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, September 06, 2002
K-12 Education. Report on Ingredients for Achievement in Urban Schools. Of the 16,850 public school districts in the United States, a mere one hundred of these serve approximately 23 percent of the nation's students. These districts serve 40 percent of the country's minority students and 30 percent of the economically disadvantaged students. In the case of the two core districts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, about half of the ninth graders finish high school successfully in four years. A recent report by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation presented case studies of how urban school systems can improve student achievement. The common strategies for success across the case studies included the following elements: (1) they focused on student achievement and specific achievement goals, on a set schedule with defined consequences; aligned curricula with state standards; and helped translate these standards into instructional practice; (2) they created concrete accountability systems that went beyond what the states had established in order to hold district leadership and building-level staff personally responsible for producing results; (3) they focused on the lowest-performing schools; (4) hey adopted or developed district wide curricula and instructional approaches rather than allowing each school to devise their own strategies; (5) they supported these district wide strategies at the central office through professional development and support for consistent implementation throughout the district; (6)they drove reforms into the classroom by defining a role for the central office that entailed guiding, supporting, and improving instruction at the building level; (7) they committed themselves to data-driven decision-making and instruction; (8) they gave early and ongoing assessment data to teachers and principals as well as trained and supported them as the data were used to diagnose teacher and student weaknesses and make improvements; (9)they started their reforms at the elementary grade levels instead of trying to fix everything at once; and (10) they provided intensive instruction in reading and math to middle and high school students, even if it came at the expense of other subjects. The executive summary and links to the full report are on the web at:

Metropolitan Regional Development and Urban Form. Dramatic Rise Predicted in Demand for Compact Walkable Neighborhoods. Dowell Myers, Professor at the University of Southern California has conducted research showing that interest in walkable communities will rise dramatically over the coming years and that those over 45 show particular interest in more densely configured homes in more central locations. The over 45 market segment will account for almost one third of the market by 2010. The full paper is on the web at: (137)

Thursday, September 05, 2002
Public Services. Air Travel Security Fails Big Test. Over the past Labor Day weekend, New York Daily News reporters boarded flights carrying box cutters, razor knives and pepper spray to test the supposedly more stringent security imposed at the nation's airports after the September 11 attacks. Six major airlines and eleven airports were tested including the four where the September 11 terrorists boarded planes. Over the fourteen flights not once did airport security spot or confiscate any of the dangerous items, all of which have been banned from airports and planes by federal authorities. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports also failed, as did major international hubs in Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas. The full story is at: (136)

Wednesday, September 04, 2002
K-12 Education. Maine Sets Goal of Computer Per Student. Greg McDonald writing in reported that starting this fall 18,000 Maine seventh graders will each get a new laptop computer on their desk under a state program. The Maine Learning and Technology Initiative aims at giving young public school students the tools and training they’ll need to enter a global economy that’s shifting toward more technical- and intellectual-based jobs. Started as a pilot project last March in nine schools, the initiative has grown to become the largest educational program in the state’s history. Its official launch today (9/3) will encompass 239 middle schools throughout the state. State officials estimate it will cost about $300 a year for each participating student. The full article is at: (135)

Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Elections. Midwest could upset DC. A recent report issued by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato declared Iowa and Minnesota as the two states with the most power to decide how the U.S. Congress looks in January. This sort of power usually rests with states like California and New York. However, this year, Iowa and Minnesota have to of the closest Senate elections in the nation: Coleman/Wellstone Minnesota and Ganske/Harkin in Iowa. Both states also carry several House elections that could tip the balance of power for that chamber. Does this mean the problems faced in the Midwest will have more attention over the next few years? We will just have to wait and see. (134)

Public Transportation. Transit police beef up presence in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. A September 2, 2002 Star Tribune article describes a beefing up of transit police in the two core cities. Since May, three transit officers have patrolled downtown St. Paul full time, particularly the transfer points near 5th and 6th Sts., on Robert, Minnesota and Cedar Streets. Three other officers work full time in downtown Minneapolis, and four others roam the system. They are part of a new 10-person team of full-time Metro Transit officers hired to supplement the dozens of part-time officers who patrol bus routes throughout the seven-county area. Metro Transit officials added the new full-time shifts in May partly in response to allegations that the part-time officers had spent more time in patrol cars than on buses or at bus stops. Pressure from St. Paul business leaders was another factor, said new Metro Transit Police Chief Jack Nelson, who made the full-time positions one of his top priorities. Bill Buth, director of St. Paul's Building Owners and Managers Association, was outspoken about the need for an increased police presence at the bus stops. "There'd been a lot of unacceptable behavior in the shelters and it was subjecting people to antisocial behavior," Buth said. "It wasn't always highly illegal behavior, but it was drinking, smoking, foul language, fighting and vandalism, and people were saying they wouldn't ride the bus or go into the transit stations." If public transportation is to remain or become a viable option to the car, the riding public needs to feel secure in using the system. The full article is on the web at: (133)

Monday, September 02, 2002
Energy and Environment. California Legislature Passes Computer Recycling Law. On August 31, the California legislature passed a law on computer recycling and sent it on to Governor Gray Davis. The law places a ten dollar fee on sales of computer monitors and televisions. Whether the Governor will sign the measure is unknown. The full article is online at: (132)

Sunday, September 01, 2002
Public Transportation. How Real Are Transit Gains? Writing in the March 2002 issue of Governing Magazine, columnist Anthony Downs looked behind the claims of major gains in transit ridership in several major US cities. A Surface Transportation Policy Project report in December 2000 showed public transit boardings rose 4.8 percent in 1999 while vehicle miles of driving rose only 2.1 percent. The STPP said, “No precedent exists for this massive shift in travel behavior” after reporting in November 2001 that there were larger percentage increases in transit usage than highway travel in 2000 and 2001. To put the "road versus transit" numbers in perspective there are several useful background facts. First, a significant percentage of all public transit travel occurs in the New York City area which accounts for 20 percent of all U.S. transit passenger miles and more than 27 percent of all unlinked passenger trips. So, although about 5 percent of all commuting is done by public transit nationally, that fraction is only 2.2 percent excluding New York. Second, the absolute amount of total travel in private automobiles dwarfs public transit’s totals. In 2000, transit provided about 46.6 billion miles of movement while passenger miles traveled in the same year on highways totaled about 4 trillion — 2.5 trillion in cars and another 1.5 trillion in small trucks and SUVs. That’s 86 times greater than passenger miles on transit. In fact, transit’s share of all passenger miles traveled in the U.S. from 1985 through 2000 averaged only 1.26 percent. Consequently, even very small percentage gains in highway travel involve vastly larger absolute increases in miles traveled than much larger percentage gains in transit travel. Downs closes his column by saying: "Improving and expanding the nation’s public transit systems and upgrading their images are worthwhile goals that deserve significant effort and intensive promotion. And all special interest groups have a “natural” tendency to overemphasize both the virtues and success of their causes in order to gain attention. But it is also a good idea to retain a statistically accurate and objective understanding of the facts when dealing with such complex and controversial issues, especially those that involve billions of taxpayer dollars." The full column is available at: (131)