Officials from many levels of government across the country spent last Thursday and Friday presenting their innovative programs to a distinguished panel at the Kennedy School of Government.
The panel will decide which finalists will receive a $100,000 grant to help their program. Fifteen of the finalists who were chosen for their unusual creativity in addressing public needs, will receiver the large grants, while the remaining 15 will receive grants of $20,000.
The awards program, "Innovations in American Government," is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the Kennedy school.
Panelists included David Broder of The Washington Post, David N. Dinkins, former mayor of New York City, Lynn Martin, former Secretary of Labor, Barbara Roberts, former governor of Oregon, Jack Rosenthal, editor of The New York Times Magazine, and Donald McHenry, former ambassador to the United Nations.
One programs from Massachusetts, Elder CHOICE, was one of the finalists. Steven Pierce, the executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, presented the program.
Marty Vannanen, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency who attended the conference, said it was "a very nice event."
"I was bowled over by the quality of the other presenters," Vannanen said. "I feel very inspired, which was unexpected. I was surprised at what a nice event it was."
Elder CHOICE provides long-term mortgage financing to private developers of "assisted-living" facilities in return for an agreement to reserve 20 percent of the units for low-income seniors.
The program has already provided 41 units for seniors, and construction of four more developments begins this summer.
This year was the first year federal government programs were eligible for the grants.
Nine federal agencies presented their programs this year, including the U.S. Department of Interior, which submitted "Reinventing the Bureau of Reclamation," and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which presented "Operation Jobs," a program that allowed the bureau to work with employers as "clients" to insure that positions formerly filled by legal aliens would be filled by legal workers.
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