Thursday, February 18, 2010, February 18, 2010, Thursday

February 18, 2010, Thursday

Gail Markels Named Executive Director of New York Solar Energy Industries Association

New NYSEIA Head will Focus on Promoting the Growth of the Solar Power Industry

(I-Newswire) February 17, 2010 - ALBANY, NY, Feb. 17 – Gail Markels has been named Executive Director of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA), the only statewide non-profit membership and trade association dedicated to advancing solar energy use in New York State.

Markels of Chappaqua, NY most recently was general counsel and senior vice president for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and has a strong background in advocacy, regulatory issues and consumer affairs.

“We are delighted that Ms. Markels will bring her experience, reputation and record of success to the helm of NYSEIA,” said NYSEIA President Ron Kamen, Senior Vice President of EarthKind Solar. “The entire NYSEIA Board is thrilled to be working closely with Ms. Markels to enable the solar industry to continue to grow and create green jobs, taxes and economic growth in the state, while helping achieve energy independence from fossil fuels.”

In her new role, Markels will spearhead several initiatives designed to promote the growth and expansion of the solar energy industry in New York State, including establishing programs to reach 5,000 MWs of solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) by 2025 and 2,000 MWs of solar thermal energy by 2020.

Markels will work closely with NYSEIA members, government representatives and regulators to advance the solar energy industry. A key part of her role will be overseeing NYSEIA’s regulatory efforts.

“I am excited to be part of such a vital organization that is playing an important role in promoting energy independence and helping to achieve the state’s goal of meeting 45 percent of the state’s electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy by the year 2015,” said Markels.

Vans Stevenson, Senior Vice President, MPA, said, “Gail Markels is a great choice. She is a dedicated and consummate professional who is respected by her colleagues and legislative leaders.”

She succeeds John Siciliani, who has left the association to pursue other opportunities.

Strong Advocacy, Regulatory Issues and Consumer Affairs Background

Prior to joining NYSEIA, Markels helped to structure and develop both the ESA and Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), and represented the industry before state and local legislative bodies nationwide.

She was instrumental in First Amendment litigation and in gaining national acceptance for the ESRB as the oversight entity for video game content. Markels has been a champion of one of the few successful self-regulatory bodies to gain acceptance with industry, legislative authorities and the general public.

Prior to that, Markels was vice president and legislative counsel for the Motion Picture Association (MPA). In this role, she worked directly with Jack Valenti, the legendary president of MPAA, and the originator of the movie rating system. Markels’ strong relationships with State Attorneys General as well as state and local government officials has enabled the motion picture and video game industries to flourish.

Markels began her career as an Assistant District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney of Kings County, Brooklyn, NY, where she had a 100 percent trial conviction rate.

Markels holds the J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. She is a board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Markels will continue to represent select clients with First Amendment and regulatory issues through her firm, Markel Strategies, and will continue to serve as the Executive Director of the American Legal Finance Association (ALFA), a trade association formed by leading legal finance companies in 2004 to define industry standards and best practices.

Jon Brunning, Nebraska Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General, characterized Markels as a, “trusted voice who I have consistently relied on. I have worked with Gail to develop positive programs that have benefitted the citizens of Nebraska. She is a tireless advocate, is respected by those who have worked with her, and will be a tremendous asset to NYSEIA.”

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler added, “Gail Markels is a well respected professional who I have come to rely on for her knowledge and integrity.”

The New York Solar Energy Industries Association, founded in 1994, is the only statewide non-profit membership and trade association dedicated solely to advancing solar energy use in New York State. For information, visit

Editor’s Note: Interviews and photo available

Media Contacts:
Ron Kamen (917) 453-5740
Sandy Frinton (845) 454-3895

Bangor Daily News, February 17, 2010, Wednesday

Copyright 2010 Bangor Daily News
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

February 17, 2010, Wednesday

HEADLINE: MCI trustees welcome two new members


Maine Central Institute Headmaster Christopher Hopkins announced Tuesday that two new members have been added to the school's board of trustees.

Board Chairman Norbert Young said Elaine Patterson and Andi Vigue were elected by the other trustees because of their extensive experience in human resources and capital projects, respectively.

"We see their appointments adding strength and foresight to an already talented and dedicated board," Young said in a prepared statement.

Patterson brings more than 25 years of experience in human resource management to the table. She is a former executive at UNOCAL Corp., now known as Chevron Corp., and is an organization and leadership adviser at Breitburn Energy in California, according to a press release. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where she is also a member of the board of trustees. She also holds a master's degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University.

Vigue, a 1989 graduate of MCI, grew up in Pittsfield and is the president and chief operating officer for Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, Maine's largest construction firm. Vigue oversees a work force of 2,500 and annual revenues in excess of $470 million, His expertise is in corporate engineering and estimating, career development and employment services, and quality control. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in business admin-istration from the University of Maine.

Patterson and Vigue, who were approved by the trustees earlier this month, will join the trustees at their next meet-ing in June. There are approximately 30 people on the board of trustees, plus several trustees emeriti.

LOAD-DATE: February 17, 2010

Editors Guild Magazine, February 16, 2010, Tuesday

Editors Guild Magazine

February 16, 2010, Tuesday

Editors Guild Magazine

Strikes, Lockouts Hit Record Low in 2009

There were just five major strikes or lockouts last year -- the lowest number since the Labor Department first started collecting such data in 1947.

The five lockouts or strikes last year spanned 13,000 workers and accounted for 124,000 lost workdays, both of which were also lows for the series, the Labor Department said Wednesday. In 2008 there were 15 such incidents that idled 72,000 workers for 1.95 million days lost.

Prior to 2009, the lowest number of strikes and lockouts was 14 in 2003.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there were fewer strikes, though. The Labor Department’s data track strikes and lockouts that involved 1,000 or more workers. But there are many labor unions that consist of fewer than 1,000 employees, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor expert at Cornell University.

“We have increasingly smaller workplaces in the U.S.,” Bronfenbrenner said. “That data is not capturing where the strikes are.”

Over the years union organization has spread to service-sector fields that aren’t likely to include 1,000 or more people, such as unions among health-care professionals, janitors and security guards.

Other factors, such as a poor economy and a decline in private-sector union membership, may also have contributed to the drop in strikes and lockouts. Union membership among private-sector employees declined 10% last year as overall employment fell. Membership rose slightly among public employees.

nextSource, Inc, February 15, 2010, Monday

nextSource, Inc

February 15, 2010, Monday

nextSource, Inc

Maintaining Your Customer Service Rep

Posted by nextSource in Business, Services and Resources.
Tags: business success, Economy, Payroll, worker turnover

For every company, keeping talented and motivated employees is a vital aspect to survival and takes consideration and in many cases, financial investments. Studies show that when employees leave their company, overall productivity, moral of remaining employees and service diminish.

