A Win-Win Partnership in Lubbock
Eddie McBride, president and chief executive officer of the Lubbock (TX) Chamber of Commerce, wonders why no one at the Chamber thought of a Junior Ambassadors program before a Lubbock High School business teacher came up with the idea. Now, in conjunction with the high school, the Chamber is giving 19 business management students the opportunity to gain real-life business experience while representing the Chamber at events and programs, as well as helping to recruit new members for the organization. Read more about this ground-breaking partnership that is sure to make quite an impact on the students, Chamber and community by clicking here: http://lubbockonline.com/education/2010-09-18/lubbock-high-business-class-partners-chamber-commerce-gain-professional
Increasing Demand for Corrections Reform
Spurred by research, like the Pew Center on the States' 1 in 100 Report, leaders from the public and private sectors are calling for a reevaluation of sentencing guidelines and prison spending. The calls are not surprising considering that the precipitous rise in incarceration costs many states have experienced over the past decade does not correlate to a similar increase in public safety. In short, we need to be smarter about what we spend for public safety.
Here are two recent articles on the topic worth reading:
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO David Adkisson makes the case for smarter prison policy in an op-ed for Kentucky business newspaper The Lane Report. Read - Correcting the State’s Budget
Recent headlines have brought some very welcome news about an effort to improve public safety and tackle the skyrocketing costs of Kentucky’s corrections system. A bipartisan group of state leaders from all three branches of government – including the governor, Senate president, speaker of the House and chief justice – have partnered with the highly regarded Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States to find ways to slow the dizzying pace of spending that has marked the corrections budget in recent years, and get a better return on the dollars that we do spend. ... The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is especially concerned about this because of what it means for education: As corrections spending has grown, education’s share of the budget has declined.
Sue Bell Cobb, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, address the issue in an article for the Anniston Star. Read - Stopping the revolving door.
Our state is in obvious need of change. Alabama can alleviate prison overcrowding while at the same time hold offenders accountable. Research shows there are effective corrections strategies for low-risk offenders that can produce less crime at less cost, while saving expensive prison space for violent offenders who need to be there. It is time for Alabama to take a data-driven approach to corrections policy to better preserve public safety and our state’s pocketbook. We must stop the revolving door.
"I wish I was . . . homeward bound"
Though my friends (and the data) say I’m crazy, I still think I’m more likely to experience a flight cancellation or seriously delay in summer than in winter. Trip home from Michigan not going so well this afternoon, but Concourse D in Cleveland’s airport is more comfy than most.
The actual visit I just finished in western MI was great. Breakfast session with nine chamber leaders, followed by podium appearance at the regional policy summit. As everyone knows, the most dangerous place in the world to stand is between Mick and a microphone.
Today was a bit of an exception because I had trouble adapting to such a diverse audience. Most of the time, this job calls for addressing chamber professionals, not “civilians.” It didn’t kill me, so it must have made stronger, right?
What made the trip cool was witnessing the resilience and can-do attitude of the oft-battered Michigan gang. From Amway executives to insurance brokers, the company people I met were impressive and determined. From Muskegon to Kazoo to Saginaw, the chamber people find genuine reasons for hope. They also work to get/maintain every job. They also fight hard together at all levels of government to improve the business climate and investor appeal of their region and state.
In this, they are like the chamber people I meet all across the country . . . only more so. Congratulations, Jeannie Englehart on a great event and all y’all on MI’s west coast for your indefatigable spirit. I think I will need similar character in order to get home tonight.
Help Wanted in Northern Kentucky
"Viva Las Business" in Vegas
Today, the Las Vegas (NV) Chamber of Commerce announced a marketing campaign aimed at helping the city's businesses during this tough economy. According to the Chamber's president and CEO, Matt Crosson, the "Viva Las Business: Vegas is Coming Back" campaign will work to " . . . to focus the general public's attention on the fact that it is small businesses and the hiring that small businesses do that is going to pull us out of the recession." Learn how the campaign will utilize radio, television, billboards and social media to publicize the city's small businesses and communicate the the importance of supporting the local economy by clicking here: http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2010/09/13/news/iq_37896810.txt (Las Vegas Business Press)
Back To School In Nashville Via Volunteering
As another school year gets underway, the Nashville Area (TN) Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with business, government and civic groups, has launched an initiative titled "One Nashville" to drive volunteers and support in Nashville's public schools. Through the "One Nashville" website, members of the community can volunteer their time, donate money, or get involved in advocacy efforts. According to Chamber president and CEO Ralph Schulz, “For Nashville to continue to be a great city for families and businesses, we all must take responsibility for making sure we have great public schools.” Learn more about Nashville's commitment to make Metro Nashville public schools the best in the country, by clicking here: 'One Nashville' aims to increase support of public schools - Nashville Business Journal
Fight Over 4 Continues In Florida
Chambers across Florida continue the fight against Amendment 4, a ballot measure that would have voters - not the representatives they elected - approve any amendments to the local land use plan, which every Florida community is obligated to have. In practice this means citizens would regularly decide hundreds of technical land-use and zoning issues at the ballot box every year. For more details about Florida Amendment 4, check out Ballotpedia.
