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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Forums and Events

Recent Forums and Events

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Research and Practice in Progress Briefing on Local Government in New York: A Forum for Local Government Researchers, Practitioners and Policy Makers

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
10:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Local governments provide most of the public services New Yorkers depend on. Yet many of the state's local governments have been hard-pressed in recent years by weak economic growth, deteriorating roads and bridges, rising health care and pension costs, natural disasters, and growing demands for educational improvement. To better understand how we can improve the capacities of local governments to meet these challenges, the Rockefeller Institute invited a group of excellent researchers and practitioners to assess the challenges and opportunities facing local governments in New York.


10:30 - 10:45 a.m.      Welcome and Review of Agenda
10:50 - 11:50 a.m.      Cases of Local Government Innovation and
                                       Change in New York

                                       Combating Urban Blight in the Capital Region
                                       and Mohawk Valley: The Shared Code
                                       Information Resource Pilot Project — Meghan
                                       Cook, Center for Technology in Government,
                                       University at Albany, SUNY
                                       Albany County Intergovernmental Cooperation
                                       — Gerald Benjamin and Kathleen Tobin,
                                       Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz
                                       Data in Action: Models in Regional Planning
                                       Western New York — Laura Quebral, University
                                       at Buffalo Regional Institute, SUNY
11:50 a.m -
12:40 p.m.                  Lunch
12:40 - 1:40 p.m.        Public Employee Pensions: Investment Risk
                                       and Local Contribution Policy Implications
                                       for New York State
                                       Pension Fund Investment Risk and Potential
                                       Consequences for State and Local
                                       Governments — Don Boyd and Yimeng Yin,
                                       Rockefeller Institute of Government, SUNY
                                       Searching for Policy Alternatives to the Local
                                       Government "Pension Contribution
                                       Rollercoaster" — David Matkin and Gang Chen,
                                       Rockefeller College, University at Albany, SUNY
1:40 - 1:50 p.m.          Break
1:50 - 2:50 p.m.          State Policy and Local Government Change
                                       in New York
                                       The Durability and Dissolution of Village
                                       Government in New York State — Lisa Parshall,
                                       Daemen College
                                       Leveraging Local Change: State Initiatives to
                                       Promote Service Sharing and Consolidation
                                       Ricardo Morse and Carl Stenberg, University of
                                       North Carolina at Chapel Hill
                                       The NYS Financial Restructuring Board for Local
                                       Governments — Kevin M. Bronner, Rockefeller
                                       College, University at Albany, SUNY
2:50 - 3:00 p.m.          Break
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.          New York Municipalities: Understanding and
                                       Managing Fiscal Stress
                                       Starving the Cities: The State Austerity Machine
                                       in NYS — Yunji Kim and Mildred Warner,
                                        Cornell University
                                       New York's Continuing Foreclosure Problem
                                       — Susan VanDeventer, Office of the New York
                                       State Comptroller
                                       Poverty in Upstate New York Cities: Social and
                                       Educational Impacts — John M. Bacheller
                                       The Social and Fiscal Consequences of Urban
                                       Decline: Evidence from Large American Cities,
                                       1980 - 2010, — Michael Manville and Daniel
                                       Kuhlmann, Cornell University

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Higher Education and Employability: New Models for Integrating Study and Work — Book Talk and Panel Discussion

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
4:00 – 5:30 p.m.

How can higher education institutions best prepare their students for successful careers? Many universities and colleges struggle to meet the growing demands by students, their families, and governments that their graduates find quick and rewarding employment. At the same time, policymakers are increasingly looking to higher education institutions to produce and sustain a skilled labor force as a key to national and state economic competitiveness. Better employment opportunities and a stronger workforce may both be advanced by integrating academic studies with work. But making these connections is not easy, nor has such integration been a core part of the traditional missions of most higher education institutions. How then can universities and colleges fulfill these expectations?

To inform this debate, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York hosted a forum on higher education and the workforce. Keynoting the program was Peter Stokes, managing director, Huron Consulting Group, and author of the new book, Higher Education and Employability: New Models for Integrating Study and Work (Harvard Education Press).

Higher Education and Employability makes a crucial contribution to the reassessment of higher education in the United States by focusing on how colleges and universities can collaborate with businesses to serve the educational and professional interests of their students. Drawing on his extensive experience with universities and the business world, Peter Stokes argues that the need for closer alignment between the two sectors has never been more critical – and that the opportunities for partnership have never been greater.

