A Mayor’s Pledge to Support Successful Aging

This is a guest post written by Paul H. Irving, President, Milken Institute.

BCSA-Logo

This month, the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging Advisory Committee will ask mayors across the nation to sign a pledge that promises to improve life for older adults and residents of all ages.

Cities are at the front lines in addressing the consequences of the rapid, unprecedented aging of populations in the United States and across the world. Enabling successful aging is a central issue for urban communities and municipal leaders. The Best Cities for Successful Aging Pledge unites mayors around a commitment to enhance life for the world’s largest-ever population of older adults and ensure a better future for our cities.

The Pledge acknowledges both great challenges and great opportunities for city leaders. In conjunction with the second edition of its often-cited report, “Best Cities for Successful Aging,” to be released later this year, the Milken Institute will recognize forward-thinking mayors who sign the Pledge and celebrate their efforts to promote purpose and well-being for their aging residents. The “Best Cities” report, which compares the nation’s metropolitan areas on data-driven criteria, receives wide attention in major national and local newspaper, television, radio and social media outlets.

As we initiate the Pledge, the stakes are clear. By 2030 one in five Americans will be over 65, most of them living in urban environments. Worldwide, this older age group by mid-century will outnumber children under 14, due in large measure to declining birthrates and expanding longevity resulting from medical, technical and public health advances.

In the United States, older adults increasingly concentrate in America’s urban settings, where we see the emergence of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, or NORCs. These surroundings profoundly influence older residents’ ability to age well and enjoy healthy, engaged and fulfilling lives.

To improve lives through strengthened cities requires urban environments that are physically, economically and socially attuned to the well-being of mature residents. An age-friendly city optimizes health and security as well as engagement and productivity. It offers housing options and social services as well as opportunities for education, work, volunteerism and social interaction. These goals hold vast opportunity for our cities—and require new thinking as well as strong, committed mayoral leadership.

Too often we overlook older adults’ potential to improve society for people of all ages. We see only stereotypes of decline and disengagement. Mayors and other municipal leaders must promulgate the truth: Older residents can be an invaluable asset to their communities. We encourage government leaders to discard outmoded notions of aging that fail to consider this potential.

Older people today are healthier and more vibrant than in generations past. They have much to offer—not just the wisdom of age, but the practical experience and skills that can enrich families as well as work, educational and social settings. They offer a wealth of mentoring and training opportunities in the workforce, along with perspectives that enhance intergenerational teams. In encore careers and entrepreneurial ventures, they help drive economic growth. In education and volunteer activities, they contribute to society’s well-being.

Today’s mayors have a chance to help their communities reimagine what it means to grow older. With eyes open to 21st century reality, innovative officials can create environments that embrace the contributions of aging populations.

Through cross-agency efforts, cities will feature welcoming neighborhoods where age-friendly streets and shops encourage older people’s social engagement. Through upgraded infrastructure and communications, cities will enable people to age independently in their homes. By integrating health and social services into overall planning, cities will foster healthy aging. And through transportation and housing options, cities will promote mobility, safety and convenience, in the bargain enabling older adults to remain involved in their communities.

The role of mayors in this great urban challenge cannot be overstated. Leadership is paramount in championing a new model of aging that incorporates the many assets older people bring. Mayors’ ground-level experience with demographic transitions opens the door to solutions that can be replicated at the state, national and global levels.

Cities are economic engines and centers of purpose. Urban leaders can ensure that older residents contribute to the economy and strengthen civil society, applying their abilities and knowledge to keeping cities strong and vibrant. Our mayors can harness the benefits of longevity and embrace the upside of aging.

It’s time to make successful aging a priority in our cities. We look forward to celebrating the commitment and vision of mayors who sign the Best Cities for Successful Aging Pledge.

Paul-IrvingAbout the author: Paul H. Irving is president and a member of the board of the Milken Institute. Irving’s work to improve aging societies has been featured in outlets such as PBS Newshour, Forbes, CBS, NBC, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of the 2014 Janet L. Witkin Award from Affordable Living for the Aging. Irving’s book, “The Upside of Aging – How Long Life is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy, and Purpose,” was recently published by John Wiley & Sons.

Supporting Small Businesses through Economic Development Offices

This is a guest post written by Jason Rittenberg.

Bakery Square in Pittsburgh is a mixed-use redevelopment project of CDFA member Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Bakery Square in Pittsburgh is a mixed-use redevelopment project of CDFA member Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Incubators. Microlending. Accelerators. Crowdfunding. From rural areas to large cities, from the middle of the country to the coasts, today’s economic development entities — and their jargon — are all-in on encouraging small business finance.

