Archive for the ‘Effective & Efficient Government’ Category

Informing Voters and Increasing Government Transparency

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

We recently made significant improvements to the campaign finance and lobbying laws in Delaware by signing three bills that increase transparency and provide greater and more timely information to the voters and residents of our state.  Here’s what they do:

House Bill 300 – The Delaware Elections Disclosure Act – is the most significant reform of our state’s campaign finance laws in more than two decades. It requires prompt reporting of third-party spending on campaign ads and requires greater disclosure from those who spend money to influence elections. In short, this is an important piece of legislation in our effort to increase transparency in Delaware’s elections.

Of course, even if we have the best and most innovative laws in the country, if we don’t have meaningful consequences for violating those laws, some people may not follow them. So the second bill I signed, House Bill 310, changes the penalty for filing a late campaign finance report from $50 a month to $50 a day and imposes the same fee for incomplete campaign finance reports.

Since 1994, we have had lobbying disclosure requirements that don’t tell the public very much. Our third bill, Senate Bill 185, requires, for the first time, that lobbyists tell the public what issues they are lobbying -what bills, what resolutions, and what regulations they are trying to influence. This is a powerful idea and a big step for transparency in the legislative and regulatory process. Voters will get to see on the State’s website who is working to influence votes in Dover and regulations that come out of state agencies.

 At a time when elections are very much on voters’ minds, we are telling them loudly and clearly here in Delaware: you deserve to know more and we are making sure you will.

Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance: Deadline Approaching

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Guest post from Delaware State Housing Director Anas Ben Addi.

DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi

Have you seen all the Sheriff Sales in the newspapers?  I have, and the numbers are staggering.  With the downturn in the economy over the last few years, more families than ever are losing their home to foreclosure.

If you, or someone you know, have fallen 90 days or more behind on their mortgage due to unemployment, under-employment, illness, or injury – there is help available!

Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) offers the Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (DEMAP).  The goal of this program is to stop foreclosure and keep families in their home. DSHA’s DEMAP program recently received a huge boost of $6 million from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to help even more families save their home.

I hear from many families who think they are too far behind and their home can’t be saved.  Many times, that’s not the case at all.

DEMAP offers up to $50,000 to bring your mortgage, taxes and insurance current, and may be able to help make your mortgage payments for up to two years.

I know this sounds too good to be true, but it’s not!  Even if you’re not sure that you will qualify, give us a call and let us try to help you. The $6 million in federal assistance is only available until September 30 – so call now!

The toll-free number is 888-363-8808, or visit www.DeStateHousing.com/SaveMyHome.

 

Prepare for Weather Emergencies

Friday, May 27th, 2011

We are very saddened by the devastation caused by the tornadoes in Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.  I hope your thoughts and your prayers are with our fellow Americans.  Please consider donating to the American Red Cross or giving blood.

I also hope you will take a moment to read the message below from the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security on how to prepare for tornadoes.  If you don’t have an emergency kit and an emergency plan – this is a great weekend to get prepared.

Emergency Preparedness Tips for Tornadoes

And Other Weather Emergencies

Tornadoes can appear suddenly and can be invisible until dust and debris are picked up and propelled away from the funnel or a funnel cloud appears. Planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival.

Be prepared to act quickly. Keep in mind that while tornadoes are more common in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, they can occur in any state and at any time of the year, making advance preparation vitally important.

There are three important steps all families must take to prepare for an emergency.

First, get an emergency kit that includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries and store it in your shelter. Also include copies of personal identification, insurance papers, homeowner related paperwork and documentation of your furnishings, preferably electronically stored on a disk or card. Strongly consider downloading a weather warning application to your cell phone and the purchase of a weather radio for your home.

Second, make a family emergency plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what actions you will take in the event of an emergency.  Identify several locations where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.

Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning:

  • Cellars or basements provide the best protection.
  • If underground shelter is not available, go into a windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
  • A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
  • If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Plan to stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.

Third, familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.

  • A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
  • A tornado warning identifies that it is actually occurring, take shelter immediately.