This is particularly harmful to companies providing services, be it hands on like mechanics or workforce tools such as web-based programs. Dominating most of the US economy, these businesses rely heavily the efficiency of their customer service team. Losing even a small number of employees can generate devastating results.

A study conducted by Cornell ILR School’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies showed that as rates of voluntary job termination increased, complaints of customer service increased. When current employees take time away from their roles to train new employees customer service complaints increase as well. Finally, companies with a large amount of new employees receive the lowest in customer service ratings.

On the other hand, smaller companies and businesses with more seasoned employees were able to avoid the negative effects of turnover.

To avoid diminished customer service it is recommended to separate large workforce into smaller groups. This allows for a more centralized employee base which may result in stronger moral. Quickly training new workers will also aid in avoiding turnover along with uninterrupted transitioning of positions.

The Buffalo News, February 14, 2010, Sunday

The Buffalo News

February 14, 2010, Sunday

The Buffalo News

GM event stirs speculation of new engine
Expectations rise on gathering next week

By Jonathan D. Epstein

General Motors Co. will hold “an event” at its Town of Tonawanda engine plant this week, but a spokeswoman stopped short of confirming reports that the company will invest millions of dollars to build a new engine there.

Spokeswoman Nina Price said she could not say if Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana and U. S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, were correct Thursday night when they said the automaker will announce the new engine line Wednesday or Thursday.

But she did say the company understands the importance of any such development at the powertrain plant on River Road.

“Any new business to any GM plant is a good thing for the plant itself and the surrounding community,” she said.

“It’s important, not only for the plant, but also for whatever city a new product goes into — for the city, the workers, the suppliers, the organization,” Price said.

The Town of Tonawanda plant has a strong record of winning new business when GM is looking to build a new engine or increase production of an existing model.

Arthur Wheaton, director of Western New York labor and environmental programs for Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said he has also heard reports of “an impending announcement” but said it would not be a new line but rather an update to the existing L850 line, “which is still a huge deal.”

He said the new product is “a great engine” that “gets good gas mileage and good power.”

“It would be great for the engine plant,” Wheaton said. “It will definitely help the folks that are there if it’s true. It would help either retain the existing work force or possibly bring people back from recall.”

However, new hires will not be making as much money or benefits as existing workers. Under the new labor contract approved in May, new employees are brought in at lower wages. The contract is designed to reduce costs and make the company more competitive in the future.

Slaughter said in a news release last week that GM will build the next-generation, fuel-efficient four-cylinder Ecotec engine in Tonawanda. She praised the company’s move as evidence of the competitiveness of the plant and said it “ensures it will have new work well into the future.”

The plant currently makes the L850 4-cylinder engine for the Chevrolet Cobalt and Malibu, as well as inline 4-cylinder and 5-cylinder engines for other GM models. The L850 was also used in certain Pontiac models before that brand was discontinued.

The plant employs 630 hourly and salaried workers, but also has less than 300 workers on indefinite layoff because of drops in production volume.

Both Price and Wheaton said that a big factor in any decision to bring a new product to Tonawanda would likely be the strong working relationship between the United Auto Workers local union and the plant’s management.

That labor-management relationship was even part of a case study for two international conferences, Wheaton said, adding that he would “not be surprised” if it resulted in the new product as well.

The Times-Tribune, February 11, 2010, Thursday

Copyright 2010
The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

February 11, 2010, Thursday

HEADLINE: Unemployed get training for weatherization jobs

BYLINE: James Haggerty, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Feb. 11--After 10 months out of the work force, Joe Lupinski aims to build a new career from weatherization train-ing.

"There's nothing good out there, with the economy," Mr. Lupinski said Tuesday as he took a break in panel shop at Simplex Industries in Scranton, where he and 11 other men are learning how to do home-energy improvements.

Mr. Lupinski, 42, of Scranton, knows the frustration of a fruitless job search. He was laid off from his industrial mechanic's job in April.

"I hit the whole Midvalley Industrial Park, and there was nothing," he said as other trainees installed insulation and cut access panel molding.

A friend told him about Johnson College's six-day weatherization certification course, which includes classroom instruction and training in caulking and sealing, glass replacement, drywall and patching, insulation and roof vent in-stallation.

"It motivated me to put an application in and try to get employed," Mr. Lupinski said. "All I can do is hope."

The training is provided through more than $1 million the state received for weatherization instruction from the $787 billion federal stimulus. It fulfills two primary goals of the recovery plan: creating work opportunities and in-creasing energy efficiency.

"The government is stepping in to try to support demand for this kind of work, create jobs and create benefits for the future," said John Bishop, a labor economist and professor of human resources at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "We do have this need for the retrofitting of the current housing stock."

Johnson College received $132,000 in stimulus funds to set up the program, hire people to coordinate and do the training and purchase tools and construction materials used in home mock-ups. The initial instruction is taking place at Simplex, a modular residential and commercial building manufacturer that donated space for the training.

"If it weren't for Simplex, we wouldn't have been able to do it," said Marie Allison, Johnson's coordinator of con-tinuing education. Johnson eventually will create its own space for training, which will continue for two more years, she said.

Human service agencies and contractors in Northeast Pennsylvania will weatherize thousands of homes through 2012 from more than $20 million in stimulus funding that broadens qualifications to include households with low and moderate incomes.

Even though training just started, Johnson already had an inquiry from a contractor to hire a certified weatheriza-tion technician, Mrs. Allison said.

Most of the first group of trainees qualified for the instruction through skills assessments at CareerLink. Twenty people came for the first orientation and 24 will attend one next week, said Bob Davis, Scranton CareerLink adminis-trator.

"It's not just being able to wear a hammer loop," he said. "You have to be job-ready and job-able."

Clarks Summit handyman Leon Vieira enrolled in the training because his the economic crisis battered his remode-ling and repair business.

"I have a couple side jobs but it's not enough to stay ahead of the utilities, bills and the mortgage," said Mr. Vieira, 57, of Clarks Summit. "Because the economy went bad, everybody is afraid to spend money."

He also has a variable-rate mortgage on a house he bought two years ago and his lender won't negotiate a fixed-rate note unless he has full-time work.

"I just want to get a steady job for a while until I get caught up with the mortgage," Mr. Vieira said. "There's sup-posedly jobs waiting for us when we finish."

Contact the writer:

To see more of The Times-Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Cop-yright (c) 2010, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

LOAD-DATE: February 11, 2010

The Globe and Mail, February 8, 2010, Monday

The Globe and Mail

February 8, 2010, Monday

The Globe and Mail

Should Canada offer merit pay to teachers?

