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Morning Brief: Chicago Infrastructure Trust Approved

by Renewing America Staff
April 25, 2012

The Chicago Investment Trust is a signature initiative of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seen here speaking at the 2012 winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. (Chris Kleponis/Courtesy Reuters) The Chicago Investment Trust is a signature initiative of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seen here speaking at the 2012 winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. (Chris Kleponis/Courtesy Reuters)

Chicago’s City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for the private-public Chicago Infrastructure Trust (Chicago Tribune). The 41-7 vote by the aldermen came after a six-day delay during which Emanuel added several oversight provisions to address their concerns. Provisions included: putting an alderman on the trust’s board, requiring city bidding procedures for projects, and guaranteeing a city council vote on any projects involving Chicago assets, funds, or property. The Infrastructure Trust, and Chicago’s broad $7 billion infrastructure plan were the focus of this blog’s inaugural Policy Initiative Spotlight.

Scott Thomasson, the president of NewBuild Strategies and an expert on infrastructure funding, recently authored Encouraging U.S. Infrastructure Investment, a policy Innovation Memo released by the CFR’s Renewing America initiative. Thomasson proposes new initiatives to address crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Education and Human Capital

New Math Standards Will Change Curricula

Implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics requires shifting what many teachers teach (EducationWeek). Existing math curricula often introduce new topics later than CCSS, with a typical lag of two to three years. Teachers in subsequent grades often reintroduce topics the CCSS considers unique to an earlier grade, taking classroom time away from new topics. Though more than 80 percent of teachers at all grade levels like the new standards, a significant proportion—ranging from 20 to 75 percent—feel unprepared to teach them.

The new report of the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security highlights the importance of the Common Core State Standards and asserts that fixing the nation’s underperforming K-12 schools is critical to economic competitiveness and national security.

TED-Ed Enters Second Phase

TED-Ed entered its second phase by introducing a website that allows teachers to create customized online lessons (TechCrunch). In March, TED launched its educational initiative by releasing short, original educational videos on concepts from the size of an atom to how pandemics spread. On the new website, teachers create custom lessons for any video on TED or YouTube. Teachers can track the performance of individual students through multiple choice quizzes and free response questions, and target classroom instruction to reinforce difficult concepts; more features will be added by September.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

International Trade and Investment

Apple Sales and Profits Soar

Apple—the world’s largest public corporation by market capitalization—reported second quarter profits of $11.6 billion, 20 percent above analysts’ estimates (TechCrunch). Much of Apple’s growth was in China, where quarterly sales increased to a record $7.9 billion, up threefold from last year, with a fivefold increase for iPhones. China is now Apple’s second largest market, but it still faces pressure there. China Mobile—the largest cellular carrier—does not carry iPhones, and a trademark dispute over the iPad name has prevented that product’s release.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Corporate Regulation and Taxation

Community Banks Struggle to Repay TARP

A special inspector general’s report found that 351 small banks with $15 billion in TARP loans face a “significant challenge” for repayment (WSJ). Banks with under $1 billion in assets are under increasing competitive pressure; regulatory and technological changes create larger economies of scale that disproportionately benefit the bigger banks. While many larger banks have repaid their loans, the government still has large stakes in recipients such as AIG, GM and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC). TARP loans totaled $414 billion, and the Treasury Department has received back around $300 billion in repayments.

Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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