Communities are increasing their support with good reason. Small businesses account for more than 99 percent of firms, 49 percent of employment and 42 percent of payroll in the country.[1] Further, small business lending continues to struggle out of the recession. While overall business lending is up nearly 25 percent from 2008, bank loans of less than $1 million remain down 14 percent over the same period.[2]

So communities are focused on helping small businesses, and from a constituent and need perspective, it makes sense for them to do so. But what does it mean to “help” a small business? For that matter, what is a “small” business? The answers to these questions are actually complex.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as having fewer than 500 employees, covering 99.7 percent of all firms. However, 90 percent of firms have fewer than 20 employees, and 62 percent have fewer than five. The difference in sophistication, goals and needs of a business with no employees is vastly different from a business with 10 employees, which is again exponentially different from a firm with 200 employees. Infusionsoft put together an infographic in 2012 to help illustrate these differences.

Given this variation, communities looking to support small businesses of any stripe need to think strategically about their economic development goals and needs before proceeding. Development finance programs require non-trivial commitments of resources to be effective and should therefore be entered into only as part of a comprehensive regional strategy. At the organization I work for, the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA), we refer to this approach as the “development finance toolbox.”[3]

In the area of small business access to capital, CDFA has seen a wide variety of city and state programs be successful. Technical assistance, seed and venture capital, credit enhancement, and lending programs — as well as incubators, microlending and other trendy solutions — can all contribute to small businesses in different ways. The keys to success are to match the right program to real community needs and to find the right partners to assist in implementation.

Small business needs, foundational finance programs, and innovative support programs are all being covered as part of the Providing Small Businesses with Access to Capital forum being held in Kansas City, MO on October 8-9, 2014. Economic development, small business development, and other city staff are encouraged to participate in the event to learn about the latest and best practices for encouraging this critical sector of the local economy.

Rittenberg_HeadShot_blogAbout the author: Jason Rittenberg is the Director of Research & Advisory Services for CDFA. He oversees numerous projects, including the State Small Business Credit Initiative Coalition, and is the course advisor the CDFA Intro Revolving Loan Fund Course.

 

 

 

[1] U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Latest Statistics of U.S. Businesses Annual Data. Retrieved 8/19/2014 from: http://www.census.gov/econ/susb/

[2] Simon, P. and Loten, A. (2014, Aug. 17). Small-business lending is slow to recover. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8/19/2014 from: http://online.wsj.com/articles/small-business-lending-is-slow-to-recover-1408329562

[3] Rittner, T. (2009). Practitioner’s Guide to Economic Development Finance.

How Pittsburgh Plans to Connect Two Thousand Young People to Health Insurance

This is a guest post by Patrick Dowd. Pittsburgh, Pa. is one of eight cities NLC has awarded funding to reduce the number of uninsured children.

Healthy-Together-Pitts

Pittsburgh is dubbed one of the most livable and most affordable cities in the nation and is known for its vibrant neighborhoods, world-class arts scene, top-rated health systems and friendly residents. Soon, it could be known for being the first city in the country to achieve 100 percent health insurance enrollment of children and youth. Thanks to a major grant from the National League of Cities (NLC), the Steel City may make history.

The NLC’s Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families initiative awarded Pittsburgh $200,000 to implement local outreach efforts to enroll its youngest residents in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The plan, called Healthy Together, will target two thousand young people who have been the hardest to reach and most difficult to enroll. The Office of the Mayor will lead the work and collaborate with primary partners: Allies for Children, the Consumer Health Coalition and the Allegheny County Health Department.

I want to thank the National League of Cities for this award, which is the result of a lot of hard work. We are going to use this program to reach 100 percent health insurance enrollment for our youth, and build a model outreach effort that other cities can duplicate across the country.

- Mayor William Peduto

To announce the news, Mayor William Peduto held a press conference in his office. Within hours, every major media outlet shared the story. Interviews appeared on CBS Pittsburgh, KDKA Newsradio, the Pittsburgh Business Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, WESA-AM and WPXI-TV, and social media messages spread like wildfire. #HealthyTogether reached more than 60,000 people on Twitter.

Allies-for-children-tweet

“We are excited about the initial buzz the grant created and plan to continue to engage the media,” says Allies for Children Executive Director Patrick Dowd. “However we know the key to the plan is to continue to build a strong coalition of elected officials, community leaders and child-serving organizations.”

“We realize that in order for this campaign to truly work, it must be led by the city and a mayor who priorities the health of our children,” says Nonprofit & Faith-Based Manager Betty Cruz. “That’s why we changed the direction of our initial approach during the application process. Upon receiving feedback from the National League of Cities, the Office of the Mayor worked with our primary partners on a plan that, over time, would build a sustainable model utilizing existing channels that can fold into the daily work of city government. This will hopefully bring about systematic changes to institutions serving youth.”

FB-Pitts-blog

Mayor Peduto’s Healthy Together campaign combines two core strategies to move Pittsburgh to complete coverage for all children and youth. First, Healthy Together proposes outreach efforts in those communities where it is most likely that uninsured children reside. In the broadest terms, the underlying strategy of the campaign is to embed outreach and enrollment activities in efforts that already exist, like the opening of swimming pools and the rental of sports fields. Additional activities include marching band performances, roving art carts and movies in the park.

