Land O Links

*Confused about the claims over school funding? Is it going up, as Gov. Rick Snyder and allies claim, or down, as school groups say? The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan dives into the numbers to offer an answer:

Per pupil funding rates, when adjusted for inflation and the impact of increased payments to cover retirement costs, are down nearly 9 percent from the 2004 level.

In essence, Michigan is using more public dollars for schools to cover the costs of people who no longer teach children in the classroom.

*Matt Yglesias does the impossible, using the movie franchise “Fast and Furious” to make serious – and troubling – points about the changing fundamentals of our society.

*FEMA is short the dollars to keep its revamp of floodplain maps on schedule. Propublica reports, “Congress has cut funding for updating flood maps by more than half since 2010, from $221 million down to $100 million this year. And the president’s latest budget request would slash funding for mapping even further to $84 million — a drop of 62 percent over the last four years. In a little-noticed written response to questions from a congressional hearing, FEMA estimated the cuts would delay its map program by three to five years.”

Delaying FEMA’s work might actually make some happy, since the agency’s mapping work has not been without error and controversy.

Background on the National Flood Insurance Program, which works off of the floodplain maps, is here.

land-o-links*While lobbyists remain one of the few groups of people less popular than Congress, they do perform a critical function in the legislative process, providing mountains of information (with spin, of course) and historical perspective.

Still, there are points of connection in our political process that should keep citizens ever vigilant.

For example, Aramark Correctional Services increased its lobbying in Michigan by 211 percent in 2012.

This spring, state legislators decided it was best to shift food service in prisons from state employees to a private vendor. The winning low bid was from Aramark Correctional Services, for $49.7 million.

Now, this contract is supposed to save Michigan taxpayers $12 million in year one and $16 million annually in later years. That’s great news, if the savings can hold up.

Aramark, though, has had some issues with contracts with other states, such as Kentucky and Florida.

*The research is in: Teens do want to jump off a bridge if they see their peers doing it:

“In studies discussed in the April special issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science on ‘the teenage brain,’ the Temple researchers found 14- to 16-year-olds take significantly more risks, and are more responsive to potential rewards, when other teenagers are around than when they are by themselves.”

*Is this tale familiar?:

“Suppose you’re thinking about moving to a new city ... A friend who happens to be a real estate agent makes a strong case for one locale. It has a nice downtown, with plenty of street life and restaurants and other amenities on practically every block.

"Of course, your friend tells you, there are a few small drawbacks. It’s a city that has a disproportionate number of murders ... Many of its schools are dysfunctional and even dilapidated ... The city suffered a huge population loss in the first decade of the new century ...The transit system is aging and in desperate need of maintenance. But the municipal government can’t afford to meet many of its needs. It starts every year with a daunting budget deficit. And the city has a world-famous legacy of political corruption that it has been unable to put to rest. ..."

Gotcha. Governing’s Alan Ehrenhalt isn’t writing about Detroit, but Chicago. And he reports that even with all of Chicago’s problems, the central city is thriving.

This tracks with the reports out of Detroit – where plenty of neighborhoods appear decayed beyond repair while the downtown and Midtown areas are welcoming new workers, new residents, new life.

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