Better, Faster, Cheaper

Higher Ed’s Degrees of Hunger

Two recent studies of students in California's public universities, along with a new report on public higher education chief executives' compensation, show that our public colleges and universities are a microcosm of the larger society. In this case, that's not a good thing.

A University of California survey found that nearly one in five UC students went hungry in the past year and that an additional 23 percent were "food insecure," lacking reliable access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food. In all, more than 40 percent of respondents suffered from hunger or food insecurity, and nearly 30 percent of those students said they had experienced difficulty studying because of hunger. The problem was even worse among African-American and Latino students: Around 60 percent reported experiencing hunger or food insecurity, about twice the rate for white students. READ MORE

A Key Efficiency Ingredient: Dissent

Major improvements in governmental efficiency obviously will occur only when they are driven by the leader of a city, state or agency. Leaders who accomplish the most drive change forward over a myriad of obstacles. But such a bet on the future can be bold or foolish. How does a public official know whether he or she is moving in the right direction?

Leaders, of course, are no stronger than the information on which they base a decision, and a loyal follower is only as good as the information he or she chooses to provide to the boss. That's why it's so important to encourage, and pay attention to, dissenting viewpoints. READ MORE

What Dallas Needs to Do for Its Police

It's probably impossible for a civilian to fully comprehend what Dallas police officers who saw five brother officers gunned down in a spasm of senseless violence last week are feeling. But that tragedy was the latest blow for a department that, despite the community-policing reforms that have won it accolades, has continued to suffer from serious morale, staffing, compensation and other issues that urgently cry to be addressed.

After 12 years of falling crime rates, violent crime is on the rise in Dallas, as is the time it takes for the Dallas Police Department (DPD) to respond to calls. Morale, on the other hand, is in free fall. In a 2014 Dallas Police Association survey of 1,279 members, 80 percent rated morale either "low" or the "lowest it's ever been." More than a quarter of the respondents said they're looking for jobs elsewhere. READ MORE

Is Columbus the Future of Urban Transportation?

In a sense, Columbus wasn't really the only winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge, although Ohio's capital did beat out 77 other cities last month to take the $40 million prize. Municipal officials across the country are likely to learn a lot from Columbus going forward, and it's very possible that the lessons won't just be about transportation. They might also be learning about how to eliminate barriers to economic growth and leverage local assets.


Public Pensions’ Not-So-Rosy Outlook

A new study finds that state and local pension funding has stabilized in the last year. But the news is never all good when it comes to public employees' pensions, and another report released this spring suggests that big problems may lie ahead.

In the latest study, from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, Alicia Munnell and Jean-Pierre Aubry looked at 160 large systems that cover 90 percent of state and local government pension-plan members nationwide. They found that, in the aggregate, the plans had 74 percent of the money that was needed to fund their liabilities in 2015, up from 73 percent the year before. To provide context, the systems were 86 percent funded in 2007, before the Great Recession, and they were 103 percent funded in 2000, at the peak of the longest bull market in history. READ MORE