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John S. and James L. Knight Foundation;
Communities across our nation are experimenting with new ways to engage citizens in the decisions made by civic leaders from the public, private and non-pro!t sectors, working sometimes together and sometimes at cross purposes. Ultimately, success at making democracy work and sustaining healthy communities requires engaged individuals, organizations, and institutions.
Across our country, community engagement bright spots are emerging. These initiatives foster a sense of attachment, expand access to information and resources, and create opportunities for citizens to play more active roles in setting priorities, addressing issues, and planning the longer-term sustainability of their communities.
The National League of Cities, working with The John S. and James L Knight Foundation, selected 14 communities that the two institutions are engaged with to explore how well or poorly some of these experiments are faring today. This analysis then focused more closely on four communities -- Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin -- to document the lessons learned and the challenges ahead.
Plain Talk is a community change initiative that attempts to help sexually active youth protect themselves from pregnancy and disease. Plain Talk neighborhoods mobilize their residents and enlist agencies that would increase access to and support the effective use of contraception. The report discusses how residents were involved in developing and implementing community outreach efforts to change sexual attitudes and practices of adults, teenagers and service providers; the political and moral issues that arose in crafting the Plain Talk message; and the sites' efforts to improve reproductive health care services for adolescents.
The Annie E. Casey Foundations Plain Talk initiative seeks to address the problems of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among a communitys youth by organizing and mobilizing community residents to change the attitudes and practices of the community and service providers. The Plain Talk approach is built from the belief in community empowerment and the use of consensus-building to make decisions and negotiate with social service institutions. This report documents the experiences of the six sites -- Atlanta, Hartford, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle -- during their planning year of the initiative.
Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative;
For decades, Philadelphia's property tax system has been criticized as outdated and unfair. In many cases, assessments have had little relation to actual property values -- or to assessments of similar structures across the street. In the spring of 2013, Philadelphia City Council is expected to adopt an overhaul of the city's property tax system, effective for tax bills due early in 2014. It is called the Actual Value Initiative (AVI).
The Actual Value Initiative would transform property taxation in Philadelphia in three significant ways, changing the certified market value of every piece of property in the city, the way individual assessments are used to calculate tax bills, and how property owners deal with any big tax increases that might result from the new system.
In recent years, no large city has set out to change all three at once. And while transformations of property tax systems in other jurisdictions have been the result of court orders and state mandates, Philadelphia is preparing to act on its own volition.
Perhaps the most important component of the city's plan is the simultaneous reassessment of all 579,383 pieces of real estate in the city. Some properties have not been reassessed since 2004, many others not since the 1980s. According to the city's chief assessment officer, Richie McKeithen, Philadelphia has never experienced a thorough citywide field inspection of every property and its various characteristics.
As the city prepares to undergo what will be a painful transition for some, we set out to better understand the challenges involved. We did so by studying the experiences of other cities and counties, the long history of fitful reforms and partial reassessments that have brought Philadelphia to this point, and the measures that the city is considering to help mitigate the steep tax increases that await some homeowners.
Among the key findings of this report:
A central reason why the city's assessment system has become plagued with inequities is that the state does not regulate it; Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that impose no reassessment timetables or standard assessment methods on local governments. It also is one of just three states to receive a grade of F in "standardized procedures" from the Council on State Taxation, a Washington-based trade group.
Numerous jurisdictions have adopted measures intended to mitigate the spikes in property taxes that AVI is likely to create for some residents. Some of these measures go beyond the levels of relief currently envisioned or allowed by law in Philadelphia. Whatever programs the city adopts would have several downsides. They would add layers of complexity to a new system that is meant to be simpler and more transparent than the status quo. They also would raise the property tax rate, at least slightly, for everyone.
One reason Philadelphians have been relatively complacent about longstanding inequities in assessments, analysts say, is that they pay less in property taxes (and more in wage taxes) than residents of many other jurisdictions. On a per capita basis, Philadelphia's property tax produces only about one quarter the amount generated in Washington and a third of what is collected in Boston and Hartford. These numbers include taxes that help pay for city government and those that fund the school system.
Efforts to restructure the system have been limited -- and are likely to continue to be limited -- by the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which state courts have interpreted as requiring that all types of property be taxed at the same rate. In other jurisdictions, many located in states with uniformity clauses of their own, higher property tax rates are imposed on commercial, industrial and vacant property; in Boston, Chicago and Washington, commercial rates are at least twice as high as residential rates. This is forbidden in Pennsylvania, although the legislature has created several ways to get more tax revenue out of commercial real estate.
