Visionaries - Changing the World One Story at a Time

Our 14th Season

Community Cops- Fighting Crime in the New Millenium

The High Point in Crime Fighting

Episode 1402 A

There is almost no limit to what can be accomplished when government and community groups join together to tackle a problem.

In High Point, North Carolina, entire neighborhoods were being lost to the scourge of drugs. Dealers took over the corners. Prostitutes walked the streets. School children cowered in their homes. As a result, property values plummeted and businesses abandoned the neighborhood.

Then along came a bold new idea. It began with Professor David M. Kennedy, Director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It was built around the notion that when criminals are confronted with the unbending will of both the police and the community, change would occur.

What you are about to witness is an extraordinary event. A group of drug dealers have been summoned to a community meeting. There, they will be confronted with local, state and federal law enforcement officials who have built iron-clad cases against them. Also in the room are family, friends and community leaders. Together, law enforcement and the community deliver a single message. Your drug dealing days are over. We are taking our neighborhood back.

City Solutions- From climate change to urban blight, two cities answered the challenge

Flint, Michigan - Rebirth of "Vehicle City"

Episode 1401 A

You may have seen the infomercials on late night television. You know, the ones that claim you can get rich by buying up property that is in tax foreclosure.

Well, there is another side to that story. It's a tale of communities devastated by the abandoned properties left behind by speculators and absentee landlords.

Flint Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, was once a vibrant community. But then the jobs went away and thousands of people fled the City. Homes were abandoned, property taxes went unpaid, and speculators stepped in and acquired the property through the tax foreclosure process.

The result is a phenomenon called contagious blight. This happens when one or two abandoned properties on a block diminish the value of the remaining homes, setting off a cycle of decline and abandonment that turns a once beautiful neighborhood into a wasteland.

But the folks in Flint wondered what would happen if they took the money that would otherwise go to speculators and used it to rebuild the city in a way that reflected the new economic reality. Could a once proud city reclaim its soul and build a future even brighter than the past?

Fighting Global Warming, One City at a Time

Episode 1401 B

There is an old adage that says, "any really big job is just a lot of little jobs rolled into one".

That is how the folks in Seattle view the issue of Global Warming- a big planetary problem that is the result a lot of smaller problems in the cities of the world.

It all started in 2004 after a particularly warm winter when very little snow fell on the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle. The city depends on the melting snowpack for drinking water and to generate hydroelectric power.

Suddenly, global climate change was a local issue and the folks who lived in the city decided to confront the challenge head on. What they soon discovered was that tackling energy conservation, sustainable development and environmental protection wasn't about sacrifice or doing without. It turned out that every step taken to address global warming on the local level was also an action that improved the quality of city life.

That single revelation launched a national movement of mayors all across the country that could truly impact the planet.

Putting Cops on the Dots

Episode 1402 B

In Chicago, they call it putting the Cops on the Dots.

Others call it "hotspot policing", and all across America, the approach has played a critical role in dramatic reductions in crime. The concept is simply this: Most crime is committed by a surprisingly small number of people. Target those criminals and allocate your resources to putting them out of businesses.

At the core of this concept is information- knowing who the criminals are and acquiring enough evidence to make arrests. That's where Chicago stands out.

Police officers have invented an information gathering and dissemination system, called CLEAR, that not only has driven down crime in Chicago, but has empowered police officers across the nation, not with guns, but with laptops.

Bureaucracy Busted- How two States saved millions by thinking locally

Back to the Country Doctor

Episode 1403 A

Delivering quality health care may be the single greatest challenge facing our country. It is the classic rock and hard place conundrum.

On the one hand, there is a desperate need to cut costs, while on the other hand; spending money on good primary care today will save millions down the road.

In North Carolina, they have created a community-based health care system for Medicaid patients that may be a model for the rest of the nation.

The system is built around 14 regional healthcare networks in which 3,000 local physicians are linked with high-risk patients. Medical interventions are made and chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes are addressed.

Community based case managers are hired locally by the networks. They work closely with patients to insure that they are getting the care they need to prevent costly complications.

The result is that Community Care of North Carolina has dramatically improved the health of thousands of patients while saving millions of dollars.

What's the secret? It has a lot to do with putting care back in the hands of family physicians.

Florida ACCESS - The Meaning of Public Service

Episode 1403 B

If you look up the word Government in a thesaurus, you find synonyms like regime, control, command and authority. What you don't see are words like service, assistance, or support. That has always been the problem with government- the conflict between its role as a rule maker and that of public servant.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the delivery of critical social services. One part of government wants to serve the well-being of the citizenry, the other wants to control spending and influence the behavior of those who receive assistance.

In Florida, they made a startling discovery. In an effort to control eligibility for public assistance, states had created a labor intensive system that was burdened with unnecessarily complex regulations and policies. Moreover, the system was overly intrusive on the time and privacy of the public it was supposed to serve.

This revelation caused the creation of ACCESS Florida. It is a program that uses innovative technology and relationships with over 2,600 community partners to achieve efficiency and cost-effectiveness, while allowing for and promoting customer self-direction, self-service and self-reliance.

The result was a recurring savings of $83 million dollars a year and dramatic increase in the level of privacy and respect afforded those the program was designed to serve.

This is how they did it.

From Seattle to Singapore - The answer is technology

Justice Denied? Not in Seattle

Episode 1404 A

Justice delayed is justice denied. That old legal maxim, first attributed to the British Statesmen William Gladstone, has been passed down from the 19th century in the form of words printed in ink on paper. If you had a mind to, you could find it countless books, journals, newspaper articles and legal briefs. It would be real and true because you could touch it.

This is the nature of law. Things are legal if they exist in the physical world. Laws are written on parchment, signed with pen and ink and attested to with a stamp or seal.

Here is the great irony. The need to have a physical document as legal proof has become the single greatest impediment to timely justice. In courthouses all across America, the shear volume of legal transactions combined with the requirement that a single piece of paper be the proof of a land transaction, divorce, child custody, criminal sentence has brought justice to a screeching halt.

In Seattle, they have solved that problem by creating the "Electronic Court Record". It is a remarkable accomplishment, not because of the technological advancements, but because of the huge paradigm shift required to accept a computer record as a legal proof. This is how they did it.

Experiential Learners Change a Nation

Episode 1404 B

In the United States, we have a tendency to think that we have all the answers. The concept of American ingenuity is so ingrained in our culture that we suppose that we have a monopoly on innovation.

Creative arrogance is a dangerous thing. Not only does it close off the free flow of new ideas, it kills the single most important element of innovation: altered perspective.

Novel concepts, new solutions, inventive approaches to old problems don't spring forth out of thin air, they happen when you look at a situation from a different angle.

That's what happened on the Island Nation of Singapore and it led to one of the most successful approaches to technical education in the world.

Once low academic achievers where relegated to ITE- the Institute of Technical Education. But the education was so bad that some people said ITE stood for, "It's The End".

But as Singapore's economy heated up in the early 90's the desperate need for a highly skilled workforce changed how political and educational leaders viewed those students who did not do well in the classroom. Instead of being seen as academic failures, these young people were viewed as experiential learners who would blossom in a hands-on technical environment.

This single shift in perspective combined with a massive restructuring of ITE has made Singapore the envy of the world. What you are about to see is an educational system so successful that Singapore has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world with over 90% of graduates finding jobs in their chosen field.