“The events have the potential of reaching hundreds of uninsured children living in the City of Pittsburgh,” says Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker. “These kids are five times more likely to have an unmet medical concern and three times more likely to not have access to prescription drugs, like asthma inhalers. Additionally, uninsured kids are 30 percent less likely to get medical treatment when injured. This grant will help expand health access to every child in every neighborhood, so they can enjoy their childhoods to the fullest.”

Second, the Healthy Together campaign will bring systematic change to the institutions already serving children in Pittsburgh, thereby creating a net to catch kids not identified through outreach efforts. Simultaneously, with the launching of the outreach campaign, the City of Pittsburgh, which employs more than 6,000 city residents, will launch an in-reach campaign to make certain that all employees’ children are covered with health insurance. This could be the first step towards a larger effort to require that all firms contracting with the City of Pittsburgh perform similar in-reach efforts.

“We are thrilled that the city is putting the health care of our children at the forefront of practice changes and policy discussions,” says Consumer Health Coalition Executive Director Beth Heeb. “This work will change health outcomes for kids and significantly enhance access to quality, affordable health care.”

At the same time, the Pittsburgh Public Schools, which serves 70 percent of the school age population of the City of Pittsburgh, will track a question on school enrollment forms, which asks if students have health insurance. Beginning in August, responses to this question will be electronically coded and shared with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. The information will then be entered into a data warehouse. Every application for which yes was not answered will be referred to the Consumer Healthcare Coalition to be matched with quality, affordable insurance.

Pitts-kids-pics

Outreach in the community combined with systematic change will not only help Pittsburgh cover 100 percent of children with health insurance, but will also foster a culture of coverage. This is especially important for the future of Pittsburgh as Mayor Peduto positions the city for population growth of 20,000 in the next decade. Having successful outreach strategies and systems in place to assist families, especially those new to the region, with finding affordable health insurance will be critical to the long-term health of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Throughout the enrollment campaign, Mayor Peduto will serve as a spokesperson, working with community members and community-based organizations.

Partners include:

  • A+ Schools;
  • Allegheny County Children’s Court;
  • Allegheny County Department of Human Services;
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh;
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh;
  • Enroll America;
  • Homeless Children’s Education Fund;
  • Latino Family Center;
  • Perry Hilltop Citizens Council;
  • Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children;
  • Pittsburgh Public Schools;
  • Pittsburgh; Squirrel Hill Health Center;
  • Service Employees International Union;
  • The Brashear Association;
  • Kingsley Association;
  • United Way of Allegheny County;
  • YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Center for Race & Gender Equity;
  • Center for Social & Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh and Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Healthy Together combines a healthy mix of government leadership and community partnership with a rich variety of activities. The goal is to ensure that Pittsburgh’s children will live healthily ever after well beyond the life of this grant.

Dowd 2012-010 High ResolutionAbout the author: Patrick Dowd is a key partner in the Healthy Together enrollment campaign being led by the City of Pittsburgh. His organization, Allies for Children, has worked in partnership with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in shaping the Healthy Together plan and will continue to be a thought-partner throughout the campaign. Patrick joined Allies for Children in July 2013 as its inaugural executive director.

 

 

The Healthy Kids-Happy Families Insurance Campaign: Garden City, Michigan

This is a guest post by Megan Sheeran. Garden City, Mich. is one of eight cities NLC has awarded funding to reduce the number of uninsured children.

By Dwight Burdette, via Wikimedia Commons

By Dwight Burdette, via Wikimedia Commons

Our nation thrives when the health of its smaller communities is good.  Access to health insurance for vulnerable populations, importantly children and families, is crucial in securing a better future for us all.  The city of Garden City is well aware of what makes a great community and has committed to strengthening its resident’s awareness and enrollment in Michigan’s low cost or no cost insurance programs.

Garden City, MI: In a Nutshell

Garden City is a small city with a lot of heart located in southeast Michigan, just a 30 minute drive from downtown Detroit.  Its residents are hard working and service-oriented people.  The city’s community leaders are always working hard to meet the needs of those people living within the city limits and beyond.  As the city’s motto states, it’s “A Great Place To Call Home”.

Getting a Plan in Motion

Garden City is one of the eight cities awarded the National League of Cities grant and technical assistance to support the city leader’s efforts to educate and enroll those residents that are eligible for low cost or no cost health insurance.

A Task Force, made up of community leaders, was organized to carry out the planning phase of the healthcare initiative named the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project.  Numerous community leaders signed on to be involved with the project including representatives from the school district, the local hospital, and the city government.  The Task Force is a shining example of the commitment and passion this community’s leaders have for the well-being of those residing in their city.

