TABLE of CONTENTS October 2011

Cover Story

Billionaires in the Classroom

BY Alan Greenblatt

Bill Gates and other philanthropists are reshaping public education policy with private cash. Can they succeed at making schools perform to their liking?

FEATURES

Office of Intergovernmental Affairs: More Influential Than Ever

The White House office is more prominent and responsive than it ever was. BY Ryan Holeywell

Georgia Overhauls Its Mental Health System

Georgia is the latest state to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to move mental health patients out of hospitals and into the community. BY Russell Nichols

The Indiana Toll Road: A Model for Privatization?

Public-private partnerships have been portrayed as a miracle cure for the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Indiana’s experience may prove otherwise. BY Ryan Holeywell

Linear Parks Are Reshaping Urban Landscapes

Cities are turning abandoned freight train rail lines into parks that attract millions of visitors and investment dollars. BY Tod Newcombe

POLITICS + POLICY

Courts & Corrections

Your Day in Court? Get in Line.

As San Francisco County closes more than a third of its courts, local lawyers are trying to find ways to raise more revenue. BY Alan Greenblatt
Politics

South Carolina's Ethics Problem

Scandal and corruption have plagued Palmetto State politics for years. Some say it’s because it's virtually a one-party state. BY Alan Greenblatt
Finance

Should Governments Start Borrowing Again?

The word "borrow" may be taboo still, but one economist says states and localities should take advantage of historic low interest rates. BY Alan Greenblatt
Dispatch

Taking the Speed Out of High Speed Rail

Some studies say that sticking with faster (rather than the fastest) rail would allow the Northwest to transport more riders for half the cost. BY Paul W. Taylor
Potomac Chronicle

2011 May Mark the End of Federal Aid

The modern era of federal aid championed by President Nixon and his “new federalism” program draws to a close. BY Donald F. Kettl
Lawmaking

Would-Be Laws Threaten State and Local Revenue

Bills to restrict states and localities’ taxing abilities are moving through Congress. If enacted, governments may have no choice but to raise taxes. BY Ryan Holeywell
Health & Human Services

Freeing up Space (and Money) in the Emergency Room

A surefire way to cut health-care costs is to steer frequent ER visitors to less costly care. BY David Levine
Homeland Security & Disasters

States May Lose Ability to Predict, Prepare for Bad Weather

The feds cut funding for a satellite that predicts the location and intensity of tornadoes, hurricanes and snowfall. BY Elizabeth Daigneau
Economic Engines

Can Light Rail Unite Two Va. Cities?

Virginia Beach voted against the building of a light rail years ago. Now that it’s up and running in nearby Norfolk, Va., some think beach-dwellers may rethink their decision. BY Alex Marshall
Urban Notebook

Quincy, Mass., Rebuilds from Scratch

The city is clearing land to rebuild its downtown using a unique business model that some say could be a game changer. BY Tod Newcombe

PROBLEM SOLVER

Energy & Environment

Students' Green Solutions Save Governments Money

Tapping into young peoples’ creativity in search of green improvements has paid off for an Alaskan school district and its taxpayers. BY Caroline Cournoyer
Smart Management

Do States Really Balance Their Budgets?

Loopholes, unexpected expenses and glorified revenue predictions make balanced budgets an unattainable reality for some legislatures. BY Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene
Tech Talk

Attacking the Connectivity Gap

A new initiative in the nation’s capital is looking to close a stark digital divide. BY Steve Towns
Public Money

New Pension Accounting Rules Roll Out

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board released new rules that are expected to become final next year. BY Girard Miller
Public Workforce

Fighting for Union Equality in Wisconsin

Even though Gov. Scott Walker left public safety employees out of his attack on unions, the president of the Madison fire fighters union protested as if it were his own. BY Tina Trenkner