Stokes' remarks were followed by a panel discussion featuring:

  • Charles Isbell, professor and senior associate dean, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Cheryl Oldham, vice president of the education and workforce program, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Ebony Thomas, senior vice president of campus strategy and operations, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Alan Wagner, professor, Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies, University at Albany, State University of New York; and senior fellow, Rockefeller Institute of Government, SUNY.
The program was moderated by Ben Wildavsky, director of higher education studies for the Rockefeller Institute and policy professor at the University at Albany.


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Book Talk: Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pioneer, by Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Rockefeller Institute was proud to host a book talk featuring the new autobiography, Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pioneer (Michigan State University Press), by former SUNY Chancellor Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. In a rare and intimate conversation with long-time friend and former Washington Post and Times Union editor Harry Rosenfeld, Dr. Wharton discussed the challenges of competing in a society where obstacles, negative expectations, and stereotypes remained stubbornly in place.

Dr. Wharton’s book reveals a Black man whose good fortune in birth, heritage, and opportunity of time and place helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate and distinguished careers in higher education, business, government, and the nonprofit sector. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. entered Harvard at age sixteen. He was the first Black student accepted to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, and went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago — another first.

For 22 years he promoted economic and agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, earning a post as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. He pioneered higher education firsts as president of Michigan State University and chancellor of the 64-campus State University of New York system. As chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, he was the first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His commitment to excellence culminated in his appointment as deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration.

In addition to learning Dr. Wharton's fascinating life story, Dr. Wharton discussed his dealings with national leaders in business, philanthropy, higher education, and government — names like Nelson A. Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller III, Paul Volcker, Bill and Judith Moyers, Henry Ford II, Cy Vance, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, Hubert Humphrey, Vernon Jordan, Milton Friedman, and Presidents Carter, Ford, and Clinton.


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Demographic Trends in the Adirondacks

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Adirondack Research Consortium
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Experts agree that the best public policy results from the utilization of good, objective research. Indeed, this is a guiding principle of the work of the Rockefeller Institute. It was with this idea in mind that the Rockefeller Institute has joined forces with the Adirondack Research Consortium to explore the intersection of research and policy as it relates to the Adirondack North Country.

The inaugural program focused on the exploration of demographic research in the Adirondacks and how it relates to future management strategies and policies impacting the region. The two-hour forum featured leading researchers, advocates and government officials who will present current demographic research and discussed its implications for the future of the Adirondacks and its people.


  • Dan Spada, Adirondack Research Consortium
  • Tom Gais, Rockefeller Institute of Government
Research Findings:
  • Warren Brown, Director Applied Demographics, Cornell University, and Jan Vink, Research Specialist, Cornell University, "Demographic Trends in Rural America and What the Research is Indicating in the Adirondacks"
  • Brad Dake, Arietta, NY, "Recent Adirondack Research"
Linking the Research with Policy — Questions of the Researchers and Discussion:

  • Dave Mason, Anthros Consulting
  • Hon. Dan Stec, NYS Assembly, 114th District
  • Fred Monroe, Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board
  • Willie Janeway, Adirondack Council
PowerPoint Presentations:
Jan Vink and Warren Brown’s Presentation
Brad Dake’s Presentation
Dave Mason’s Presentation

Video and Audio:
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Making School Resources Matter

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute and the New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO)
Thursday, September 24, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

State legislatures and governors, researchers and the general public have debated how to fix schools for years. Some have argued for more money and some have insisted that more money won't make a difference. States have debated how resources should be distributed, what constitutes adequate resources, and what outcomes should be expected as a result of school spending. While school finance researchers have various methods to identify the amount of resources required for an adequate education for all students, it is not clear all students will actually achieve an adequate education or even have the opportunity to do so, even if these resources are provided. Why? Because how money is spent and how much is spent are inextricably linked; both are important and related to each other.

Resources are defined broadly as money, people and time. Acknowledging that effective practices for resource allocation are not common practice, two panels addressed (1) where research tells us we can get the most bang for our education buck and (2) what school leaders can do to make school resources matter. The intent was to provide school officials, state policymakers and those interested in education with specific solutions to real school resource problems.