The goal of the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project is to enroll 100% of Garden City children and adults who are eligible for the Healthy Michigan insurance program but are not currently insured.  During the preliminary stage of program development, it was found that 10% of children in the city were uninsured and eligible for Healthy Michigan (roughly 633 children!).  Clearly, this number doesn’t include the many parents and family members that are also uninsured but are eligible for a Healthy Michigan plan.  It has been estimated that a large percentage of the city’s population will be positively influenced by this project.

Meeting the Significant Healthcare Need in the City:  A Two-Pronged Approach

Prong One

Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project is to increase awareness and knowledge of the Healthy Michigan, the state’s low cost or no cost insurance program.  Majority of residents surveyed during the planning process reported the reason they were not signed up for Healthy Michigan was due to the complicated and time-consuming process of enrolling.  It was important for the initiative to incorporate an educational dimension; therefore the residents of Garden City would be informed about their potential eligibility for Healthy Michigan, the potential benefits this would offer to their individual families and how simple it can be to enroll.

Prong Two 

The Project will offer enrollment assistance to those residents who qualify for the Healthy Michigan insurance program.  The key to this enrollment assistance is that it be offered by trusted community members in trusted community locations such as in schools, the community center, and at the local hospital.  A new city department, the Community Resource Department (CRD), will carry out the day-to-day workings of the project.  City staff and volunteer community members will be the “boots on the ground”, going out into the community and offering one-on-one personal assistance to adults and parents during the application process.

The Project will be in operation year round, apart from the initial campaign, to offer those individuals who have enrolled continuous form assistance and help with choosing a healthcare plan, select a local primary care physician and schedule their first well visit appointment.  It is crucial that these families and individuals do not fall through the cracks once they are found to be eligible for Healthy Michigan.

Increasing Health Insurance Coverage in Garden City: The Benefits

According to the National Center of Children in Poverty, children have higher health-related school absentee rates, affecting educational attainment and future employability (Present, Engage, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, 2008).  Parents of these children experience the challenges of coping with an ill child; employee absenteeism to be home with a sick child that causes lost wages and negatively impacts a parent’s ability to maintain consistent employment (C. Teng, Citispeak.org, 2013).  The Health Kids-Happy Families project will reduce the number of uninsured children in the city, thereby improving school attendance and educational attainment; preventing their parents’ from the threat of falling into a debilitating financial crisis.

In addition, the local hospital is currently challenged with a high rate of Emergency Room visits by uninsured families for non-emergency issues; majority of these visits go unpaid, causing tremendous financial burden on the hospital.  Also, when the Emergency Room is busy with non-emergency issues, true emergency treatment is often delayed.  Reducing non-emergency use of the Emergency Room will benefit the community greatly, financially and otherwise.

Garden City: Setting a Course to Thrive!

The City of Garden City’s Healthy Kids-Happy Families project is going to enrich its community immensely.  Being an example to other communities of what can happen when city leaders come together for the sole purpose of cultivating healthier outcomes for families and individuals and in doing so enriching the nation as a whole.

Megan-Sheeran-Garden-CityAbout the author: Megan Sheeran is a limited licensed Master of Social Work and is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work.  She recently returned to the City of Garden City as the Community Resource Coordinator and will be organizing the day-to-day tasks for the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project as well as coordinating many other community support program.

 

 

Why Health Care Matters in Savannah

This is a guest post by Suzanne Donovan, Executive Director of Step Up Savannah. Savannah is one of eight cities NLC has awarded funding to reduce the number of uninsured children.

Savannah-Skyline

More than 5,000 kids 18 and younger are uninsured in Chatham County, putting them at risk for preventable diseases, burdening families with financial distress resulting from medical bills and increasing costs to our hospitals (and taxpayers) for emergency room visits for routine care. A new initiative aims to change that.

A National League of Cities grant, just announced, will fund the Mayor’s Campaign for Healthy Children and Families to reduce by 50% the number of uninsured children in our county. Savannah is one of eight cities in the U.S. awarded these innovative grants that set 18-month goals to boost the numbers of eligible children and families enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare.

Step Up, with its partner, Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council, the county’s healthcare collaborative, and City of Savannah staff produced the successful proposal. Key city departments such as the Public Information Office, the Citizen’s Office 311 service, plus enrollment and outreach partners will work hand-in-hand with community-based organizations, health clinics and hospitals to accomplish the ambitious enrollment gains.

Strategic points where kids and parents regularly intersect such as schools, health clinics, even public events will have information and direct families to trained enrollment assistance staff.

Georgia lags behind other states in terms of health insurance coverage for children and families. Eleven percent of Georgia’s children are uninsured, representing 4.3% of the nation’s total population of uninsured children. Additionally, 23% of Georgia adults with dependent children are uninsured; 78% of Georgia’s uninsured children are eligible, but not enrolled in Medicaid or PeachCare.

