles schools, is the latest big-city superintendent with no education experience. Some say that -- and his ties to charter schools -- are cause for concern.
program brings American Indian culture to Native students
(Christian Science Monitor)
Under the Title VII Indian Education program, schools around the country can infuse workshops on indigenous culture into their curricula. In Utah, the program has helped students perform better in school, especially for those who are American Indian.
Activists Take Fight to the Polls
With many legislative sessions now wrapping up—and with teachers' core demands on pay and funding still unmet in some places—union and activist-group leaders in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and West Virginia are telling teachers and their supporters they need to keep the pressure on.
Don’t know the graduate
next to you? You’re not alone. One-third of students take at least one class
online. (Washington Post)
The expansion of online education has coincided with concerns about the price of brick-and-mortar education. And it has arrived as much improved technology gives time-pressed, place-bound adults the flexibility to earn a degree.
State, Leading U.S. in Black Graduates, Is Engine of Social Mobility
(New York Times)
Georgia State, once seen as a night school for white businessmen, has reshaped itself amid a moral awakening and a raft of data-driven experimentation.
Feds' Approval, Vermont Could Be First State to Import Prescription Drugs From
Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday signed legislation making his state the first to legalize importing prescription drugs from Canada, an idea President Donald Trump's top health officials oppose that's also drawn fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.
freelanced: Where will gig economy workers get coverage?
There are plenty of problems lurking on America’s career ladder, but here is a big one: our healthcare systems are designed for the workforce of 1950.
Frailty' Is a Byproduct of Mass Incarceration (The
In his new book Homeward, Harvard University professor Bruce Western explores what it’s like to reenter society after prison—and uncovers an epidemic of illness and mortality.
Thursday, May 17th, 2018 | MATT LEIGHNINGER
The main problem with American democracy is that we don’t realize it can be improved. We assume that we’re stuck with the system we have, and we ignore the fact that there are other varieties of democracy already out there in the world.
Two of the three winners of the Engaged Cities Award, given by the nonprofit organization Cities of Service, illustrate some of the possibilities. Both Santiago de Cali, in Colombia, and Bologna, Italy, demonstrate the power of putting citizens at the center of governance, giving them opportunities to engage that are meaningful, enjoyable, regular, and sustained.
Not too long ago, Cali was a city plagued by violence spilling over from drug wars and civil wars. It had a homicide rate of 15 per 100,000 inhabitants. Almost a third of the population came from places other than Cali, and there were regular conflicts between people from different places and cultures. Over 60 percent of Cali residents said they didn’t trust their neighbors.
To remedy an interrelated set of problems, Cali created a comprehensive system for local engagement. As part of a strategic planning process, they created a department and council devoted to “civic culture.” They conducted a comprehensive research process, reaching 30,000 people, to take stock of the civic landscape and find out what kinds of changes people supported.
The backbone of the new system is a set of “local councils for civic culture and peace,” with 15 councils each representing a district or "districto" that is made up of multiple neighborhoods. Unlike most neighborhood councils in the US, these councils are highly participatory and deliberative, and attract large numbers of people to their meetings and events. Each neighborhood develops a set of norms and “agreements of coexistence” to govern how they will work together. There is an explicit focus on engaging people of different “ethnic, cultural, artistic, religious and social groups.”
The councils make decisions on issues ranging from land use to waste management to environmental concerns. Neighborhoods also identify initiatives that they want to take on. The city supports these high-impact volunteering efforts with teams of professionals who help people plan, research and implement their ideas. Over 300 of those initiatives took place in the last year.
Each year, the work culminates with “Civic Culture Week,” a festival that attracts thousands of people.
The city developed a tool to measure progress called the “Diagnosis of Civic Culture.” Cali residents’ trust in their neighbors and perceptions of public safety have risen. Homicides and violent incidents are at their lowest levels in a decade.
In Bologna, a declining voter rate and increasing mistrust of government were signs of local civic decay. Rather than focusing solely on voter registration or electoral reforms, community leaders decided to be proactive about improving the relationship between residents and public institutions. The city adopted a “regulation on public collaboration between citizens and the City for the care and regeneration of urban commons” and created a new office for “civic imagination.”
To give this new vocabulary a real presence in the city, Bologna has a system of six District Labs which provide spaces for residents to develop plans, share information, make new connections and co-design collaborative projects for the improvement of the city’s physical infrastructure. The labs are considered the “antennae” of the neighborhoods, relaying ideas and concerns within the new engagement system.