For additional information visit the DEMA web site at http://dema.delaware.gov/services/disaster_prep.shtml

Register Special Needs with 911

Investing in Early Education is Critical for Delaware’s Future

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Secretary Vivian RapposelliGuest post from Vivian Rapposelli, Secretary of the
Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF)

Earlier this month, Governor Markell proposed a bold investment of $22 million into the state’s early childhood system.

Last week, the Joint Finance Committee supported the Governor’s proposal in full. In their actions, the Governor and General Assembly have supported more than just a budget proposal. They supported kids and made a true investment into Delaware’s future.

The Governor’s proposal is multifaceted. First, it seeks to close the gap for centers that participate in the state’s child care subsidy program, known as “Purchase of Care.” Currently, the large majority of participating early care and education providers are reimbursed at a rate that is less than 65% of the market rate for similar childcare services. The unequal playing field can mean that centers serving children from low-income families can often be at a disadvantage in having the resources to build quality into their early care programs. To help address this disparity, the Governor’s proposal provides $9 million for an across the board increase in Purchase of Care rates to 65% of the market rate for all providers.

Early Education AnnouncementIn addition, the Governor’s proposal provides another $13 million in higher reimbursement rates, grants, and technical assistance for providers who participate in “Stars,” a quality rating program encouraging providers to increase quality components, such as staff education and programming, within their centers. By making an investment in this program, we will encourage more centers to critically evaluate and enhance the quality of care that our children deserve.

In the Governor’s proposal, providers with Stars ratings of 3, 4, or 5 (on a 1 – 5 scale) will receive reimbursement rates of 80%, 90%, or 100% of the market rate, respectively. Participating centers will also receive technical assistance and grants to support them in achieving higher ratings.

Our children are our future – our responsibility; and investing in early childhood education is a critical component to the role we play in preparing them for success. Studies show that children receiving quality early care and education are less likely to be disruptive and much more likely to be successful as they enter Kindergarten and progress through their education. They are less likely to drop out and more likely to succeed in school, and ultimately contribute more to our community.

This was a collective effort by tireless children’s advocates, our dedicated provider community, partner agencies in State government, the Governor and the Joint Finance Committee.

We’re grateful for their clear commitment to Delaware’s youth.

Early Education Applause

Saturday: Find the Answers to All Your Homebuying Questions

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Guest post by Delaware State Housing Director Anas Ben Addi

As the Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, the question I get asked the most is, “Is now a good time to buy a home?”

The second question is almost always, “Where do I start?” That’s why Delaware State Housing Authority and The Money School are having a free Homebuyer Fair this Saturday, May 14, at the Christiana Hilton from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The answer to the first question is, “Yes!”  Mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, and there is a large inventory of affordably priced houses on the market.  The answer to the second question is to come to the Homebuyer Fair this Saturday, and we’ll show you how to get started.

Making sensible decisions is the key to a successful home buying experience. Before you purchase a home, come talk to the experts at the Homebuyer Fair about the importance of credit; budgeting & finance; strategies for finding and negotiating on properties; and the value of a home inspection.  Lenders and Realtors will also be there to explain affordable mortgage options and the downpayment/closing cost assistance that’s available.  Housing counselors will also be on hand to walk you through the home buying process from beginning to end.

So join us this Saturday at the Christiana Hilton. There will be 40 vendors and exhibitors, free food, give-aways, prizes, and TOM-FM will be broadcasting live from 9 to Noon.  Senator Tom Carper and Senator Chris Coons will also be stopping by to talk to people about the benefits of homeownership in Delaware.

To learn more about the Homebuyer Fair, visit our website at www.DeStateHousing.com.  Pre-registration is recommended (but not required) by calling toll free 877-307-6858 or visit www.DelawareMoneySchool.com.  Walk-ins are also welcome.

Hope to see you there!

Anas Ben Addi, Director
Delaware State Housing Authority

Delaware Emergency Morgage Assistance: Could We Help Someone You Know?

