• Explain how the case study offered support for or against the: (a) the rational model; (b) the political model; and (c) the policy process model.
• Which elements of the three-stage Cobb and Elder model on agenda setting could you identify in the case study?
• Explain how Kingdon’s “three streams” model of the policy process sheds light on how human service policy developed in Allegheny County.
• Your paper must be written at the graduate level and cited properly according to APA style guidelines Must Be at least 1200 words.
Case Study: The Expansion of Human Services in Allegheny County, 1968–95, Section I*
Preface and Introduction
This case study examines the policymaking process behind the change in the quantity and quality of services that took place in the human service arena in Allegheny County during the nearly three decades Thomas Foerster served as commissioner. It thus can serve effectively as a vehicle for evaluating the ideas presented earlier in the chapter (as well as ideas presented in the first four chapters). Allegheny County, with a population of 1.3 million people, covers 731 square miles, including Pittsburgh—second largest city in Pennsylvania. Allegheny County does not have Home Rule and therefore has no inherent right to self-govern beyond what the state constitution and the General Assembly grant. Three county commissioners serve as the executive and legislative officers of the county, which has 130 municipalities, each with its own government structure. The Second Class County Code adopted by the state legislature in 1933 and modified in 1955 guides Allegheny County government. The functions delegated to the county under this code include: “the management of county finances and property; maintenance of care for dependent children, indigent aged and prisoners; and construction and maintenance of county buildings, roads and bridges.” Additionally, numerous legislative acts passed in the 1960s and beyond have either granted permission, or mandated, that county government perform services “in the fields of public protection, land protection, land and air transportation, higher education, health, recreation and public welfare.”1 Simultaneously, the explanation of the policy process that preceded this case study serves as a framework from which to analyze how and why the growth in human services took place from 1968 to 1995. Also to be analyzed is the role that one individual, Commissioner Tom Foerster, played. Although he is often credited as a catalyst for the increase in human services offered, the commissioner is the first to say he is not the one who deserves the credit.2 This case study is based on interviews with the commissioner and individuals who worked within his administration, as well as program administrators from outside the administration who solicited and received support from Commissioner Foerster. In addition to interviews, documents and newspaper articles were utilized to gather information. The examination of human services during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure should result in increasing students’ understanding of the complex, ambiguous, messy, never-ending process of public policy, and demonstrate that, as Deborah Stone aptly states, “the making of public policy is strategically crafted argument.”3 Laura Lewis, the author of this case study, did not intend to provide all sides of the story, or a complete story; she provides one perspective and questions designed to help students examine the policymaking process. Despite attempts to remain a neutral outsider in the writing of this case, the author has made her biases evident. One cannot ever remain totally neutral. Section I discusses who Thomas Foerster is and what subsequently led to his philosophy on the proper role of county government and to his leadership style. Included will be an exploration of the commissioner’s early life experiences, his heroes, and their impact on his philosophy. As the key player focused on, Commissioner Foerster provides an opportunity to evaluate the ability of an individual to make a difference in the policy process. Did he affect human service policy and if so how? The stage is then set for a brief examination of how and why policy developed and evolved in the human service arena from 1968 to 1995. The role of the commissioner and other key players is an integral part of understanding this evolution. At the end of the Section I conclusion, several discussion questions are presented. A Case Appendix offers a brief postscript. Case Assignment First, if you are not 100 percent clear on any of the nine following topics, then you need to review them thoroughly. For maximum learning they need to be kept in mind as you read the case study. They also serve as guides to the case’s discussion questions. Those discussion questions, listed at the end of the case, may be utilized as a case assignment. Your professor may assign some or all of them to you as individuals, or as work teams. Obviously, she or he may also choose to add questions that relate to other materials covered in your course. Overall, the focus should be on what the case says about the critiques of the rational model, the description of the essence of the public policy process as being political, and the policy process model. 1Kingdon’s Multiple Streams model of the policy process: a. the problem stream b. the policy proposal stream c. the politics stream. 2 Problem identification and gaining agenda status: a. How do initiatives gain agenda status? b. What are the criteria presented by Lester and Stewart? c. The three stages of the Cobb and Elder model on agenda setting: Stage I—initiators, trigger devices, and issue creation; Stage II—issue definition, symbol utilization, issue dimension, mass media emphasis, expansion to a larger public, systemic agenda; and Stage III—patterns of access, institutional agenda, action, or allocation. 3. Policy formulation, adoption, and funding. (Review why issues “make it” and the impact of funding on policy implementation.) 4. Funding, legitimization, administrative support. (Review how the values of the implementers and ongoing political battles affect implementation.) 5. Policy evaluation, adjustment, and, sometimes, termination. 6. Words and (causal) stories used to define, identify, and persuade. 7. Role of individuals in the policy process. 8. The use of biography in policy analysis. 9. Large role of politics in policy decisions (as seen in the prison siting case). Section I. Thomas Foerster: Influences on, and of, an Influential Public Servant Individuals who worked in the human service arena during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure refer to him as having a relentless resolve, a deep commitment to creating a level playing field for all, an ability to make things happen, humility, compassion, and wisdom. He is said to put people first and wants to assure that opportunity is available to all.1 This glowing rhetoric becomes meaningful when we look at the substantive policy initiatives he supported and promoted for the aged, for children, for families, for people with disabilities, and for veterans. The initiatives demonstrate the definitional meaning the commissioner has given to the goals of equality, liberty, efficiency, and equity.2 His understanding of what these goals mean, and the role of government in promoting them, began to be determined early in his life. Commissioner Foerster’s Youth and His Beginnings in Politics Thomas Foerster was born in 1928 to the late J. Edward Foerster and Eleanor (Heyl) Foerster. He spent 12 years attending Catholic schools and recalls vividly the message he heard each school day: “We were put on earth to help one another.” He asks, “How can this message not influence anyone who hears it over and over for twelve years?” The message seemed to influence the commissioner, as it undergirds his philosophy on the role of government. That is, he believes all levels of government should attempt to create opportunity for all and assure that the needs of vulnerable populations are met. A significant childhood recollection that imprinted the importance of government intervention was a public works program during the Great Depression. He recalls his mother and other women in his neighborhood serving sandwiches they had prepared to Work Progress Administration (WPA) workers who were laying Belgian blocks on their street. The WPA was able to provide jobs for some “and took some of that desperateness away,” but others not so lucky would go door to door asking for work in order to get a meal. “People were not just asking for a free handout, they were willing, and preferred to work for it.” His mother always provided food for those who asked. At mealtime during the warm months she would make sandwiches and set them on the porch where she knew they would quickly be consumed by those unable to secure employment. The compassion his mother and others showed had a lasting effect on him, as did his observation of the great benefits of public works jobs. He speaks of the “picnic shelters, the buildings, the underground structure that was built with water lines, dams, all things built by WPA workers that we are enjoying today.” He saw that the opportunity to work was all that these men wanted and if the private sector could not provide the jobs, the public sector must. “You have to preserve people’s dignity and willingness to work.” The WPA also had a profound effect on Foerster’s father. It was one of the factors that led his father to change his political views. His father was