The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Friday, June 14, 2002
The Economy. Auto Production Productivity. Nissan topped the list of auto manufacturers in the US taking an average of 29.0 hours to build a vehicle and DaimlerChrysler sixth at 44.3 hours per vehicle. While US automakers are said to be closing in on productivity, the top three slots are all held by Japanese based firms. (USA Today, June 14, p 3B).

Human Services. Foster Care Explodes. The number of children placed in foster care has jumped from 302,000 in 1980 to 565,000 in 2001 driven in part by crack cocaine. The percentages of children in foster care by race or ethnicity are: African American 38%, Caucasian 35%, Hispanic 15%, unknown 9%, Native American 2% and Asian and Pacific Islander 1%. The average age of a child in foster care is 10. See more on the topic in:

Thursday, June 13, 2002
Human Services. US Highest in OECD Child Poverty Rates. Writing in the June 13, 2002 New York Times, Jeff Madrick reported on a study at Syracuse University that looked at poverty rates in the economically advanced countries. When taking into account cash and non-cash income and adjusting for "purchasing power parity" the US ranks first in child poverty at 14.8% of children and Sweden lowest at 1.3%. Further, infant mortality rates in the US are just slightly better than Cuba for a 33rd place in the world. Madrick closes with: "Child poverty remains one of America's most stunning failures." Well but sadly said. The full article is available at:

Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Transportation and Transit. Carpoolers Greatly Outnumber Transit Riders. Laurie Blake in her Sunday, June 9, 2002 column in the StarTribune cited statistics on carpoolers versus transit. Portland, Oregon had 12 percent of commuters in carpools versus 6 percent in transit; Dallas 14 percent in carpools versus 2 percent transit, San Diego 10 percent carpoolers versus 2 percent transit and Denver 14 percent carpools versus 4 percent transit. For the 11 county Twin Cities metropolitan area, 70,973 or 4.6 percent of commuters took transit to work (barely an increase from 1990's 68,941) but carpools took 153,567 up by more than 10,000 from 1990 at 10 percent of commuters. It would make sense to make sure that we are using all the inducements, such as Portland's ubiquitous red curb cheap meter parking for car pool vehicles, to get the extra 50% of carpoolers in other cities.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Health and Human Services. Bringing Information Technology to Healthcare. Writing in the June 10, 2002 Wall Street Journal, Laura Landro described the drive to bring information technology to health care. In the Twin Cities we hear an almost weekly drum beat of health care staff shortages beginning with a major shortage of nursing staff. If a good part of staff time is spent in "paper and pencil" record keeping and with major shortages of staff present or looming, getting information technology in place is a high priority. As of 2002, 13% of hospitals surveyed had a fully operational computerized patient record (CPR) while the majority of the remaining hospitals had begun installation or had development plans in place.

Metropolitan Governance and Development. Citizens Invited to Participate in Online Metro Council Forum. As part of efforts to shape planning for 2030 in our region the Metropolitan Council is launching an online forum for citizen discussions on the many aspects of "smart growth" involving using less new land for population growth. Sign up for the online discussion forum at:

Monday, June 10, 2002
Transportation and Energy. Dissent on the Promise of Hybrid Gasoline Electric Vehicles. Jerry Flint writing in the June 3, 2002 issue of Forbes magazine cites General Motors’ chief engineer as saying that hybrids could improve fuel economy by 12%. While Honda Civic hybrids on the market here in Minnesota get about 50 miles per gallon, most US vehicles are much larger and the cost offsets of gasoline savings would not be enough to pay for the complex hybrid technology. Time will tell whether the major investments in on the road hybrid vehicles by two major Japanese makers will have been farsighted or foolhardy. The full article is at:

Sunday, June 09, 2002
The Economy: Technology. Cyc Learns Common Sense. A $60 million project called Cyc, pronounced "psych" is trying to teach a computer common sense. Project staff has been feeding a database named Cyc 1.4 million truths and generalities about daily life so it can automatically make assumptions humans make. The core of the approach involves recognition of patterns and application of sets of rules. Cyc will ask questions as part of its learning process. The field of so-called "artificial intelligence" is making progress and can certainly add value in our knowledge economy. More on the story is at: