Archive for May, 2010

Online Donation Tools

May 26, 2010

Idealware’s Laura S. Quinn just published a useful update on online donation tools.


What Sense of Entitlement…

May 21, 2010
End of Massachusetts Street

End of Massachusetts Street

On Tuesday, I drove home with a Parks employee, let’s call her Q, who had discovered that day that three 60-foot oaks had been girdled (the bark cut all the way around to kill the tree) in Conference House Park. The damaged trees and a cleared area were behind the Park’s fence directly opposite a brick house on Massachusetts St., which borders the park.

Hmm. That’s bad. Why would someone do that?

The Sighting

On my way into work on Wednesday, I drove down Massachusetts St., and who was there but an older gentleman standing at the end of the street, scraping dirt off his adze with his foot. (That might explain the damage at the bottom of the trees—easier to do with an adze than an ax.)

So I got out of my car and said, “I’m from the Conference House Park and we noticed some damage to the trees here. Have you seen anyone working in this lot?”

“No,” he said, “I just moved in two weeks ago.”

“Oh,” I said. “Maybe landscapers or gardeners? Someone caught vandalizing a tree has to pay something like $80,000 for the damage, so….”

He seemed a bit startled by that. I said, “If you see anyone, could you call us, please? Let me give you my card.”

He took the card, and I said, “Come visit us sometime!” and smiled, and he smiled back. I didn’t go behind the fence to look, however—not yet. (more…)

NYC’s 2011 Budget: Who Speaks for Parks?

May 19, 2010

A water filtration pond in Conference House Park, 2009, before the damage

A water filtration pond in Conference House Park, 2009, before the nor'easter damage in 2010

Dr. Marcia Van Wagner, assistant comptroller in the New York City Comptroller’s Office, talked about the NYC budget Monday, May 17, 2010, on Staten Island.

Here are some highlights:

  • Financially, New York City is the fourth largest government in the U.S. The federal government manages the most money, followed by California, New York State, and then New York City.
  • Because of the Financial Emergency Act, passed in the 1970s when the city was about to go bankrupt, the city must balance its budget and also keep a reserve of at least $100 million (in practice, the cushion is $300 million).
  • The city gets 60 percent of its revenues from taxes and most of the rest from the state and federal governments. Total revenues in fiscal year 2010 (from July 1 to June 30) were $60 billion.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the money was spent on salaries, pensions, and benefits. The rest was spent on social services (17 percent), contracts, and other non-personnel expenses.
  • Breaking down expenditures by function, 30 percent was spent on education (including salaries), 20 percent on social services, 13 percent on public safety (police, fire), 16 percent on pensions and benefits, and the rest on environmental protection, sanitation, health, and paying off debt.
  • The city has a nifty acronym for methods used to balance the budget: PEG, or “Programs to Eliminate the Gap.” Van Wagner offered a few examples: Increasing parking-ticket fees would be a revenue PEG. Eliminating fire houses would be an expense PEG.


Tracking the damage with cell phones

May 5, 2010

For the computer geeks among us:

A nonprofit called The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has created an online “crisis-map” that is crowdsourcing reports from victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill. The group is using social media — including mobile video, email, and text-messaging — to aggregate health, job, and water quality reports from people living in the coastal crisis zone. Organizers are then plotting these reports on their Web-based Oil Spill Crisis Map in near real-time to track the spread of environmental damage.

For the full story, see Nonprofit Uses Social Media to Track Oil Spill Fallout.