a conservative Republican who originally was “not enthralled with President Roosevelt and his programs.” Foerster recalls that his father did not hold back from preaching about his anti-Roosevelt views, but after watching the WPA workers pave his street he “really bought into the program.” Although his father was not without work himself during the Depression, he was forced to retire on a small pension, leading to financial worries and a recognition of the need for government assistance with things such as health care. Sports have been a big part of Commissioner Foerster’s life since childhood. He had coaches who supported him, who he could talk to, not just about sports but about life. He played that same role for many young athletes during the 23 years that he spent coaching different football, baseball, and basketball teams. Through his coaching efforts he carried out his philosophy that we are here to help each other. Football is his most loved sport and he coached numerous teams over the years. He started coaching grade school football as a hobby while a high school student. After his own practice was over he would go help the younger players. He recalls his first years in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, when during the middle of the week he would hurry home at night to his coaching job. He had to give up his coaching position when he was appointed chair of the Clean Streams Committee. Coaching taught Foerster lessons about the low-income African Americans who lived in his community and played on his football teams. He recalls the “great nobility” of the parents of these kids who would put cardboard in their sneakers because the soles were worn out. “It makes you realize how difficult some people have it. The parents just couldn’t find jobs. I got to know the parents, as they would come down and help with the chores at the field. They would never complain but willingly volunteered their time. They were well motivated and loved their kids.” Foerster recalls the “determination and hard work these young athletes exhibited.” He saw their great potential. Opportunity is all he believed they needed, and they would do the rest. Another significant part of Foerster’s childhood was the many days his family spent at Conneaut Lake, where today the commissioner still spends many hours when possible. The natural outgrowth of his love of the outdoors led to his emergence as a conservationist, which in turn sparked his political career in his early twenties. A family friend, Bill Guckert, who was secretary of the area Sportsman’s League, educated Foerster about the damage to the environment caused by strip mining, and Foerster says he became determined to do something about it. He took up the cause of fighting pollution long before it was popular to do so. In 1954, encouraged by Guckert, he ran for a legislative position to put someone in the General Assembly who would speak in support of environmental causes. The backing of the Sportsman’s League, and fish and game wardens was not sufficient for this young, unendorsed Democratic candidate to win the primary. These “groups” were the main supporters of environmental issues in the early fifties. They were upset and wanted something done about strip mining but did not have money, or the power of numbers, behind them. The loss in 1954 did not dampen Foerster’s spirit, and he ran again in 1956 as the endorsed Democratic candidate. Again, he lost. In 1958, he was victorious, winning by a narrow margin of 342 votes out of the 19,000 cast in his legislative district. He attributes the win largely to two factors. There were a number of women and one in particular, Anna May Wagner, who organized coffee klatches for him as a means to “drum up” support. Also, the sons of many of these women, who were athletes whom he was coaching, worked at the polls for Foerster. It was a Republican district at the time, and Tom Foerster ran on a single issue—to protect the environment—so these grassroots efforts were vital. “Those women got me elected.” The focus of Representative Foerster’s efforts in his early days in the General Assembly was to make good on two promises; which he did. With Leonard Staisey, who was a state senator at the time, he advocated and promoted the passage of the Clean Streams Act and the Strip Mining Act. Staisey and Foerster later ran together for county commissioner, where Staisey served with Foerster for eight years, and was Chair of the Board. During Foerster’s tenure as a state legislator, he also sponsored the initial legislation that led to the Community College Act, and he was a strong advocate of the Public Defender Act, the Mental Health/Mental Retardation Act of 1963, and the Child Welfare Act of 1963. As commissioner, he then put this legislation into action. The Commissioner’s Heroes Commissioner Foerster’s heroes, those people who he has great admiration and respect for, share many positive characteristics, but the one that stands out is that he saw them all as “putting people first.” They include his father and mother, mentioned earlier, and local, state, and national politicians. On the national level the commissioner points to Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D–Minnesota) as being “the real hero in my book.” “Hubert Humphrey really lived and breathed what he preached. He really cared about people and expressed that in many, many different ways.” The commissioner’s belief in a job for everyone was espoused by Humphrey. “We don’t have people who enunciate that philosophy that he (Humphrey) enunciated and Kennedy enunciated and even Lyndon Johnson.” The commissioner got to know Humphrey personally. He worked to get Humphrey elected President in 1968 and recalls the large crowd he was able to get at the Boat House in North Park after being told it was too isolated out there and nobody would show. He recalls how Humphrey just loved everybody in Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County. He expressed admiration for the way Humphrey could “make a speech at the drop of a hat and be consistent and say what he had to say, full employment, jobs for everybody, education for all. He had the philosophy; it was the Vietnam War that ruined him.” Like many others, the commissioner thinks that if the 1968 election had been a week later, or if Humphrey had taken a stronger stance against the war once he became a presidential candidate, he would have defeated Richard Nixon. In addition, Presidents Truman and Kennedy are named by the commissioner as political leaders who “put people first.” He refers to Kennedy as a great speech-maker. “He had the same philosophy as Humphrey but could express it better than anyone else and in shorter period of time.” Moving to the state and local level, David Lawrence, powerful boss mayor of Pittsburgh, is another person the commissioner holds in high esteem. He got to know Lawrence through football. When Foerster was in high school, Lawrence came to meet the players in the dressing room after a game. A few years later Foerster was coaching a team of 14- to 17-year-old boys and sent Lawrence, then the mayor of Pittsburgh, a letter inviting him to help in the dedication of lights for the football field. Lawrence started coming to the annual football banquets, a practice he continued even after being elected governor. Foerster observed Lawrence in this and other settings and admired how well he related to everyone. The ability to relate to people so well is what enabled Lawrence to leave behind many accomplishments, according to Foerster. “He was a great community person, and people in the communities loved him.” As a mayor and governor, “he was one of the most skilled persons I ever met.” As governor he had a great knack for bringing together the Democratic House and Republican Senate, noted Foerster. In Foerster’s eyes he was someone who could gain support from the corporate establishment, business establishment, and colleges and universities by getting past party affiliation. For example, he enlisted “friendly cooperation” from industrialists in order to combat the air pollution in Pittsburgh caused by the smoke. “Lawrence led the way to get the first smoke ordinance passed. He also led the way to cleaning up the rivers. Raw sewage as well as industrial waste was being dumped into the rivers until 1960.” The commissioner goes on to point out that “it was under Lawrence that money was made available for the first time for local libraries like the Carnegie. It may not seem like a big thing but that was a big step forward for state government to move in that field. It was also under Lawrence that the Pittsburgh public schools received a special subsidy as part of a new formula giving the public schools more state money.” Commissioner Foerster credits Lawrence with starting the whole concept of private/public partnership in Allegheny County. He states that “for those of us who grew up in the Lawrence era, it became natural to work with our universities, to work with the corporate establishment, the Allegheny Conference, and the Chamber of Commerce. That was inbred in us. You cannot get much done unless you have that kind of partnership with the community.” While the commissioner stresses the good that Lawrence accomplished with the aforementioned examples, and mentions “his whole Renaissance Program,” Tom does not overlook what he calls the “big failure in those days.” He is referring to the people hurt when housing in areas where low-income people lived was demolished and those people displaced. Leonard Staisey was not only a good