Monday, February 27, 2006

New Local Links

A brand new site, Prepared Tompkins, started January 17, 2006 and is still under development. Building on a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary," this site has already covered a lot of information about emergency preparedness. Prepared Tompkins also links to a Webring: Green Living in the Finger Lakes, a collection of, so far, eight websites addressing environmental and political issues.

On a lighter note, Finger Lakes Weekend Wino, started in November 2005 to provide information about Finger Lakes wines and winery events. Weekend Wino quotes "Vintage Chart from Wine Enthusiast magazine that shows their vintage ratings for Finger Lakes wine. They rate the 2001 vintage for both reds and whites as the best in the 12 years of ratings listed." I'm looking forward to checking that out.

(Cross posted at Five Wells)

Friday, February 24, 2006


I'm just back from the NYS Association of Towns meeting in New York. I'll write about that later.

But for now look at Brad DeLong's post, Lies, Damn Lies, and Gingrichisms. DeLong is slick at unraveling sloppy thinking. Gingrich reads: "kids on Medicaid are six times more likely to be treated for severe obesity," and repeats it as "children on Medicaid are six times as likely to be obese as children who are not on Medicaid."

Look, also, at the comment from Glen Fleishman explaining a similar distortion. We've all seen deliberate misuse of statistics, but these examples may be showing a simple failure to understand the initial reports. I'm not sure which is worse.

Incidentally, I find it interesting that I rarely check Brad's statistics. I trust him.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Town Board Meeting

When the margins have to be stretched to fit the agenda onto one page, I think maybe I should grab an afternoon nap to prepare for a long meeting. But, in fact, this packed agenda was covered in a little more than three hours. Here are some details.

Highway Department: superintendent Bush has ordered speed limit signs for roads where lowered speed limits have been approved, including Caswell, Wood, Sheldon, Neimi, Etna and Hanshaw. Who knew that buying and installing each sign costs $130? A request has been submitted for lowered speed limits on Bone Plain, Upper Creek, Ellis Hollow Creek, Game Farm, Kirk and Livermore Roads.

County Briefing: Martha Robertson, now on the Planning, Development and Environmental Quality committee as well as Heath and Human Services, Public Safety and Industrial Development, talked about the Tompkins County density policy, three-year assessment and the Tioga County Intermunicipal Council of Governments. Mike Hattery added comments regarding Route 13 corridor management and a move to enable taxpayers to research assessments in town halls in addition to the County Clerk's office in downtown Ithaca.

Engineering: Andy Sciarabba reported on plans for the proposed Pinckney Road water and sewer districts (which, incidentally include only about the first half mile of Pinckney Road) and raised questions regarding planning infrastructure for the new town hall prior to planning for the use of the remaining property.

Recreation: Jen Dube reported on Travel Basketball, Youth Wrestling, Ice Skating, Lacrosse and the upcoming Ellis Hollow Winterfest (February 25). A request to reallocate some Recreation Department funds was postponed 'til March pending clarification.

Attorney: Mahlon Perkins reported on the ongoing discussion with the Village regarding the Village providing security for Town Court in exchange for Zoning Enforcement services from the Town.

Zoning Officer: While there was no discussion of the Town property land use, next month Environmental Planner Dan Kwasnowski will present a timeline for public input and decision making. Plans for the new Town Hall are still expected to go up for bid at the end of March so that construction can begin in July. With so many design elements up in the air, cost estimates are still based very roughly on square footage. The estimate, $1.6 million in 2002, is not $2.3 million, partly because of rising costs and partly because of increased square footage. There's a great deal of work to do regarding LEED certification and NYSERDA funding. (Have I spelled those acronyms right?)

Environmental Planner: The lengthy stormwater presentation is postponed 'til next month. Dan will soon be finished with Debbie Gross's Ellis Hollow well survey and will report on it next month. The county planning department and TCAT are cooperating on a route 13 corridor study.

Town Clerk: The new dog licensing procedure is working, mostly. Bambi Hollenbeck has spoken to the new SPCA director. All dogs licensed at the SPCA will now go through Dryden, not the towns where the new dog owners live. The new SPCA director has been invited to next month's meeting.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Evaluating Government Programs

In connection with the announcement of the 2007 budget, The Office of Management and Budget has announced a new web page,, which provides information about government programs judged by OMB to be successful or not. OMB rates 72% of Federal Programs to be Effective, Moderately Effective or Adequate, leaving 28% rated as Ineffective or "Results Not Demonstrated." It's worth browsing just to see the lists of hundreds programs with links to their budgets and home pages.

"The world is so full of a number of things..."

Pick a programs you know something about to see how the site works. Example: Food Stamps. The programs is performing moderately effectively. Purpose: "To alleviate hunger and improve nutrition by increasing food purchasing power of eligible low-income households." There's also a nutrition education goal. The program's own assessment shows participation rising from 54% of eligible households in 2002 to 56% in 2003, the most recent year for which data is complete. The overpayment error rate has fallen from 8.3% in 2002 to 5.9% in 2004.

Assessment Scores
Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 62%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/Accountability 67%

Program Funding Level (in millions)
FY2005 $33349
FY2006 $33890
FY2007 $36003

Check it out with your favorite program.

(Cross posted at Five Wells)