"Improving Albany" Takes Center Stage at NYU Wagner Forum
The question of what to do about New York’s indictment-prone State Legisature took center stage at an all-day conference at NYU Wagner on April 30 entitled “Improving Albany: A Path to Greater Effectiveness.”
The forum's galaxy of participants — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, former Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch, New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, and many others — discussed the legal, electoral, budgetary, and political reforms required to enable the Legislature to regain public confidence and tackle policies and issues that matter in the lives of millions of New Yorkers.
Richard Brodsky, who served in the State Assembly and is a Visiting Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Wagner, hosted the conference along with Wagner’s Dean Sherry Glied and Richard Ravitch.
The morning panel included: Columbia law professor Richard Briffault, chair of the NYC Conflict of Interest Board and a former member of the state Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (2013-14); Peter Goldmark, a veteran state government executive and most recently Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate and air program; Common Cause's Executive Director Susan Lerner; and Vance. Dean Glied was the moderator.
For the afternoon panel, Auletta of the New Yorker was joined by Mayor Miner, who described the frustrations posed by the state’s “opaque” budget approval process; Mary Louise Mallick, a former senior policy maker with the New York State Senate Finance Committee; and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is now Chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Committee and the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA). Brodsky moderated the discussion.
Both conversations were lively, showing the complexities of preventing public corruption and what approaches are possible. Recommendations ranged from drawing clearer lines between legal and illegal conduct to requiring greater transparency, along with passing public campaign finance reform and — at least in the view of some of the speakers — setting term limits for legislators.
Some of the panelists said it's up to the Legislature's leadership and its younger members to improve accountability, raise the bar for impact and effectiveness, and lead the way out of Albany’s "swamp." Since they haven’t acted so far, “they’ve made themselves an easy target,” said Susan Lerner.
"Portfolios of the Poor," co-authored by Prof. Jonathan Morduch, Helped Inspire a New App to Address Income Volatility: NY Times Magazine
“Want A Steady Income? There’s an App for That,” a piece published Sunday, May 3, in The New York Times Magazine, focuses on a Silicon Valley app-in-development partly inspired by Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, the groundbreaking book (Princeton University Press, 2009) written by NYU Wagner Professor of Public Policy and Economics Jonathan Morduch, NYU Wagner PhD Daryl Collins, and two others. The anticipated app is designed to help households manage what has been called America's “hidden inequality” – the profound stresses and disruptions income volatility can cause.
Professor Morduch’s research centers on microfinance, social investment, and the economics of poverty. He is the Executive Director and Founder of the Financial Access Initiative (FAI). His current “U.S. Financial Diaries” project examines how income volatility affects low- and moderate-income U.S. families.
"The Color Bind," Co-Authored by Erica Gabrielle Foldy, Debuts at NYU Wagner
Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley’s The Color Bind: Talking (and Not Talking) About Race at Work investigates a stubborn American phenomenon: The taboo nature of race in our work places – and how to transcend it.
Just published by the Russell Sage Foundation, The Color Bind was the focus of a well-attended dialogue held at NYU Wagner on Feb. 26. The conversation included the co-authors as well as Melody Barnes, Senior Fellow at NYU Wagner and Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives at New York University. Wagner and its Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) co-sponsored the book launch. More than 125 people attended, filling all the seats in the Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue and enlivening the audience Q&A portion of the program.
Foldy is Associate Professor of Public and Nonprofit Management at Wagner; Buckley is Associate Professor of Counseling at Hunter College and Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Their in-depth book grew out of Foldy's direct observation, over many months, of child welfare workers at one social services agency. At first she anticipated that, given the nature of their work, child welfare case workers would bring discussions of race into their team meetings readily. Instead, she found “the color bind” operating in full force, blunting the creativity, morale, and effectiveness of the teams.
One team at the agency, however, broached race and ethnicity regularly, without signs of defensiveness or worries of recrimination. Professors Foldy and Buckley dug into what made this team unique, gleaning some crucial lessons for social service organizations, advocacy groups, public agencies, schools, health providers, and many others.
In any organization, be it in the nonprofit, public, or private sector, the journey out of “the color bind” begins with mindfulness by its leaders that race matters. That’s the initial step towards fostering an atmosphere where employees can discuss fraught topics freely, and where “cultural competency,” or having the skills to communicate about race, ethnicity, and culture, can be developed, the authors said.
“Race is ever-present,” said Buckley. “The taboo of it often keeps us quiet about it. What we’re trying to do is show the assets that race brings to us in all the different kinds of conversations that we have.”
Professor Buckley, who is African American, and Professor Foldy, who is white, surfaced their own sometimes-clashing perspectives about race during the writing process. But in crossing lines that often keep others separated, both of them found that they could deepen their knowledge and advance their shared mission.
Talking about race is rarely smooth or simple, Foldy explained. “If you are going to enter this territory, you have to live with the fact that you are going to make mistakes.”
The Color Bind is published by the Russell Sage Foundation.
'But get real,' Professor Jonathan Morduch tells The New Yorker. 'How long are you willing to wait for the revolution?'
'Nest' Program for Autistic Kids Grows
Dorothy Siegel of NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy helped the city Department of Education to create the "Nest" program for autistic children in 2003. According to a May 25, 2007, article in the New York Daily News, this successful program, which puts kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the same class with other students, is growing. Come September, it will be available to 200 kids. Once it is implemented across the city, it could benefit as many as 2,000 children.
Founded in 1995, the Institute for Education and Social Policy is a partnership between the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. It conducts scientific research about U.S. education and related social policy issues to help inform educational institutions about the effectiveness of instructional programs, the impact of school reform initiatives, and the relationships between academic achievement, school finance and socio-economic and demographic factors such as poverty, ethnicity and immigration status. It is led by Wagner Professors Amy Ellen Schwartz (director) and Leanna Stiefel (associate director).
To read the article, click below.