friend, he was also one of Foerster’s heroes. Staisey was on the conservation team with Foerster and toured a strip mine with him in preparation for passage of a Strip Mine Bill and a Clean Streams Bill. Staisey was badly sight-impaired and could see only shadows. Foerster recalls how Staisey “would keep hold of my elbow as we’d walk up and down these strip pits; some of them were 100 feet, 150 feet down a hill. When the strip mine patrol was over, Leonard could really describe what he had seen. He was a remarkable person. When we finally passed the second piece of legislation, it was amended in the Senate and sent out for reprinting. The printer left out some crucial, vital language. As Leonard described it, it was like leaving the ‘Our Father’ out of the Lord’s prayer; it made it meaningless. Now here he is, a blind Senator; he had somebody read bills to him; he was the only one who caught the error in the bill. Leonard was so sharp and had a photographic memory.” It was much more than Staisey’s razor-sharp memory, ability to learn voices, and remarkable ability to compensate for his vision loss that impressed the commissioner. “Leonard Staisey left his footprints behind all over the county in many different ways,” states the commissioner. “I think Leonard Staisey can really be attributed with being the father of the whole Mental Health/Mental Retardation system (MH/MR) in the county. He took that under his wing. Leonard saw to it that the MH/MR programs were not centralized under one big bureaucracy that was too far removed from those it served.” The county was divided up into nine catchment areas with a base center unit run by the nonprofit and hospital sectors located in each area. Each base-service unit works autonomously and obtains input from its own citizens advisory board. The intent was to ensure that relying on the expertise of the private sector agencies and citizen participation would help to ensure that the program responds effectively. Each base-service unit must submit an annual plan to the county and receives a yearly appropriation from the county. The commissioner says that Leonard Staisey taught him a lot about human services and people with disabilities. “More people with disabilities had a job opportunity because of Leonard Staisey. Leonard devised a job bank program that was given to the Veterans Administration to run. It was a relatively small program in which people who had some type of disability because of the Vietnam War were provided with jobs where they acquired a skill.” Such influential people and experiences led the commissioner to become an individual with a strong sense of what he takes for granted as being “right.” He believes that “what is right is that people use government as an avenue to create a society with jobs for everybody; to create a society where vulnerable populations, not able to provide adequately for themselves, are provided with services that allow them to live with dignity; to create a society where everyone has the opportunity to an education and job training; to create a society where we show that we value families by focusing on preventative measures rather than reacting to situations that arise when families are not given the support they need; and to create a society where the environment is protected and future generations will have clean air and water.” Tom Foerster was a public servant who started with a single cause, the environment, but who greatly expanded the issues he advocated, making human services a key priority. Lessons he learned by observing the WPA, community people reaching out to feed hungry, desperate people, and political leaders ardently striving to create a level playing field and provide for the elderly, children, and persons with disabilities, all impacted the development of Thomas Foerster and his philosophy regarding the role of government. Commissioner Foerster’s Philosophy on the Role of County Government Politics is an art where players use strategically crafted argument to persuade others to adopt their policy ideas as the best solution for the distribution and redistribution of goods. Agreement is difficult because of the conflicting ideas people have as to the meaning of basic democratic goals such as liberty, equity, efficiency, and equality.3 One’s interpretation of these goals and beliefs as to how best to attain these goals determine one’s philosophy as to the role government should play in “who gets what, when, and how.”4 As a key political player, how Commissioner Foerster defined these goals and subsequently the policy he supported to arrive at the goals were driven by his worldview. The ambiguity of these goals and the difficulty of achieving all goals simultaneously gave rise to the dilemmas he faced in the political arena. For example, let us assume that to create a level playing field, and promote a degree of equality, government-funded job training or some formal post-secondary education is necessary. Can this be provided without any cost to the liberty of the individuals who will be taxed in order to provide this service? Deborah A. Stone adequately summarizes the dilemmas faced by policymakers with the statement, that “most policy issues can be seen as a question of whether and how the ‘haves’ should give to the ‘have nots.’” The policy issues Stone refers to are redistributive policies which account for most policies in the human service arena. Stone goes on to say that “where one stands on issues of distribution is determined not so much by the specifics of any particular issue as by a more general world view.”5 The worldview held by the commissioner closely parallels that of liberalism. Liberalism holds that the use of government intervention to promote equality and equity is necessary and just. Liberalism views liberty as freedom from dire necessity, which means that there must be a degree of equity, a basic minimal amount of money and/or goods that each person is assured. Thus redistribution is necessary to assure fair shares of basic resources such as food and shelter. By assuring basic resources to those who fall through the cracks and by opening up opportunity for all, the entire society benefits. For the liberal, community interests supersede a pure focus on individuals’ interests.6 The conservative view holds that liberty is freedom to dispose of one’s resources as one wishes and that government intervention infringes on this liberty. Thus redistribution policy interferes with liberty and takes away individualism. Government becomes a menace and misuses its power. The private sector, not the public sector, is the realm in which social welfare needs must be addressed, especially since most public programs simply cost money but do not solve problems.7 The commissioner is not comfortable with being labeled as a liberal. “Trying to categorize someone is all wrong. I don’t think it’s liberal or conservative to try to create a level playing field; it just makes common sense.” (He emphasizes that if you can prove to a conservative that a program is cost-effective, she or he will buy it.) There are definite dangers in defining anyone as liberal or conservative. To try to fit anyone into boundaries is misleading since one’s political philosophy falls along a continuum. The commissioner daily wears a red rose pin on the lapel of his jacket to symbolize his pro-life stance. Another example is that while the commissioner is not a strict fiscal conservative in the sense of opposing all government intervention, he sees himself as fiscally conservative in his attitude toward the county’s budget. The operating budget was always balanced and the rule he had for the capital budget was that the county could issue no more debt than could be retired over a five-year period. Fundraising drives within the corporate community were undertaken in order to comply with this rule. One exception to the rule was made when the county was required to build a new jail by the state. Commissioner Foerster believes that county government has a vital role to play in enhancing the life of all those who live in Allegheny County. Government’s role should not be limited to waste management, engineering and construction of bridges and roads, jails, and parks and recreation. He believes the county government’s role is much larger. “Government’s key responsibility is making sure that all people are provided with opportunity. All problems circle around lack of opportunity.” Another important responsibility of government, according to Commissioner Foerster, is “to speak for those and provide services for those who cannot do so themselves.” This includes elderly, people with disabilities, children, and infants. He has promoted and supported programs that provide services to exactly these people. He has been a force for programs helping the unborn, infants, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities. The commissioner exemplifies a person who makes decisions as if he has memorized and been convinced by a mental exercise that John Rawls describes in his book, A Theory of Justice. Rawls asks us to imagine ourselves designing rules for a society in which we would live without knowing what our social position would be. We could just as likely be on the “bottom” as on the “top.” Rawls’s argument is that our knowledge of our talents and probable social status stands in the way of creating fair rules.8 As we will see, the human service policies the commissioner supported indicate he was able to imagine what he would want the rules to be regardless of social position. As he