In the last five years, 508 collaborative proposals have been developed and 357 have been implemented, with over 1,700 citizens participating in district meetings in the last year alone. The spinoff “Incredibol!” initiative, which called for the support of creative industries by allowing the re-use of public spaces to develop entrepreneurial projects, received 621 proposals, nominated 96 winners and assigned sixteen public spaces.
Alongside the district labs, Bologna has launched a citywide participatory budgeting process that also has engaged thousands of people. The city also uses a range of online tools, including direct emails, social media and a “Comunità” website to facilitate information-sharing and networking within and across districts.
A secret to the success of both Cali and Bologna is that, in those cities, engagement is fun. The Cali system capitalizes on the “recovery of streets and parks, murals, photographic exhibitions, soccer tournaments, gastronomic shows and festivals.” Bologna’s application for the Engaged Cities Award featured the roles played by artists, kindergarteners and cyclists.
Beyond the fun factor, local democracy in Cali and Bologna seems more vibrant because engagement in both cities is sustained and systemic, with a wide variety of opportunities for people to participate.
The third winner of the Engaged Cities Award, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, demonstrates another way to encourage and capitalize on citizen engagement. By creating a team of Urban Data Pioneers, they tapped the tech skills of people inside and outside City Hall. Through a range of new tools and apps, they are identifying and solving problems ranging from traffic incidents to blight.
A great virtue of the Engaged Cities Award, and the role played by Cities of Service in organizing it, is that it provides stories from near and far for spurring our civic imagination. If we are dissatisfied with the state of our democracy, there are inspiring examples to look to elsewhere, and many ways of improving public decision-making, problem-solving and community-building.
Friday, May 11th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA
saying the Trump era is ‘not normal’ or ‘not who we are.’ We’ve been here
before. (Washington Post)
Review of 'The Soul of America' by Jon Meacham and 'Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America' by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows.
Identity politics has
veered away from its roots. It's time to bring it back (The Guardian)
A misuse of identity is not just a conservative problem – it affects well-meaning people on the left, too.
to Get Beyond the Politics of Division
We need to value problem solving over partisanship. There are lessons to be learned from international negotiations.
He went from jail to a $22-an-hour
job. How can America get more stories like this? (Washington
Brian Potaczek recently bought his first box of Girl Scout cookies, a small act full of meaning for the 31-year-old from just outside Phoenix. A few years ago, he was addicted to opioids and in jail. Today Potaczek is an electrician with a steady job, earning enough money to do what many middle-class Americans do: Buy Girl Scout cookies and take his mom out for coffee.
Foundation Commits $158M To Economic Mobility (The
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $158 million over the next four years to identifying and breaking down barriers to domestic economic opportunity.
Income Inequality and
‘The Great Gatsby’ (The Market Mogul)
The years following the depression saw the inequality decline to a low of 8.9% of the total income being diverted towards the top 1%. The share of the even more elite 0.01% fell to an even lower 0.8%. However, these numbers seem to be on the rise.
students want community to take bias seriously (Press
The school has received “several thousand dollars from a Nellie Mae grant to try to actualize (any) ideas that come out of the day,” he added. The community dialogue is also being used as a kick-off for the sophomores’ new Arc Towards Justice learning expedition, Pierce said.
Citizens Equal Opportunities (Smart Cities Dive)
Cities must work hard to build trust with residents and manage their expectations when undertaking any projects, current and former government officials said at an event yesterday in Washington, DC.
Modern Congress Doesn't Understand 21st Century Technology
Facebook is a business that sells social connection, its algorithms are made for targeted advertising. The data that we users provide via friends, likes and shares makes their model lucrative. But connecting a person to a pair of shoes cannot be the same engagement algorithm that we use to build a cohesive democratic society.
Four Ways to Put Civics
Education Front and Center for Elementary Students (Education
What comes to mind when you think of civics? You might recall a dusty discussion of checks and balances or the branches of the U.S. government. While these are essential topics, teaching civics is also about imparting principles and values that inform daily life, guiding students to develop into thoughtful and caring adults.
million New York City program was supposed to prepare more black and Latino men
for college. But a new study found it didn’t. (Chalkbeat)
After four years and $24 million, the program has not lived up to its promise, according to a report released Wednesday by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Schools in the program turned out to be no better at preparing young men of color for college or helping them enroll than a group of similar schools that didn’t receive extra support.
school lunch for all, meant to reduce stigma, may also keep students healthier
In 2015, two Obama cabinet secretaries encouraged schools to try a new way of handling free lunch: give it to everyone, no family paperwork required. Now, a new study suggests the program succeeded on one dimension, making students in at least one state slightly healthier in the process.
