Save Money, Coordinate Road Construction!

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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 Article in Public Management

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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!

ESPN Goes to Sapelo Island

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ESPN’s Outside the Lines recently profiled Allen Bailey, the only NFL player ever from a tiny community on Sapelo Island, Georgia. Watch the video here.

I had the privilege to visit Sapelo Island while taking an honors course at the University of Georgia. Sapelo Island is one of those rare places in the United States (and increasingly, the world) that seems completely cut off from humanity. We studied the ecology of Sapelo Island (a barrier island with marsh on one side), but the people that live on Sapelo are a study in sociology/anthropology.

I don’t remember the Reynolds Mansion looking that nice when I visited Sapelo, nor do I remember any of the construction shown in the video. It was just a small gullah/geechee community with a UGA research facility. With great food.

Elon Musk on Process

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Following up on my last post about Elon Musk, I’ve got another quote from the same article in Wired I want to share:

The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart, who aren’t that creative.

This is one of the reasons startups can innovate so much. How do we get government to this point? In some situations, having a process is good. But I’ve seen it get to the point where employees don’t question anything – they just follow the process.

Elon Musk on Risk and CYA

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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.