Access to health insurance is a critical piece of the poverty puzzle — medical debt causes undue hardship, particularly on low-income families, and in most cases is avoidable by signing up for existing public health insurance programs. The National League of Cities grant funds raise the possibility of fostering real change and getting more eligible families signed up in our county.

SDonovan_Headshot-2

About the author: Suzanne Donovan is executive director of Step Up Savannah, the City of Savannah’s poverty reduction initiative.

 

 

 

 

Jacksonville’s Plan to Reduce the Number of Uninsured Children in Duval County

This is a guest post by Cheryl Townsend, Cover Jacksonville Project Director. Jacksonville is one of eight cities NLC has awarded funding to reduce the number of uninsured children.

Cover Jacksonville partners (left to right): Jon Heymann, Jacksonville Children’s Commission; Michael Aubin, THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital; The Honorable Kimberly Daniels, Jacksonville City Council; Connie Hodges, United Way of Northeast Florida; Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools The Honorable Alvin Brown, Mayor of Jacksonville; Dawn Emerick, Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida; The Honorable Mia L. Jones, Florida House of Representatives and Special Assistant to Mayor Alvin Brown

Cover Jacksonville partners (left to right): Jon Heymann, Jacksonville Children’s Commission; Michael Aubin, THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital; The Honorable Kimberly Daniels, Jacksonville City Council; Connie Hodges, United Way of Northeast Florida; Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools; The Honorable Alvin Brown, Mayor of Jacksonville; Dawn Emerick, Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida; The Honorable Mia L. Jones, Florida House of Representatives and Special Assistant to Mayor Alvin Brown

There are over 25,000 uninsured children in Duval County (Jacksonville, FL). Many of these children qualify for insurance through Medicaid or Florida Healthy Kids (Florida KidCare), but most of their parents are simply not aware. And, while efforts have been made in the community to increase enrollment, ongoing challenges have created barriers to its success. Some of Jacksonville’s challenges have historically been a lack of strategic focus on community health, a very large five-county geographic service delivery area, and insufficient funding for educational outreach to get to all areas. Therefore, Jacksonville is extremely excited to begin implementation of the Cover Jacksonville campaign as a result of receiving the Cities Expanding Health Access to Children and Families grant from the National League of Cities.

Cover Jacksonville is a health campaign that builds on existing enrollment efforts and leverages community resources in order to reduce the number of uninsured Duval County children by 20% by December 2015. Led by the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, the campaign’s key partners include the Mayor’s appointment of Jacksonville’s first-ever Commissioner of Health, THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, United Way of Northeast Florida, the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida and Duval County Public Schools. Cover Jacksonville will focus on four outreach and enrollment strategies:

  • Building Capacity: Understanding and tackling obstacles through training and education of community stakeholders, parents, and elected officials.
  • Raising Awareness: Promoting a culture of health and education about insurance options, using phone banks and on-the-ground enrollment events, and online at http://www.coverjax.org (coming soon!).
  • Establishing a Single Point of Access: Streamlining the consumer information-gathering process by directing consumers to United Way of Northeast Florida’s 2-1-1 hotline, where parents will be able to schedule appointments with Community Enrollment Assisters at various sites located throughout the city.
  • Identifying Uninsured Children through Public Schools: Establishing a pilot program at three schools (Bartram Springs Elementary, Twin Lakes Middle School, and Atlantic Coast High School) to identify uninsured children through school enrollment questionnaires and using trained school officials, who will work to get these children coverage.

After analyzing secondary data and input from community leaders and parents, Cover Jacksonville will target working poor families with uninsured children. Previous community enrollment efforts utilized Health Zone designations to identify targeted areas, which left out families from pockets of poverty that fell outside the city’s urban core. By targeting working poor families throughout the county, however, Cover Jacksonville ensures these families will no longer be overlooked.

The Cover Jacksonville campaign will govern itself using a shared governance model, emphasizing: collaboration, shared decision making, and accountability to improve the quality of care, safety, and enhance work life. This includes the creation of the Cover Jacksonville Advisory Board, led by the Commissioner of Health, and the Cover Jacksonville Action Committee, led by the Project Director.

During the planning process, participation and invaluable input from the city’s top leadership provided a vision for what would eventually become Cover Jacksonville. These leaders included Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown; The Honorable Mia L. Jones, Florida House of Representatives and Special Assistant to the Mayor; Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools; The Honorable Kimberly Daniels, City of Jacksonville Public Health and Safety Committee Chair and City Council liaison to the Children’s Commission Board of Directors; The Honorable Ray Holt, Jacksonville City Council; Michael Aubin, Hospital President, Wolfson Children’s Hospital; Dr. Kelli Wells, Director, Duval County Health Department; Dawn Emerick, Principal/Owner, Impact Partners (formerly President & CEO, The Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida); Connie Hodges, CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida (ret.); and Jon Heymann, CEO of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

From January to April 2014, key partners held three additional meetings, in which they reviewed data, developed key messages, inventoried assets, developed a process map for the referral system, and established campaign performance measures. In parallel to the community leadership meetings, five consumer focus groups were also conducted. The initial campaign strategy was to target child and family health insurance enrollment, however, the consumer focus groups and key partners unanimously indicated a strong need to combine those outreach efforts and messaging with the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace’s existing adult enrollment efforts. As a result of this significant finding during the market analysis, the business plan reflects noteworthy collaborative efforts between the child and adult efforts such as a new consolidated brand, Cover Jacksonville.

