I was so glad to read this article in Governing magazine from Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene. The premise? Coordinate road construction with utilities to ensure freshly paved roads aren’t reopened for utility work.
This is an issue that has driven me crazy since my days at the University of Georgia. When I lived at Oglethorpe House, the local government repaved the main drag through campus, Lumpkin Street, right out front. Not two weeks after they were finished, someone else (I believe it was the water department) dug through the fresh pavement to work on something. I’ve seen the same thing happen recently where we live in Denver.
B&G identify the costs related to utility repatching fresh roads: $500K in Burlington, VT in a year; $4M in Kansas City, MO, over a three-year period.
So thanks to B&G for proposing a solution: coordination between public works and utility companies. Throw in developers and property owners, and help reduce the costs to provide safe roads!
Great short story in Public Management, the magazine of the International City/County Management Association, by a village manager in Michigan. Read the whole article (if you can, it might be behind a paywall), but the part that strikes me:
The moral of the story is that most of our communities have faced tremendous challenges in recent years due to the economy. These changes have seen many hard choices made, often involving the reduction of staff and services. The needs of our communities, however, have not changed. In fact, they likely have grown.
I remind my staff that we are in the business of serving the public, and that we work for a company where everyone we interact with is an owner of that company. Everyone we deal with has value and is someone important who should command our full attention.
This is such an inspiration (it’s great to see I’m not alone in this mindset) and it is an honor to work in this field!
From President Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address:
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government…
Wired magazine is running a great series on Icons to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.
For November, they profiled Elon Musk, an entrepreneur associated with Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX. This quote really stuck out to me; he was talking specifically about building space rockets here, but I think we all see this:
So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.
It’s sad, but that’s completely applicable to government. We have to create a culture in government that accepts risk and failure as a consequence of constantly improving.
I’ve got another quote from the same article I’ll post later.
Before Sandy hit, I wrote briefly about Google’s use of a crisis map to help residents and responders.
Since then, we have seen actions across the social media boundaries that have helped those affected by Sandy.
And then there is Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I’ve written before about Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter. During Sandy and the ongoing recovery, Booker has tirelessly worked to respond to citizens and deliver necessary supplies to those in need. And when a woman messaged him that her power wasn’t on, he invited her and any other residents to stay at his home. He provided wi-fi, his DVD collection, power outlets to charge phones, heat, and food. Pretty incredible in this day and age. For a collection of his best tweets, check out this link.
I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.
Canada, which already uses modern technology in this way, has 93 percent of its eligible citizens registered at a cost of less than 35 cents per voter to process registrations. By comparison, an in-depth study of one state found that Oregon taxpayers spent $4.11 per active voter in 2008 to process registrations and maintain a voter list.
Technology for a 21st Century Democracy. Scary.
The Washington Post has a great article on the retirement of Tony Griffin, Fairfax County’s county executive:
As Fairfax County’s county executive for more than a decade, Griffin has quietly managed one of Virginia’s most diverse and dynamic jurisdictions, a suburb of more than 1 million people that covers nearly 400 square miles. Only one person has held the post longer.
There is a reason I’ve gotten into government, and specifically city/county management. And Tony Griffin has lived a life of it. Go read the article, because this is what I want to do.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke at the POLITICO Pro Transportation launch event recently. I found Mayor Reed’s talk interesting, especially since recently Governing magazine published a piece on the five biggest infrastructure projects that might not get finished. I mentioned it at the time, but pointing out the ten biggest projects and that half of those might not get finished is extremely discouraging. We need these projects, and we can’t get them done. And one of the biggest (Denver FasTracks) is right here in Denver.
One of the five biggest projects (and I’m sure it isn’t the only one) might be finished later than 2030. Does anyone realize that we are spending money and we don’t what the need will be twenty years or more in the future? We need light rail, water and sewer improvements, transportation improvements, today. Who knows what we will need in twenty or thirty years? That’s why I keyed on Mayor Reed’s talk.
Mayor Reed had this to say about the need for infrastructure projects and the failure to get them finished (12:30 into the video, emphasis mine):
I don’t have a problem with our ability to compete with the Chinese. I do have a problem with us sticking our head in the sand. Other people are making infrastructure decisions so much faster, getting them done, and getting them built out. We have the same capacity to do it. We have a will problem in the United States of America. We know how to figure out the financing, we have political leaders certainly at the local level and at the state level who understand that this is critical and we’re watching our country decay.
Our country has an incredible need for infrastructure improvements right now. Our infrastructure is in decay. And we desperately need to put people to work. Yet we can’t even find the will to get the most important problems fixed this decade (or the next).
That’s why I’m discouraged.
Even though everyone might not agree, I think it is great to see city managers interacting with Occupy protesters. There should be a conversation, like what happened in Lynchburg, Virginia:
Payne said he applauded anyone who took an interest in civic issues and got involved.
“One thing that is frustrating to city officials is more people aren’t involved,” he said. “… We are big on community engagement. If someone wants to get involved, we want to support that.”
Manning said the demonstrators have been very pleased with the Parks & Recreation Department and most police officers.