Supporters have labeled the amendment "Hometown Democracy." Opponents have called it the "Vote on Everything" amendment.
In the Monday Florida Times-Union, columnist Abel Harding said this about Amendment 4:
"There are ways to get Florida's economy back on track, but grinding future development to a halt isn't one of them. Yet, that's exactly what Amendment 4, the proposed constitutional amendment commonly billed as 'hometown democracy,' would do.
Florida's had some doozies over the years, but this one's in a league of its own."
This is not a new issue for Florida; the campaign for Hometown Democracy started in 2007. Supporters failed to collect enough petition signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot, but they have not gone away. Voters will decide this November and chambers are working hard to make sure they vote no.
"Amendment 4 is the road is economic gridlock, job loss and a steepened recession. It may have been paved with good intentions, but it is not a road that Florida can afford to take. The Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce encourages you to Vote No on 4."
Troy M. McLellan, CCE, Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce President & CEO
The Florida Chamber has a wealth of information about the issue at: http://www.flchamber.com/VoteNoAmendment4.asp
Schwarzenegger Weighs in on Public Pensions
You don't have to search long to find articles about public pension liability these days. And they are appearing in the biggest publications from high profile authors.
Last Friday the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion column from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger focused on the retirement cost of California's public sector workforce. Here's an excerpt:
As former Speaker of the State Assembly and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown pointed out earlier this year in the San Francisco Chronicle, roughly 80 cents of every government dollar in California goes to employee compensation and benefits. Those costs have been rising fast. Spending on California's state employees over the past decade rose at nearly three times the rate our revenues grew, crowding out programs of great importance to our citizens. Neglected priorities include higher education, environmental protection, parks and recreation, and more.
Much bigger increases in employee costs are on the horizon. Thanks to huge unfunded pension and retirement health-care promises granted by past governments, and also to deceptive pension-fund accounting that understated liabilities and overstated future investment returns, California is now saddled with $550 billion of retirement debt.
Read more at: Public Pensions and Our Fiscal Future
Chicago Suburb Examines Public Pensions
Today the Chicago Tribune ran a 'watchdog' type story highlighting two suburban Chicago police officials who's salaries jumped by more than 50% in their last year of employment. The author draws the link between inflated final year salaries and every escalating pension liability. Here's an excerpt:
Towns have long been aware of the financial time bomb created by pension deficits, but what happened in Chicago Ridge was hardly unique. Some municipalities are sweetening deals for their top police and fire administrators even as they call for pension reform in Springfield.
Illinois' pension system -- including police, fire and public-sector employees -- is the most underfunded in the nation, according to the Pew Center for the States, with only about half the assets needed to cover a staggering $60 billion in liabilities.
Check out: Padded pensions
Testing Public Pension Options
Public pension liability is a looming crisis that threatens long term fiscal stability in almost every state. A 2008 study by the Pew Center on the States found that there is a $1 trillion gap (yes, trillion with a T) between the money set aside by states for public sector pensions and the projected cost of fulfilling pension promises.
Potential solutions to this problem have generally included: contributing more to public pension funds, improving investment fund oversight, and raising the retirement age and reducing benefits for newly hired public employees. None of these reform measures directly impact existing retirees, but that could change. Stateline.org is reporting that lawmakers in several states are looking at trimming benefits to current retirees.
State legislators are beginning to challenge one of the ironclad tenets of public pension policy: that states cannot legally reduce pension benefits for current and future retirees.
Lawmakers in Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota voted earlier this year to limit cost-of-living increases they previously had promised to thousands of current and future retirees, who courts historically have protected from benefit reductions. Not surprisingly, retirees in each state have filed lawsuits asking judges to restore their annual benefit increases to what they were previously.
We'll be watching the outcomes of those lawsuits closely. In the mean time, you can learn more about this issue by reading The Trillion Dollar Gap.