Questions considered included:

  • What does research tell us are the key opportunities and challenges for the strategic use of resources to improve student learning?
  • To what extent are classroom teachers part of the discussion? Can teacher talent be allocated strategically to improve student achievement?
  • What legislation needs to be created or changed to support the process of resource reallocation?
  • What can school districts do tomorrow, next month and next year to better allocate resources for improved learning?
The symposium was moderated by Keshia Clukey, education reporter for Politico New York. The research panel included:

  • Jesse Levin, Principal Researcher, Education Program, American Institutes for Research
  • Hamp Lankford, Professor, University at Albany, State University of New York
  • Michael Rebell, Professor of Law and Educational Practice, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Shayne Kavanagh, Research Director, Government Finance Officers Association
The panel on what school officials can do included:

  • Deborah Cunningham, Director of Education and Research, NYSASBO
  • Stephen Frank, Partner, Education Resource Strategies
  • Andrew Fiorentino, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administrative Services, Windsor Central School District
  • Victor Holl, School Business Administrator, Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District
PowerPoint Presentations:
Jesse Levin's Presentation
Hamilton Lankford's Presentation
Shayne Kavanagh's Presentation
Stephen Frank's Presentation
Victor Holl's Presentation

Multi Media
Two part Video
Audio only [MP3]

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Budgets and the Balance of Power: The Lasting Impact of Silver v. Pataki and How It Shapes the Future of Government in New York State

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
1:00–4:00 p.m.

Recently, there has been a rather familiar showdown in Albany over what constitutes an appropriate use of executive authority in the budgeting process. This is not new but is, rather, reminiscent of similar budget challenges that have occurred between legislatures and the governor dating back decades.

In an effort to consider all sides of what constitutes an appropriate separation of powers, the Rockefeller Institute and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School hosted this forum in which some of New York State's top legal and government scholars and leading actors in showdowns in recent years provided an account of what led to and occurred as a result of this landmark case and why, as well as discussed potential ways that budget gridlock can be avoided.

Keynote: Former Governor David Paterson on a governor's use of budget authority

Panelists include:

  • Laura Anglin, Former Budget Director to Govs Eliott Spitzer and David Paterson
  • Gerald Benjamin, Professor, SUNY New Paltz
  • Vincent Bonventre, Professor, Albany Law School
  • Richard Brodsky, Former Assemblyman
  • Peter Galie, Professor, Canisius College
  • Peter Kiernan, Former Chief Counsel to Gov. David Paterson
  • James McGuire, Former Chief Counsel to Gov. George Pataki
  • Robert Smith, Former Associate Judge, NYS Court of Appeals
The event was moderated by Hank Greenberg, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and former Counsel to the Attorney General.


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High Anxiety: Gen X and Boomers Struggle with Stress, Savings, and Security

Co-Sponsored by the City & State, AARP, and the Rockefeller Institute of Government
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

AARP released its groundbreaking statewide survey on the financial security of the Gen X and Baby Boom generations. Specifically, they discussed retirement readiness, access to retirement savings vehicles, loans and debt, and support for a state-facilitated retirement savings option.
Keynote Remarks were by NYS Budget Director Mary Beth Labate. After an opening presentation by Elaine Ryan, vice president of state advocacy & strategy, AARP, there was a panel discussion on the need for a state-sponsored retirement savings program and how we can build support for this type of program in New York.

Panelists included:

  • Sarah Mysiewicz Gill, Senior Legislative Representative, AARP
  • Diane Oakley, Executive Director, National Institute of Retirement Security
  • Thomas Nitido, Deputy Comptroller for the New York State and Local Retirement System
  • Julian Federle, Chief Policy & Programs Officer, Illinois State Treasurer
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National Commission on Hunger

National Commission on Hunger Public Hearing

Co-Sponsored by the National Commission on Hunger, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), RTI International, and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The National Commission on Hunger is a congressionally appointed bipartisan commission charged with developing innovative reforms in both public and private food assistance programs to reduce or eliminate food insecurity. The recommendations are meant to include ways to more effectively use USDA programs and funds. As part of its information-gathering process, the Commission is conducting a series of public hearings across the country. The Albany hearing featured testimony from:
  • Kate Breslin, President & CEO, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
  • Linda Bopp, Executive Director, Hunger Solutions NY
  • Mark Quandt, Executive Director, Regional Food Bank of NENY
  • E.J. McMahon, President, Empire Center for Public Policy
  • Joel Berg, Executive Director, The NYC Coalition Against Hunger
  • Lee Bowes, CEO, America Works
  • Janet Poppendieck, Policy Director, NYC Food Policy Center
  • Angela Rachidi, Research Fellow in Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Three of the 10 commissioners were in attendance, including

