Excerpts of Gerald Benjamin’s 06/08/17 Public Comment on RUPCO’s Landmark Place/Alms House/300 Flatbush Ave Project

The Alms House in Kingston is a handsome building. It is a testimonial to the city’s compassion, its commitment to the poor and to the idea of inclusion and community. It is very special that the proposed repurposing of the building sustains its use in accord with a redefined but still strongly identifiable social mission. Too many such buildings have been demolished or allowed to fall into disarray in our county – e.g. The Ulster County Poorhouse in New Paltz – diminishing our connection to our historic legacy. This wonderful city hall in which we meet today manifest’s Kingston’s understanding of the value of preserving its great architecture as working spaces, experienced and employed. You need to act again in accord with those values.

The social purpose of the proposed use of the Alms House – a building I know well from its time as a home for county offices – is essential and extraordinarily challenging. The need – still largely unmet – for affordable housing in our county and especially in Kingston is well documented in several studies, cited on the RUPCO website and confirmed by work we are doing in our research center at SUNY New Paltz now. The excessive proportion of income renters must spend for housing draws resources from other essential daily family needs – like food and clothing – diminishing their quality of life and opportunities for their children.  Continue reading

Down to Four NYS Test Days: Progress, But We Can Do Still Better

Robin Jacobowitz, Director of Education Projects, The Benjamin Center

KT Tobin, Associate Director, The Benjamin Center

Officials at the New York State Education Department (NYSED) just announced that, beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the ELA and math tests for grades 3-8 will be administered over two days for each subject, instead of three. The one third reduction of the traditional six days of testing for ELA and math combined, to four days, is a step in the right direction.

We demonstrated in our 2015 study titled Time on Test that the three-day administration meant that students were sitting for these tests for approximately 9 hours; the total time lost to instruction rose to approximately 19 hours when administration of the tests was factored in. We commend the NYSED and Regents for listening to, and then acting on, a primary concern of parents regarding the testing: that students are sitting too long for tests and that valuable instructional time is lost.

But we believe that there is a way to shorten even further the length of time dedicated to testing and restore the opportunity for instruction that is lost due to it. We have argued previously that the NYS 3-8 assessments are not needed for individual student evaluation. NYS school districts assess children throughout the school year in Common Core-aligned curriculum. This allows students’ strengths and weaknesses to be identified – and acted upon – in a timely fashion during that school year. Parents, teachers, and students receive this information, and respond to it, all year long. The purpose of the NYS 3-8 assessments, then, should be to measure institutional performance, to provide school and district based accountability.

Continue reading

Trust Democracy to Restore Democracy

There will be a statewide referendum question on the ballot this fall – required every 20 years – asking New Yorkers whether we should call a state constitutional convention. Our Jacksonian forbearers, the 19th century leaders who provided us with this regular opportunity to review the fundamentals of our governance, proceeded with a profound faith in democracy. Theirs was a very American – a very New York – belief in the possibility for progress and improvement.

The decision to provide this opportunity was realized in practice. During the 19th century conventions were routinely called once in a generation – in 1801, 1821, 1846, 1867, and 1894 – to revise, renew, and reform the way New York State was governed. From any single value perspective, the results were not pristine, but each time a convention convened our forbearers were, in some measure, affirmed in their faith in democracy.

In the 20th century we had 3 conventions: in 1915 and 1938 called by the people, and 1967, called by the legislature. All did, or proposed, some good things. But then we stopped. The half century since our last convention is the longest without such a gathering in New York State history.

Continue reading

New York IS a Referendum State — In Local Government

This post, written by Dr, Gerald Benjamin, was originally published in Rockefeller Institute of Government’s blog. It is reposted here with permission.

After receiving a consultant’s report that the town’s highway garage was unsafe and near collapse, the governing board of the northeastern Onondaga County town of Cicero voted earlier this year to replace it. The estimated cost was $9,894,353. The decision had been avoided in the past, the need was great, leadership was willing, and the time seemed as ripe as it was likely to get. Town finances had been stabilized; Cicero is not among localities identified by the state comptroller as under “fiscal stress.” Interest rates are still low, especially for municipalities.

The plan was to borrow the money for the garage over 30 years. The average price for a house bought in Cicero in 2015 was $175,696. Without figuring in recent effects of changes in values, the annual tax impact of the project after the first year on this average priced house would come to $42 annually (about an initial 4 percent increase in a homeowner’s yearly town taxes). Things seemed all set. Continue reading

NYS Assessments: Faulty Predictions, Real Consequences

Guest post from Michael O’Donnell, Vice President of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education and the Chair of the Board’s Legislative Action Committee

Every aspect of the Regents reform agenda is aimed at ensuring that more New York State students graduate college and career ready. We have adopted more rigorous Common Core standards and are aligning our assessments with those standards…

That claim, made by then Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education and future US Secretary of Education John King is the subject of the Benjamin Center’s latest discussion brief: “NY State Assessments: Faulty Predictions, Real Consequences.

