The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (www.citizensleague.net)

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Saturday, August 17, 2002
 
Public Service Delivery. Japan Studies Privatization of Freeway System. The August 12 edition of The Nikkei Weekly described the Japanese government proposal to privatize the Japanese freeway and major road system in two phases. The first phase would involve shrinking the $333 billion dollar accumulated debt for the system with private operators running the system and the second would involve four separate private corporations. A similar effort is underway for the post office. Rail was privatized about a decade ago. Nikkei Weekly, August 12, 2002, p. 4. (114)

Friday, August 16, 2002
 
Public Service Delivery. Bill Coming in Congress to Accelerate e-Government. The US Congress will consider a bill in September designed to speed up the deployment of e-government infrastructure and encourage best practices through a new national loan scheme. The Nationwide Infrastructure Financing for E-Governance Transactions at Educational Institutions legislation would introduce funding and power to help state and local government acquire broadband network capacity, hardware and software to deliver e-government services to citizens through agencies such as schools and libraries. According to the draft bill, examples of services to be supported will include issuing marriage licenses, professional licenses, registrations, permits, deeds, titles, certificates, or records. The scheme also covers electronic benefits transfer, technology skills training, distance or life-long learning, business and industry educational needs. As a funding condition under the bill, government bodies would have to demonstrate that they can repay loans within ten years and that services could become self-sufficient with revenue streams. It is expected that revenues will come from fees paid by citizens, royalty and copyright payments on software they develop, and lease or franchise fees from corporate customers. For further information Congressman Robert Andrews, who is sponsoring the bill, can be contacted through his aide Carlos Fenwick on Carlos.Fenwick@mail.house.gov. (From E-Government Bulletin, August 16, 2002.) (113)



 
Technology and Law Enforcement. Public Space Video Surveillance. In the August 2002 issue of Governing, Anya Sostek wrote about the issue of video surveillance systems in the US and Europe. The claimed benefits of video surveillance are not only crime reduction but also citizens "feeling safer". In the UK there are 2.5 million cameras and in one three-year stretch they found almost a 20 percent drop in street crime. In the US context, we will have to come to a new balancing point between freedom and security with these technologies. One option could be a neighborhood referendum on "red light" running cameras and surveillance of high crime spots. Such a “bottom up” approach might minimize some concerns over “big brother”. The full article is at: http://governing.com/8surveil.htm. (112)

Thursday, August 15, 2002
 
Drivers of Change. New Report on the Digital Divide Among America's Children. The Annie E. Casey Foundation issued a report in June 2002 entitled: "Conncecting Kids to Technology: Challenges and Opportunities." In terms of states, New Hampshire ranks number one in home Internet access at 69% and Mississippi and Washington, D.C. are on the bottom at 31 percent. The report cites statistics that 8 of the 10 fastest growing job sectors require computer skills. Recommedations are made to state policy makers on increasing access and training of teachers in technology literacy skills. The full report is available at: http://www.aecf.org/publications/pdfs/snapshot_june2002.pdf.
(111)


Wednesday, August 14, 2002
 
Public Service Delivery. Balanced e-Government. The Bertelsmann Foundation based in Germany in March 2002 published a report entitled "Balanced E-Government - Connecting Efficient Administration and Responsive Democracy". The thrust of the report, which is filled with case examples, is that that new technologies -e-government - are not just being utilized to foster efficiency and quality of service but also provide the opportunity of improving the relationship and mutual understanding between governments and their citizens, and of invigorating the texture and quality of civic society. The full report may be found at: http://www.begix.de/en/frames/content.html. (110)

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
 
Taxation and Public Finance. Minnesota Planning Issues "Fiscal Facts: Minnesota State and Local Government Finance Trends". The Minnesota Planning report covers ten years of state and local spending in Minnesota ending in 1999. Although Minnesota continues to rank relatively high in total spending by state and local governments, the rate of increase was below the national average for state and local spending increases. Corrections and public welfare (health care) have been the fastest growing major spending areas. The full report is on the web at: http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/pdf/2002/FiscalFacts.pdf. (109)

Monday, August 12, 2002
 
Drivers of Change. Biotechnology Report from Brookings Institution. A recent report "Signs of Life" by the Joseph Cortwright and Heike Meyer examines the location and concentration of biotechnology industries in the US and the key conditions and factors necessary for regions to foster this type of development. The report found that biotechnology is concentrated in nine regions: Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle Washington and Baltimore. The full report may be accessed from: http://www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/urban/publications/biotech.htm. (108)

 
Public Safety. Cell Phones and Car Accidents. The National Conference of State Legislatures (www.ncsl.org) estimates that 80 million people own cellular telephones in the United States. Of that, they estimate that 85 percent of them use them while driving. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that there were 180 car crashes in 2000 where talking on a cellular phone or a CB radio by the driver contributed to the crash. However, this only accounted for less than 0.4 percent of all crashes within the state. Read more on the issue at www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/cellphdrvg.pdf. (107)

Sunday, August 11, 2002
 
Health Care. Decade After Health Care Crisis, Soaring Costs Bring New Strains. Writing in the August 10 issue of the New York Times, Robin Toner and Sheryl Gay Stolberg outline re-emergent strains in the health care system. Among the signs are: spending on health care rose faster in 2000 than at any time since 1993, health insurance premiums rose an average of 11 percent last year, and are expected to rise another 13 percent this year, and employers are beginning to pass on those higher costs to their workers, in the form of higher co-payments and deductibles. Many of the obvious cost containment strategies have been tried. In the words of Drew Altman, president of a health research group "No one has a big new answer on what to do about health care costs. And it's all made worse because health costs are rising in bad economic times." Congress and the states have their work cut out for them in addressing health care costs in the coming decade. The full story is at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/11/health/11HEAL.html?pagewanted=1&todaysheadlines. (106)