Smiles and Social Capital

I came across an interesting post on Keith Harris' Neighbourhoods blog about a local government in Australia that is tracking and publicizing the number of smiles between people passing each other in the streets.

Have You Checked Back In?

Governor Patrick's Public Liaison office is seeking stories of people who have "checked back in" to do something to improve your community.

Immigration & Social Capital

This post on Keith Harris' Neighbourhoods blog is an interesting follow-up to our recent discussion on immigration and social capital. He summarizes research suggesting that bonding social capital among immigrants plays an important role in building the resilience of group members that enables them to participate in broader society.

State Budget Online

No one ever claimed understanding the state budget was easy, but the Patrick Adminstration has added several features to mass.gov to help citizens understand their budget proposal. This includes videos of the Governor's budget address and an "understanding the budget video, along with options to search for areas of interest in the budget.

The details of the budget don't necessarily make front page news, yet anyone familiar with the process knows that the budget drives what can be accomplished by our government. Making this important document easier to understand is an important step for citizens to stay "checked in".

The focus on civic engagement continues in the budget, with $3 million budget for the proposed Commonwealth Corps program. In a related development, the Commonwealth Corps Act was recently filed and is available online.Read more

The Big Picture: Immigration, Diversity and Social Capital

This month's SCI staff meeting featured a good discussion on the proposed changes to the citizenship test, which all immigrants must pass before they become full citizens of the United States. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the new test

"will continue to be an oral test, conducted in English, and will have 10 questions. Six correct answers will earn a passing grade. But the content, which is tightly under wraps, is expected to shun simple historical facts about America that can be recounted in a few words for more explanation about the principles of American democracy, such as freedom."

Questions have since been posted to the official Citizenship and Immigration Services website, and include:

What type of economic system does the U.S. have?
How many U.S. Senators does each state have?
What is the tallest mountain in the United States?

One of the most obvious issues raised in our staff discussion was that most American-born citizens probably would not be able to pass such a test, in either the original or revised form.

Over at the web magazine Salon.com, law professor Steven Lubet points out that only certain answers are accepted for each question, even those that may seem more open-ended than others:

"Let's start with the second question, which gets the whole test off on the wrong foot constitutionally. Pilot question No. 2 asks, 'What is the supreme law of the land?' The sole allowable answer is 'The Constitution.' That is only partially right, however, because it excludes at least two other correct answers. Anyone who has read Article VI would know that the supreme law of the land includes the 'Constitution, and the laws of the United States ... and all treaties made ... under the authority of the United States.'"
Read more