said, “You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of others.” He sought to create fair rules for all, rules that assured that all have opportunity, rules that assured that all have basic necessities and are able to live with a sense of dignity. “When it comes to people, there ought to be some concepts that everybody believes in—here is what we’re going to do and here is how we’re going to address this problem. Here’s how we’re going to take care of people and problems effectively. We don’t do that. Maybe that’s just Utopia and we’ll never get that until some day when everybody is in Heaven and the big plan starts to take shape.” Underlying his philosophy is an optimistic view of human nature that is also associated with those who adhere to liberalism. Conservatives tend to believe in a Theory X view of work as something disliked. Financial need is virtually the sole motivation to work and people must be forced to work and accept responsibility through coercion, control, and threatened punishment. The more liberal view, a Theory Y view, is of people naturally wanting and willing to work and accept responsibility, just needing the opportunity to apply their self-motivation.9 Foerster has stated he has never met a man or woman on welfare who did not want to work instead of collecting welfare. That is not to say he believes there are not unmotivated poor people, but he does not equate the two, and he basically sees people as wanting to make a contribution to society. As Commissioner Foerster’s experience in office will demonstrate, no one is purely philosophically driven. There are always pragmatic concerns to be considered. Policymakers are faced with dilemmas based on limited resources, endless demands, and competing interests. He mixed his philosophy with pragmatism. Short-term gains were considered, yet so were long-term gains. For example, some advocates for the hungry ardently lobbied for county funds to be used for direct services for the hungry, but this was not county policy. The county supplied funding for equipment, such as trucks to haul food items, that indirectly helped the hungry. They also provided funds for low-income individuals for job training so that they could eventually provide for themselves. The commissioner admits to being torn on this policy. He wanted to give needed funds for food. Yet, with limited funds he had to decide how to get the most out of each dollar. Both he and the advocates wanted the same end result but through a different means. He looked at the costs and gains to be had not only today but years in the future. Leadership Commissioner Foerster called his style of leadership a “common-sense approach.” He was a team player. He spoke of the directors working with him, not under him. He believed in delegating. He told his directors to “go manage” and he would be there to support them. “Each unit has its own president,” as the commissioner saw it, and he was not there to serve as a micromanager. “I have faith in the capabilities of others, not just the smartest or most skilled.” The directors interviewed referred often to the autonomy and support they were given to do their job. Yet they also expressed that they were aware that each director would be held accountable for his or her area. Foerster, always wanting to build on past initiatives, insisted that each department have a road map, a well-developed plan. The commissioner quickly credits those in his administration for the “positive progress” that took place in human services during his tenure. His leadership style conveyed not only support and a belief in his staff but also a great appreciation for hard work well done. When discussing initiatives he states, “It is they, not I, who should get the credit for the growth and accomplishments in their respective departments.” He credits not only the directors but the staff and citizens who worked on the initiatives. “Anyone can cut ribbons or hold a shovel for a ground breaking,” is the commissioner’s view. While comfortable giving credit to others, he is hesitant to take credit for himself. He believes that “If you don’t worry about who takes credit for things, you get more done.” Yet, those who worked with him either directly or indirectly in the human services division are quick to point out the imperative role that the commissioner played in so many key initiatives that took place not just during his time as commissioner but also during his time in the legislature. Tellingly, they speak of Foerster’s accomplishments as he speaks of his hero’s accomplishments. For example, Charles Stowell, past Director of the Department of Aging, states that Kane is a public institution today because people like Tom Foerster cared too much to turn his back on the elderly poor.10 Vic Papale, the commissioner’s executive assistant from 1980–1984, considers Foerster as being essential for the implementation of the Kane Regional Centers. Papale says Foerster said a way to fund the building of the centers would be found and would not take no for an answer.11 Both Laurie Mulvey and Kate Garvey, who work with the Family Support Centers, indicate that the commissioner’s active support has been critical.12 Charlotte Arnold, director of The Program—Alternatives to Incarceration, says it would not be where it is today except for Foerster. She specifically points to how the commissioner personally helped to obtain space to locate its facilities.13 In describing the positive changes that occurred in the Mental Health/Mental Retardation field, Chuck Peters, the long-time director of MH/MR, refers to the free rein the commissioner gave him. Along with the free rein were expectations and strong backing not just in word but in deed. “Commissioner Foerster did not hesitate to go face to face with the governor and others to obtain funding for human services.” Whether it was marches or other dramatic strategies, the commissioner was behind Peters.14 Therefore, while not a micromanager, Commissioner Foerster understood the details and was very involved in the life of the initiatives in the human service arena.15 Leo Koeberlein, former executive editor of the Pittsburgh Press, said of Foerster, “He is not a demagogue, but he is dynamic in the sense that he succeeds by using the available tools. Tom’s working on the principle that politics is the art of the possible. He’s the personification of it.” Koeberlein described the commissioner as “a politician who does not routinely throw his weight around and is not one to rant and rave. He just uses a quiet intellectual approach.”16 Vic Papale recalls how articulate and convincing an argument the commissioner could always make to advance an issue.17 Foerster himself states while discussing issues such as a public works program that he can sell the idea to the private sector if given the opportunity to sit down and talk with those in the business world. The importance of listening to others was not underestimated by the commissioner. Listening to the ideas of others was one means the commissioner used to determine community needs, which he thought must be continually assessed. “I wanted people to tell me what they thought.” He wanted to hear from the opposition as well as supporters. In addition to actively listening, the commissioner “did not hesitate to seek advice.”18 His staff and others from outside county government were continually presenting ideas. Before acting on an idea, the commissioner said he would almost always seek input from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. He would also seek input from others outside of government, and although he would listen, he did not always heed the advice given. One example is the Allegheny Works Program, a public works program, modeled after WPA. “Despite being told you can’t do it, it is impossible, we had to try.” It was just a “gut reaction” that told Foerster to go ahead with it. “You may not succeed but you have to try.” It is not stories told by others of the destitution of people out of work that motivated Foerster. It is the stories he himself tells not only of his hardships during the Depression but also stories of his friends. The closing of the steel mills in the late 1970s and 1980s resulted in friends waiting on his porch steps for him to come home. “They would beg, and that was really discouraging to hear somebody you have known all your life breaking down. The hardest part of the job is that you can’t put everyone to work for the county even though you would like to when they can’t find other work.” Although politically astute, as is evidenced in his ability to win re-election as county commissioner six times, his style and decision making were driven by ideals. Charles Kolling, who served as the lobbyist for the county from April 1977 to March 1996, speaks of Tom Foerster as “a politician willing to take a stand for goals in which he believed regardless of whether they were politically popular, and an obvious vote getter.” Kolling refers specifically to Foerster’s decision and subsequent battles to keep the Kane Regional Centers public. Kolling believes this decision, as well as the battles he fought for funding for MH/MR, was not politically driven. “Foerster based these decisions and others on what he felt was morally right, not what he thought was politically advantageous. The vast majority of his constituency are unaware of the struggles encountered trying to get state funding for human service initiatives.”19 In fact, it can be argued that county government did not market itself to the degree it could have