Imposing a new system will solve little in the long term unless assessments are kept accurate and up to date. Doing so will require both vigilance and a commitment to adequately fund the city's Office of Property Assessment, the agency charged with this responsibility. A 2010 report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee looked at 14 counties that had met uniformity and equity standards through reassessment. Three years after the reassessments were completed, more than half no longer met the standards.
The comparison jurisdictions studied are Allegheny County, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Boston; Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago; Hartford, Conn.; Los Angeles; and Washington, all of which have grappled with various aspects of the property tax issues now confronting Philadelphia.
This report does not include projections about what the tax rate will be under AVI, how the overhaul will affect assessments in specific neighborhoods, or how much change there will be in the share of property tax revenue generated by residential as opposed to commercial parcels. None of that information will be known until assessment numbers are made public and City Council adopts a new tax rate.
Analyzes indicators of metropolitan conditions and trends critical to transforming isolated low-income neighborhoods at ten sites: the economy and labor market, demographic change, income and poverty, social conditions, and housing and mortgage market.
Analyzes demographic, social, and poverty data and 2000-10 changes in the economies and housing markets of fourteen metropolitan areas to inform Casey's strategies for reinvesting in initiatives including rehabilitation and minimizing vacancies.
Outlines a collaborative approach to involve government, business, foundations, residents, neighborhood organizations, and city leaders in community development and empowerment in neighborhoods in Detroit, Hartford, Memphis, and Milwaukee.
National Fund for Workforce Solutions;
The need to build a more robust workforce development pipeline is evident in the hundreds of thousands of job openings in our nation's advanced manufacturing industry. Rapid technological change has created a severe skills gap, compounded by a pending wave of retirements due to the aging of the workforce.
Investment in industry-driven on-the-job training (OJT) can be an effective workforce development strategy in this economy. This brief explores one promising OJT model: the Boeing Manufacturing On-the-Job Training Project (the "Boeing Project"), funded by The Boeing Company and managed by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (National Fund).
The Boeing project demonstrates that a well-designed OJT initiative can be valuable for both workers and employers. The project provided insight into the best uses of on-the-job training within the workforce development system, as well as recommendations for which design elements are most likely to help programs succeed. Results show that the OJT model is well suited for creating career advancement opportunities for entry-level employees, as well as for helping workforce development partnerships build relationships with employers.
Between the summer of 2012 and the spring of 2013, the Boeing OJT project placed 101 unemployed workers into training at 39 advanced manufacturing companies. Eight regional workforce industry partnerships of the National Fund provided employers with 50 percent wage subsidies during training periods of between 10 and 15 weeks. At the end of this training, employers retained 91 of those workers. Employers and employees overwhelmingly found the program beneficial, reporting high levels of satisfaction with the training experiences and the skills required.The following are the three key lessons learned from the project about the role of on-the-job training in workforce development:
On-the-job training is well suited to customize training to the employer's specific needs, while creating career advancement opportunities for entry-level workers
On-the-job training must include clear employer incentives to consider low-skilled candidates-and to hire newly trained workers-in order to serve as an effective job placement strategy for low-skilled, unemployed adults
Creating on-the-job initiatives helps workforce development programs strengthen existing partnerships with employers and build new employer relationships.
Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE);
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been monitoring, supporting, and analyzing the cross-sector collaborative work undertaken in 16 District-Charter Compact cities. CRPE tracks progress on agreements and reports on local political, legal, and financial barriers to collaboration, and also facilitates networking and problem-solving among participants. Using data and documents from interviews with district and charter leaders, this interim report details the first two years of Compact work and finds evidence that these cities have made mixed progress on a number of fronts, such as facilities sharing, equitable funding for charter schools, more high-performing schools, and improved access to high-quality special education. But challenges like leadership transitions, local anti-charter politics, and key leaders' unwillingness to prioritize time and resources for implementation have thwarted efforts in some cities. The report includes key Compact agreements and measurements of progress for each city, plus a checklist for district and charter leaders considering a collaboration Compact.
Jobs for the Future;
This report considers the best practices and the lessons learned from the National Fund's Youth/Industry Partnership Initiative (YIPI) which promoted investment in and engagement of young adult workers in Boston, MA; Hartford, CT; Seattle, WA; Mobile, AL; San Francisco, CA; and Des Moines, IA. This report looks across the entire YIPI project to isolate the most important information learned about successful recruitment, engagement, and placement of young adults.