Inside Wagner

"Improving Albany" Takes Center Stage at NYU Wagner Forum

"Improving Albany" Takes Center Stage at NYU Wagner Forum

Richard Ravitch

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

"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.

2010 Public Service Career Expo: A Great Success

2010 Public Service Career Expo: A Great Success

Public Service Career Expo 2010

On Thursday, March 11, NYU Wagner's Office of Career Services hosted its annual Public Service Career Expo at NYC's Metropolitan Pavilion South. Each year the Expo brings together representatives of various public service, nonprofit, government, and private organizations that serve the public sector, to meet with hundreds of qualified students and alumni from NYU Wagner and our partner schools. This year's cosponsoring schools included the Carnegie Mellon Heinz College, School of Public Policy and Management; Duke University's Terry Sanford School of Public Policy; George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration; and Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

More than 100 public service organizations were represented at the Expo, 96 of which attended with the expressed intention of recruiting candidates for existing job and/or internship opportunities. These included Accenture, UNICEF, UNDP, Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and ClearWater Initiative. Private sector companies in attendance included Fitch Ratings, Moody's Investors Service, Accenture, Benenson Strategy Group, Bennett Midland LLC, Edelman, EmblemHealth, HR&A Advisors, and TCC Group. Both students and alumni offered positive feedback about the impressive and diverse array of employers in attendance.

Afterward, Wagner hosted a networking reception for students and alumni at the Puck. Nearly 100 people attended the event, many lingering long past the official end time, to catch up with colleagues and make new contacts.

OCS would like to thank all NYU Wagner staff, students, and faculty who helped make this year's Expo one of its most successful events to date. From recruiting employer participants, to volunteering your time and service at the Expo, your support was very much appreciated.

For more information about the 2010 Public Service Career Expo and other OCS events, contact Toni Harris, assistant director of career services at toni.harris@nyu.edu

Appreciating and Advancing Leadership for Public Wellbeing in the Middle East

Appreciating and Advancing Leadership for Public Wellbeing in the Middle East

From February 14-16, RCLA and the Abu Dhabi Institute brought together a select group of 24 scholars and practitioners committed to illuminating and nurturing leadership for public wellbeing. Bethany Godsoe, executive director of RCLA; Waad El Hadidy, research associate at RCLA; Natasha Iskander, assistant professor of public policy; and Erica Foldy, associate professor of public and nonprofit management represented NYU and NYU Wagner.

They were joined by a couple of Americans who support leadership work in the Middle East and North Africa, and participants from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Tunisia, Lebanon, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Participants stressed the importance of drawing on the historical well of leadership in the Middle East and using cultural practices as a springboard for addressing tough social and public issues.

The group discussed cases of leadership that transcend sectors, transform citizens into active agents of change, and open up new public spaces for deliberation and engagement. The exchange of such experiences generated practical implications for the study of leadership, teaching leadership in higher education settings, and leadership development/training programs. On the last evening of the convening, three participants brought a cross-sector perspective on the topic of leadership for a new era, marked by increasing interconnectedness, complexity, and uncertainty.

-Colleen Coffey

Aruba's Prime Minister Mike Eman Shows Path to a Sustainable Future

Aruba's Prime Minister Mike Eman Shows Path to a Sustainable Future

NYU Wagner students were treated to a fascinating account of Aruba's efforts to link economic growth and social development in sustainable ways -- a presentation delivered at NYU Wagner by none other than the island's Prime Minister, Mike Eman.

Prime Minister Eman, who is serving his second term, noted that Aruba, with a population of 100,000, began to develop its structural reforms even before the worldwide financial bubble burst in 2007-'08. In the prior two decades, Aruba had struggled with socio-economic stressors of its own despite the tremendous growth of its tourism industry.

To address this striking disconnect, Mr. Eman and his political party initiated Social Dialogues to encourage greater public involvement across communities and sectors in government planning. These and other efforts brought about the reshaping of the streetscape, the refurbishment of older buildings, and renewed emphasis on strengthening schools, healthcare, and conditions for the elderly. Overall, the work-in-progress contributes to the island's general welfare and "happiness," even drawing praise from environmentalists Al Gore, Richard Branson, and many others. Mr. Eman went from his Wagner visit of March 26 to an engineering society gathering in Manhattan where he accepted an award on behalf of the new battery-fueled trolley system in Aruba -- a notable advance in clean, safe urban transit.

"In 2008, the world was surprised when in so many cases greed had taken over and the public interest was not taken into account," said Mr. Eman. However, he said, Aruba's experiences suggest that while economic growth is critical, it cannot be de-coupled from democratic values, the environment, and social development -- or the result will be a city, a country, or indeed a world which is neither truly happy nor sustainable.

Blue-Ribbon Panel Chaired by NYU Wagner Prof. Gordon Campbell to Look into Closures of Several Nonprofit Organizations

Blue-Ribbon Panel Chaired by NYU Wagner Prof. Gordon Campbell to Look into Closures of Several Nonprofit Organizations

Gordon J. Campbell, Professor of Practice at NYU Wagner and Director of the school’s Executive MPA Program, is among two dozen seasoned nonprofit human services executives who have been named to a blue-ribbon Commission of the Human Services Council (HSC) to look into the closures of several large nonprofit human services organizations in New York City. Campbell, with more than three decades of experience as a government official and nonprofit leader, will chair the new Commission.

The role of the Commission is to seek to “understand the contributing factors from management and oversight to challenging fiscal environments” in connection with the demise  of organizations such as FEGS; the $250 million health and human services nonprofit shut its doors after announcing it had lost $19.4 million last year.

HSC works closely with city and state government.