Sometimes, on their sleepier days, Wayne Phillips encourages his Grade 3 and 4 students to stand on tables and sing. When they arrived in class one day this week in the small community of Poplar Ridge, Alta., he had the volume cranked on the music video Human, by the Killers. He’s big on high fives and using funny voices to tell stories.

But what makes him a great teacher, not just an entertaining one, is his detailed lesson planning and, especially, the fact that he reinvents those plans every summer. Even after 24 years of teaching, he tries new strategies – making a racing game of geography, for example, by drawing a map of Alberta on the floor. He teaches responsibility by assigning jobs in class for which students apply (with résumés), are paid (in “brain bucks” to be spent in a June silent auction) and can be “fired” for poor work.

He rarely uses textbooks or worksheets. He knows how his students are doing and, because they often evaluate their work as a group, so do they. Building rapport, he says, is key: “Every day the kids are taking lots of chances answering questions, and they have to feel safe to do that.”

And he shares his ideas with other teachers, such as the summer scrapbook students put together before their first day in his class.

A good teacher often seems like mysterious alchemy, a magic potion of warmth and diligence and organization, with a splash of charisma, but researchers have long tried to distill it down to science. Some of the most stringent work has been done by the U.S. educational charity Teach for America, which has spent years tracking teachers in the classroom and analyzing what makes them successful.

Mr. Phillips, who last year received a teaching excellence award from the Prime Minister, would appear to get high grades: He is enthusiastic, he is continually innovating and, perhaps most important of all, he perseveres.

“If I am not that way,” he says, “then I really shouldn’t be in this position.”

However, if he were a great lawyer or doctor, he could expect to reap the fruits of his talent and hard work financially. As a teacher, only two entries on his résumé count toward his salary: education level and years of experience – two factors, the research says, that matter hardly at all when it comes to an educator’s effectiveness. It’s often said teachers are rewarded for longevity rather than skill.

“How does it reward good teachers to pay someone more because they have five years of university instead of four?” asks Michael Zwaagstra, a Manitoba high-school teacher and co-author of the upcoming book What’s Wrong with Schools – and How We Can Fix Them. “[The current system] has a lot to do with keeping things simple and maintaining the status quo, but not much to do with encouraging students’ performance.”

While parents in Canada invest their energy picking schools based on citywide rankings, studies suggest it’s the individual teacher who really matters; for academic results, at least, parents’ time would be better spent searching out that exceptional Grade 3 teacher, even if he or she worked in a lower-performing school.

According to one American study, having an exceptionally effective teacher for four or five years practically can erase the difference in school performance between low- and middle-income students.

The question, then, is: How can the system encourage more great teaching?


The idea of providing better teachers with better pay, through raises or bonuses, has been gaining ground in the United States. Even some teachers unions, long opposed to merit pay, have softened on the idea.

President Barack Obama’s education reforms include a $4-billion pot for states that make their schools the most accountable and specifically link standardized tests to teacher performance, with more merit pay often being the inevitable result.

“It’s time to start rewarding good teachers,” Mr. Obama said in a speech last year, “[and] stop making excuses for bad ones.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan put it more bluntly in a speech to the National Education Association: The current system, he said, “treats all teachers like interchangeable widgets.”

In Britain and Israel, and scattered studies in the U.S., merit pay has been linked to an improvement in student performance. In a pilot project in Massachusetts, teachers were promised bonuses of $3,000 – and an additional $100 per student, depending on final test marks – for getting more students into university-bound courses. Passing scores rose 38 per cent in a year, 11 times higher than the state average. A 2007 Florida study found that pay incentives for teachers had a larger impact on test scores than smaller classroom sizes.

In one Texas program, teachers were paid according to their students’ progress through university-bound courses – although the complication with the study was that students were also paid. But in schools that dropped teacher pay the following year, the progress stalled.

“Clearly there is something good about the idea,” says Kirabo Jackson, assistant professor of labour economics at Cornell University. “If you reward someone for excellence, they are more likely to be excellent.”

But it’s not an easy thing to assess. Even in states where test scores have improved, it’s been hard to separate merit pay from other educations reforms. And deciding who gets the bonus money and why is contentious.

Teachers as a group are overwhelmingly resistant. In a few U.S. examples, educators have refused their bonuses on principle. That opposition exists even when base pay is protected and bonuses are offered as perks for good work. In New York, such an approach was pitched to boost students’ success in advanced programs, but voted down by the union.

“I can understand, to some extent, people being opposed to performance pay if they think it means that if you do poorly, your pay is going to be lower,” Dr. Jackson says. “But teachers are opposed, even if they know full well that if they do absolutely nothing, their salary will be unchanged, and it can only benefit them.” (On the other hand, teachers are far more open to being paid extra for running extracurricular activities, which, as Mr. Zwaagstra points out, is “another example of merit pay.”)

In Washington, the controversial chancellor of public schools, Michelle Rhee, tried to sell the teachers union on the idea of a two-tired system – teachers could keep most of their seniority protection and receive a minor pay hike, or jump as high as $131,000 a year in salary and bonuses but face being fired for failing to do their job; nearly two years later, both sides remain at the negotiating table.

In Canada, no public-school teachers receive merit pay – and the unions in all the provinces are strongly opposed. But as the U.S. moves forward with the idea – and comes closer to finding methods that work – some education experts here also suggest it’s a discussion worth having, particularly as a new generation of teachers move into the classroom.

Merit pay, they argue, wouldn’t just reward good teaching: It may inspire success-oriented people to enter the field, knowing hard work is valued, and eventually make the job less appealing for unmotivated teachers, currently nearly impossible to dismiss.

But, as any teacher knows, the tricky part is grading fairly.


Mr. Phillips, 55 years old and happy in his classroom at Poplar Ridge Elementary School, a little west of Red Deer, doesn’t want merit pay. In fact, like many teachers, he is a bit insulted by the idea that more money might make him perform better in class. “If a person isn’t doing the job as well as they could be, and they aren’t willing to improve, they should be moved out,” he says.

He worries that teachers won’t be as keen to share ideas if they’re competing for bonuses, and he wonders who would be evaluating their work.

Teachers have valid reasons for being suspicious of merit pay, especially over the issue of how they would be assessed. If principals are part of the process, how will teachers be protected from personality clashes? Critics also point out that a merit program could be expensive and take money away from already underfunded classrooms.

Many proposals would link teachers’ incentives to students’ performances in standardized tests, but that is already the subject of criticism among educators, both for its potentially distorting effects on curriculum and classroom time and for its exclusive interest in certain subjects – math and science, for example, rather than drama or music.

How, too, would bonuses reflect the fact that subjects are interrelated – that a strong English teacher, for instance, makes a contribution to how well students learn math? Research also shows that good teachers tend to bring up the level of all teachers in a school. As Mr. Phillips says, merit pay may make them less likely to share best practices.