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Guest post by Delaware State Housing Director Anas Ben Addi

Although our economy has improved, the process of recovery continues. Many families have not yet recovered from financial hardships due to unemployment, underemployment, injury or illness. Most likely, someone you know is struggling to pay a mortgage and could lose their home.

We understand the uncertainty and stress that foreclosure can cause. That’s why the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and DSHA have teamed up to bring $6M in foreclosure assistance to keep more than 200 Delaware families in their homes through the Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (DEMAP).

DEMAP can provide up to $30,000 to pay past due mortgage, property tax and insurance payments for homeowners that have had their income reduced by 15% or more. It can also help pay future payments for up to 24 months. This assistance is recorded as a loan, but is forgiven over five years. This is great news for Delaware.

Facing foreclosure can be intimidating.

People may be scared to open their mail or answer their phone, for fear that it may be their lender asking them for payment – money they don’t have. Often, they don’t know who to call or that there is help available.

If you or someone you know is facing foreclosure, please call DSHA at (888) 363-8808 to learn more about DEMAP or visit our website at www.destatehousing.com. You can also contact DEMAP housing counselors directly for assistance and a complete contact list can be found here.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out — we are here to help!

Involving Parents in Education

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

This week, we held final 2010 Conversations About Stronger Schools meeting with parents, teachers, and other community leaders. I was really impressed by how engaged many of the parents have been – bringing challenging and thought-provoking questions.

There’s one question that has come up many times – through Twitter, through Facebook, and through our town hall meetings:

“How will education reform work without increased involvement from parents? How can we get more parents involved?”

Parental involvement is fundamental to student success.  Kids are only in school for so many hours a day, and most students spend most of their time outside of a classroom.  Parental involvement and community support are critical to making sure that kids are ready to learn when they arrive at school and that they learn the skills and values that will help them to succeed when they leave school.

Parents and Teachers at Conversations About Stronger Schools

That is why part of our reform agenda requires districts to develop and implement family and community engagement plans using a portion of the Race to the Top funding. At the state level, we are working with the districts to identify and share best practices in this area, but these plans will be locally developed and driven.

We need all the creative and common-sense ideas we can get.  Please get in touch with your local PTA or visit Ideas.Delaware.gov to share your suggestions.

Another significant element of our education reform plan is the improved collection and use of data. Teachers, school leaders and parents need real feedback in real time to determine how our students are doing, so we are building systems to make that possible.

This will eventually include a new Parent Dashboard that will enable parents to go online at anytime and see critical measures and data regarding their children’s progress. The “Insight Portal” will pilot in Fall 2011, starting with dashboards for teachers, and the Parent Dashboards should become available in the 2011-2012 school year.

Please help us get the word out about education reform and share your ideas and questions at Ideas.Delaware.gov!

 

Talking to Parents, Teachers & Community Members

Marrying Innovation and Manufacturing

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Originally published in The News Journal

The national economy has made for some very tough times, particularly for our state’s great manufacturing community.

TMI's Solar SystemBut given their talent and drive, I know our manufacturers can still say with certainty to companies around the world — “If you can invent it, we can build it“– which is why I spend so much time working to broaden the number of businesses that think of Delaware as a place to build and get things built. Manufacturing jobs have historically given so many Delawareans real economic opportunity for their families. We need to make sure that opportunity is not just our history, but our future.

At the same time, our state has a long history as a cradle for innovation. A place where ideas can become products, products become new companies and companies help shape new industries.

When we have the chance to combine those efforts – when something can be conceived, created and manufactured all within our great state — the economic benefits multiply.

One area with growth potential in both manufacturing and innovation remains clean technology. Around the world, people are getting to work creating and manufacturing products with both environmental and economic benefit. Delaware has key advantages that can help create real economic opportunity for families in our state in this area.

First, we have one of the most skilled workforces in the nation with a density of engineering talent that rivals Silicon Valley and manufacturing know-how that can meet any challenge.

Second, we have one of the most advanced collections of clean tech research programs in the nation at the University of Delaware, important research at Delaware State University and a great training pipeline at Delaware Tech.