during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure. There are things that the board of commissioners could have done to “toot their own horn.” Kolling mentions as one idea that a positive public relations move would have been for the county to have a half-hour television show to let people know what is available through the county. It can also be argued that the media was more interested in bad news than positive happenings and did not cover events in an unbiased fashion. Foerster notes that “often the beat reporter would take a news release and shed it in a critical light, even when the editorial page would be supportive.” The commissioner does not think that county government got the credit it deserved for all it has accomplished. As staff in his administration admit, many people in the community are unaware of what the county government does, except collect tax dollars. Correctly, Commissioner Foerster claims that people are proud of the Community College of Allegheny County and the airport, to name two examples; yet many people are unaware that it was county government, and (although he does not claim it) Tom Foerster in particular, that made these two things happen. County Government Takes on a New Role— Human Services Becomes Key: 1968–96 Ideas about how people should be treated, what their needs are, and how best to meet these needs led to legislation which in turn opened the door to change when Foerster stepped into his position as commissioner. Legislation being passed is just one phase of the policy process. The commissioner’s strong belief that county government should be actively involved in the human service arena was the driving force behind the funding secured and how these Acts were implemented. A piece of legislation will have little impact if those with power do not see to it that it receives the dollars and support necessary to carry it out. Policy initiated, authorized, and implemented during the commissioner’s tenure was certainly impacted by trends and social and political events that took place across the nation from the 1960s through the 1990s. For example, the 1960s are remembered as a time when people’s consciousness was raised as to the condition under which many populations were being forced to live. An unintended consequence of the civil rights movement was the awareness of the rights of not just African Americans but of children, the poor, those with a mental illness, and other populations who did not have loud voices. There was much optimism in the early 1960s and it was thought that there was enough that everyone ought to get a piece of the pie. Federal and state governments increased funding for human services during part of this time period but there were also times, the 1980s in particular, when funding was being cut. Events and trends within Allegheny County also led to the perceived need for an increase in human services in Allegheny County. For example, Allegheny County experienced the fall of its economic base, the steel industry. The county also experienced an exodus of people from the city to the county. “In 1950, 45 percent of the county population was concentrated in the City of Pittsburgh and the remaining 55 percent in the rest of the county. In 1990, only 28 percent of the county population was in the city with 72 percent in the county.”20 The time was ripe to move beyond what Commissioner Foerster recalls was the “biggest event of the year” for the commissioners, the Allegheny County Fair. The legislation that he helped get passed during his time in the General Assembly expanded the functions of county government, which he states “were largely limited to dealing with issues of transportation, roads, bridges, county parks, criminal justice, and a county airport.” While these functions continue to be carried out today, Allegheny County government has undergone a transformation in structure, role, and philosophy. Not only has Allegheny County expanded to play an active role in economic development and a broad range of human services, it is now driven by a philosophy of prevention rather than remediation. This proactive approach has resulted in commissions and committees being formulated by the Board of Commissioners and assigned the task of assessing needs and undertaking long-term planning. The intent has been to use the results to inform policy decisions. Ideas grew out of the committees and they grew in part due to an atmosphere the commissioner worked at creating in which people inside and outside of government would “feel free to discuss needs and present ideas.” The commissioner’s attitude was that “new initiatives should be built upon.” Under his tenure, Allegheny County gained state and national recognition for innovative human service programs.21 In order to get a sense of the overall change that took place from 1968–96, and avoid the danger of separating out seemingly different arenas instead of looking at the interrelatedness of all of them, a broad definition of human services will be used for an overview. In the current structure of county government the following areas fall directly under the Human Service unit: Aging, Children and Youth Services, Health, Federal Programs, Kane Regional Centers, Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Drugs and Alcohol/Hunger and Homelessness, and Veteran Services. Human services broadly defined encompasses all the resources of a community which contribute to the health, welfare, economic adequacy, security, and development of its citizens.22 Therefore, the following discussion will not be limited to only the previously discussed areas but will touch on specific initiatives that dealt with education, economic stimulation, criminal justice, and employment, since all are essential elements in promoting a community’s well-being. The intent is not to give a detailed review of each area but to show the reader the growth of the programs offered, the changing philosophy, and a sense of the process some of the initiatives underwent. (The case studies on Kane Regional Centers, Mental Health/Mental Retardation, and Family Support Centers in Section II are a more in-depth review of the policy process, and are included in the online Teaching Appendix available to the professor.) The Department of Aging, created in 1989 by merging the Department of Adult Service, the Area Agency on Aging, and the Office of Longterm Care Coordination has added many programs, first as separate units and then as a unified department. Following are some examples. There is a Senior Companion Program that serves a dual purpose. It provides employment for low-income elderly as they spend time making in-home visits to frail, homebound elderly. Westinghouse Valley Services Center, built due to a charge from the commissioners, opened in December of 1982, as an experimental human service center that decentralized county services and provided services to both the young and the old. It was lauded by County Commissioner Cyril Wecht, M.D., as the beginning of “a new and creative era in the field of human services.”23 Kane-without-Walls, as Foerster refers to it, provides in-home nursing care and enables elderly to remain in their own residences rather than an institutional setting. A family caregivers support program provides some relief to caregivers. In 1988, Allegheny County began a home-care program for elderly persons released from hospitals. The goal of the program was to keep elderly from having relapses. At the time, Charles Stowell, Director of the Department of Aging, said that “transitional care is becoming increasingly important, because elderly patients are being discharged from hospitals more quickly than ever before.”24 Vic Papale, then a staff member, believes that if not for the commissioner, the Lemington Center Nursing Home, which provides nursing care for elderly African Americans, would be out of business today. When the commissioner heard it was going to have to declare bankruptcy in 1983, he said, “We have to do something.” He called in his staff and put a group together to see what could be done to save Lemington. As in other situations, many said it was not possible, but, as Papale recalls, the commissioner would not accept that scenario. Today Lemington Center Nursing Home operates a 180-bed facility that typically is at close-to-full capacity.25 The Volunteer Support Network for Seniors, an umbrella organization that the county formed with private sector partners, was another initiative undertaken by the Foerster administration. The goal of the network is to train volunteers who will visit every frail elderly living alone who expressed a desire to have a contact.26 These new initiatives for older adults not only have preventative value, making them cost-effective; they also serve to ensure an improved quality of life for the elderly. Allegheny County Children and Youth Services (CYS) began providing services for 80 children in 1963 and today it serves more than 30,000 per year. An initial budget of $250,000 has increased to an annual budget of $79,000,000 in 1995.27 Its mission, which has remained the same over the years, is to protect children from abuse and neglect; preserve families whenever possible; and provide safe, permanent homes for children. In its 1993 annual report, “Celebrating 30 Years of Service,” it credited the dedication and commitment of the Allegheny Board of Commissioners for its ability to fulfill its mission. The report thanked the board for its belief that families are important and its “willingness to fight for adequate state and federal resources and to