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2014 Forums and Events

Richard Ravitch

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Discussing Detroit: The Potential Ripple Effects of the Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in U.S. History and What It Might Mean for New York

Co-sponsored by the Government Law Center of Albany Law School, the Albany Law School/University at Albany Institute for Financial Market Regulation, and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Many local governments throughout the U.S. are facing fiscal stress. Detroit, Michigan, and others throughout the country have taken the dramatic step of filing for municipal bankruptcy as a way to find a path out of their fiscal woes. Municipal fiscal distress can have profound implications for civic life, the economic future of our communities, and the health and safety of our citizens. Detroit's bankruptcy experience, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's experience entering receivership, and the experiences of other financially troubled municipalities around the country raise questions about how best to respond to financial crises, whether municipalities in New York and other states will follow this path, and what the consequences are should they decide to do so. For example, could pension rights and other collectively bargained protections face impairment? What are the implications for bond covenants? This panel discussion brought together experts on the topic of municipal finance to discuss these and other issues in the aftermath of the Detroit bankruptcy and what it might mean moving forward, both across the nation and in New York State.

The keynote address was by former New York Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, who served as special advisor to the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Detroit.

Panel Discussion

  • The Hon. Kathy Sheehan, Mayor of Albany;
  • Donald J. Boyd, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government;
  • Professor Christine Sgarlata Chung, Co-Director of the Institute for Financial Market Regulation at Albany Law School;
  • Peter J. Kiernan, Esq., Of Counsel at Schiff Hardin LLP and Chair of the NYS Law Revision Commission; and
  • David Unkovic Esq., Of Counsel at McNees, Wallace & Nurick, LLC, and State-Appointed Receiver for the City of Harrisburg, PA.

Rex Smith
Robert Clark
Lynn Bassanese
Richard nathan

Harry Rosenfeld

Joe Persico and FDR: Chronicling the Roosevelt Legacy and the World It Created

Monday, November 17, 2014
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

In this program, we took a look at the late Joe Persico’s passionate commitment to the frequently unexplored aspects of the Roosevelt story. We also discussed Joe Persico, the man, and his other works that established him as an important figure among contemporary historians.

Joining us to explore the Persico story were:

  • Robert Clark, deputy director and supervising archivist for the FDR Presidential Library, who delivered the keynote address.

  • Lynn Bassanese, director of the FDR Presidential Library
  • Paul Grondahl, award-winning journalist and author
  • Richard Nathan, scholar and former director of the Rockefeller Institute
  • Harry Rosenfeld, former editor of the Times Union and metropolitan editor of the Washington Post during Watergate
The moderator for the event was Times Union Editor Rex Smith.


A special tribute video made for this occasion by General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, National Security advisor, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, and friend to Joe Persico.

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Symposium on U.S. Immigration Reform and State-Level Immigration Policymaking

Co-sponsored by the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, the Rockefeller Institute of Government, and the New York Latino Research and Resources Network (NYLARNet).
Thursday, November 13, 2014
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This symposium considered opportunities and challenges presented by immigration and national immigration policy reforms with a focus on states and localities, particularly New York State and New York's cities.

Symposium organizer and moderator: Professor Rey Koslowski, Rockefeller College Department of Political Science

Featured speakers:

  • Michele Waslin, Ph.D., Pew Charitable Trusts Immigration and the States Project
  • Neil Ruiz, Senior Policy Analyst and Associate Fellow, Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program
  • Jorge Montalvo, Special Advisor to the NYS Secretary of State and Director, NYS Office of New Americans
  • Laura González-Murphy, Empire State Fellow at the Office for New Americans
This symposium was made possible by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.


Michele Waslin’s Presentation
Neil Ruiz’s Presentation
Jorge Montalvo’s Presentation

John King

John King

Keeping the Promise of Pre-K: Using Technology to Ensure Quality

Co-sponsored by The Rockefeller Institute of Government of SUNY and ReadyNation New York
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

High-quality Pre-K has demonstrated significant individual and societal benefits, including an economic return-on-investment, increased high school graduation rates, reduced criminal activity, and improved health outcomes. This forum explored the role of policy and technology in ensuring that New York State continue to provide Pre-K services — and design an early learning system — in an effective and sustainable way, to achieve the best results.