US universities invest
in student entrepreneurship (Christian Science Monitor)
Almost half of all universities now have some sort of incubator or accelerator program to support student entrepreneurs. As venture capitalists invest heavily in entrepreneurs and the gig economy continues to grow, these programs have nurtured skills and created jobs.
textbooks? Federal government is on track with a pilot program.
The federal government’s first major investment in the free use of textbooks remains on track, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday in a letter examining a pilot program by the Education Department.
Without Debt (U.S. News & World Report)
Many students in Utah would rather reduce their credit hours or drop out than amass educational loans, experts say.
an Affordable Health Care System Requires More than Rounding Up the Usual
Health care is becoming less affordable every year. Over the past 10 years, national healthcare expenditures have grown 45 percent, but our economy has grown only 28 percent.
Transparency on quality
and price will transform medicine (Stat News)
Transparency is becoming a fashionable buzzword in many walks of life. In health care, it is rearranging the relationships between patients and those who care for them.
quiet nursing shortage threatening our health care system
With plenty of applicants to fill much needed positions, an educational bottleneck creates big holes
Monday, May 7th, 2018 | ANTONIO DIEP
As the public enjoys the brighter days of spring, leaders on Capitol Hill are weathering stormier times. Even while finding themselves in what is anticipated to be a momentous midterm year, both the executive and legislative branches are at an impasse on the issue of immigration.
Media narratives, pundits and voluble echoes of social media frame stalled talks as illustrative of a polarized and demanding public on the issue. But beyond the clamor, evidence reveals there is one topic within the issue of immigration that many Americans agree on: fixing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and providing relief to its estimated 689,000 recipients1, otherwise known as “Dreamers.”
While the extreme rhetoric surrounding DACA has surged, there’s been little action, despite consistent trends showing support for leaders to do something about the program and, in particular, to help its recipients. This has caused many in Washington to blame the opposing party or be dissuaded from doing anything at all—ignoring the will of the public.
As the election year progresses, all indications are pointing to a public ready to take action to help DACA recipients. A number of polls conducted throughout the year found strong and consistent support for Dreamers to stay in the country. For example:
- A recent NPR/Marist poll found that a majority—almost 80 percent—of Americans say it should be a priority for Congress to grant legal status to children who came with their parents to the U.S. illegally.
- In January, a CBS News poll found nearly nine in 10 Americans favored allowing immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay.
- Another January poll by Pew found that 74 percent of the American public favored granting permanent legal status to young children who came to the U.S. illegally.
- A February NPR/Ipsos poll found two-thirds of Americans support legal status for Dreamers.
Indeed, an overwhelming amount of surveys suggest the public are themselves engaged and willing to move the needle on a DACA resolution. Yet nothing meaningful has been accomplished. There have been bipartisan efforts, albeit imperfect ones, by a small coalition of lawmakers to come to a consensus. But such efforts continue to derail, leaving DACA recipients in limbo and making it even more unclear whether political leaders as a whole are prepared, or willing, to mobilize on an issue that has profound policy implications for the entire country.
Since the program was instituted in 2012 via an executive order by the Obama administration, DACA recipients (mostly ages 25 or younger2) have been able to remain in the country, obtain temporary work permits, earn income, pay taxes, access health services, pursue educational opportunities and enlist for military service. Regardless of political allegiance, Americans support enabling DACA recipients to continue to do so, perhaps because they recognize the valuable economic and practical impact Dreamers’ inclusion in society has on the country. Or maybe because they simply believe that it’s the right thing to do for law-abiding adults who were brought to the U.S. as children and have considered it their home for as long as they can remember.
When looking closer at the survey research, DACA appears to be an issue on which most Americans can find compromise. Independents, Democrats and Republicans mostly agree there should be some relief for the program’s recipients3. In listening to the opinion of the public, leaders have a real opportunity to leverage this common ground to shape policy reflective of the public will. But public opinion is not enough.
On the local level, people are wrestling with the issue of immigration on their own terms, trying to figure out what’s right for their community, not waiting for Congressional leaders to solve it for them. But national policy is important, and if lawmakers don’t deliver on what the public wants, Americans have an even greater opportunity this November to use their democratic voice to ensure they fill those seats on Capitol Hill with representatives who will deliver. Only by turning political talk into political action can the American people make clear that they will no longer tolerate political complacency from their elected officials.
There is no doubt immigration has always been and continues to be a polarizing issue for some citizens and certainly among political elites. But the considerable widespread support for a DACA fix shows that this issue, specifically, is a policy around which a minority is arguing loudly, drowning out the voices of the majority. It’s up to leaders in office to decide if they’re willing to tune out the zealous cries of the few and listen instead to the vast majority of those they represent.