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, September 14, 2002
Post-Secondary Education. Annual Rankings Dust Up. The annual ranking of post-secondary institutions by the US News and World report has been issued to the usual barrage of complaints, particularly from those institutions ranked lower than they feel they deserve. For the third consecutive year, Princeton University topped the magazine's list. Harvard and Yale tied for second place. U.S. News Managing Editor Brian Kelly said he regrets the emphasis placed on the rankings each year by schools and the media. However, he also maintained the rankings help parents and high school students make an objective choice in the college selection process. "The point of the critics is that this is not a valid way to look at colleges," Kelly said. "They say you have to look at what kids are actually learning and what their experiences are on campus, how much time are they spending with professors and so forth. Well, that's a nice notion, but to actually quantify that is very difficult, if not impossible." That full story from CNN is at: The top five ranked public universities for doctoral programs were: 1. University of California–Berkeley; 2. University of Virginia; 3. Univ. of California–Los Angeles; 4. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor; and 5. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was ranked 34 and the University of Minnesota did not rank in the top 50. The annual rankings themselves may be found at: (145)

Friday, September 13, 2002
Demographics. Life Expectancy Hits 76.9 Years for Americans. A report released in September 2002 by the National Center for Health Statistics found that life expectancy has reached a record 76.9 years in 2000. Life expectancy gaps between men and women and black and white Americans are narrowing. Additionally at age 65 Americans have an additional life expectancy of 17.9 years. The full report is online at: (144)

Thursday, September 12, 2002
Public Services and Infrastructure. Atlanta's Private Water Service Woes. While private water supply can work well, the entire French water system has been private historically, US experienced in water service privatization is mixed. Atlanta plans to spend nearly $1 million to hire inspectors to double-check work by United Water Services Unlimited. Mayor Shirley Franklin, who has threatened to fire Atlanta for what she sees as years of shoddy work, will ask the Atlanta City Council on Monday to hire a firm to dog United Water over the next 90 to 120 days. Franklin said monitoring United Water will be costly but necessary if Atlanta is to be certain the company lives up to the terms of the $21 million-a-year, 20-year privatization pact. "The city has found in the past it has not had all of the information it needs to judge the performance of United Water," Franklin said. "This is a major investment. It's a major water system. We are in the business of making sure United Water is not cutting any corners." Privatization left the Water Department with only three inspectors and 10 managers. Atlanta residents, builders and business owners have complained for years about the quality of United Water's customer service and maintenance. The full story and source for this item may be found at (143)

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Remembrance. On the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks it is a time to reflect. As a nation we have risen to the challenges posed and are more united than before the attacks. The many personal tragedies produced on that day of course will never be forgotten. As someone who stayed in the hotel in the World Trade Center two months before the attack and who shopped across the street, it has an additional poignancy. At the time of the attack I was in Cape Town, South Africa at a conference on outcomes measurement in public services. It felt very, very far away. There is much to reflect on. (Lyle Wray) (142)

Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Public Services. Self-Serve Public Employee Support Services. Ellen Perlman in the September 2002 issue of Governing wrote on the efforts of various states to have employee support functions often done by human resources staff set up as "self serve" on the web. Choosing health plans, retirement benefits calculations are only several of the possibilities. The state of Virginia estimated that their EmployeeDirect program on the web saved $40,000 in one month on open enrollment for health plans. Much more remains to be done with great potential savings. The full column is at: (141)

Monday, September 09, 2002
Post-Secondary Education: Access. Minnesota Ranks High on Low-Income Student Access to Higher Education But Dropping. Minnesota ranks seventh in the US in the proportion of low-income students who attended college according to a report cited in the Star Tribune on Septembe9, 2002. The national average is 23 percent while for Minnesota it is 36 percent. However, Minnesota had a drop of almost 12% in low-income students going on to higher education in a recent two-year period for the seventh highest reduction of access in the US. Given the correlation between education and future family income, this is a critically important "pulse" to be tracking. A downward trend combined with about fifty percent on time completion rate from high school in our two core cities is grounds for concern. The full story may be found at: (140)

Sunday, September 08, 2002
Public Services. States and Localities Figuring Out Government to Citizen e-Government. In a special report in the September 2002 issue of Governing, Ellen Perlman described how states are making progress on providing citizens with services online. "The learning curve for operating online may have been on the flat side at first, but several states and larger localities are now speeding ahead electronically. They have Web pages that allow citizens to renew driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations — and pay any fees involved as well. There are systems that automatically push requested information, such as notices of school closings or reminders that property taxes are due, directly to a citizen’s pager or mobile phone — or both. Some sites make it possible for a citizen to set up a personalized Web page that is filled with the particular information that that user would like to receive regularly from his or her government, such as notice of traffic tie-ups or winning lottery numbers. And there is at least one government site that offers real-time help through an online chat function." The full article is at: (139)