Smart Growth and the Greening of Comprehensive Plans and Land Use Regulations

Source: Patricia Salkin, Government Law Center, Albany Law School, July 17, 2008

From the abstract:
Global warming, climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the carbon footprint, and going green are just some of the buzz words in the news over the last two years that have captured the attention of lawmakers and policymakers at all levels of government. In Congress, lawmakers have proposed, among other things, mandating standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and governors across the country have announced myriad programs designed to encourage the use by governments of green products, the construction of green buildings, and the offering of a combination of tax incentives and grants for private developers and other members of the public who develop and install various renewable energy products. However, It is initiatives at the local government level that have the greatest potential for most quickly and most efficiently slowing the pace of global warming. This is because local governments are the critical decision-makers in how communities use and conserve key resources. Municipalities serious about curbing emissions as well as energy and water usage within their communities, to both combat global warming and to preserve the immediate environment, have found many successful ways to implement plans that reduce the strain on environmental resources. Local governments have begun to incorporate principles and goals of sustainability and carbon reduction into comprehensive land use plans. This paper begins to examine the elements of a “green audit” for local comprehensive plans and land use regulations.

Do Households Have a Good Sense of Their Retirement Preparedness?

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Francesca Golub-Sass, Mauricio Soto and Anthony Webb, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Issue in Brief, #8-11, August 2008

From the summary:
The brief’s key findings are:
• For 57 percent of households, their sense of retirement preparedness agrees with the results of the National Retirement Risk Index.
• 24 percent ‘worry too much’ – particularly one-earner couples, those who are risk averse or have college degrees, and homeowners.
• 19 percent ‘worry too little’ – particularly Gen Xers, singles or two-earner couples, and those without traditional pensions or college degrees.

Explicitly considering retiree health care costs increases the number of households who ‘worry too little.’

Planning for Knowledge Retention Now Saves Valuable Organizational Resources Later

Source: Linda Blankenship and Terry Brueck, e-Journal AWWA, Volume 100 Number 8, August 2008
(subscription required)

Large numbers of drinking water utility workers are leaving the workforce, as they retire or leave to seek opportunities elsewhere. Unfortunately, a utility’s most valuable knowledge is likely not written down nor is it readily learned by new workers in a written form. Utilities need a blended approach, from structured document repositories to learning and training on the organization’s best practices, in order to successfully retain valuable knowledge.

The article presents information from an Awwa Research Foundation research project on retaining this valuable knowledge. Utilities that successfully address the need for knowledge retention will be better-equipped to cope with the challenges ahead–increasingly sophisticated technology, stringent regulations, higher customer expectations, aging infrastructure, technology pressures, security concerns, economic constraints, and more. With all of the other initiatives, special projects, and day-to-day issues facing utility leaders, a program with long-term and sometimes hidden payback like knowledge retention is a key area that utility leaders must focus on.

Recruit and Retain Great Employees: Proven approaches you can implement now to address the workforce gap

Source: Marcia Isbell, Katie McCain, Darla Meadors, Arlene Post, and Sue Schneider, e-Journal AWWA, Volume 100 Number 8, August 2008
(subscription required)

In the face of an ever-widening workforce gap, these solutions to workforce sustainability can be implemented now and with minimal financial investment.

Elderly Poverty: The Challenge Before Us

Source: Center for American Progress, July 30, 2008

Aging Americans, like other age groups, are feeling the effects of the declining real estate and stock markets, as well as soaring fuel and food prices. Seniors’ economic security will only increase in importance as the U.S. population ages. The nation’s health and social services resources will face unprecedented demand as 75 million people in the baby boomer generation reach retirement age–some with eroded savings and retirement accounts

First Step in Shifting to Cleaner Energy: End Unjustified Tax Loopholes for Oil and Gas

Source: Jeff Hooke and Steve Wamhoff, Citizens for Tax Justice, July 2, 2008

From an article:
A report released by Citizens for Tax Justice in July makes this argument and explains just how well oil and gas company stockholders are doing, just how little they invest in alternative energy, and how much they have siphoned from federal revenue through tax loopholes. For example, the report cites the American Petroleum Institute (API) which admits that in the six years stretching from 2000 through 2005 the oil industry only put a total of $1.2 billion towards investment in alternatives to fossil fuels, which is just 0.3 percent of its $383 billion in net profits over that period. If this figure had increased since then, the industry would surely be publicizing that fact.
See also:
Colorado Faces Choice Between Expanding Education or Continuing to Subsidize Oil Industry
Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf

Latest IRS Data Reveal Fundamental Mismatches in the States

Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, August 2008

Most Unequal States Either Don’t Have a Personal Income Tax or Have One in Need of Improvement

Data released late last week by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indicate that 10 states have greater concentrations of reported income among their very wealthiest residents than the country as a whole. Unfortunately, the tax systems in those ten states generally ignore that very important reality. Of those ten states:
– four lack a broad-based personal income tax;
– three either impose a single, flat rate personal income tax or have a rate structure that all but functions in that manner; and
– three use a graduated rate structure, but two have cut income taxes for their most affluent residents substantially over the past two decades and are now struggling to close multi-billion dollar budget gaps.

The failure to use sufficiently progressive personal income taxes — or to levy any personal income tax at all — results in an overall tax system that is unsustainable, inadequate, and unfair over the long-run. Indeed, of these ten states, over half face severe or chronic budget shortfalls. Reforms to improve the personal income tax — or simply to institute one — should be on the agenda in each of these states.

The Distribution Of Public Spending For Health Care In The United States, 2002

Source: Thomas Selden and Merrile Sing, Health Affairs Web Exclusive, July 29, 2008
(subscription required)

From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality summary:
In the July/August online version of Health Affairs, AHRQ analysts provide the first study since the 1970s that comprehensively analyzes the distribution of health care outlays and health care tax subsidies provided by federal, state, and local governments. The study, which uses the most recent data available, breaks down public health spending by age, race, sex, health status, coverage status, and income. AHRQ’s Thomas Selden and Merrile Sing found that public outlays and tax expenditures constituted 56 percent of all health care spending in 2002. Overall, public spending on the civilian noninstitutionalized population averaged $2,612 per person; of that amount, $1,867 per person came from outlays through Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs, while $745 per person came from health-related tax subsidies, predominantly the exclusion of the value of employer-sponsored health insurance from federal and state taxes.

LA Fire Department all ‘aTwitter’ over Web 2.0

Source: Heather Havenstein, Computerworld, Aug 3, 2007

The Los Angeles Fire Department has been the toast of the blogosphere in recent weeks after its efforts at using the micro-blogging site Twitter came to light.

Twitter allows users to post short (140 characters or less) notes. The fire department uses Twitter to post information about fires or other emergencies that it is responding to. These messages are then sent to users signed up to receive the information on their mobile devices.