In July of 2014, as we move into the implementation phase of Cover Jacksonville, we will continue to share our lessons with the hope that more stakeholders will understand the needs in our community and become more direct with their priorities for our children. And through collaboration and alignment of existing efforts and resources, the outcomes we expect to emerge not only include a decrease in the number of uninsured children, but a community-wide approach to sustaining a culture of health and wellness in Jacksonville, Florida.

For more information on how participate in the campaign, contact Cheryl Townsend at cherylt@coj.net or (904) 630-6405.

3aaff56About the author: Cheryl Townsend is the Cover Jacksonville Project Director at the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

Trust, but Verify: Case Study Examines Financial Fraud in Government

This is a guest post written by Adam Levenson of UNC-Chapel Hill’s MPA@UNC program.

Trust-Verify

“Trust, but verify.” According to certified public finance officers Stan Helgerson and David Richardson, Ronald Reagan’s famous stance on international arms control is just as applicable to financial controls in municipal government.

As experts in government accounting and financial management, Helgerson and Richardson have been involved in cleaning up after the largest municipal fraud case in US history in which a trusted city comptroller embezzled more than $50 million in a decades-long fraud.

In the recent “Trust, but Verify” webinar co-sponsored by MPA@UNC and NLC University, they joined University of North Carolina associate professor Kimberly Nelson to describe what went wrong in one small, mid-western city and how other cities can avoid similar thefts.

Weak Internal Controls: Inviting Abuse

As Richardson describes it, the scam began in 1989 when the city comptroller began exploiting internal control weaknesses to embezzle as much as $5 million per year from city accounts. The comptroller took the following covert actions:

  • Set up a secret, city bank account without the knowledge of city commissioners or her colleagues.
  • Directed statements from that account to a PO Box that only she controlled.
  • Improperly raised spending limits by manipulating application of state budget and appropriations procedures.
  • Inflated annual pension fund and liability insurance property tax levies.

She also commingled funds to hide deficits in individual funds by setting up 35 checking accounts in multiple banks.

The city outsourced its accounting, auditing, and bookkeeping functions, and the comptroller was able to intercept and re-direct funds to her personal accounts.

From a financial management perspective, Helgerson and Richardson say multiple factors set the stage for fraud:

  • One person was given too much power.
  • The city council did not conduct a constructive review of financial activity; nor was it receiving the type of reports that enable such review.
  • The comptroller assembled budgets without staff input and with little feedback from the city council.
  • Employees and constituents were encouraged to take advantage of personal favors such as loans or advances, institutionalizing dubious behavior.
  • A significant capital projects program provided more opportunities for siphoning off funds.

With a city commissioner form of government, the city’s elected officials—rather than paid professional staff—functioned as heads of various departments such as finance and public works. An expert in form of government and performance, Nelson notes that research does not conclusively prove that certain forms of government are at higher risk of corruption.

However, she says three evident risk factors can contribute to local government corruption: inadequate level of professionalism in government, insufficient internal controls, and in locations with population demographics characterized by low income, high unemployment and poverty rates, and lower education rates.

The Scam Unravels

The comptroller’s scam finally unraveled in fall 2011. While the comptroller was on vacation, the city clerk covering her duties discovered a secret checking account and notified the mayor. The mayor promptly notified the FBI who launched an investigation that ultimately led to the comptroller’s arrest and conviction for wire fraud.

To date, through insurance and the sale of the comptroller’s assets, the city has recovered about $40 million of the $54 million stolen.

Moving Forward: Lessons Learned

With the fraud exposed, the city moved proactively to address the crisis—bringing in Helgerson and Richardson to restructure and reorganize its financial operations. While their work was specific to the city’s situation, they say every city can learn these lessons from the case:

  • The governing body should require and discuss annual management letters from auditors to identify possible internal control weaknesses. With staff sometimes inclined to discourage management letter comments, a strong audit committee may be needed.
  • The governing body must play a meaningful role in the development and review of annual budgets and the review of regular financial reports.
  • Internal controls for all major accounting and financial reporting functions should be formalized and documented—from purchasing procedures to debt issuance.
  • Checking accounts and funds should be consolidated wherever possible.
  • Duties should be segregated and staff cross-trained wherever feasible.
  • Statistical and financial comparisons should be made with similarly sized governments to detect anomalies.
  • A reporting process should be established to review and evaluate how internal control initiatives are performing.
  • Outsourcing financial functions can only work securely with the proper in-house procedures in place.