The Keynote address was delivered by NY State Education Department Commissioner John B. King, Jr.


  • Rob Grunewald is an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and co-author of “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return” (January 2003), an economic policy paper that has been featured in the media, legislative hearings, and seminars throughout the United States.
  • Emily Baranello is the senior director, P-20 Education Practice, at SAS. She leads teams that work to expand the use of SAS for administrative data-driven decision making, academic research, and teaching in both the K-12 and higher education markets throughout the United States.
  • Dr. Greg Mathison has invested more than 30 years of his career in education, human services, and healthcare — as a psychologist, administrator, and policy maker for county and state governments and as an educator for universities across America. He currently serves as the Cisco Systems’ Education Solutions Manager, helping schools and universities maximize leading edge technologies to deliver connected teaching and learning solutions that help enhance education outcomes.
Matt Ryan, the host of WMHT’s New York Now, served as moderator.

We would like to acknowledge the support of Cisco who, through their technology, enabled the remote participation of Mr. Grunewald and Dr. Mathison.


PowerPoint Presentations
Emily Baranello's Presentation





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Balancing Educational Excellence with Tax Relief

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO)
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Many states, including New York, have put in place property tax caps to limit the growth of local revenues for education. What is the impact on funding equity and the ability of school districts to achieve education goals such as providing a sound basic education to all students or meeting challenging new state learning standards to educate students for success in college and careers? Can states provide tax relief and support the educational system to meet challenging learning standards?

In this forum, experts on education and tax relief from other states (including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin) assessed practices for achieving student and taxpayer equity in order to consider opportunities for New York State. The panel presented new information from a conference on “The Property Tax and Financing of K-12 Education” sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the subject of a special issue of the Journal of Education Finance and Policy.

Questions considered included:

  • What are the implications of the Great Recession for school revenues?
  • What has been the impact of different levels of voter approval for school district budgets that exceed a specified levy or spending limit?
  • How have states achieved both taxpayer and student equity in the use of state funds for tax relief?
  • Getting the level of the tax cap right — what are other states doing?
  • What are the consequences of linking the tax cap to cost saving initiatives or other conditions?
  • What is the effectiveness of various tax relief initiatives (e.g., Tax Cap versus the tax relief circuit breaker)?
  • Tax relief and student performance — how can New York State achieve educational adequacy in a tax cap environment?
  • What is the ideal relationship between tax relief and state school aid?
The panel was moderated by Casey Seiler of the Times Union and featured:

  • Luc Schuster, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
  • Andrew Reschovsky, Fellow, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Applied Economics, La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin - Madison;
  • Deborah H. Cunningham, Director of Education and Research, New York State Association of School Business Officials; and
  • Gordon MacInnes, President, New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Power Points

Deborah Cunningham's Presentation
Andrew Reschovsky's Presentation
Luc Schuster's Presentation
Event Survey Results


Where Does the Education Dollar Go? How Has This Changed Over Time? A NYSASBO Retrospective

Tom Gais

Christopher Plein

Jocelyn Johnston

Stuart Butler

Sarah Kliff

Richard Nathan

Michael Morrisey

Affordable Care Act: Southern States Overview

Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the Brookings Institution and the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania
Monday, August 25, 2014
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

This event included the presentation of new reports on the implementation of, and responses to, the Affordable Care Act among states in the southern region. In addition to an overview report, state reports were presented for Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

The reports are part of a 35-state ACA implementation project of the Rockefeller Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Fels Institute of Government. This event was also sponsored by West Virginia University and the GOVERNING Institute, a new initiative focused on state and local government performance, innovation, leadership, and citizen engagement.

Attendees heard about the 35-state ACA implementation project and listened to an overview of the southern states implementation efforts by Christopher Plein, Eberly Family Professor for Outstanding Public Service at West Virginia University.