“There is so much more that goes on in classrooms, day in and day out, than simply standardized-test scores,” says Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. “There are so many different inequities for teachers that could come out of it that it’s unthinkable, quite frankly.”

“It’s a very challenging program to implement,” says Susan Moore Johnson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has been studying merit pay for two decades.

She is not sure that more cash makes better teachers. “Fundamentally there’s a questionable assumption at the heart of it, and that is that teachers will respond to sums of money, which often are relatively small, and that they will work both harder and more effectively.”

Merit pay for teachers is not a new idea – it comes up every few decades when politicians become freshly worried about school performance. It has been a bigger issue in the U.S., where teachers receive far lower salaries than their Canadian counterparts. The last time it was seriously advanced in Canada was in Ontario under Conservative premier Mike Harris, but it was opposed by a teachers union already embittered by other education cuts, and never went anywhere.

Surveys show, though, that the next generation of teachers finds the idea more palatable. Dr. Johnson credits this in part to changes in the labour market: In the 1960s, pay was standardized in education to prevent discrimination against a largely female (and, in the U.S., minority-heavy) workforce.

“Now,” she says, “people who are becoming teachers can work in other fields and know that other fields operate differently with pay – their friends get huge pay raises, and pay is more important in society.

“And I think there’s just more sense that it wouldn’t be a bad thing, if it were well done.”

But the experiments don’t always produce clear results: In Denver, teachers who opted in to a merit-pay program did raise students’ performance, but they were also likely better teachers who knew they could get bonuses. And in one program in Texas, student performance didn’t improve with merit pay – though research suggests that program didn’t work because it distributed small bonuses among about 70 per cent of teachers in participating schools.


While the idea, as Dr. Johnson puts it, “may not be ready for prime time,” she points out that statistical methods of determining effective teachers have improved vastly in the past 10 years. One popular concept is to track student progress in a teacher’s class over three years, using forms of standardized testing that can adjust for variables such as socio-economic status.

While such a system may identify the best teachers, it doesn’t show less-successful educators ways to improve. Other merit-pay systems use a combination of testing and classroom evaluation, sometimes by independent observers rather than the principal.

Dr. Jackson insists that with the right data and expert analysis, it is possible to discern a good teacher clearly from a bad one (although many school districts don’t have the funds, expertise or even data to do it properly). In particular, he proposes students’ gains as a good measure – that is, tracking how much students improve over the course of the year. Research has found that teachers with poor skills may bring their students up only half a grade; the best teachers can advance their classes by more than a year and a half.

“What teachers are claiming is that even though there is no external reward for doing this, they are maximizing students’ welfare as it is,” he says. “That may be so, but it’s highly unlikely.”

Merit pay may also encourage teachers to train in subjects, such as math, where educators are in short supply, or to take posts at low-performing schools.

Another approach to performance pay that has been tried in the United States is to award it to entire schools rather than individuals, or some sort of combination. In those cases, all staff, from teachers to cafeteria workers, benefit; the collaborative nature of schools is rewarded; and everyone has an interest in improving student achievement.

Dr. Johnson considers this approach more effective than singling out superstar teachers. “It would promote schools paying close attention to how they were doing with their weakest students and encourage really shared responsibility for those students.”

In a rare Canadian instance of merit pay, the extra money must be used for professional development. At the Calgary Girls School, a privately run but publicly funded school in Alberta, teachers can receive $1,000 to cover the costs of attending workshops and taking university courses.

“Pretty much every teacher applies,” vice-principal Susan Farrell says, “and every teacher gets it.”

While Mr. Zwaagstra is a proponent of merit pay, he says it would work in Canada’s education system only with other reforms, such as making it easier to dismiss teachers for incompetence, more strictly assessing teachers before they get tenure (awarded in Canada after one to three years) and allowing parents to choose schools and have taxpayers’ money follow the student.

Merit pay will be a hard idea to sell here, but if it expands in the U.S. it is more likely to travel north. In the meantime, Ronald Blair, an award-winning social-studies teacher at Churchill Falls in Labrador – who taught his active, boy-heavy class about the First World War by running battle re-enactments in the schoolyard and who, like Mr. Phillips, rarely teaches the same lesson plan twice – echoes the views of his Alberta colleague.

“I have no problem with more accountability,” he says, willing to consider higher pay for better teachers. But then, proving he earned his federal teaching award, he asks: “But isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing anyway?”

The Bronx Ink, February 5, 2010, Friday

The Bronx Ink

February 5, 2010, Friday

The Bronx Ink

National Unemployment Falls, in the Bronx a Different Picture


The national unemployment rate fell last month to 9.7 percent, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. In the Bronx, however, where unemployment climbed to 13.9 percent in January, economic recovery seems more distant to the thousands of Bronxites struggling to find work. Another measure of the borough’s tough times comes from a recent study noting that it now leads the nation in hunger.

Carlos Martines is a regular at the Department of Labor “Workforce 1” job center in the Bronx, and he’s desperate to find some work to support his family.

“I’m late on my rent, bills. It’s hard, its very hard,” he said. “You know my son depends on me, you know it’s hard, very hard right now. There are no jobs.”

The Bronx has the highest unemployment rate in New York City.

Arthur Merlino, the community service manager at the Department of Labor in the Bronx, says certain factors have made the Bronx extremely vulnerable to the recession.

“I think that in the Bronx approximately 40 percent of the population is at the lower income standard,” he said. “And I think there are a good number of them who have various kinds of employment barriers including a lower level of education than prevails in the rest of the city. And I think that’s a major factor.”

Another hopeful statistic in the jobs report is in the manufacturing sector. About 11,000 jobs were created, according to the report, the largest growth in almost four years.

But Ken Margolies, director of organizing programs at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations, said that job creation in manufacturing might not affect New York City as much. “One of the reasons why manufacturing has been leaving New York City for years is that the real estate is more valuable for other things,” he said.

National statistics also showed that construction continued to suffer, as businesses grappled with the recent crisis in the commercial estate market. In an effort to find a sector that might create jobs, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. recently secured a $4 million federal grant to create green jobs in the community.

This comes after the borough president opposed the now-defeated re-development of Kingsbridge Armory on the grounds that the proposed mall would not create living-wage jobs.

“In order for our borough to get out of this long slide of unemployment, we need to fight against poverty, to educate and train our residents to become a skilled work force, to ensure that when companies come to do business here, those new jobs are offered to Bronxites,” he said in an emailed statement.

But Margolies, who worked with the community organization, is cautious about the green-job approach. “It’s really kind of early to know whether it will be a bigger boom or not,’’ he said. A lot depends on whether the government would subsidize it to create a lot of work in those areas.”