Learn more about MPA@UNC’s partnership with the National League of Cities and fellowships available to NLC members.

Editor’s note: The names of the city and comptroller have been omitted at the request of the National League of Cities.

Adam HeadshotAbout the Author: Adam Levenson is the community manager at UNC-Chapel Hill’s MPA@UNC: online Master of Public Administration – a top ranked MPA program. To learn more about MPA@UNC, you can follow @MPAatUNC.

What It Takes to Cluster

This is a guest post written by Daria Siegel, Director of Launch LM and Andrew Breslau, Downtown Alliance Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing.

Tech Tuesday’s took place at the South Street Seaport during the summer of 2013.  Hundreds of technologists gathered for conversations related to innovation and technology at this weekly public event series.

At Tech Tuesday’s during the summer of 2013, hundreds of technologists gathered for conversations related to innovation and technology at this weekly public event series.

It seems everybody these days wants a “tech cluster.” Municipalities across the country are repositioning themselves as tech friendly in hopes of capturing some of the promise the industry might hold for their local economy.

Here’s the rub though: a tech cluster can’t happen just anywhere. It needs two primary ingredients. One harkens back to that oldest of business clichés “location, location, location” and the other is a bit more under a municipality’s control: a coordinated strategic marketing campaign.

The beginnings of a meaningful tech cluster are rooted in the strength and breadth of a location’s irreducible assets. Even in the face of the digital economy’s decentralizing potential, agglomeration is essential. One of these desired clusters can’t be faked, plunked down just anywhere or retrofitted neatly in the postindustrial landscape (unless you have access to an extraordinary amount of capital i.e. Las Vegas). A preexisting creative cluster or digitally dependent core industry, robust academic assets, cutting edge telecommunications resources, access to financial resources for start-up and mature businesses alike and multi- modal transportation networks are just some of the characteristics that enable viable tech clusters.

If those assets constitute the hardware needed to animate a tech cluster, the software is marketing. In order to build the right marketing software, a location has to first be ruthlessly honest in its appraisal of what its “hard” assets are. Whatever your store of hard assets is, it will take a partnership amongst a consortium of stakeholders and investments in branding, social media and organizing to make the most of your locality’s strategic and competitive interests.

In Lower Manhattan, we’ve been doing just that.  In September of 2013 we created LaunchLM, an initiative to galvanize and grow the technology and digital communities in Lower Manhattan. Over the past year, the number of tech companies in Lower Manhattan grew by 24 percent, from nearly 500 to 600 companies today.  And that doesn’t even count digitally oriented media and other creative industries. We believe the potential to build on that is vast.

Lower Manhattan has a legacy rooted in innovation. From AT&T building its first headquarters here in 1916 to being the location of the first transatlantic telephone call, Lower Manhattan has always teemed with possibility. We’re blessed with unsurpassed transportation access, a rich pool of knowledge workers, space for businesses to let at a variety of price points, the nation’s most advanced fiber optic network and we possess an already bustling mixed use environment.

By partnering with the real estate industry, LaunchLM provides venues for programming and events targeted toward the creative industries sector, like the holiday party hosted by LaunchLM and Control Group at 4 World Trade Center.

LaunchLM provides venues for programming and events targeted toward the creative industries sector, like the holiday party hosted with Control Group at 4 World Trade Center.

LaunchLM grew out of a committee convened by the Alliance for Downtown New York—New York’s’ larges Business Improvement District. The committee, made up of stakeholders in the tech sector, real estate professionals, industry associations, community leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, met for a year discussing and debating the kinds of catalysts needed to help Lower Manhattan reach its potential with the industry.

Two bedrock principles of the effort were clear and became the pillars of LaunchLM. The effort had to make those it was seeking to influence the parties who defined our direction and also make them partners in content making.  The effort needed to be by and for the technologists, executives and locational decision makers and influencers that make or break clustering. It also had to be an effort that was committed to for the long haul. Whatever work was undertaken would have to be sustained with constant investment and effort over time. Years, not weeks. To quote the Carpenters “we’ve only just begun.”

Launch likes to think of itself as relentlessly active and patient at the same time.

Whether it’s our restless pursuit of building virtual community through our rich website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, the attention we pay to SEO and email list building or the regular public programming we sponsor from Start-up Open houses to talks on the frontier of data science to discussions on the intersection of food and tech, we keep our ear to the ground about the industry’s latest trends and concerns and then invite them to partner with us to produce relevant content. We never forget it’s their industry, we help produce the venue, the crowd, make connections and spread the word.

This is the key to marketing to the Tech sector. If it’s ersatz –you’re done. Be what you advertise.