The overview presentation was followed by a discussion of individual state reports featuring field researchers from each of the participating states. A subsequent panel considered the issues raised by the reports and discussed how reactions to the ACA in the southern states affect overall progress in implementing national health care reform. The second panel featured:

  • Richard P. Nathan from the Rockefeller Institute;
  • Alice Rivlin of the Brookings Institution;
  • Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation; and
  • Sarah Kliff from Vox.

Panelists Biographies

Project Description

Overview Report

Alabama Report

Florida Report

Kentucky Report

Maryland Report

South Carolina Report

Texas Report

West Virginia Report

Kentucky's Uninsured Before and After ACA Maps

C-SPAN Video

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MOOCs in the Developing World: Democratization of Knowledge or Academic Hype?

Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of SUNY and the United Nations Academic Impact, in cooperation with the Institute for International Education (IIE), the NYS Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Will massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide worldwide access to quality higher education, as advocates maintain? Or will MOOCs, as critics fear, foster Western academic dominance, fail to serve those most in need, and undermine local institutions? These questions and more were considered in a probing conversation featuring prominent global thought leaders offering a range of views on the pros and cons of MOOCs.

Moderating the conversation was Ben Wildavsky, director of higher education studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, policy professor at the University at Albany (State University of New York), and author of the award-winning book The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World.

Panelists included:

  • Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, the high-profile MOOCs founded by Harvard and MIT.
  • Philip G. Altbach, research professor and director of the Center for International Higher Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.
  • Barbara E. Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing and the director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, and an instructor for Coursera.
  • S. Sitaraman, senior vice president of the Ritnand Balved Education Foundation, secretary general of the Amity Synergy Forums, and senior vice president of Amity University.





Challenges Facing Our Water Facilities Infrastructure

Rockefeller Institute of Government, 411 State Street, Albany
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
1:00 – 4:30 p.m.

For government, particularly local governments, maintaining our aging water systems is one of the most complex and daunting environmental challenges facing New York State's municipalities, as we try to meet the environmental and health needs of our population. It is also a great financial challenge.

A cross-section of public and private interests discussed our water infrastructure issues and how we can address them, including new sources of funding for municipalities and emerging approaches such as green infrastructure.

Keynote address:

  • Stephen Gordon, former deputy commissioner at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, talked about Governor Nelson Rockefeller's far-reaching initiatives for "pure" water in the 1960s and 1970s.
Panels and Presenters:

Condition of Programs and Facilities:

  • Sandra Allen, director of policy and planning, NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation
  • Peter Baynes, executive director, NYS Conference of Mayors
  • Nancy Heinzen, coordinator, Stormwater Coalition of Albany County
  • Martin Daley, planner, Capital District Regional Planning Commission
  • James Tierney, assistant commissioner for water and watershed, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

How to Meet Current and Future Needs for Waste Water Management and Clean Drinking Water:

  • Eric Goldstein, senior attorney and NYC environment director, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Richard Lyons, executive director, Albany County Sewer District
  • Robert Weibolt, lobbyist, Malkin & Rose
Times Union environmental reporter Brian Nearing served as moderator of the day's events.


Sandra Allen’s PowerPoint Presentation
Nancy Heinzen’s PowerPoint Presentation
Martin Daley’s PowerPoint Presentation


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New York: Where Wilderness Preservation Began – Motivating New Leadership A Celebration of the Wilderness Act’s 50th Anniversary

Rockefeller Institute of Government, 411 State Street, Albany
Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve in Cooperation With the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Rockefeller Institute, Albany NY

In 2014, New Yorkers and the nation celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964. This anniversary has special meaning for New Yorkers. The Act’s chief lobbyist and author, Howard Zahniser, gained his inspiration from New York State’s “forever wild” article in the NYS Constitution protecting the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. Citizens adopted Article XIV of our NYS Constitution 120 years ago. We are “where wilderness preservation began” in America.