Even Americans who have jobs are feeling the slump. The underemployment rate, which counts people who have given up looking for work and part-time workers, has steadily risen over the past year to almost 16.5 percent nationwide, according to the Labor Department’s report.

Francis Ayalah works in part-time retail and says she works the hours of a full-time employee. “There’s nobody hiring full time,” she said.

State Senator Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat, says he sees people like Ayalah every day. “In my office here in the South Bronx, I have people coming in daily looking for jobs,’’ he said. “I’m pretty sure the economy will recover, but how do I tell that to someone who doesn’t have a job?” He breathed a deep sigh on the phone.

“President Barack Obama promised to create jobs, and he has failed” he said. ” If the president doesn’t create jobs, I’m sure us Democrats will lose seats because the nation is turning away from Democrats.”

Daniel Martin hung out on the street corner of East 175th Street and Eastburn Avenue, explaining that he lost his job last year as a window installer. Friday he was searching for better prospects. “I filled out applications at McDonald’s and Wendy’s, without any luck,” he said.

Filed Under: Featured • Money • Multimedia • Neighborhood News

Human Resource Executive Online, February 2, 2010, Tuesday

Human Resource Executive Online

February 2, 2010, Tuesday

Human Resource Executive Online

Labor College Extends Its Reach

The National Labor College's new online program is expected to offer degrees in areas such as criminal justice, education and business. It may also offer opportunities for employers and unions to partner together to increase the education and skills of the workforce.

By David Shadovitz

The National Labor College is stepping up its efforts to educate union workers and their families.

On Jan. 14, the 41-year-old college announced plans to partner with the Princeton Review, a provider of education services, to bring an online program that confers degrees to the AFL-CIO's 11.5 million members and their families. The program, tentatively entitled the College for Working Families, would significantly extend the reach of the NLC, which to date has focused its curriculum on preparing union leaders.

While many details are still being determined, including what courses and degrees would be offered, most experts view the move as a positive one for union workers and their families.

"Expanding good jobs is a top priority for the AFL-CIO and to achieve this, workers' skills and knowledge must match the role of employers in a changing job market," according to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and chair of the college's Board of Trustees. "This new online education venture demonstrates our strong commitment to playing a significant role in ensuring that quality education for America's workers and their families remains affordable and accessible."

A pilot program is expected to be launched this fall, though an exact timetable has yet to be set.

"We've listened to our members and will use that feedback to determine what kinds of courses and degrees people require to advance their careers," says Thomas J. Kriger, provost of the NLC. Courses would likely address areas such as criminal justice, education and business.

Kriger points out that the program will focus on the "building blocks of a high-quality liberal-arts education," such as communication and critical-thinking skills.

The Princeton Review was selected as a partner because "it shared the same philosophy for high-quality education" as the college, says Kriger, adding that the Princeton Review will be bringing its strengths in the areas of marketing and student services to the partnership.

Majority control of the venture will be held by NLC, which will be responsible for the program's curriculum.

Roughly a week after announcing the program, NLC President William Scheuerman, who played a key role in forming the partnership, unexpectedly announced his retirement. A few days later, the NLC appointed Paula Peinovich as interim president.

A press release issued by the NLC emphasized Peinovich's online education experience, most recently as provost and president of Walden University, a distance-education graduate university; and before that, as vice president of academic affairs for Excelsior University, another online institution.

A national search is expected to begin later in the year for a permanent replacement.

In an interview published by Inside Higher Ed, Scheuerman said his departure was simply a sign that he had succeeded in what he set out to do.

"I came here to revitalize the college, to bring new ideas, to get on a sound financial basis, to change the culture, and that's all been done," he told the magazine.

Scheuerman, 66, admitted that he didn't "have the expertise to take this college to an online institution of 40,000 students."

Another Inside Higher Ed article reported on concerns by some educators over a labor college teaming up with a for-profit organization such as the Princeton Review. But for the most part, experts view the partnership as a positive development.

"Any effort to increase the availability of education for working adults should be welcomed," says Sally M. Alvarez, director of labor programs for Cornell ILR Extension in New York.

Alvarez points out that the distance-learning model has its challenges, but "as one part of a blended-learning environment, it makes an important contribution to learning opportunities for working adults."

For the past several years, she says, the NLC has been expanding its role in bringing degree-based higher education opportunities to union members.

"I'm particularly impressed with the effort to partner with community colleges and existing union-based education programs," Alvarez says. "If you look at Canada and the U.K., you see a much more robust partnership between employers, the government and unions in providing educational opportunities."

Alvarez notes that it's a "discredit of the United States and the detriment of American workers that unions are not seen as partners in this process."

Though it's difficult to say what effect the program will have on employers, Alvarez says she hopes that it might ultimately result in increased dialogue between some employers and their unions.

"If the opportunities to increase the learning and skills of a workforce are taken advantage of ... the effect might be positive, but employers will need to be open to discussing those advantages with their unionized employees and the NLC," she says.

Christina Lopez-Nutzman, an associate in the Chicago office Smith Amundsen LLC, an employment law firm, believes the partnership should help foster greater loyalty among union workers.

"Unions have been on the decline, so it's one more way of adding value to their members," she says.

February 2, 2010

Copyright 2010© LRP Publications

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Human Resource Executive, January 27, 2010, Wednesday

Human Resource Executive

January 27, 2010, Wednesday

Human Resource Executive

Managing Turnover's Disruptions

The study of a hotel and casino chain by Cornell University found that large work units and those with a high percentage of newcomers had the most trouble dealing with turnover-induced disruption and were the worst at satisfying customers. While the study offers some helpful strategies, some experts say HR's role is limited and that front-line managers must be made accountable for retention.

By Tom Starner

It's common knowledge that service-industry employers suffer the highest turnover rates -- typically estimated at 50 percent or higher -- in business. But, accepting those rates as a fait accompli is a bad idea, according to a new study from the Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.

There is little doubt that such turnover -- which often results in faltering operations, productivity, employee morale and customer service -- eats away at profits, according to research by Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cornell.

But the study helps shed some light on a few specific strategies HR can use to help their service-industry businesses compete and succeed.

Bottom line, says Cornell ILR School assistant professor John Hausknecht, who conducted the research with two colleagues, service firms will succeed if HR practitioners better understand why workers quit and find ways to minimize the disruption to customer service.

"Our study found that that it is possible to manage turnover in ways that keep good service flowing to customers," Hausknecht says.

Hausknecht says the most surprising finding was not that turnover hurts customer service, which of course it does, but in which conditions it is most damaging. The study found that large units (for the study, a median of 165 employees) and those with a higher percentage of newcomers had the most trouble dealing with turnover-induced disruption.

Conversely, smaller units (median of 28 employees) and those with more experienced employees were able to buffer turnover's potential negative effects on customers.