In addition to making content, Launch is an advocate. Among other things, we educate the real estate community about the particular needs of tech clients–flexible space, bike rooms, etc. You can look to our website as a resource for tech friendly buildings in the district. We also energetically engage with government, educational institutions and the not for profit sector on the industry’s needs and agenda. We strive to be a connecter, problem solver and industry champion.

Our next step will be creating a physical space where programming, networking and pedagogy can have a home. In the months ahead, LaunchLM will become a three dimensional destination where industry associations and startups, out of town executives and companies can come set up and shop, conduct business, sponsor hackathons, do product demos and convene audiences. All that and have a killer cup of coffee at the same time. Never forget that caffeine is the fuel that the Tech industry runs on!

Our results so far? Great press about the district’s assets, a constant drum beat about possibility, promise and achievement, a robust and growing social and communications network, a new sense of community, new connections between the real estate and tech industries and a palpable sense of momentum.

We’re confident that it’s the dynamic interplay between the intrinsic appeal of Lower Manhattan and how and with whom we sell it that will ultimately tell the tale of our “cluster.” We’re also confident that, with the course we’re setting, the oldest neighborhood in New York City is going to play a big role in defining the City’s economic future.

Andy_headshot

Andrew Breslau is a Senior Vice President for the Alliance for Downtown New York. A former press secretary in New York City government, a not for profit executive and producer at CNN, he manages the Alliance’s communications, marketing and technology teams.

 

 
Daria_headshotDaria Siegel, an urban planner, serves as Director of LaunchLM, an initiative designed to champion the growing technology sector in Lower Manhattan, created by the Alliance for Downtown New York.

Where Big Ideas Start

This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting “big ideas” reshaping America’s cities. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #CityIdeas.

Big Ideas

A lot has been written about innovation and why particular cities are hotbeds of the big ideas that drive the U.S. economy. These analyses often focus on the conditions that enable a good idea, say dreamed up in a coffee shop, to turn into a successful business.

But innovation within longstanding institutions is an equally important story. How existing organizations – whether government, business, civic or religious – adapt to a changing world is fundamental to our country’s progress.

Regardless of where it emerges, innovation is critical because it begins by recognizing the limitations or failures of traditional ways of doing things and creating solutions that add value – solutions that every so often even fundamentally change how we live our lives.

On April 11, NLC and The University of Chicago will highlight ideas with this type of potential at the “Big Ideas for Cities” event in Chicago.  Here are just a few examples of the initiatives attendees will hear about:

St. Paul: Improving Education by Thinking Outside the Classroom

StPaul

It’s not just classroom activities that determine whether a student will succeed in life. Opportunities outside the classroom are equally important to the social and emotional development of children and youth.

Calling on the entire community, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has led the development of a national model for citywide afterschool. Referred to as “system building,”  the city has moved away from the management and funding of isolated programs in favor of in-depth coordination among city, school and nonprofit providers.

The result is “Sprockets” – a network of afterschool and summer program providers that seeks to improve the quality, availability and effectiveness of out-of-school time learning for all children and youth.

“In our cities today, afterschool programs are one of the best things we can do to keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, teach new skills and help working families,” said Mayor Coleman.

Salt Lake City: Promoting ‘Sustainability’ in Transportation

SaltLake

Innovative and efficient transportation systems can address community needs in ways that influence positive patterns of growth and economic activity. Look no further than Salt Lake City for evidence of that.

From light rail and commuter rail, bikes and pedestrian networks to the Sugar House Streetcar, Salt Lake City has set in place a transit system that provides safe travel options for residents, is affordable and efficient, limits waste and resource use and supports a vibrant economy.

With leadership from Mayor Ralph Becker, the city is working to deliver transportation services that result in a cleaner, healthier and more connected community by fostering alternative transportation use, reducing vehicle miles traveled and promoting fuel-efficient vehicles.

“As we look ahead toward 2015, we envision continued progress to a new kind of urbanism that embraces accessibility, sustainability, diversity and culture,” said Mayor Ralph Becker.

Philadelphia: Going Beyond City Limits to Reduce Violence 

Philly

“In Philadelphia, young African American men and boys are 80 percent of the homicide victims and 75 percent of all the arrests we make for violent crime,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “Across America, black victims are nearly half of all homicides even though they are only 13 percent of the population.”

This epidemic of violence is what spurred Mayor Nutter, along with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, to form Cities United, a national movement to restore hope and opportunities to young men and boys directly affected by violence.

Since its 2011 launch, the initiative has forged a growing network of 56 mayors working to equip local leaders with the tools, practices, skills and resources needed to effectively eliminate the violence-related deaths of African American men and boys.

The initiative helps city leaders focus on prevention rather than prosecution, intervention rather than incarceration and relies on data to topple systemic barriers to opportunity facing African American men and boys.