Thursday, September 27, 2012

Community Needs Assessment: Health

One nice thing about being on the board of TCA is the access to tons of data about the area. Every year they put together a comprehensive community needs assessment that contains charts, graphs, and stats on the county as a whole, particularly with regard to poverty. The figures derive from all kinds of places, from the U.S. Census to TCAD to the Housing Coalition. I'll post a few interesting stats from time to time. Here are today's.

In 2009, the number of uninsured persons in Tompkins County was 9,274, or 10.5 percent of the eligible population. That's a little under the 13 percent statewide or the 12 percent nationwide. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau) Births to teens in 2007 were 45, or about 5 percent of live births. (One of O's classmates just posted her sonogram.) Statewide, the percentage was closer to 7. That same year, only one new mother in the county received no prenatal care, and 3 percent received care only in the third trimester, compared to 5 percent statewide.

In Tompkins County, 8,251 people received Medicaid in 2010—about 81 per 1,000 population, or less than half the percentage statewide. As I've always contended, the county has a higher number of mental health professionals per 1,000 persons than the state as a whole (0.33 compared to 0.32), but our number of physicians and assistants lags behind the state average, at 2.68 per 1,000 compared to 3.99 per 1,000. We're behind in dentists and nurses too, but well ahead in physical, occupational, and especially massage therapists.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kooky Gary Johnson

He doesn't go to church. He doesn't like big government. He is pro-choice and favors legalizing marijuana. As a two-term governor of New Mexico, he vetoed 750+ bills that would have increased the size of government. And he's on the ballot in 47 states as the Libertarian Party's candidate for President of the United States.

There's really only been one third-party candidate in recent history who made any difference at all, and that was Ross Perot in 1992. He earned 18.9 percent of the popular vote, and if he took that away almost exclusively from GW Bush, it's possible that he handed things to Clinton. In comparison, in 2000, the race was far closer between Bush and Gore, but Ralph Nader took only 2.74 percent of the popular vote. Since Gore won the popular vote but lost by 5 electoral votes, it's not really possible to make a case that Nader blew it for Gore.

Is Gary Johnson any kind of threat? Not really. I'm betting that more people write in Ron Paul than mark an X for Johnson. And it's really unclear where his constituency lies—with liberals who don't like Obama but love a balanced budget? with conservatives who hate taxes but don't mind abortion? He lost my vote when he said "I have smoked marijuana and I have drank alcohol" on NPR. A would-be president should lead the way grammatically.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NYS Schools by the Numbers

Here's an interesting map from the watchdog Citizens Budget Commission. See how your district measures up.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Neck-and-Neck Campaigns

It lifts my spirits to see these particular campaigns closer than one might expect.

Michele Bachmann v. Jim Graves

Eric Cantor v. Wayne Powell

Paul Ryan v. Rob Zerban

And the latest polls have Elizabeth Warren leading Scott Brown, finally.

LATER: And another!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

90 Days 90 Reasons

Thanks to Jason for this one, a daily reminder from now until the election.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cornell Arts Quad 9/11/12

Choice v. Desperation

With Mayor Rahm Emanuel declaring Chicago's teachers' strike one of choice, it's worth a look backward to see how things got where they are. Lots of people in NYS are surprised that teachers are allowed to strike anywhere, but in fact, NYS is in the minority. In our case, it was a transit strike that led to 1967's Taylor Law, which ironically has become the bane of anti-unioner's existence in several regards. The Taylor Law does not allow any public sector union to call a strike--not police, firefighters, teachers, bus drivers.... at the same time, it grants all public employees the right to unionize and negotiate, and its Triborough Amendment ensures that in the event of lack of a contract, the previous contract stands indefinitely, making certain negotiations extremely difficult. The Taylor Law makes strikes illegal, which does not mean there haven't been teacher strikes in NYS since 1967, but in most cases, fines have been imposed on striking workers once any such strike was settled.

Chicago is one of many cities whose mayor now controls the schools. Others include Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Jackson, LA, NYC, Philadelphia, and Providence. Daley II took over Chicago schools in 1995, citing low test scores. Removing the elected board of education removes public education from direct public control. On the other side of the coin, an elected mayor often has a far bigger mandate than any school board member, who might typically be elected by 5 to 10 percent of the voting population.

Although there have been interviews with teachers complaining about class sizes and the length of the school day, which Mayor Rahm extended, the main sticking points seem to be what happens to laid-off teachers (are they placed in a pool for the next vacancy; can they receive a lump-sum payment; what if there's no room for them in the system; what happens to my class sizes if you close schools, get rid of teachers, and move the kids to my school) and how teachers are evaluated (the equivalent of NYS's APPR system, which is causing major agita around our state as well).

Chicago's teachers make what looks like a good living to people in upstate NY, whose average salary falls below the $50K+ that a starting Chicago teacher without a Master's degree makes fresh out of school. However, Chicago does not reward longevity the way some other cities do; after 25 years, a teacher in NYC will typically make more than one in Chicago. Salaries are not a key issue in this strike; the two sides are close, and the offer from the city looks pretty substantial to those of us who see 2% increases as the absolute max locally.

Most battles between union and management come down to personalities, and this one is no exception. Karen Lewis seems like a fitting foil to Mayor Rahm. Meanwhile, national politics is getting into the act, but you have to believe that Obama does not want to dip a toe into a mess in his home city that involves his former chief of staff and accountability-based education policies made by his own dept of ed.

I student taught at a public school in Hyde Park where protesters yesterday frightened some kids away from the doors but where some kids and their parents also joined the picket lines. I was there 35 years ago, and the school was already something of a dump. To tell you the truth, it looks a bit better now; I can guarantee that Latin was not taught in second grade when I was there. Even 35 years ago, the teachers felt extremely distant from the administration and light years away from anyone who really held sway over their lives, which at that time would have been an elected board. Mayors who wrest control from the people to run the schools may do so out of pure motives; it is much easier to impose order from above than to have it trickle upward through policy and public meetings. But when things go bad, the mayor becomes the bad guy. I can't imagine that Mayor Rahm will have much time to deal with his horrendous murder rate, the state of his roads and bridges, or rent control until this is settled. And he has to avoid looking like Scott Walker. It will be a tap dance worthy of a former Joffrey scholarship winner.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Voting Rights Checklist

Federal courts are working overtime to overturn racist, classist voting "reforms" in various states. This week, TX went down. Last week, it was FL. This week, too, OH got slapped. However, a number of states await clearance for their strict photo ID and other rules. Here's a good checklist to keep you up to date. The Brennan Justice Center goes into more detail. They estimate that 5 million eligible voters may find it difficult or impossible to vote in 2012.

I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, but this one is too fast and obvious to discount.

Saturday, September 1, 2012