"Previous research has documented the detrimental effects of turnover on different outcomes, such as productivity, and in different industries, such as banking and food service," Hausknecht says. "But our study extends these findings to customer outcomes in the leisure/hospitality industry, an industry plagued by high turnover, yet one where companies rely heavily on service quality as a source of competitive advantage."

The researchers studied more than 5,000 employees in 75 workplaces at a large U.S. hotel and casino chain. Hausknecht says the study chose the service industry because of its high annual quit rates. They primarily examined whether service quality is impaired by employee turnover, and if so, how managers, both in HR and in the business units, can make the situation better.

Among other things, the study, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology, finds that:

* As rates of voluntary turnover climb within key business units, customers are more likely to report poor customer service.

* When new workers arrive, established workers have to take time away from customer service to train the new workers in procedures and company culture.

* Work units with many new employees have more trouble managing turnover and receive the lowest customer service ratings.

The findings suggest that companies that aim to provide high-quality customer service while dealing with high turnover should structure their organizations into small work units; quickly introduce new workers to the organization's culture while training them for the job; examine reasons why large work groups are less efficient and try to improve on them; and hire, promote and transfer workers mindfully to avoid large pockets of newcomers in certain areas, Hausknecht says.

"Turnover is a multifaceted problem, so line-manager support is a big help in managing it," he says. "But there are things HR can do to help reduce its impact on an organizational-structure level."

Chicago-based Warren Cinnick, a director with PricewaterhouseCooper's People and Change practice, says the Cornell research "struck a couple of accurate chords," based on his experience with clients.

"For one, smaller work groups always seem to do better than large ones," he says.

Yet, during tough times, employers may reduce management layers and increase the supervisory overview from, say, 10 to 20 direct reports.

"They think it's a way to save money, [but it] doesn't always work out real well," he says. "Instead, productivity goes down and quality goes down. It's yet another reminder that there is a tipping point whereby you get a work group size too large, and bad things happen."

Cinnick also says the Cornell research points out how the "experienced vs. new hire" ratio can determine how turnover can negatively impact customer service in the service industry.

"If you have a lot of repetitive units, that repeat the same work, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the number of experienced employees and move them ... to balance out the newbies," he says, adding that HR should take steps to measure the tenure ratio in various units.

Also, he says, HR can use data to uncover the way heavy turnover in any one area is a sign that that the leader in that area is weak.

"HR's role is to be the scorekeeper and the source of timely and objective and conclusive feedback to management about those topics, and then tying them to the output of the company," Cinnick says. "The strong HR person stands up, [says] 'These are the numbers on the scorecard and let's do something about it.' "

According to Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Northampton, Mass.-based Human Resource Solutions, and the author of the soon-to-be-published book, Tossed IntoManagement! The New Manager's Guide to Influencing Up and Down the Organization, HR can do little to boost retention because it's the job of the hiring managers, the CEO and his or her team.

"We know that people leave their bosses, not their jobs," she says. "So the best that HR can do is to help their organizations focus on improving management skills."

She says HR can also help the organization by improving the quality of hires -- both management and non-management -- who are brought into the organization, which will, in turn, dramatically reduce the costly turnover that impacts customer-service levels throughout.

"What happens so often is that managers aren't held accountable, so the best HR practices won't mean much," she says. "If senior management isn't going to hold middle management accountable, HR's efforts are a waste of time."

Richard Finnegan, founder of the Retention Institute in Orlando, Fla., and author of "Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad," which recently was excerpted on, agrees.

He says the Cornell study underscored that it's a lot easier to talk about turnover and retention than to fix it, while illustrating very effectively the high "hidden" costs of employee turnover.

"HR professionals are strapped because the CEO says, 'Turnover is high, so fix it,' but HR doesn't know what to do," Finnegan says. "The result is to roll out programs -- things like more communications, surveys, etc. But the shortcoming of that strategy is that a big chunk of the retention attack is on the operating side of the company."

Finnegan, who calls himself a "recovering HR director," says turnover kills certain industries, and yet there has been no established, research-based process to fix it -- just HR programs that have not been very effective.

"No one has ever said, 'Here is what to do,' " he says. "Hiring, benefits and purchasing all have a process, but not retention."

Finnegan says his 14-year study of retention and turnover resulted in the belief that "the way you cut turnover is the same way you improve sales, service quality and safety."

"You create shared responsibility between staff support and operations. In HR, they are stuck with this thing called turnover, and the operations people blame everyone but themselves, so there is no accountability."

The key starting point is for HR to present the finance department with a cost model, to put a real price on turnover -- from all possible angles.

"Once you put dollars and cents on it, you can get started fixing it," he says.

Employees quit because they can, and only stay if they can get something unique from their employer, Finnegan says.

"Supervisors drive retention and turnover, so it's critical to hold them accountable for retention losses. You can't get there just by doing HR programs," he says. "Right now, the way most employers approach turnover is much like solving medical problems using leeches. If first-line supervisors are not held accountable, you will never truly reduce turnover."

January 27, 2010

Copyright 2010© LRP Publications

Daily Finance, January 27, 2010, Wednesday

Daily Finance

January 27, 2010, Wednesday

Daily Finance

Toyota May Need a Long Time to Fix This Costly Dent

Toyota Motor's (TM) once-solid image has taken some hits in recent months, but the company's decision to not only recall but halt production and sales of eight popular models will cause serious damage that won't easily be fixed. Toyota made the announcement on Jan. 26 after research into reports of unintended acceleration in certain models traced the problem to faulty accelerator mechanisms, which resulted last week in a recall of some 2.3 million cars in the U.S.

The lengthy list of vehicles involved include some of Toyota's best known models, such as its Camry and Corolla sedans, perennially some of the best-selling vehicles in the country. Toyota said it plans to halt production beginning Monday at five North American plants in Kentucky, Texas, Indiana and Canada.

Toyota's move is consistent with its manufacturing philosophy that allows workers to stop manufacturing if they find a defect during during assembly, says Art Wheaton, an analyst who follows auto-industry issues at Cornell University's ILR School.

Tens of Millions on Repairs Alone

The immediate economic impact on Toyota is likely to be huge, Wheaton says, "It's difficult for a company to say, we want to take eight of our best selling models and stop making them for a while, and tell all of our dealers not to sell them." Toyota is likely looking at a bill on the order of tens of millions of dollars to repair affected vehicles and other costs associated with the recall and work stoppage.

Wheaton believes the long-term implications of the recall won't be as dramatic. Still, he says, the company's reputation has been damaged on two fronts -- quality and safety, two issues that have been at the center of the Japanese make's appeal to consumers. But the recall also affects Toyota's integrity, since it has made numerous announcements regarding the issue, starting in September, when it then blamed a problem with unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles on poorly designed floor mats.