Third, we have well-established companies like DuPont and W.L. Gore, and dozens of other smaller firms, all moving rapidly into the renewable energy market with several hundred researchers, manufacturers, developers, and integrators already employed in Delaware.

Fourth, we have rapidly growing consumer demand within the state and tens of millions of potential customers within a few hours drive.

Signing the Clean Energy Jobs Act We have taken some important initial steps to support these new jobs. We put in place an executive order that helps our state to lead by example in energy efficiency, recycling, and renewable energy opportunities. We also gathered partners from across the state to conduct an energy auction that increased our use of renewable energy while saving taxpayers more than $13 million.

Our Clean Energy Jobs Act and Energy Conservation and Efficiency Acts produce cost savings, environmental benefits and economic opportunity. They will encourage energy efficiency improvements for thousands of homes and buildings and the installation of hundreds of megawatts of solar, offshore wind, and fuel cell projects. Equally important to the environmental benefits, these efforts should result in the creation of thousands of secure, quality jobs in development, manufacturing, deployment and operations.

The University of Delaware, The News Journal and the Delaware Public Policy Institute recently hosted another installment in a series on “Creating Knowledge Based Partnerships.” Called “Creating a Clean Energy Economy,” the two-day forum brought together industry, academics, entrepreneurs and community leaders from around the country to help turn this industry’s possibilities into greater economic reality.

The goal is to look for ways to move forward together growing new and existing businesses, creating well-paying jobs, improving our environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

To revitalize the American economy, we need to get people building things that can be proudly stamped ”Made in America, Manufactured in Delaware,” and clean technology can be part of that solution.



Every Job Counts

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Yesterday, like most of my days, was about jobs.

It was one of those days that remind you that in Delaware, every job counts and every job has a story.

I started Tuesday afternoon with a lot of energy.  Literally.

Governor Markell with workers at the Indian River power plantI joined workers at NRG Energy’s Indian River Generating Plant to talk about an investment of approximately $400 million in a massive emissions control system that is creating 400-500 construction jobs while improving air quality.  NRG worked closely with the Delaware Economic Development Office and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to protect our environment, improve our quality of life and help drive economic development.  The improvements will result in a 90 percent reduction in SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) and a 70 percent reduction in NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions.

Following the announcement, I spent much of the afternoon meeting with small businesses in Seaford.   (We’ve posted the photos on Facebook)

All of these businesses had started within the last several months and they are being run by passionate, hard-working entrepreneurs.  That’s what success requires.

These entrepreneurs shared their stories. Some were native Delawareans and were building businesses in their hometown to supplement their spouse’s income.  Others moved here from other parts of the country after researching great places to live and work.  We’re glad all of them are investing in Delaware’s future.

As I step back to look at the big picture of the day, I’m reminded that job creation is about collaboration, communication and hard work.  But it’s a collage that is made from each of our stories.Mary Sears, of the Chocolate Coffee Cafe in Seaford

What’s missing from the jobs, jobs, jobs debate

Monday, November 29th, 2010

This post was originally published in The Washington Post, on Friday, Nov. 26.

While President Obama was navigating the tides of global commerce this month, I was in a different part of Asia, making the case, one company at a time, for the economic opportunity my small state of Delaware has to offer.

Watching the hundreds of towering cranes building in China’s Hunan province and touring the 12-year-old Tainan Science Park in southern Taiwan that already employs 50,000 in high-tech industries, it was hard to read that the debate back home was about whether America’s “new normal” meant high unemployment.

The distance, and seeing firsthand the scope of growth outside our borders, made clear that the competitive sloganeering that passed for economic debate during the election season falls far short of actual solutions. Much of the debate over how to create more “jobs, jobs, jobs” has remained stuck on the points of greatest disagreement rather than areas that could achieve greater growth. For too many Democrats, it’s a focus on reducing executive compensation. For too many Republicans, it’s the fervent belief that government is taking over all private enterprise.

That framework focuses on false choices that distract from the real issues we must tackle to make the threat of this “new normal” an aberration. Neither line of thinking captures the essence of what we need to do to progress.