provide funding beyond the county’s required mandate. We commend their vision in requiring that services be continually evaluated and revised to meet today’s needs.” Today it “supports preventive community outreach and education services; family preservation services; in-home services; parent and child therapeutic services; community-based foster care, child care, and after-school programs; residential treatment facilities; and adoption programs.”28 This growth in programs resulted from observation of what other CYS programs around the nation were doing, additional legislation passed, and constant evaluations of what worked and what was needed. A review of the services provided indicate that over 33 years many preventative services were added. Improvements in service delivery and collaborative efforts were also a focus. Counties are not mandated to run a health department and many do not. Allegheny County Health Department is one of six counties out of 67 in the state that made the decision to have one. Commissioner Foerster always advocated the importance of keeping alive the County Health Department when at budget time questions would invariably arise as to why it was needed. His reasoning is that the Commonwealth would not be able to provide the quality of services or respond to emergencies, whether an air collision emergency, a water-pollution emergency, or a flood. He noted that in a recent outbreak of meningitis, “Our health department responded within an hour.” Only a few of its initiatives will be highlighted here. In 1970, Allegheny County established “the first fully automated round-the-clock air-monitoring system in the nation.” In Allegheny County, prior to the state taking action, a law was passed that mandated “childhood disease immunizations for all schoolchildren.” Foerster notes that although the number of children immunized was high when he took office, efforts were made to keep increasing the percentage of children immunized, and consequently Allegheny County became one of the most outstanding counties in the nation regarding the percentage of youth immunized. Despite its positive responses to the community health needs, the commissioner in 1992/1993 gave the County Health Department a mandate to rethink its role and mission. In 1992/1993, “The Department integrated preventive health services with primary care through partnerships with other agencies to improve the range of health care available in economically distressed communities.” As a reaction to the studies that showed “persistently high rates” of infant mortality in six areas in the county, the Health Department created Healthy Start.29 The belief expressed by the commissioner was that Healthy Start needed to be a community-based effort assuring that pregnant girls and women receive the necessary services to have healthy babies. The Drugs and Alcohol Program came into being in 1972 as a result of a decision by the Board of Commissioners, following enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly. Joined to the Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation, which will be discussed in Section IV (included in the online Teaching Appendix available to the professor), services provided include prevention, detoxification, residential treatment, outpatient care, and methadone maintenance for people of all ages. Intensive lobbying and efforts to educate political leaders at the state and local level have occurred over the years, just as with the MH/MR Program. “Despite these efforts, services for the addicted have never received the recognition and support afforded those with mental and physical disabilities.”30 There are concerns regarding the impact that managed care will have on the treatment of addictions. Despite problems securing funds, the program has grown and prevention has become a key component. The issues of homelessness and hunger emerged in the 1980s as problems growing in dimension in Allegheny County. Studies were done to try to estimate the increasing number of homeless and hungry individuals. It was estimated that between 1,400 and 1,700 people were homeless at any given moment in 1990 in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and “homeless experts who attempt to intervene in this crisis estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 persons are imminently at-risk of becoming homeless at any given time.”31 In 1991, a steering committee brought together 70 representatives from government, nonprofit provider agencies, business, foundations, education, religious and medical communities, and formerly homeless individuals to develop the Allegheny County/Pittsburgh Homeless Initiative. It called for a “seamless continuum of care” that will enable the homeless to attain self-sufficiency.32 Consistent with the new philosophy toward human services, prevention and community awareness were key components, as was participation by consumers. In 1992, the Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Drug and Alcohol was given the responsibility by the Board of Commissioners for the administration, management, and coordination of all county hunger and homeless programs funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Social Programs. It became the Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Drug and Alcohol/Homeless and Hunger. The homeless programs include emergency shelter, bridge (temporary) housing, subsidized housing, intensive case management, counseling, drug and alcohol support services, a GED program, job training, employment assistance, and specialized residences for the chronically mentally ill homeless.33 There are two state-funded food programs for which the Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Drug and Alcohol/Homeless and Hunger was given responsibility. One is the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes commodity foods provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The other is the State Food Purchase Program, which “provides for the purchase, transportation, storage and distribution of food to needy individuals and families.”34 In order to coordinate both homeless and hunger services, the Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Drug and Alcohol/Homeless and Hunger works closely with existing agencies such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and agencies that were already in the business of providing homeless services. Needs and services provided have been continually reassessed. In addition to the state-funded food programs about which the commissioner says “We lobbied heavily to get what we got,” there are local hunger and nutrition initiatives sponsored by the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners that began in 1990. One initiative expanded the pantry-on-wheels program to include more public housing communities. Another initiative trained 75 food pantry workers who then developed a food distribution plan resulting in what was determined to be a more equitable food distribution plan.35 These hunger and nutrition initiatives fell under the responsibilities of the Director of Human Services, a position created in 1993 to assure the coordination of all human services and create a more efficient delivery system. This position was created in part in response to Allegheny County 2001, a long-range plan of action to “enhance human development and to strengthen economic security” in Allegheny County. The plan, set forth in 1992, was initiated by the Allegheny County Commissioners. “The human development panels said: We don’t just need more human services, we need to shape a new and just community where basic values of fairness, equality, compassion, and justice have real meaning. Building a stronger sense of community based on true social justice is fundamental to the panel’s recommendations.”36 One outgrowth of Allegheny County 2001, which at this point has been stalled, was the move toward one unified information system resulting in each family being assigned to one caseworker, a single coordinator for all services. Initial steps in streamlining human services were taken during Commissioner Foerster’s last years in office. It was hoped that in 1997 demonstration programs would be in place in some regions of the county.37 Another recommendation that emerged, and that the county programs had already started to focus on, was the “shift from treatment to prevention.”38 What happens in the economic arena has great impact on the human service needs that arise and how adequately they are addressed. Prior to the Staisey and Foerster team winning in 1967, there was no structure within county government for economic development.39 The demise of the steel industry was not yet an agenda issue, and proactive measures to solicit new industry and business did not receive what Foerster believed was “adequate attention” prior to 1968. The establishment of a Department of Development soon after the two took office was the beginning of an effort to make economic development a priority. Both Staisey and Foerster were instrumental in getting the Community College Act passed. They went on to build the community college system in Allegheny County. This was not a mandate. It was the carrying out of a philosophy to level the playing field for all, and it is a program that the commissioner is probably as proud of as of anything he has done. As he asserted during an interview with Dianne Jacob, “It (Community College of Allegheny College, CCAC) has had more direct impact than any government program.”40 Today more than 90,000 students attend either