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, February 01, 2003
Demographics. Hispanics Now Largest Minority Group in U.S. Last week the Census Bureau announced that the Hispanic population had jumped to 37 million for the first time surpassing African Americans (with 36.2 million) as the largest minority group in the United States. See: (311)

Friday, January 31, 2003
Healthcare: Opinion Piece Calls for Mandatory Health Insurance. Ted Halstead of the New American Foundation wrote an opinion piece entitled: "To Guarantee Universal Coverage, Require It" for the January 31, 2003 New York Times. In Halstead's view the grand bargain underlying compulsory health insurance would be universal coverage in exchange for universal responsibility. There are some interesting facts on who the uninsured are in the U.S. Of the 41 million Americans without health insurance two-thirds are below the age of 35 and a third have annual incomes of more than $50,000. Moving to mandatory health insurance would change our entire healthcare framework. We would no longer need to maintain a separate Medicaid system for the very poor. Insurers would have to accept all comers and be prevented from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The full piece may be found at: The New America Foundation homepage is at: (310)

Thursday, January 30, 2003
Post-Secondary Education. U.S. 10th in Post-Secondary Entry Rates. In the January 26, 2003 issue of the London Sunday Times, entry rates to higher education were listed for 14 countries with advanced economies. Entry rates varied from a high of 71% in Finland to a low of 29% in Denmark. The U.S. rate of 43% placed 10th in the list. Source: U.K. Department for Education and Skills cited in the January 26, 2003 Sunday Times, p. 1-17. (309)

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Public Services and Technology. Automated Passport Checks. A Reuter’s news story on January 29, 2003 detailed Australia's launch of the world's first automated passport checks using facial-recognition technology. At a cost of U.S. $708,000 the new SmartGate kiosk scans passport photos and compares them with the faces of travelers. This replaces manual checks by customs officers at Sydney airport. The first phase of the project will apply only to crewmembers of national flag carrier Qantas Airways. It is likely to be expanded to staff of other international airlines, and other Australian airports, by 2004. The full story may be found at: A link to the Australian Minister for Immigration and Customs webpage on the topic may be found at: (308)

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
The Economy and Workforce: Upper Midwest Brain Drain. Ron Wirtz wrote a cover story for the January 2003 issue of Fedgazette on brain drain and measures to reduce it in the upper Midwest region. In the ten years from 1989 to 1999 Minnesota had a net gain of 141,055 for the only net gainer in the region. In a knowledge economy producing and holding onto graduates is of great significance. The full article may be read at: (307)

Economic Development. Five States Get Perfect Score on Economic Development. A report released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development used 71 criteria to measure state's economic development in business vitality, development capacity and performance. The CFED report stated that: "states that have historically invested in the building blocks of long-term economic development, including K-12 education, world-class universities, good roads, and research and development, appear to be performing better overall than their peers, despite hard economic times." The five states with a perfect score were: Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Virginia. The full report may be found at: (306)

Transportation. Seattle Considers Congestion Road Pricing. The plan being considered by state engineers involves tolls for special highway lanes and on some roads during peak times. Two lanes in each direction on Interstate 405 in the greater Seattle area would cost 5 to 29 cents a mile but the lanes would be free at night. Two highways in Southern California have variably priced tolls that become more expensive, up to $8, as traffic increases. An electronic sign flashes the current price. For the full report in Minnesota Planning IssueWatch see: (305)

Monday, January 27, 2003
Public Services and Technology: Half of Minnesotans to e-File Taxes for First Time. An AP news story on January 27, 2003 reports that for the first time more than half of Minnesotans will file their taxes online. In 2002 more than a million Minnesotans filed their state and federal tax forms electronically, while 1.4 million filed them on paper. Processing a paper form costs $3.88 on average but electronically filed forms cost only $1.24 to process. Source: (304)

Public Services: Governing Grading of U.S. Counties Published -- Hennepin Gets a B. Minnesota's only county on the list of larger counties, Hennepin, earned an overall grade of B in the February 2002 report by Governing Magazine. The 2003 report should be out shortly for comparison. The full report from 2002 may be found at: (303)

Sunday, January 26, 2003
Transportation. Count Down to London's Congestion Pricing. In less than a month the City of London will charge a daily fee of five British Pounds for access to the central section of the region. Up to 200,000 drivers will have to pay for access. Exemptions for public transportation and deep discounts for the residents of the targeted area will be offered. Registering online for the payment system is at As was reported in the Sunday Times, traffic in London on average moves about the same rate as when it was provided by horses and carriages. The Sunday Times, January 26, 2003. (302)