Better, Faster, Cheaper

Why Data Sharing Should Be Government's Default

Government needs to adopt a share first mentality for departmental data. Its easy exchange should be the default, not the arduous and exceptional result of lengthy administrative and legal battles to pry data from legacy computer systems and siloed departments.

Departments within a single government entity should be able to freely use data that's been scrubbed of sensitive personal information, although clear policies concerning the process for anonymizing the information, as well as how long and under what conditions it will be archived, are necessary. READ MORE

Why Paratransit Doesn’t Have to Be So Expensive

In an era of scarcity for transit systems, there is growing pressure on paratransit, the expensive programs for transporting those with limited mobility, to operate more efficiently. A new study from New York City's Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) and reforms underway in other cities suggest that the goals of operating more efficiently and better serving those who need additional assistance getting around need not be at odds.

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) spends more than $70 per paratransit trip and has high per-capita paratransit usage. As a result, the MTA subsidized its Access-A-Ride service last year to the tune of $256 million. READ MORE

Reckoning Time for a City’s Bad Fiscal Decisions

The longer a government's finances are allowed to deteriorate, the fewer options there are when corrective action is finally taken. Anyone who doubts that ought to look at a proposed 10-year plan commissioned by the city of Providence, R.I., and produced by the federal National Resource Network (NRN). It makes a number of important recommendations, almost all of which would require very unpleasant decisions - the kind that all too many local governments are facing after years and decades of imprudent fiscal decisions.

Providence is confronted with tremendous fiscal challenges, ones severe enough that they could lead to municipal bankruptcy. The city faces an ongoing structural budget gap, one of the drivers of which is payments needed to rescue a public employees' pension that is officially just 27.4 percent funded. READ MORE

Kicking the Taxpayers to Boost a Soccer Stadium

Most people outside of the University of Texas at San Antonio have probably never heard of one of its professors, Heywood Sanders, but taxpayers across the country owe him a debt of gratitude. For years Sanders has shined light on questionable state and local investments in convention center development. Now he's turned his attention to Los Angeles' effort to get low-interest federal loans for a private sports complex development.

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Why We Need to Move Away From Jailing the Mentally Ill

Today, after decades of deinstitutionalization of all but the most critically ill patients from state mental hospitals, America's jails are the central address for the mentally ill. Two million people with serious mental illness are incarcerated each year. There are 10 times more people with mental illness in the justice system than are being treated in psychiatric hospitals, and 60 percent of jail inmates had a mental health problem in the past year.

Inmates with mental illness are incarcerated for longer periods of time and are more likely to be placed in solitary confinement. They are twice as likely to be involved in an assault and to sustain injuries during an altercation in jail. They seldom receive treatment while incarcerated, and many leave jail sicker than they arrived. READ MORE