  • Co-chair Mariana Chilton, Associate Professor, Drexel University School of Public Health and Director of the Center for Hunger Free Communities
  • Co-chair Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow for Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute; and
  • Commissioner Russell Sykes, President of Russell Sykes Consulting Services and former Deputy Commissioner of the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

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Immigration Policy Forum

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and the Rockefeller Institute of Government
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

This forum on state government immigration policy featured New York State Secretary of State Cesar Perales, speaking on the state’s immigrant initiatives and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and chair of the Task Force on New Americans, speaking on “Immigrant Integration in an Epoch of Anti-Immigration Policies.”

This forum engaged key policymakers from both the executive and legislative branches to discuss achievements and new initiatives to help new immigrants and refugees, as well as assist permanent residents become U.S. citizens. As comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level has stalled, the states are increasingly passing legislation and implementing initiatives to further immigrant integration. New York is among the handful of states with an Office for New Americans. Working together with a taskforce in the legislature, the Office for New Americans has developed innovative programs that are increasingly referenced across the country, most recently in the “Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration” issued on April 14th by the White House Task Force on New Americans.

For more information about the NYS Department of State, go to

Funding for this program was made possible by the MacArthur Foundation.


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Facing the Storm: Severe Weather Challenges Confronting New York State in the 21st Century

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the University at Albany's Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the NYS Emergency Management Association
Thursday, April 23, 2015
9:30 a.m. – Noon

Today, severe weather is a new reality that is impacting the daily lives of businesses, governments, and the communities they serve. While there is nothing we can do to change the weather, we can do more to understand weather trends likely to affect us in the future. It was for this purpose that, last year, we initiated this series of programs for emergency managers, not-for-profit executives.

This program was designed to focus on severe weather events of the past year and consider what these teach us about the future and how we should prepare for it, including mitigation efforts such as the NYS Mesonet, a network of 125 weather stations across the state feeding weather prediction models and decision-support tools for users across the greater New York region. The question of probabilistic weather and climate forecasting was also raised as it relates to the communication of forecasting risk to the public.

Panelists participating in the program included:

  • Lance Bosart, Distinguished Professor, University at Albany's Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
  • Jerry Brotzge, Project Director, NYS Mesonet, University at Albany
  • Paul Caiano, Meteorologist, WNYT-TV (Albany)
  • Howard M. Goebel, Canal Hydrologist, New York State Canal Corporation
  • Everette Joseph, Director, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, University at Albany
  • Christopher Thorncroft, Chair, University at Albany's Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
  • David Vallee, Hydrologist-in-Charge, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast River Forecast Center
  • Kevin E. Wisely, Deputy Commissioner, Emergency Services, NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
In an effort to better serve the people of New York, this year, the following State University of New York campuses also participated:

  • Stony Brook University
  • SUNY New Paltz
  • SUNY Plattsburgh
  • SUNY Potsdam
  • SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry (Syracuse)
  • SUNY Oswego
We would like to thank Cisco for their assistance with the technology that made this year's remote campus participation possible.


Christopher Thorncroft’s Presentation
Lance Bosart’s Presentation
David Vallee’s Presentation
Paul Caiano’s Presentation

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Book Talk and Panel Discussion — The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
4:00 – 5:30 p.m.

What is the future of higher education at a time of skyrocketing costs, growing concern about the value of a college degree, and the advent of revolutionary ideas about using technology to widen access to education?

In his just-released book,The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, education researcher and writer Kevin Carey offers a passionate critique of how higher education, past and present, has excluded far too many people from its benefits. At the same time, he offers an overwhelmingly hopeful message about the future. Carey argues that rising costs, together with the revolution in information technology, are converging in ways that will radically alter the college experience, upend the traditional meritocracy, and provide previously unavailable educational opportunities to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The Forum featured keynote remarks by Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation and a regular contributor to the New York Times and many other publications.

Following his remarks, Carey discussed the themes of his book with four panelists:

  • Alison Byerly, President of Lafayette College;
  • Andrew Delbanco, Director of American Studies at Columbia University and author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be;
  • Louis Soares, Vice President for Policy Research and Strategy for the American Council on Education; and
  • Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York.
The conversation was moderated by Ben Wildavsky, director of Higher Education Studies at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and policy professor at the University at Albany.