Toyota has taken numerous steps to solve the same basic problem, Wheaton says, and "that hurts their reputation."

Dealers Left in the Lurch

Further unknown is the impact sales and production stoppages will have on dealers. John McEleney, who owns a Clinton, Iowa, Toyota dealership, told The Associated Press the sales stoppage affects about 60% of the inventory on his lot. He expressed hope Toyota would find a fix soon, since his business pays interest on unsold inventory.

"Short term, it's going to be difficult," said McEleney, who is also chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group. "It will certainly set us back, but I think the impact will be very short-lived."

At its website, the NADA posted a message advising its members that the organization is seeking clarification on the situation for its dealers. In the meantime, dealers should check whether they have a specific type of business-interruption insurance that would provide reimbursement due to losses caused by an independent supplier.

The problem part was supplied by Elkhart, Ind.-based CTS, and manufactured at the company's plant in Ontario, according to a report Toyota made to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week.

The complete list of models involved include: the 2009-10 RAV4; the 2009-10 Corolla; the 2009-10 Matrix; the 2005-10 Avalon; certain 2007-10 Camry models; the 2010 Highlander; the 2007-10 Tundra; and the 2008-10 Sequoia.

Toyota is also wrestling with whether to recall 2 million additional vehicles sold in Europe "due to similar defects with the accelerators that we encountered in the U.S.," a Toyota spokeswoman said Monday. From Toyota's vantage, this debacle must seem like a being in the middle of an unavoidable crash and having to watch it unfold in slow motion.

The Huffington Post, January 26, 2010, Tuesday

The Huffington Post

January 26, 2010, Tuesday

The Huffington Post

Obama's Jobs Tax Credit: Will It Succeed In Boosting Small Business, Creating Jobs?

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's push to create jobs includes a new tax credit for small businesses that add employees, an idea that fell flat in Congress last year and continues to have skeptics this year.

The idea has appeal as the nation struggles with an unemployment rate topping 10 percent. But House Democrats left out Obama's proposal when they passed a jobs bill in December because they didn't know how to target the credit effectively. The Obama administration still hasn't provided details on how the tax credit would work, and some tax experts question whether it would.

"It's very hard to know when a company is incrementally adding jobs because of a tax credit, and when they would have done it anyway," said Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury Department official in the Reagan administration who is now co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank. "I'm sympathetic to subsidizing low-wage jobs. It's just a question of how you design it."

Congressional researchers say a tax credit for firms that increase payroll could be a good way to increase employment, if the credit is available to all companies, not just small businesses. They cautioned, however, that it would be difficult to administer.

Among the issues raised by tax experts:

_How would the government prevent abuse by companies that artificially increase payroll?

_How would new companies be treated?

_How would a firm be prevented from disbanding and reopening under another name just to claim the credit?

Story continues below
_How would the government ensure firms add long-term employees when the credit is only for a year or two?

_Would firms be willing to add workers to get a tax credit when consumer demand for their products has not increased?

Clint Stretch, a tax policy expert at Deloitte Tax, said the tax break would help companies that shed jobs last year and were ready to start rehiring this year.

"Guys who were ruthless and threw people out on the street will benefit while those who kept their workers will not," Stretch said.

The Obama administration renewed its focus on job creation last week and the president called on Congress to pass a jobs bill that provides "tax breaks to small businesses for hiring people."

Obama first proposed the tax credit late last year, but House Democrats didn't include it in a jobs bill they passed in December. The bill is awaiting action in the Senate. Aides said Obama will focus on job creation in his State of the Union address Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently analyzed several proposals to create jobs and improve the economy, and concluded that a payroll tax credit for firms that increase payroll would be among the most effective. However, the analysis said limiting the credit to small businesses would reduce the economic benefits.

Congress enacted a similar tax credit in the 1970s and few small businesses took advantage, the CBO report said.

Two economists have been promoting a job creation tax credit for the past several months: John H. Bishop, a professor at Cornell University, and Timothy J. Bartik, senior economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan.

Under their proposal, businesses that increase their payrolls by more than 3 percent over 2009 levels would get tax credits worth 15 percent of the increase. The tax credit would only apply to the first $50,000 of a worker's salary, capping the amount at $7,500 per worker.

Big and small employers would be eligible, and the credit would be available for existing workers who get raises or more hours, as long as payroll is increased for employees making less than $50,000. The tax credits would be refundable, meaning employers would get them as payments, even if they don't owe any taxes.

Bishop said companies that hire workers, increase hours or increase wages would all be helping the economy.

"We're trying to find a way to lower the cost of adding labor," Bishop said. "The job creation tax credit has the highest bang for buck."

Several lawmakers have proposed similar tax credits, including Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Rep. Steve Kagan, D-Wis.

Two senators, noting the "lukewarm" response to Obama's proposal in Congress, have also come up with a plan for a payroll tax credit for businesses that hire workers who have been unemployed at least 60 days.

The proposal, by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, would exempt businesses from paying the employers' share of Social Security taxes on those workers for the rest of 2010. The plan would save companies 6.2 percent of the workers' salaries that are subject to Social Security taxes.

The money would be repaid to Social Security over the next five years from unspecified budget savings.

"Everyone likes the idea of the jobs tax credit in the abstract, but then when it's been applied in the past, it hasn't worked or it's been kind of wasteful," Schumer said. "We've looked at what went wrong in the past and tried to make corrections for that."

WXXI, January 25, 2010, Monday


January 25, 2010, Monday


Union Membership is Strong in New York State

Peter Iglinski (2010-01-25)

Union membership in New York remains strong despite the downturn in the economy.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with its annual survey of union membership. New York once again has the highest percentage of union members. Just over one-fourth (25.2%) of those working in New York belong to a union. That's more than double the national rate (12.3%).

The total number of people employed in the state dropped by ten-percent from 2008 to 2009. But over the same period, the number of union workers declined only half as much.

Cletus Daniel is a professor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He says the stability of union jobs is the result of the strength of the public sector.

Daniel says unions offer protections to workers because they can bargain as a group with an employer.

At the same time, Daniel notes that unions are not immune to layoffs. And he says some unions have been making concessions in order to save jobs.

Daniel cautions that the union stability could change in New York over the next few years. For example, if economic problems continue, he says property tax pressures could force layoffs at school districts. © Copyright 2010, WXXI

The Times-Union, January 23, 2010, Saturday

Copyright 2010 The Hearst Corporation
All Rights Reserved
The Times-Union

January 23, 2010, Saturday



ALBANY -- The calendar and the legislative session are new. The logjam of nominations to state boards, commis-sions and regulatory posts is not.

While there are typically a number of nominations from the governor awaiting Senate confirmation at any given time, the current list of 138 people is longer than usual, say observers, who wonder if it's symptomatic of the chaos and conflict that has visited the chamber in recent months, as well as delays from Gov. David Paterson's office.

