The People’s Business: History

The People’s Business can be heard on the first Thursday of every month from 8 to 9 am on WRPI Troy. View  upcoming and recent programs.

WRPI – 91.5 FM

Since 1997, the Fiscal Policy Institute has produced The People’s Business, a public affairs radio program that focuses on how government is addressing, and not addressing, issues of importance to the economic and social well being of low and middle income New Yorkers. The People’s Business can be heard at 91.5 FM within a 75-mile radius of WRPI’s transmitter in North Greenbush, New York, and throughout the world at The People’s Business is hosted each month by Frank Mauro, FPI’s executive director.

“With the federal government turning over more and more responsibilities to the states, it is important that the media shine as bright a spotlight as possible on the ways in which Governors and State Legislatures conduct the people’s business,” said Gerald Zahavi, chair of WRPI’s Public Affairs Committee. “As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, ‘a little sunshine is frequently the best disinfectant.'”

WRPI has long been recognized for offering the Capital Region a progressive alternative to the mainstream media’s coverage of national and world affairs. For example, it has regularly been recognized in Metroland’s annual “Best of the Capital Region” lists as providing the area’s best National Radio News Programming. With the addition, over the last several year’s of The People’s Business and a number of other locally produced public affairs programs, WRPI has been demonstrating its commitment to serving as the Capital Region’s progressive voice on state and local issues as well. As one of the first radio stations in the country to air all of its programs on the Internet, WRPI also makes The People’s Business and its other public affairs programming available to all New Yorkers and to people throughout the world who are interested in an objective analysis of policy developments in the Empire State.

In launching The People’s Business in August 1997, WRPI’s Zahavi said “we are pleased to be working with FPI and its executive director Frank Mauro in offering a program that gets behind the headlines and digs into the crucial social and economic issues that are decided at the state level. Frank brings a wealth of experience in state government to this challenge.” Prior to joining FPI, Mauro worked in both the executive and legislative branches of state government, including service as Secretary of the NYS Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee during the Stanley Fink’s tenure as Speaker, and as Deputy Director of SUNY’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. The program’s co-host Stephen Madarasz, Director of Communications for the Civil Service Employees Association, is a former news director for WAMC, a public radio station in Albany, and previously worked as a reporter for WGBH, a public radio station in Boston. Radio news listeners in the Capital Region are very familiar with Madarasz’s professionalism and incisive questioning.

Since it began production, The People’s Business has featured interviews with well over 500 public officials and independent experts on issues ranging from education of children with disabilities to the workings of the New York State budgetary process. Interviews include:

  • Rochester Mayor William Johnson, New York Conference of Mayors Executive Director Edward Farrell, and University of Minnesota law professor John Powell about the causes and consequences of urban sprawl and state policies that can address this situation;
  • State Comptroller (now former Comptroller) H. Carl McCall about the need for cost of living adjustments in New York’s state and local retirement systems;
  • Chuck Sheketoff of the Oregon Center for Public Policy about the pluses and minuses of that state’s approach to welfare reform;
  • Michael Kink, legislative counsel for Housing Works, about the shortage of supportive housing for individuals with AIDS and HIV in Upstate New York;
  • Assembly Minority Leader (now former Minority Leader) John Faso, about recent changes in New York State’s budget process and the ways in which the legislature should build upon those changes in the future;
  • Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of Political Science at SUNY Cortland, about New York State’s unusual multiparty system;
  • Barbara DiTomasso, director of the Albany Catholic Diocese’s Commission on Peace and Justice, about the shortcomings of New York State’s laws governing the treatment of farmworkers;
  • State Senator Kenneth LaValle, about his efforts in the legislature and in the courts to change the way in which the members of the Board of Regents are selected;
  • Lois Shapiro-Canter, President (now former President) of the New York State Chapter of the National Organization of Women, about her organization’s lawsuit challenging the underfunding of the State Division of Human Rights and the resulting backlog of unresolved discrimination cases; and,
  • State Senator Neil Breslin, Lise Bang Jensen, host of the weekly public television program Inside Albany, and Brian Backstrom, Vice President of the conservative think tank, CHANGE-NY (now former President of the former conservative think tank CHANGE-NY) about the workings and shortcomings of the legislative process in New York.

The program has also featured recordings of presentations by Fiscal Policy Institute staff members as well as interviews with the authors of reports on state issues by national think tanks and advocacy organizations, including the Urban Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Preamble Collaborative, and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

For additional information, contact Frank Mauro.