  • Matt Ryan, Managing Editor, New York NOW
  • Peter Frank, Bureau Chief, Division of Forest Preserve Management, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Chad Dawson, Professor Emeritus, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry
  • David Gibson, Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
  • Jack McEneny, former NYS Assemblyman
Keynote Speaker
  • Mark Gerstman, Executive Deputy Commissioner, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Awards presented by David Gibson, Peter Frank, and Chad Dawson to:
  • Evelyn Schaefer Greene, Board Member, Protect the Adirondacks
  • Ed Zahniser, Advisory Council, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
  • Brother Yusef Burgess
Panel Discussion
  • Moderator: David Gibson, Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
  • Kathy Regan, Senior Natural Resource Planner, NYS Adirondack Park Agency
  • Dan Plumley, Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
  • Robert Davies, Director, Division of Lands & Forests, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Chad Dawson, Professor Emeritus, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry


Mark Gerstman’s Presentation

Adirondack Forest Preserve Map and Guide
Catskill Park Map and Guide
Adirondack Wild 2011 Annual Report
Adirondack Wild 2012 Annual Report
Article XIV: New York State Constitution
International Journal of Wilderness Subscription Form
Official 50th Anniversary Map (front) and (back)
50th Anniversary National Wilderness Conference brochure

Lt. Gov. Ravitch

Former Lt. Gov. Ravitch: My Life in Government

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch discussed his efforts to advance New York State government through some of its most troubled times in a candid discussion with WCNY News & Public Affairs Director Susan Arbetter. The event was held to draw attention to Ravitch's new memoir, So Much To Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises (Public Affairs Press).

According to the book's publisher, "In six decades of public and private life, Richard Ravitch has earned a reputation for political savvy and business skill with a commitment to social responsibility. His boundless energy and pragmatism made him especially valuable in dealing with the fiscal crises of the mid 1970s in New York City, and later as head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Along the way, he developed a national reputation among his peers as a masterful problem solver with the capacity to unravel nearly any financial or political tangle."

During the course of the hour-and-a-half program, Ravitch discussed his dealings with the MTA and NYC fiscal crises and his selection as the number two man in New York State government, under former Governor David Paterson. In addition, as an incomparable student of government at the state and federal level, he laid out his philosophy for how New York and the nation should deal with its challenges going forward.


Congressman Tonko

Panel 1

Panel 2

Closing Plenary

Facing the Storm: Preparing for Increased Extreme Weather in Upstate New York

Co-Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, University at Albany Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, The Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, and the New York State Emergency Management Association (NYSEMA)
Monday, April 14, 2014
1:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

This program was designed to showcase the University at Albany’s research on upstate severe weather and provided a forum for the emergency response community to discuss what they need to do to prepare for anticipated and historic meteorological events.

  • Keynote by Congressman Paul Tonko

  • Christopher Thorncroft, University at Albany Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
  • Thomas Blanchard, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • David Vallee, Northeast River Forecast Center (NOAA)
  • Kevin Niedermaier, Livingston County Emergency Management Office & NYS Emergency Management Association
  • Chris Baker, Cattaraugus County Emergency Management Office
  • Colleen Fullford, Schoharie County Emergency Management Office
  • Acting Mayor A. Max Smith, City of Oneida
  • James Fossett, Rockefeller College of Public Administration and Policy, University at Albany, and Rockefeller Institute of Government

Opening Remarks and Keynote Address from Congressman Paul Tonko
Panel 1 – Severe Weather Forecasts for Upstate New York
Panel 2 – Severe Weather Perspectives from the Emergency Management Community
Closing Plenary


Panel 1 – Severe Weather Forecasts for Upstate New York
Christopher Thorncroft’s Presentation
Thomas Blanchard’s Presentation
David Vallee’s Presentation

Panel 2 – Severe Weather Perspectives from the Emergency Management Community
Chris Baker’s Presentation
Colleen Fullford’s Presentation

Posters Provided by the U.S. Geological Survey — New York Water Science Center

StreamStats Application (Source:
Flood Inundation Mapping (Source:
Streamflow Estimation Tool (NYSET) (Source:
Water Alert (Source:
100-Year Flood (Source:

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Combating Slavery in the 21st Century

Co-Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, and United Nations Academic Impact.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

The forum, simulcast to high schools and colleges throughout the world through the auspices of United Nations Academic Impact, addressed not only the lasting vestiges of traditional forms of slavery and indentured servitude, but also contemporary issues of child, labor and sex trafficking. Panel topics included “Slavery in the 21st Century: Continuing Impact, Lasting Vestiges and Modern Forms,” and “Tactics of the Modern Abolitionists.”

Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International and co-author of Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, delivered a keynote address on child trafficking.

Other speakers included:

  • Dorchen Leidholdt, Sanctuary for Families
  • Amit Kumar, Minister in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations
  • Professor Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School
  • Warda Henning, United Nations Headquarters, Office on Drugs and Crime
  • Professor Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, University of Southern California
  • Professor Anthony Farley, Albany Law School
  • Andrea Cristina Mercado, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Professor Melissa Breger, Albany Law School
Funding for the conference was provided by a generous grant from The Ford Foundation.



Election Law Reform: Is Now the Time?

Co-Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and the League of Women Voters of New York State.

Monday, March 24, 2014
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Throughout its history, New York State has often been recognized as one of the most progressive states in the country. However, one area in which New York has not been a leader is election reform. While other states have been experimenting for the last three decades with ways to increase opportunities to vote, New York's policies and laws have remained largely unchanged and the state's voter turnout rates have likely suffered as a result. In the last federal elections, New York has had one of the lowest voter participation rates of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Processes such as New York's paper-based voter registration system, early registration deadline and other voter registration policies have been blamed for low voter participation rates in New York State. Ballot design has often been linked to voter confusion and errors at the polls. On the contrary, early in-person voting and no-excuse for absentee ballots have been shown to increase participation in other states. In efforts to increase voter participation rates in New York State, numerous proposals for election administration reforms have been proposed and debated.

Susan Arbetter, director of news and public affairs at WCNY (PBS-Syracuse) and host of the Capitol Pressroom, moderated a discussion on proposed moves to increase New York State's electoral participation and concepts that are being utilized nationally that have gotten results.

Speakers included:

  • Senate Election Committee Chair Senator Thomas F. O'Mara;
  • Assembly Election Committee Chair Assemblyman Michael Cusick;
  • Tom Wilkey, former executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and executive director of the NYS Board of Elections; and
  • Daniel F. Kolb, co-chair, New York State Bar Association Special Committee on Voter Participation

Increasing Voter Participation: Opportunities in New York State
2012 Election Survey Report, February 6, 2013
NYSBA Special Committee on Voter Participation Final Report
Election Law Proposals for 2014
Election Commissioner’s Association of New York State 2014 Legislative Agenda


Strengthening the Secuity of Public Defined Plans Strengthening the Secuity of Public Defined Plans Strengthening the Secuity of Public Defined Plans Strengthening the Secuity of Public Defined Plans Strengthening the Secuity of Public Defined Plans

Strengthening the Security of Public Sector Defined Benefit Plans

Co-Sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and the State Budget Crisis Task Force

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government held a presentation on the crisis of underfunding of public sector defined benefit plans. The program formally unveiled the Rockefeller Institute’s Blinken Report, a study entitled “Strengthening the Security of Public Sector Defined Benefit Plans,” prepared by the Institute in cooperation with the State Budget Crisis Task Force established by former NYS Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch and former Federal Reserve Board Chair Paul Volcker.

During the course of the presentation, panelists considered how structural deficiencies in the way public sector defined benefit plans are funded have contributed to underfunding of plans by as much as $2-3 trillion. In addition to an examination of the problem, presenters also unveiled important new recommendations for these plans which, if implemented, could ensure that benefits are funded more securely.

Participating on the panel were thought leaders from the American Enterprise Institute, Governing Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Urban Institute, as well as the report’s authors, Rockefeller Institute Senior Fellow Don Boyd and Peter Kiernan, an attorney and senior member of the administrations of former NYS Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.