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A New Direction in the War on Poverty

There are some politicians who would have you think that half the United States is on welfare, lounging in that now famous "hammock" versus struggling to free themselves from the "safety net." This view prevails even in the wake of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, also known as welfare reform, which very pointedly -- and arguably effectively -- put time limits on benefits.

Now along comes Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with a bold proposal to consolidate and block grant 24 antipoverty programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, housing assistance and child care subsidies. Under the Ryan plan, states would be free to spend the money any way they saw fit as long as it wasn't on unrelated programs such as roads and parks. As my colleague, Governing columnist Don Kettl, will argue in the October issue of the magazine, it's an idea worth considering. READ MORE

When Bob McDonnell Was Good

When now-convicted, former governor Bob McDonnell was running for the state legislature 23 years ago in Virginia Beach, he was always straight with me, a reporter covering his campaign. I came to like and admire the cartoonishly clean-cut man with the picture-perfect wife and children.

So it was with sadness and some disbelief that I watched a jury last week convict him and his wife Maureen of corruption. I have a hard time believing the man I knew would trade his office for dollars. I can imagine that man, being a man, bending or breaking rules to placate an angry and confused spouse. Which it certainly seemed like she was, based on the evidence presented in trial. READ MORE

Leadership in a Time of Drought

As government leaders in California wend their way through the management of the state's historic drought, real discussions about how the state should adapt to water scarcity are taking place. And if history is a guide, the decisions made in the Golden State will have their impact in other places where water scarcity is becoming the norm.

Make no mistake: California is moving forward into uncharted territory. Traditional engineered solutions, such as the California Aqueduct that channels water from the wetter regions in the north to the arid south, are being challenged by a host of factors beyond the drought, including environmental regulations and the capacity of the systems themselves. Such water-transfer projects made it possible for the drier Southland to grow and become the most populous region of the state. But government and private-sector leaders are rapidly realizing that other approaches will be needed to fulfill future statewide agriculture, business and residential water needs. READ MORE

Young and Old Find Common Ground in Oregon Housing Community

The potential for mixing older and younger folks to mutual benefit isn't a new concept. That's why I'm a little embarrassed to admit that there's a variation on the theme that I only just learned about: elderly housing combined with rent-free units for foster parents.

I learned about this type of housing while organizing a series of roundtables for Governing and AARP on "livable communities for all ages." I was preparing for a panel in Portland, Ore., when I came across Bridge Meadows, a 36-unit apartment complex in the city that mixes incomes, generations and skill sets in a way that enlivens and enriches the lives of young and old alike. The complex is actually modeled after Hope Meadows, which opened in the 1990s in Rantoul, Ill., as a way to find placements for "unadoptable" kids. READ MORE

The Infrastructure the Next Generation of Cities Will Need

Are we truly entering an era of "Cities 3.0"? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is an advocate of that notion, and few elected officials are in a better position to look at cities from a broad, historical perspective than is Johnson, the new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

He laid out that perspective in his inaugural speech as the conference's president, describing how the first generation of cities was built around ports, rivers and transportation routes. Then came the Industrial Revolution and Cities 2.0. In addition to factory smokestacks, they had electricity, transportation systems and other modern services. In the new era of Cities 3.0, Johnson said, "the city is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. It's paperless, wireless and cashless." READ MORE