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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Saturday, August 03, 2002
Transportation Transit. Honda Hydrogen Fuel Cell Automobile Certified in US. An article in Motor Trend online dated July 25, 2002 reported that the Honda FCX has become the first fuel cell vehicle in the world to receive government certification, paving the way for the commercial use of fuel cell vehicles, announces American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have certified the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX as meeting all applicable standards. The FCX has been certified by CARB as a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV). "This is an important milestone for the automobile industry that holds the promise of cleaner air for all Americans," says Jeff Holmstead, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "While there still remains much work ahead to make fuel cell vehicles a mainstream transportation option, this certification is an important first step." Honda will start a lease program for a limited number of FCXs in the U.S and Japan by the end of this year. During the first two-to-three-year period, Honda will lease about 30 fuel cell vehicles in California and the Tokyo metropolitan area, two locations with access to a hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure. The company currently has no plans, however, for mass-market sales of fuel cell vehicles. Honda was the first to sell a gasoline-electric "hybrid" car in the U.S. -- the Insight -- and earlier this year added the Civic Hybrid, the first mass-market hybrid model. The EPA has also recognized the Civic GX natural gas vehicle, which went on sale in 1998, as having the cleanest internal combustion engine ever tested. A photo of the Honda FCX vehicle is at: (95)

Friday, August 02, 2002
Transportation and Transit. Hybrid Buses Yield Lower Emissions and Greater Fuel Efficiency. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy's found that hybrid buses operate with lower emissions and greater fuel efficiency than conventional diesel buses. The study evaluated the performance of 10 prototype diesel hybrid-electric buses in the New York City Transit fleet. Hybrid buses showed 10 percent higher fuel economy and in-service fuel economy. According to chassis dynamometer emissions 36 percent lower oxides of nitrogen and 50 percent lower particulate matter emissions than diesel buses. New York City Transit has awarded contracts for an additional 125 hybrid buses in 2002 and 200 hybrid buses in 2003. A two page summary of the report may be found at: (94)

State Government. Statewide Debates. According to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, only 18 percent of statewide debates are televised on network television, while another 18 percent are on PBS or independent stations. That leaves 63 percent of some of the most important debates untelevised. (93)

Thursday, August 01, 2002
State Government. Minnesota Governor Candidates Debate. On Wednesday, July 31 Twin Cities Public Television Almanac show hosted the first televised debate of the 2002 campaign to feature the endorsed candidates of all four of Minnesota's major political parties: Roger Moe, Tim Pawlenty, Tim Penny and Ken Pentel. Minnesota is a "strong governor" state with the governor having a good deal of power in shaping state policy. The 83rd session of the Legislature in 2003 will be the first featuring a majority suburban legislature and will deal with a new governor and if current projections hold out, another large budget shortfall. The first debate may be viewed on the web at: (92)

Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Public Service. The Council of State Governments and National Conference of State Legislatures recently issued an Internal Guidance Document titled "Driver's License Integrity". The report considers ideas for improving the integrity of state issued identification in light of developments surrounding 9/11. The report summarizes legislation proposed in 44 of the states, including Minnesota, since 2001 dealing with drivers’ licenses and state issued identification. It also discusses three proposed bills that would federalize the drivers licensing process for the United States. The full report is available at (91)

Metropolitan Region. County Steps Up to Land Preservation. On November 5, 2002 Dakota County residents will get to vote in a referendum to authorize 20 million dollars in bonds to purchase and preserve natural areas and farmland in the county. Citizens of the county in a resident survey ranked preservation as very important. The referendum arose from a two year planning process with many partners. If passed, the referendum would result in a property tax increase each year for ten years of approximately $17 per year for the median valued home ($176,500) in Dakota County. The approved plan is on the web at: (90)

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Post-Secondary Education. Interim University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks Interviewed. The July 29, 2002 issue cover story of the Minnesota Daily is an interview with Robert Bruininks, the University’s interim president appointed two months ago when Mark Yudof left for the University of Texas System. Since 1980, Dr. Bruininks observes, state funding for higher education has declined 25% in real dollars. He expresses optimism that this trend can be halted and reversed. The full interview is at: (89)

Metropolitan Region. Hennepin County and Minneapolis Explore Merging Functions. Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat and Mayor R.T. Rybak and other city officials hope to begin discussions by mid-August on merging some city and county functions. It is becoming increasly clear that we live in an urban region and municipal boundaries -- all 200 of them in our metropolitan region – matter less than they once did. Some of the easy pickings for merger opportunities include combining city and county health departments and job training efforts. It also makes sense to explore a single library system and pursue closer coordination on housing issues and the urban park system. While this may seem a highly ambitious undertaking, it bears noting that our region now has more people than did New York City leading up to the mega-merger of 1899 that created a single super-county with five boroughs. The Star Tribune editorial from July 21, 2002 on city and county merger efforts may be found at: (88)

Monday, July 29, 2002
Health and Human Services. Drug Rehab Fights Crime. The August 5, 2002 issue of Business Week reports on a study of the benefits of drug rehabilitation by Mireia Jofre-Bonet and Jody L. Sinclair of the Yale School of Public Health. They examined data from 3,500 inner-city drug users in Philadelphia from April 1985 through May 1998. They found that treatment of drug users reduced crime committed by those treated by 51%. They also noted that a year in jail costs $23,000 and a year of methadone treatment for heroin addiction costs $3,000. (87)

Sunday, July 28, 2002
K-12 Education. Public School Reform: Charter Schools Versus Private School Vouchers. Ember Reichgott Junge, former DFL state senator from New Hope, who was the lead author of the legislation that created charter schools in Minnesota wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday, July 28, 2002 Star Tribune comparing charters and private school vouchers. Reichgott Junge argues that charters perform better in innovation, enhancing competition, accountability and access than do private vouchers. As a note, in the next decade as public school enrollments plateau and decline, charter school impacts should rise as competition over fewer students intensifies. The opinion piece concludes: "at best, urban voucher programs are a short-term fix for a small number of students. Public charter schools are stimulating long-term change in American public education." This claim will surely be put to the test in the coming decade. The full piece is at: (86)