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2011 Annual Policy Conference of the Governmental Research Association

Monday, July 25, 2011 - 12:30pm to Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 5:30pm

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

230 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois

From July 25-27, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Civic Federation hosted a gathering of some of the nation’s most prominent policy research organizations at the 2011 Annual Policy Conference of the Governmental Research Association. Over a hundred representatives, panelists and guests attended the event to hear and participate in discussions about municipal bankruptcy, pension reform, results-based budgeting and improving urban education. To download materials and presentations from the conference, please visit this link.

After Monday’s breakfast reception, the sessions started with “Is the Municipal Bankruptcy Threat Real? The Multi-Billion Dollar Question,” moderated by Richard Ciccarone, Managing Director and Chief Research Officer of McDonnell Investment Management. Panelists included H. Woods Bowman, Professor at DePaul University; Michael Pagano, Dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs of the University of Illinois at Chicago; James Spiotto, attorney at Chapman and Cutler LLP; William A. Brandt, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Development Specialists, Inc.; and the Honorable Kerry Cummings, President of the Village of Glenview.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall introduces Monday’s first panel. Panelists (L to R): Richard Ciccarone, H. Woods Bowman, William A. Brandt, Jr., Michael Pagano, James Spiotto and the Honorable Kerry Cummings

After a short break, the second session “Surviving the Third Rail: Making Pension Reform Work” discussed the challenges and successes associated with the reforms of the Chicago Transit Authority’s pension and retiree healthcare systems in 2008. Moderating the panel was Dean Mead, Research Manager at the Governmental Accounting Standards Board; James Franczek of Franczek Radelet P.C.; John Kallianis, Executive Director at the Chicago Transit Authority Pension Fund; Donald Franklin of Donald B. Franklin, Inc.; and Chicago Transit Authority Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Karen Walker.

John Kallianis of the Chicago Transit Authority Pension Fund discusses changes to the pension system after passage of Public Act 95-0708.

At noon guests and panelists attended a luncheon presented by Freeborn & Peters LLP. The keynote speaker was the Honorable Mike Quigley, Illinois 5th District Congressman. Congressman Quigley addressed the attendees with a discussion about the United States debt ceiling negotiations and the need for rational political discourse. Dean Mead, Research Manager at the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, followed with a presentation about proposed changes to the Board’s public pension accounting standards.

Illinois 5th District Congressman Mike Quigley addresses luncheon attendees.

The third and final panel session of the day, “Budgeting for Results: Funding Priorities, Improving Outcomes” discussed efforts by the State of Illinois, Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority to implement performance measurement programs. Rick Mattoon of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago moderated the panel, which included Grace Gallucci, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Authority; Cook County Director of Policy Neil Khare; State of Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski; and David Vaught, Director of the Illinois Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

Grace Gallucci, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Authority, discusses RTA’s implementation of performance measurement protocols.

The day concluded with a GRA member roundtable discussion about the past year’s successes and challenges, moderated by Kent Gardner, President and Chief Economist of the Center for Governmental Research, based in Rochester, New York.


Tuesday’s session began with the panel discussion, “The Role & Contributions of Independent Research in Improving Urban Education,” which explored how research organizations could help evaluate and analyze the needs of public education systems.The panel, moderated by Elizabeth Evans, Chief Executive Officer of New Voice Stategies, featured Paul Goren, the Lewis-Sebring Director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute; Kirstin Pryor, Senior Associate at the Center for Governmental Research; Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard; Terry Mazany, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Community Trust; and Robin Steans, Executive Director of Advance Illinois.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard discusses how independent research could usher in improvements to CPS.

GRA members then participated in the “Practicing What We Preach: Lessons Learned from Strategic Planning” panel discussion, moderated by Civic Federation Vice President and Director of Research Lise Valentine. Panelists included Ran Coble, Director of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research; Kent Gardner, President and Chief Economist of the Center for Governmental Research; Jeffrey Guilfoyle, President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan; and Public Policy Forum President Rob Henken.

Ran Coble, Executive Director of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, discusses how 30 years of strategic planning has helped and hindered his organization.

On Tuesday afternoon, GRA members and Civic Federation staff enjoyed an architectural boat cruise under sunny skies.

The Merchandise Mart and Chicago River as seen from the Chicago Architecture Foundation cruise.

Tuesday night GRA members convened at the University Club for an awards dinner featuring keynote speaker Kate Grossman, Deputy Editorial Editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. Ms. Grossman discussed the many issues facing the newspaper industry, including consolidation of media outlets, declining ad sales revenues and ensuing reductions in newsroom staffing levels. Ms. Grossman also gave dinner attendees advice on how to get better media coverage of their research and policy recommendations.

Chicago Sun-Times Deputy Editorial Editor Kate Grossman gives dinner attendees recommendations on how to pitch research and policy recommendations to the media.

After dinner, Earl M. Ryan, former President of the Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan, received the GRA’s Frederick P. Gruenberg Award for his lifetime contributions to improving information about Michigan’s finances, including identifying that state’s structural deficit and recommending new distribution formulas for mental health funding. Mr. Ryan, a former Governmental Research Association President, was also commended for his work for other government research organizations, including the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute and the Public Affairs Council of Louisiana.

The winners of the GRA’s annual awards were also announced at the dinner. The winners are as follows:

Outstanding Policy Achievement Category 

State Level Winner – North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, “Financial Aid for Students in North Carolina’s Public and Private Colleges and Universities and Community Colleges”

Local Level Winner – Bureau of Governmental Research, “Contracting with Confidence: Professional Services Contracting Reform in New Orleans”

Most Effective Education Category

State Level Winner – TTARA Research Foundation, “An Introduction to School Finance in Texas” 

Local Level Winner – Public Policy Forum, “Should it Stay or Should it Go? Exploring the potential for structural reform in Milwaukee County government”

Certificate of Merit – Center for Governmental Research for their model for creating online community profiles, repositories of descriptive data and analysis

Certificate of Merit – Citizens Research Council of Michigan, “Michigan Constitutional Issues”

Certificate of Merit – Government Finance Officers Association, “The 12 Steps to Recovering from Financial Distress” website

Most Distinguished Research Category

State Level Winner – Center for Colorado’s Economic Future, “Financing Colorado’s Future: An Analysis of the Fiscal Sustainability of State Government”


Wednesday, the final day of the conference, opened up with presentations from recipients of  awards from the previous night’s dinner. Moderated by Eric Lupher, Director of Local Affairs at the Citizens Research Council, the panelists discussed their research projects, providing background and context about the problems their projects addressed.

Moderator Eric Lupher of the Citizens Research Council introduces the panel consisting of GRA awards winners, which include (L to R) Ran Coble of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research; Anneliese Dickman of the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Janet Howard of the Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans, Louisiana; Phyllis Resnick of the Center for Tax Policy in Colorado and Shayne Kavanagh of the Government Finance Officers Association in Chicago.

2011’s Annual Policy Conference of the Governmental Research Association concluded with a member-focused presentation “Innovative Methods in Research and Marketing for Governmental Research Organizations,” moderated by Steve Kroes, President of the Utah Foundation. Panelists included H. Woods Bowman, Professor at DePaul University; Rebecca Hendrick, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Kent Gardner, President and Chief Economist of the Center for Governmental Research and Mebane Rash and Nancy Rose both of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research. Panelists discussed quantitative and qualitative research methods as well as using social media to promote an organization's cause.

The Civic Federation would like to thank Freeborn & Peters LLP for sponsoring the conference luncheon. We are also very grateful to Rick Mattoon and the staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for providing the conference space and the Federal Reserve Bank's conference staff for all of their assistance. Thank you!