Month: May 2015

May 27, 2015 Introduction to the First Impressions Program Webinar


A tool for community assessment and improvement

Wednesday, May 27

Webinar – 10:00 – 11:30 am/eastern


Daniel Eades Extension Specialist, Rural Economics, West Virginia University Extension Service 

Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut Extension 


Use the following link to join the webinar:

Audio connection:

+1 (872) 240-3212 Access Code: 292-212-341

As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For first time visitors, the way a community presents itself is of equal importance. The look and feel of the community experienced by a visitor will most likely influence how long they stay, if they will return, and whether or not they will speak about the community positively or negatively. The First Impressions program is a structured assessment and participation tool designed to provide communities with a fresh look at strengths and shortcomings through the eyes of first-time visitors.  The program is often integrated into existing planning processes and is a dynamic way to engage new audiences and leaders in planning processes.  Through the program, volunteer teams undertake unannounced visits, record observations, and give constructive feedback to an exchange community. Team members receive training, conduct the visit and develop presentations and reports that may be used by the partner community inform community policy and action. Participants in the webinar will learn how the First Impressions program works, how to use data collected from a First Impressions visit, and roles for Extension colleagues in implementing the program.  Future webinars will discuss innovative adaptations that focus on tourism, revitalizing urban neighborhoods, and engaging new and diverse audiences including youth and millennials as well as a proposed regional evaluation project.

The First Impressions Program was first developed by Andrew Lewis, University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension, and James Schneider in the early 1990s. Since then the program has been evaluated extensively at the community level and adapted for use by Extension programs across the United States and Canada. The program draws from goals and processes of both traditional needs assessments (Watkins, Leigh, Platt, & Kaufman, 1998) and asset-based community economic development strategies (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Mathie & Cunningham, 2003) to construct an inventory of a location’s assets and challenges that can be used to raise local awareness and guide public action from within.

Save the date! Join us for additional webinars in this series:  

  • Wed, June 24:  10-11:30 am/eastern Adaptations of the First impressions Program: Tourism Destinations, Small Communities, Main Streets, Urban Neighborhoods
  • Thursday, July 23: 10-11:30 am/eastern Adaptations of the First Impressions Program for unique audiences:  Engaging youth and millennials
  • Wed, August 19: 10-11:30 am/eastern Evaluating the Effectiveness of the First Impressions Program in the Northeast:  A Discussion of Scholarship

This webinar series is made possible through a  “Regional Collaboration of Successful CRD Extension Programs Planning Grant”  from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

Trees Sprouting Across Connecticut, 19 Municipalities Lead the Way

Tree City USA is an honor earned by cities and towns that meet four standards set by theArbor Day Foundation and have their application approved the State Forester.

Connecticut currently has 19 municipalities with the Tree City USA designation, which cover 31 percent of the state’s population. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, Connecticut’s longest running Tree City is Fairfield, which recently surpassed 26 years.  The largest community is Bridgeport, the smallest, by population, is Brookfieldthumb-grid-shaded-path

The four standards are having:

  • A tree board or department
  • A tree care ordinance
  • An urban forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita
  • An Arbor Day observance and proclamation

The other Tree City USA communities in Connecticut are Branford, Danbury, East Hartford, Groton, Hartford, Middletown, Monroe, New Canaan, New Haven, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Southbury, Stamford, West Haven, Wethersfield andWilton.

Norwalk and Wethersfield, for demonstrating a higher level of tree care, have received Growth Awards from the organization.  Overall, there are 3,400 Tree City USA honorees across the country, with a combined population of more than 140 million.logo-tree-city-usa-color

Annual participation as a Tree City USA community provides the opportunity to educate people who care about their community about the value of tree resources, the importance of sustainable tree management and engage individuals and organizations in advancing tree planting and care across the urban forest.

The organization also offers on-line education courses for individuals interested in learning more about trees, or about serving in a citizen advisory role in their local community.

The Arbor Day Foundation indicates that an effective tree program can:

  • Reduce costs for energy, storm water management, and erosion control. Trees yield up to three times their cost in overall benefits to the city, averaging $273 per tree.
  • Cut energy consumption by up to 25%. Studies indicate that as few as three additional trees planted around each building in the United States could save our country $2 billion, annually, in energy costs.
  • Boost property values across your community. Properly placed trees can increase property values from 7-21% and buildings in woodedareas rent more quickly and tenants stay longer.

tree in BridgeportThe Arbor Day Foundation also has a campus program, designating colleges and universities as a Tree Campus USA.  The University of Connecticut is the only college in Connecticut to earn the designation.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Urban Forestry Program is available to work with any community interested in exploring whether it qualifies as a Tree City USA and what is needed to earn that designation.

DEEP officials indicate that “many communities might be surprised at how close they are.”  Applications for next year’s honor are due in December.  The program was initiated by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976.

Measuring Municipal Fiscal Disparities in Connecticut

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New England Public Policy Center Research Report 15-1


by Bo Zhao Jennifer Weiner

is now available on the Boston Fed’s web site:



Fiscal disparities exist when some municipalities face higher costs for

providing a given level of public services or fewer taxable resources to

finance those services than others. A municipality’s economic and social

characteristics can affect both costs and resources.

The potential for fiscal disparities in Connecticut is particularly high given

the vast socioeconomic differences observed across the state’s 169 cities

and towns.  This paper measures the non-school fiscal health of Connecticut

municipalities using a “municipal gap.” Municipal gap is the difference between

the uncontrollable costs associated with providing public services and the

economic resources available to a municipality to pay for those services.