 “Over the course of several months, the group will evaluate the financial details, management decisions, government contract terms, and accountability systems of these organizations to gain a full picture and understanding of what caused them to close. They will also examine existing oversight approaches, including those required and those considered best practices, investigate the financial and other management decisions made, and identify funding and other systemic issues contributing to financial problems,” according to an HSC statement.

Professor Campbell most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of New York City, which creates, leads, and supports strategic initiatives that have a measurable and lasting impact in improving education, income stability, and health.

He was Chief Executive Officer of Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading and largest victim assistance organization, from 1998 to 2007.  During his tenure, Safe Horizon was widely recognized for its compassionate and effective emergency response to the 9 /11 attacks. Prior to leading Safe Horizon, he served in senior positions in the Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani Administrations. He was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services and Chief of Staff to the First Deputy Mayor. In addition, he was Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations and a mayoral appointee to the City’s Procurement Policy Board. While at the city’s Human Resources Administration, he headed the Office of Medicaid Transportation and created and organized the Division of AIDS Services.

Before arriving in New York City, Mr. Campbell served as a prosecutor, a labor attorney, as well as the Chief Administrator for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

Bob Herbert, Lesley Stahl Discuss His New Book at NYU Wagner

Bob Herbert, Lesley Stahl Discuss His New Book at NYU Wagner

Former longtime New York Times columnist Bob Herbert spoke about his new book, “Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America,” in a public conversation at NYU Wagner on October 15 with the noted television journalist Lesley Stahl.

Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow with the public policy organization Demos, which co-sponsored the event, said his interviews across America had deepened his view that the country was the victim of misplaced public priorities, such as sagging investments in infrastructure, “endless, debilitating” foreign wars, undue emphasis on “corporate remedies” for public schools, and near-silence about joblessness and poverty.

The seats in the Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue were almost all filled for the evening event. Welcoming Herbert and Stahl to NYU Wagner were Anthony Bertelli, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, and author and commentator Rich Benjamin.

Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, has called Herbert’s chronicle a “devastating portrait” of the United States. The author signed copies of his book at a reception following a question-and-answer session with audience members.

“One of the themes of the book is that I have basically lost faith in the political system and political leaders,” Herbert told listeners. “The politicians, the elected officials, no longer look out for the interests of the American people. They look out for their [wealthy and corporate] donors.”

Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC

Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC

Bohnett Fellows pose in front of the White House during their trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, 2011.

Bohnett Fellows from NYU Wagner joined with their counterparts from UCLA and the University of Michigan in attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21, 2011, with Professor Rogan Kersh. After sharing information, insights, and ideas with more than 200 of the nation's mayors and many other public service leaders, the Wagner students offered these reports:

Barbara Kiviat:
"It was by far one of the best networking opportunities of my life. Most of the Conference participants were mayors, and between sessions there was ample time for me to walk up to people and introduce myself. I was amazed at how engaged many of the mayors were. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter must have talked to us for half an hour one evening: He was really interested in what we had to say and fielded all of our questions, including some pretty tough ones, with aplomb.

"I was incredibly impressed with the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan. The conference included many speakers from the national stage, including Nancy Pelosi, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica, and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. These folks usually spoke for awhile and then took questions from the mayors. Almost without fail, Mayor Quan's hand would slowly rise, she'd be called on, and then, with perfect posture and composure, she asked the most pointed and well-informed question imaginable. It made me happy for the people of Oakland. They've got a real policy wonk running the place.

"More broadly, it was great to be around Republican and Democratic politicians talking about actual issues - from handgun violence to job creation - without reverting to demagoguery  It was the sort of situation that might restore a person's faith in the American political system."

Sean Capperis:
"When elected officials are talking about economic development, I expect to hear more about financial incentives than about public services. But the economic-development drivers the mayors were discussing included developing exports, attracting foreign investment, and producing a highly skilled labor force through education and workforce training. Mayors and federal officials echoed that cities must cooperate across other governments and sectors to succeed in these areas. It's not surprising that President Obama articulated some of the Conference's major themes in his State of the Union address of Jan. 25, 2011. Getting to speak personally to some of the mayors completely changed my perspective on urban government, and my work this semester is going to reflect it.

"The Conference was also the first time the Bohnett Fellows at all three schools were able to come together. I really connected with a Fellow from the University of Michigan over our work in Northern industrial cities. She lives and works in Detroit, and I came to NYU from Pittsburgh. I found that we could swap war stories about managing decline, but at the end of the day we were talking about common points of growth and battling inequality."

Elizabeth H. Guernsey:
"The trip to the Conference of Mayors winter meeting was definitely one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of my Wagner career so far. The access to and conversations with so many mayors was great. I came back from the Conference inspired to know that so many smart people are working in local government and really focused on making our cities great places to work and live. I was also struck by the mayors' signing of the Civility Accord in reaction to the Tucson tragedy. It was refreshing to hear the mayors talking about their cities in a nonpartisan way.

"A highlight of the trip was meeting with the Fellows from the other schools and hearing about the work they are doing in other cities. Another highlight was attending the Mayors Against Illegal Guns meeting, and hearing mayors talk openly about what they think needs to be done to protect public safety in our cities. The mayors were able to talk honestly and openly without worry that they might upset their constituencies."

The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship for incoming Wagner students offers "...a great opportunity for students to directly engage in the challenges of governing our vibrant and diverse city," according to David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Fellowship provides full tuition support and summer stipends for three Bohnett Fellows per year. These students must be enrolled in either the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program and express an explicit interest in working for municipal governments to solve our most urgent social issues. The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship also allows two fellows a terrific opportunity to intern at the highest level of NYC government. The third fellow gets to take on exciting work with the current President of the US Conference of Mayors, which has an ongoing partnership with Wagner.

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