the main CCAC campus or one of its four outreach campuses. The school continues to make the guarantee to students that if six months after graduating they have been actively seeking full-time work but have not found it, they will receive 15 units of free additional training. Another initiative, envisioned by CCAC President, Dr. Kingsmore, and supported and backed by Commissioner Foerster, is a scholarship system under which any high school graduate in Allegheny County who cannot afford tuition will be provided with a scholarship. Further, state funds were secured over the years that have enabled dislocated workers and displaced homemakers to receive training at CCAC. Although CCAC does not fall directly under human services, it has an impact on leveling the playing field. Adequate employment will not result without education and training. Lack of employment then leads to problems that other areas of government such as family crisis and criminal justice will have to get involved in. Commissioner Foerster saw his support of higher education as making good economic sense. It was preventative and proactive rather than reactive. The international airport and all economic development also serve to level the playing field by creating opportunity. Foerster’s hope for the airport is for it to create employment and attract employers from all over the world. In an article by Dianne Jacob, discussing the 1992 Pittsburgher of the Year, Commissioner Tom Foerster is highlighted as the person who made the most positive contribution to Pittsburgh—a new international airport. The airport is the culmination of 24 years of what the commissioner refers to as “friendly persuasion.” Jacob describes this accomplishment as the result of the commissioner’s “burning desire and determination.” He listened to but was not dissuaded by doubts that this vision could become a reality. As Jacob states, “The commissioner worked ceaselessly on this project with a coalition of leaders from government, the business community, and universities for 24 years to raise support and funds.”41 This statement summarizes the commissioner’s mode of operation. The Program for Female Offenders, Inc., under the auspices of the Allegheny County Probation Department, began providing direct services to female offenders in 1974. The origin of the ideas that led to the program began in 1971, when Charlotte Arnold, the current executive director, met with female offenders in the jails and gained an understanding of their needs. No services were being offered at the time to give the women an increased chance of remaining crime free upon release. At the time Ms. Arnold was responsible for educating the community about the plight of female offenders. The number one need of the women was employment. Ms. Arnold began efforts to secure funds through Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) monies to provide job placement and counseling to nonviolent female offenders. A key challenge faced in the early days was to gain the support of the county commissioners since LEAA funds had to be filtered through the county with a 10 percent match. Commissioner Foerster was hesitant since he knew that eventually LEAA funds might dry up, leaving the county with the future funding costs. None of the commissioners was eager to listen to Ms. Arnold’s ideas, so she organized a demonstration with the support of the local branches of the National Organization of Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to at least get the idea on the agenda. The demonstration worked, and Ms. Arnold was listened to but her idea was not given serious consideration. She persisted and following the meeting began sending the commissioners monthly reports as to the number of women that were worked with and the extremely low recidivism rate of these women. “It was the reports that won me over,” says the commissioner. The tenacious spirit of Ms. Arnold, something the commissioner also exhibits, and her ability to educate the policymakers proved effective. Commissioner Foerster became an “ardent supporter,” according to Ms. Arnold. “It was the commissioner who would go out into communities with me to find facilities to house Alternatives to Incarceration. It was the commissioner who would work with, and negotiate with, community leaders in order to get their acceptance for having a facility in their community.” As Ms. Arnold recalls, “Tom was always thinking of how the facility could help the whole community, not just the offenders.” (She noted that, as the commissioner predicted, LEAA funds did dry up but that did not dampen the support of the commissioner.)42 Today this program depends on many sources for funding. Currently a capital campaign is taking place to meet the need of a larger facility. The program, which has received regional and national attention for its innovative services, began as a storefront operation run by three women who knew that through respect, love, and training the majority of these offenders could lead lives free of crime. As this small staff continued to become aware of the needs of the women, more components were added to the program. What began as a job counseling and placement program has grown into a model that includes work-release programs, child-abuse-prevention programs, shoplifting prevention classes, life-skills training, programs for children and job-readiness training. There are residential facilities, and most recently added was a drug and alcohol treatment alternative. Men as well as women are now served. The program makes good economic sense, which is often a selling point at the top of the priority list when determining policy. Not only is the cost of having a woman live in a residential facility, where she makes a monetary contribution, less expensive than keeping her in jail; her chances of re-entering the criminal justice system, or in being in need of Aid to Families with Dependent Children are greatly reduced. A report, released in May of 1995, indicated that the recidivism rate for the random sample of Program clients is 15 percent as compared to 26 percent for female offenders in Allegheny County who did not receive Program services.43 The mini-WPA program that Commissioner Foerster promoted is yet another initiative that fits under the broad definition of human services. The commissioner’s philosophy is that keeping people unemployed is a waste of money as well as human capability. “It is not cost-effective, especially when the indirect costs of unemployment such as crime, youth violence, and drug and alcohol abuse are taken into account.” Coupled with this philosophy is his strong belief that when someone cannot obtain employment in the private sector, it is the responsibility of the government to help that person get a job. “That is how people should be treated.” This can be done through education, vocational training, and/or a public works job. Foerster sees public works jobs as a way to help people get established and to serve as a building block from which they will pursue employment in the private sector. As a response to the “massive unemployment” problem in Allegheny County, Commissioner Foerster was a major player behind the creation of a public works program that was patterned after Roosevelt’s New Deal WPA Program. A study undertaken by the Pennsylvania Economy League concluded that “depending on the assumptions used, the ‘Jobs for Growth’ program, designed to give the chronically unemployed work while training them for a career, could save the state almost $16 million in welfare payments over five years or produce $11 million in losses.” A county-paid consultant conducted a study that indicated that the program would “generate almost $3 in benefits for each $1 invested.”44 The Mon Valley Commission, set up by the county commissioners to address the unemployment of steel workers, was instrumental in coalition building that raised support for a public works program and lobbying the state for funds for the program. No large source of private funds was ever secured. Governor Casey’s support of the program was key in securing state funds that provided approximately half of the budget. Allegheny County Works, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, was established to administer the program. The program started small and has stayed small. Nonetheless it has provided training and jobs for participants. The commissioner points to three, of the more than 20 rehabilitated facilities, as examples of the jobs completed by the program participants. One is an old school in Homestead, one building is being used for a community center with a playground, and one building in Clairiton is used as a Family Support Center. The future of the program is not stable since as of 1995 the state cut the funds it was providing. The commissioner could “see a crisis and understand the depth of it.”45 The loss of jobs for over 100,000 steel workers left many in jeopardy of losing their homes. Papale recalls that the commissioner “would not stand idly by and let it happen.” He therefore helped initiate the Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program, which provided a “second” mortgage for unemployed steel workers. Another small-scale work program that began under Commissioner Foerster was a summer work program for people with some type of handicap. The impetus for the program was one special individual, Matt Burda. The commissioner talks with pride of the blossoming of Matt, who worked as a messenger for the county one summer. Matt had been classified as severely mentally retarded