My perspectives on economic policy were shaped in the private sector; I earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, advised companies as a consultant at McKinsey, helped expand the company that became Nextel and served as an executive at Comcast. I can say with some certainty that those who argue that the “only” way to achieve economic growth is to “get government out of the way” are missing the larger picture.

Governor Markell with Motech Executives

Governor Markell meets with Motech executives in Tainan to thank them for their expansion in Delaware.

They ought to listen to the successful executives at that technology park I visited, who credit their partnership with government in helping them create so many good jobs in the following ways: quick action on permits; low-interest loans, especially when the credit markets are difficult; planning the clustering of companies making up the supply chain; and investment in a high-quality transportation infrastructure.

They also ought to listen to the hundreds of American executives who have told me that critical ingredients for them to create long-term growth and long-term careers are highly responsive (not nonexistent) government, predictability of regulation (not lack of regulation), great (public) schools and excellent institutions of higher education (including vibrant state universities), reasonable taxes, a good workforce, a great quality of life and affordable (not unlimited) access to capital.

Increasingly, other nations are doing their best to offer executives those opportunities and policies at lower cost.

How do we compete? How we choose to answer that question is likely to determine our country’s success for the next several generations. Those answers will not be found in the framework of our existing debate or be produced by it.

My fight for Delaware and the efforts of other governors to fight for our nation’s shrinking middle class are more likely to be successful when our federal government takes at least the following steps:

  • Ensure that all activities related to bolstering our competitive edge at innovation are taken seriously. That means fully funding our patent office and making it easier for foreign graduate students to stay in this country after receiving their degrees.
  • Make regulatory and tax policy more predictable. Hundreds of billions of dollars are sitting on the sidelines in corporate balance sheets because executives are uncertain about the extension of various tax credits and the possibility of unpredictable regulations.
  • Acknowledge that infrastructure is an investment that will pay dividends over decades and not an expense that only adds to the deficit in the first year. Begin catching up to significant transportation and other infrastructure investments that other countries have made in recent years.
  • Continue to promote education improvement efforts such as enhanced science learning and Race to the Top, which has triggered a wave of enhancements across dozens of states.

Rapidly growing Asian markets don’t have to be isolated examples of accelerated job growth born from partnerships between government and business leaders. Washington can learn from these examples and build relationships that are cooperative and productive, not adversarial and paralyzing, between businesses looking to grow and public entities that want to support that growth.

Add our nation’s extraordinary capacity for innovation to this new mix, and we can drive toward a future in which the debate over the “new normal” is not about how high an unemployment rate we should accept but how much higher we can set our expectations.

Helping Businesses Decide on Delaware

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had some good news about jobs.  Three companies – Perdue, Calpine and Mountaire – put the First State in First Place when it came to deciding where to locate.

Early last week, the Perdue Company joined us to announce that Perdue AgriBusiness will relocate its headquarters and trading operations center to Seaford.  Their efforts to develop innovative technologies and approaches are moving agriculture forward—it’s a great fit for Delaware.

On Wednesday in Wilmington, we joined hundreds of employees to formally welcome the Calpine Corporation, an independent producer of power. After they acquired Connectiv Energy, Calpine had a choice of several places to make their regional hub, which covers 10 states.

When asked Why Delaware?” Calpine’s President and CEO Jack Fusco said it was because his company “shares Delaware’s focus on promoting excellence, protecting the environment and creating business and employment opportunities.”

On the morning of Return Day, Mountaire Farms announced an investment of approximately $34.5 million to expand its poultry complex in Millsboro.  They will be building a new state-of-the-art Resource Recovery Center, replacing oil with natural gas, and upgrading their waste-water treatment facility.

There are many people to thank for the hard work that made these announcements a reality, including DEDO Director Alan Levin, Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara.

Also key was our talented and driven Delaware workforce – people these companies will be proud to call their own for years to come.

But most of all, the people of Delaware, who each day put aside our differences and fight for something instead of against each other.

It’s a testament to what can happen when we look past politics and focus on what really matters most in this economy – keeping people working and getting people back to work.