Continue reading

A City Divided

Poughkeepsie’s Arterial Highways

In the annual City of Poughkeepsie State of the City address Mayor Rob Rolison called for unity in order to overcome the city’s current woes. This got me thinking about the many ways that the City of Poughkeepsie is divided. There are the obvious political divides, and the divisions between the people who work in Poughkeepsie and those who live there, as well as innumerable other issues that separate its people, but the city has been literally divided by its built environment – more specifically, its highways. One, the Route 9 arterial, built in 1966 divides the city from its waterfront. The other, the east – west arterial, completed in 1979 makes an island of the city’s central business district, and deepened the economic and social divide between the north side and the south side.

Continue reading

Eve Waltermaurer on WAMCs’ 51%

Check out Dr. Eve Waltermaurer, The Benjamin Center’s Director of Research and Evaluation, discussing the results of our Women@Work’s View on Women Poll, released just in time for our NYS Women’s Right to Vote Centennial Conference!

Team-Taught Course Considers Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Politics

Guest post from Despina Williams Parker, Staff Assistant for the SUNY New Paltz Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences

This article was originally posted in the Liberal Arts & Sciences Spring Newsletter.

At the age of 5, Natassia Velez set her sights on a leadership role even more demanding than kindergarten class line leader.  She had the will, the desire and the smarts.  But when she boldly announced her intentions to become the president of the United States, she heard not encouragement, but laughter.

As she got older and prominent female politicians like Hillary Clinton emerged, Velez noticed a change in others’ response to her political aspirations. “People started realizing that it was more plausible for a female to be president, so they stopped laughing,” she said.

Now a senior international relations major, Velez enrolled in this spring’s “Women and Politics” course to learn more about the “barriers and pathways” for women like herself who hope to enter the political arena.  Her experience so far has been both eye-opening and empowering.

Led by Kathleen Dowley, an associate professor of political science and director of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, and KT Tobin, associate director of the Benjamin Center and sociology lecturer, the course’s first team-taught iteration offers an expansive look at the cultural, institutional and economic barriers to, as well as the opportunities for, women’s political participation in the U.S and around the globe.

Continue reading

The Enacted 2017-18 State Budget Includes a New Shared Services Mandate on Local Governments

Guest post from Tom Cetrino, a SUNY New Paltz Political Science alum and member of The Benjamin Center’s Advisory Board

Recently enacted legislation (A3009C/S2009C Part BBB) included a revision of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require each county outside of New York City to prepare a plan for further sharing of service delivery responsibilities among local governments contained within the county. Each county is required to have a shared services panel that must include the chief executive of the county (typically the County Executive) who will serve as the chair, and the mayor or supervisor of every town, city, and village in the county. Additionally, the county may elect to include school districts, BOCES, and special improvement districts on the panel and in the plan.

The plan must demonstrate new recurring property tax savings by eliminating or consolidating duplicative local government services. In preparing the plan, the county must consult and seek input from the shared services panel and each collective bargaining unit with members working for the entities represented on the panel as well as community, business and civic leaders. At least three public hearings must be held on the plan.

Continue reading

On the Trump Administration’s Impact on Higher Education in the Hudson Valley

Guest post by Glenn Geher, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, and Founding Director of the Evolutionary Studies Program, SUNY New Paltz.

My Bronx grandma, Pearl Trilling, was fond of reminding me that experience was often the best teacher. “You’ll really understand Glenn,” Grandma Trilling would say, “when the shoe pinches you.”

Image: Wikicommons

My experience through the years has confirmed the observation that people rarely care much about a problem until they are directly affected. When the shoe pinches you, that’s when you care.

To say the least, the shoes Donald Trump is trying to make America wear are pinching lots of people, in lots of place, in lots of ways. Think immigration. Think health care. Think the environment. Elsewhere, I’ve spoken out on all of these issues. But because I work in higher education, I feel the pinch there directly.

A few weeks ago, I was informed about an international boycott on academic conferences in the USA – supported by thousands of academics from all around the world (as reported in Times Higher Education). The abortive executive order banning Muslims from seven nations, among other presidential actions, has led scholars world-wide to organize to take a stand against what is happening in our country. (Thankfully, that order, as well as a more narrowly focused redo, has thus far been stopped in its tracks by the courts.)

Continue reading

« Older posts
Skip to toolbar