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 22, 2003
Post-Secondary Education. HOPE: Georgia State Legislators Fret Over How to Keep HOPE Alive. An article in the February 21, 2003 Atlanta Constitution describes legislative discussion of the Georgia HOPE program that pays tuition and fee costs for all students in the state who had and maintain a B average. The HOPE program, begun in 1993 and funded from state lottery proceeds, has paid college tuition for about 700,000 Georgians over the last 10 years. Georgia is struggling with a $620 million shortfall in the state budget. In state fiscal year 1998-99, the state spent about $219 million on lottery-funded college scholarship programs. There were about 145,000 HOPE recipients that year. For the 2002-2003 fiscal year, the scholarship budget is projected to be about $440 million, covering nearly 263,000 recipients. The full article may be found at: (331)

Friday, February 21, 2003
Public Services and Technology. Mobile Phone Rent Reminders 'Better Than Paper'. A program to send council rent payment reminders to young people via mobile phone text message has been launched by Fife Council in Scotland. Under the program, tenants between the ages of 16 and 25 received a message that says 'please contact X' and provides a phone number. If no payment was forthcoming, a second reminder was sent. So far, messages have been sent to 50 people in the Cardenden and Kirkcaldy West districts. Raymond Mann, housing manager, said that the response has been better than it has been in the past using paper reminders. However he said before the pilot program can be extended across more districts in Fife, data protection issues needed to be clarified and improved software installed. Fife is also exploring how the council can make better use of email to contact tenants in serious arrears, Mann said. For further details you may consult: (330)

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Health Care. Medicare: More May Not Be Better Study Finds Increased Spending Doesn't Equal Better Health. A National Public Radio report on February 17, 2003 on a Dartmouth Medical School report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine attempted to answer the question: are people better off if they live where rates of surgery or hospital use or diagnostic tests are high? The short answer is no. "Medicare enrollees who lived in regions with more intense practice patterns received more care, but they didn't get better care," said Dartmouth researcher Dr. Elliott Fisher, who led the five-year study. "On most measures, both the quality of care and outcomes of care were better in the more conservative regions." The full story may be found at: The map of the U.S. showing levels of expenditure on care may be found at: (329)

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
K-12 Education. Alternative Schools Surpass Private School Enrollments in Minnesota. In the third of a series of four articles for the Pioneer Press, Stacy Becker describes a national trend to alternative schools. She indicates the fully one-third of Americans have given up reforming the existing school system and believe that an alternative should be found. Alternative schools by legislation are designed for "at-risk" students and in Minnesota now serve more than 100,000 students on at least a part-time basis. This dwarfs the 15,000 students being home-schooled and the 13,000 that attend charter schools. The full article may be found at: (328)

Transportation. Hybrid Buses in Twin Cities. Karen Youso wrote on hybrid buses for the February 18, 2003 Star Tribune in "Fixit: Hybrid city buses should save energy, reduce pollution." Twin Cities Metro Transit has been testing buses powered by a combination of diesel fuel and electricity since late December, said Bob Gibbons, a Metro Transit spokesman. Eventually, the test will involve three buses on routes that operate through downtown Minneapolis. Officials expect the hybrid buses to average 5.2 miles a gallon compared with the 3.7 miles per gallon of the standard diesel-powered buses. Because hybrid buses use electricity to pull away from a stop and get to speed, they should generate less noise and odor than do conventional buses. The average bus stops and pulls away from stops about 500 times a day, so reductions in noise and emissions could be significant. The electricity to power the bus comes from batteries in front of the rear wheels. They're charged, in part, when the brakes are used. The full piece may be found: (327)

Monday, February 17, 2003
State Budgets. Wisconsin Governor Pushes 7% Cut in Local Aid. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle will recommend a $70 million cut in state aid to local governments for 2004 which represents a 7 percent cut in the $1 billion promised to cities, counties, villages and towns. A spokesman for the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities said mayors had feared a deeper cut of $100 million or even more. This is much less than a proposal floated in Minnesota by the State Auditor calling for a 43% cut in state aid. The full Wisconsin story may be read at: (326)

Sunday, February 16, 2003
Transportation. Congestion Pricing: London's Big Gamble. An editorial in the February 16, 2003 New York Times describes London's congestion pricing program launching tomorrow, February 18. Those drivers coming into a 10-square-mile area of central metropolitan London will have to pay the equivalent of $8 per day. The goal is to speed up traffic and to redistribute $300 million gained from the program to improve public transportation. The full editorial may be found at: (325)