Some of the nominations are more than 10 months old; Ashop Gupta, nominated to the state's Energy and Research and Development Authority, has been in limbo for a year.

"Now that the Senate is back in regular session, I am hopeful that they will begin to work through their backlog of appointments," Cornell professor Ronald Ehrenberg said in an e-mail. A nationally known expert on higher education and work force issues, he was nominated to the State University of New York board of trustees last May.

Some of the names are renominations of people already serving on boards or commissions. The list even includes famous names such as singer Natalie Merchant, who is up for another term on the state Council of the Arts.

Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn, chairs the Finance Committee, which handles many of the nominations before they go to the full Senate for debate and confirmation. His spokesman Jason Koppel said work should get moving as early as Monday, when lawmakers return to session.

"It's a slow process, but they are starting to move," Koppel said, explaining that appointments to New York City's Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation are on tap.

"A lot of it depends on the discretion of the chair," Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran said of the process.

In years past, nomination backups were blamed on friction between the executive and legislative branches. About four dozen nominations piled up during the summer of 2006 as Gov. George Pataki and Senate Republicans -- who were then in charge of the chamber -- battled over the budget.

Kruger and many of his Senate Democratic colleagues have been critical of Paterson on issues ranging from the budget to ethics reform. Both Koppel and Shafran said they didn't believe friction between senators and Paterson led to the current backlog.

But while nominations are only rarely shot down, the ability to delay them can be an extension of power.

Governors put their stamp on state policy through appointments to organizations such SUNY, NYSERDA or Adi-rondack Park Agency -- where a potential new board member, Francis William Valentino, was nominated in June.

With some of the appointments good for years, governors can extend their influence beyond their term of office. SUNY trustees, for example, serve for seven years, making it easy for them to outlast governors.

In the absence of new nominations and approvals, holdovers can continue to serve. SUNY's Aminy Audi and Mike Russell are both Pataki nominees serving despite expired terms. That's also true of two Adirondack Park Agency board members, Art Lussi and Jim Townsend, whose terms expired in June.

On lower-profile boards, people can serve for years -- under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

"This is the fourth governor's appointment for me," said Regis Obijiski, a member of the Advisory Council to the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. That organization helps the CQC, which has oversight of state institutions.

"My experience has been that it just takes time," Obijiski said of the nomination and approval process.

Still, the Senate's chaotic summer -- marked by a failed interparty coup and the ongoing fragility of the Democrat's 32-30-vote majority -- means that even a non-controversial nominee can get hung up.

In addition to feuds between coequal branches, partisan conflicts have also blocked nominations in the past.

Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, recalled his own 1975 nomination to the Adirondack Park Agency. At the time, Democratic Gov. Hugh Carey was at odds with the Republican Senate, and the nomination never made it to the floor for a vote.

"I got caught in the cross-fire," McEneny said.

Reach Rick Karlin at 454-5758 or

LOAD-DATE: January 24, 2010

Times Union, January 21, 2010, Thursday

Times Union

January 21, 2010, Thursday

Times Union

A job may mean a move to Albany
Councilman wants city to consider residency laws for new employees

ALBANY -- Two months after the Common Council required all department heads to live in the city, one member of the Common Council wants to extend the residency requirement to new city employees.

But the measure would sidestep arguably the most controversial aspect of residency requirements by excluding employees already covered by other state, federal or local laws -- which include police officers and firefighters.

Local Law C would give new hires six months to move into the city, where they would have to remain for the rest of their tenure on Albany's payroll. Current city employees would not be affected.

The law would also create a five-member board of residency that could exempt employees from the requirement if the job requires a certain level of specialization or creates a hardship.

"I think with these tough economic times, it speaks to the fact that if you can help people in the city, and that's what we're elected to do ... why not offer that incentive?" said 8th Ward Councilman John Rosenzweig, who is sponsoring the measure.

It's not immediately clear just how many of the city's 1,250 to 1,300 full-time employees the law would apply to because New York's Public Officers Law protects not only police and firefighters from local residency requirements but could also be read to exempt classes of public works employees, said Assistant Corporation Counsel Patrick Jordan.

That could put the city in the difficult position of requiring some members of the Department of General Services to live in the city while permitting others to live outside it, Jordan said.

Currently, city employees need only live in the city for 30 days prior to taking a civil service test, at the time the list of candidates is certified and again at the time of appointment, said Personnel Director Elizabeth Lyons. The city does not track the residency of its workers, but a 2005 Times Union analysis revealed 44 percent of Albany's employees lived outside of the city.

State law limits the distance that police and firefighters can live from the cities they serve to the nearby counties. Cities can request dispensations to impose tighter restrictions, which Troy did in 1995 when it imposed a residency requirement on its police.

Two years ago, the Collar City relaxed the requirement to allow officers to live outside the city in exchange for a monetary penalty during their first five years of service, said Bob Fitzgerald, president of the Troy Police Benevolent Association.

Cops who opt to live outside the city for their first five years forfeit their holiday pay, he said. Schenectady has the same policy.

Fitzgerald said the residency requirement was unpopular with his members and shrunk the pool of potential new hires the city could draw from, which he said hurt taxpayers.

"The municipality and the union recognized that we were losing out on candidates that were qualified that did not reside here," Fitzgerald said, noting that the city never seriously tried to enforce the law.

Rosenzweig cited the problems in Troy when explaining why he sought to exclude police and firefighters from the law.

He said the city could provide other incentives to police officers and firefighters to live in the city, such as five-point bonus on promotional exams.

"It, number one, gives the advantage to a city resident and, number two, I think it will ultimately promote the sustainability of our population here," said Rosenzweig, who is a teacher in the city school district. "Why not give an advantage to someone who's living in the city and is qualified for the job over someone else."

Ken Margolies, director of Organizing Programs at the New York City extension of Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations school, said pushes for residency requirements have ebbed and flowed over the past 30 years but that, generally, the smaller the city the less effective they are.

"I think there's political appeal to residency requirements because it seems to be something that would both increase the economy of the city and make sure that the people who work for the city have a vested interest in the city because they live there," said Margolies. "I think it's unclear whether it really has that effect, and if every city did it, I think people would realize it's not the wisest thing to do."

Margolies said the requirements tend to be more attractive in smaller cities but also less effective. He noted a labor economist might argue requirements restrict the labor market in an irrational way that doesn't mean the most qualified person gets the job.

He said incentives, such as the promotional credits, are typically better solutions.

Rosenzweig's measure is expected to be referred to the council's human resources committee.

"I wanted to get it on the agenda early," he said.

In November, the council approved a law that requires department heads to live in the city but stopped short of extending the requirement to their deputies.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at

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