prior to his summer with the county. With some individual attention, and a lot of work on Matt’s part, by the end of the summer Matt was no longer classified as severely mentally retarded. (It is likely that the original classification was wrong, but a change did occur.) The commissioner describes the change that took place because of the opportunity Matt had been afforded. He says that this experience “gave me the idea that we ought to have a special summer work program for people with some type of handicap, and we got some people in the private sector to buy into it.” The commissioner describes the program as very successful and that for some participants it has resulted in employment at the end of their summer experience. Jacob, and undoubtedly many others, saw the airport as the commissioner’s biggest accomplishment to date as of 1992. Yet how one defines “biggest” accomplishment (where one stands) depends on one’s life situation. The person who was able to attend CCAC because of the commissioner’s efforts may see the Community College as his biggest success; the woman who was able to get job training through the Alternatives to Incarceration program might see that as the biggest success that happened during the Foerster administration; the unemployed individual who obtained employment as a result of the county public works program might see that as the biggest success. Families and individuals who have benefited from the three initiatives discussed in the next section (included in the online Teaching Appendix available to the professor), all of which are part of the human service arena, may claim any one of them as the biggest success. There is a long list of possibilities as to which of the initiatives carried out during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure was the biggest accomplishment. What is evident is that there were many initiatives and accomplishments to demonstrate that Allegheny County government took on a new role during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure that served to provide opportunity and improve life in Allegheny County. As noted by Vic Papale during the time he worked as the commissioner’s executive assistant, he had two primary roles: one being to serve as the gatekeeper; the other charge from the commissioner was to assure the preeminence of human services on the county agenda.46 Robert Nelkin, who served as executive assistant after Papale, before he became Director of Human Services, was called on by the commissioner to continue to carry out this latter charge. Section I Conclusion In sum, the commissioner believes that the problems within a community are community problems best addressed by combining self-interest and public interest. As his tenure indicates, he wisely used influence, cooperation and loyalty to bridge the gap between public interest and self interest. “The only way to get things done today is through cooperation.” On the other hand, he could play tough and used lawsuits and threats in order to get funds from the state. “He would go face to face with Governor Casey” and Governor Thornburgh and insist that more money should be allocated to human services.47 The strategies and tactics used by Foerster and his staff to obtain and increase state funding for initiatives, as well as to secure foundation and corporate funds, were a key factor in the transformation of human services in Allegheny County. Commissioner Foerster’s leadership style, the support and encouragement he provided, his resilience, and his personal philosophy regarding the active role government should play in creating a just society were also all key factors. Section I Discussion Questions 1. Did the managerial style of the commissioner lend itself to change or deter change? Why is the commissioner credited by many as the catalyst for change? Can individuals make a difference? 2. What was the commissioner’s philosophy as to the role of government in the human service arena, and how did it play out in the policies implemented? 3. Were there times when pragmatic concerns appeared to overpower the ideological beliefs of the commissioner? 4. Would a rational public policy approach care about the biographies of major players? 5. Does a postpositivist method of policy analysis lead to an increased understanding of the impact of major players’ backgrounds, heroes, ideologies, and so forth? 6. How does the use of biography change your understanding of policy development? How can it help you as an analyst? 7. Explain how the case study offered support for, or undercut, the description of the essence of the public policy process as being political. The rest of the original case deals with the key issue in the mental health/mental retardation field during Commissioner Foerster’s tenure. The issue was not whether public care should be provided for persons with mental illness and mental retardation, but what kind of care should be provided. Policy decisions were made regarding community care versus institutional care. These decisions were, and are, accompanied by related issues such as jobs and programs for this population of consumers to ensure “success” in the community care alternative. The determination of programs and services needed and the inclusion of consumers and their families in the decision-making process have been important challenges, as has been securing adequate funding to provide services. Further, community acceptance of community care for persons with mental illness and mental retardation has been an issue that has continuously been addressed. (Section II—part of the online Teaching Appendix available to your professor—provides three case studies that continue the case, followed once again by discussion questions tied to this textbook.) Case Appendix: Postscript* It should surprise no one to learn that, in late 1997, two-and-one-half years after finally losing another election, former Commissioner Foerster showed up to testify at a budget hearing about cutting county spending for the community college, mass transit, and other important services. Nor should his words surprise you: If you hurt one of those services, you hurt people and their ability to get a level playing field, to earn a living, to get to and from their jobs. The people we hurt, we’re going to pay a heavy price for down the road. Tom Foerster had a different solution. Instead of cutting essential county services, raise the property tax by $1 or $2 million. Two of the current commissioners agreed. The third attacked Foerster for loving taxes. “Always did. Always will.” Actually, the last budget he and Pete Flaherty passed (1995) cut property taxes by $2 million and eliminated the personal property tax in favor of a regional asset sales tax of 1 cent. However, the day Commissioner Dunn came into power, he and Commissioner Crammer froze county assessments and added a $4 million tax cut on top of the $2 million cut. With no steps taken to cut costs, they had cut property-tax collections by 20 percent. Within one year of taking office, Dunn and company had used up some $54 million dollars of the reserve in place when Foerster left office. By the hearing date, the cost of bonds had increased due to lowered ratings, the budget director had quit, and county employees were being let go. That’s not the end of the story, though. In 1999, Allegheny County switched from a county commissioner system to a county council system. Tom Foerster decided to run for one of the seats on the council and won easily. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated and he was hospitalized, but he continued working on issues by phone and was sworn into office in his hospital room. Shortly thereafter, on January 11, 2000, the seven-term commissioner, the former state legislator known as “Little Joe” (because when speaking for or against any piece of legislation he always closed by asking his colleagues to consider its impact on Little Joe—his shorthand term for the average citizen), died. His legacy lives on not only in the lives of the family and friends who loved him, but also in the environmental legislation he worked for, in the social service system he helped improve, at the community college he helped found, and at the airport where a terminal was renamed in his honor in February 2000. One individual whose live he influenced, continuing to make a difference, is his long-time top aide, Robert Nelkin, who became the President and CEO of United Way of Allegheny County in 2007 (in 2014 they merged into a combined entity spanning four counties, and it is now called United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania). Nelkin’s career began working in Pittsburgh’s East End with urban youth in the early 1970s, showing a lifetime of commitment. He has gone on to, among other things, transform United Way and develop their program called “I Care”, which “encourages businesses, neighborhood groups, churches, mail carriers and delivery workers to watch for signs of distress among the elderly and other vulnerable people in their communities” and also display and disseminate educational materials about the issue. His recent statement that “I believe that we can address critical human issues for people struggling because of financial reasons, or disadvantage, or disaster, by mobilizing the caring power of people. Not just by asking people to give but by asking people to give, advocate, and volunteer,” sounds like something that would surely make Tom Foerster smile. Individuals do make a difference.
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