Printer Friendly

Improving municipal management demands commitment.

Reinvesting, rightsizing, downsizing, and others are all names batted about by local officials trying to stretch available funds over the largest area.

These and other critical concepts were discussed at a pre-conference workshop which was developed jointly by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the National League of Cities.

"Planning and Financing Community Services: How to do Good When Times are Bad," provided participants at the 69th Annual Congress of Cities and Exposition with ideas for responding to the immediate and long-term needs of local governments.

Leadership is doing the right thing, while management is doing the thing right, explained Dick Tustian senior fellow of the Lincoln Institute of Land policy. He said that in many cases, the elected official is the leader and the appointed official is the management expert.

"Today, we do need to pay attention to what is going on in the private sector," said Ruth Anne Bramson, president of Local Strategies, Inc. She explained that history shows a pattern of government following the lead of business management styles, and pressure is on government to draw upon the expertise of private sector management styles.

Bramson discussed two ways public organizations change: Incremental change, which focusses on productivity improvement within the existing environment; and transformational change, which occurs when government needs to rethink the way it does business.

The stages of change in municipal government are similar to those of death, Bramson said. The denial that change will occur comes first, followed by resistance and anger on the part of the persons involved. A period of exploration and creative brainstorming follows, concluding with a renewed commitment to execution.

"Leaders often forget that everyone has to go through all stages of change," Bramson emphasized. Elected officials must remember that they may be at the final stage of the change process due to their executive positions, while at the same time an employee may be learning of the prospects and entering the denial stage.

The different concepts for management change require attention to detail.

In rightsizing government, Bramson pointed out, leaders must set priorities and policies, and citizen participation and education is critical in the process. While de-layering government may streamline the process, it also removes the possibility for remaining employees to be promoted.

Reinventing and re-engineering public organizations is revealing that government should be used to steer the boat and not row it. Leaders must guide, coach and support organizations through change.

Contracting out services, privatizing construction owner and operations of facilities, and selling government assets to private organizations are the popular categories for privatization, explained Mary Jo White, associate at Hunton and Williams.

Privatization does not negate the responsibility government has to provide services, White said.

Her keys to privatization include: acknowledging that it is a method and not necessarily a goal; ensuing a competitive environment; defining tasks in precise terms; measuring the end of the process to determine its success; and linking it to achievement of goals which are in the best interest of the citizens. In selling the concept to the citizenry, White recommended beginning with a non-controversial and likely positive area and building on its successes.

In yet another realm of public service, participants were reminded of the obvious by Bill Evans, vice president of Towers Perrin. He pointed out that many municipalities can save time and money by looking no further than the police, fire and public works departments.

There is not formula for determining the number of police officers needed despite what the police chief may say, Evans said. Rather look at the municipality's requirements.

"Beware of standards when they are set by others who don't have to pay for the standards," Evans said.

Productivity in police work should focus on catching and prosecuting criminals, rather than counting the number of officers on duty, Evans added.

The three most important concepts in local government productivity are scheduling, scheduling and scheduling. Evans said many municipalities schedule the same number of officers on all shifts, when it is obvious that the public safety needs vary each day.

Fire and public works examples such as overlapping of fire coverage and sweeping the streets on a religious schedule whether they need it or not also were discussed.

Financial considerations are diverse as local governments exchange large quantities of money.

"Governments tend to operate with a lag," John Petersen said. The president of Government Finance Group explained that the financing of government is all too often reactive.

Giving away numerous incentives for the sake of jobs is not always good, Tustian added.

"You know they're out there doing something, and as long as they don't tell me it's probably okay." Petersen said of the public's view on public finance.

The method for local government financial success is contained in an examination of the nearby regions. Petersen pointed out that local governments cannot be as laid back in terms of tax and revenue structure as states can. Jurisdictions in close geographical proximity must also be competitive in tax structure and budget.

Among other considerations are the various types of bonds and the creation of taxing districts to take care of a specific challenge.

Although there is no perfect revenue system, regional solutions make sense and may be in part a wave of the future, Petersen emphasized.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Roeder, Mike
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 7, 1992
Previous Article:Panelists explore future of governance under new administration.
Next Article:President Hood stresses importance of empowering the governed.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters