AUTHORS

Mark Funkhouser  |  Director, GOVERNING Institute
mfunkhouser@governing.com  |   |  Google+

Mark Funkhouser is the publisher of Governing and director of the Governing Institute. He served as mayor of Kansas City from 2007 to 2011. Prior to being elected mayor, Funkhouser was the city's auditor for 18 years and was honored in 2003 as a Governing Public Official of the Year.

Funkhouser is an internationally recognized auditing expert, author and teacher in public administration and its fiscal disciplines. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public administration and sociology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, an M.B.A. in accounting and finance from Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in social work from West Virginia University.

October 1, 2014

Lessons from the Grateful Dead on Replacing Workers with Technology

If managers don't know when technology should replace people, they can destroy the product they're trying to create.
September 1, 2014

Want More Crime with That Burger?

Good jobs are proven to reduce crime, yet much of the economy's recent growth is due to dead-end jobs with low wages and no benefits.
August 1, 2014

How to Get Public Workers to Care About Their Jobs

A book by a government HR expert explains what drives public-sector workers and how that differs from the private sector.
July 1, 2014

The Real Threat to Democracy: Money Problems

Prudent fiscal stewardship is essential to self-government.
June 1, 2014

A Better Way to Save Jobs: Employee Stock Ownership Plans

ESOPs give employees part ownership of their companies and prevent major job losses when owners retire. But only two states support them.
May 1, 2014

South Korea’s Street-Level Transparency

The country removes the anonymousness of government by publicly identifying the people responsible for particular projects on street signs. It’s an anti-corruption approach that has lots of possibilities for U.S. governments.
April 1, 2014

Will Financial Reporting Finally Make Sense?

Paul Volcker and Richard Ravitch’s State Budget Crisis Task Force recommends ways government can make reporting cleaner, clearer and simpler.
March 1, 2014

A Better Way to Link Policy Analysis and Performance Management

Results-based accountability measures results in the real world.
February 3, 2014

The People Who Will Give Americans the Government They Want

Trust in government is at historic lows. That will change, but it will happen from the bottom up.
February 1, 2014

Why Governments Need to Treat Labor Unions with Respect

For one town, dealing honestly with its unions paid off.
January 27, 2014

Advice for New Mayors: Watch Your Mouth

It's tempting to plunge in and try to fix everything right away. But in trying to do too much too soon, it's easy to say something dumb and get into trouble.
January 21, 2014

The Reforms That Public Pensions Really Need

As two experts demonstrate, there's more to the problems faced by state and local retirement systems than mere political shenanigans.
January 13, 2014

Florida Lawmakers and the Thwarted Will of the People

The state's voters want to reform redistricting, but the legislature has paid little attention.
January 6, 2014

The Failure and the Promise of Public Participation

Outdated laws and overly formal procedures for public meetings are eroding trust in government. There are better ways than three minutes at the microphone.
January 1, 2014

All Things Fall Apart (Even Governments)

That's why organizations need constant renewal to survive.
December 16, 2013

Diane Ravitch and the Angry Rebellion against Common Core

Wielding her influential blog as a weapon, this 75-year-old activist has created a powerful network united by revulsion against top-down, elite policymaking.
December 6, 2013

Learning to Love the Numbers of Government

Governments' financial statements may seem intimidating to those without number-crunching expertise. But these documents contain important information that public officials need to know. Here's how to find it.
November 30, 2013

'Operator Perry Loves You!'

Governments really are in a competition. A lot is at stake.
November 25, 2013

How to Stop the Economic Development Wars

Tax incentives and other giveaways to business don't create prosperity. It's time for a federal law to stop the bribery and make better use of capitalism's strengths.
November 1, 2013

Why the 3 Fundamentals of Governance Are So Important

Bridgeport, Conn., illustrates why governance, debt and demographics are so crucial for a healthy functioning city.
October 21, 2013

Reducing Economic Inequality: It's About Wealth, Not Jobs

Increasing family wealth is a much better public policy goal than the standard economic development mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs." And effective strategies won't come from Washington.
October 15, 2013

California, Fiscal Reform and the Elusive 'Policy Window'

Can the state ever find a way out of its structural budget problems? A new book might suggest a path for places wrestling with policy dilemmas.
October 1, 2013

The Enemy of Good Management

A new book has it right: We need to change the way we budget.
September 30, 2013

Accountability, Transparency and the Uncertain Future of GASB

The standards-setting board for government financial reporting has been embroiled in one controversy after another, but the latest fight could result in the gutting of GASB's influence.
September 9, 2013

When the Government Workspace Is Dirty and Dangerous

It’s tough to find the money and political support to provide public workers with safe, clean places to do their jobs. Tennessee went the privatization route, and the results look promising.
September 1, 2013

The Public Safety Tipping Point: When Saving Money Loses Lives

You can only tell you're not spending enough on public safety when it’s too late.
August 26, 2013

Municipal Securities and the Exploding Demand for Transparency

Wary investors and analysts not only want more information than ever, they want better information and they want it all now. Giving it to them could be a good deal for governments.
August 12, 2013

The Challenge for Detroit's Next Mayor: Getting Along with the Neighbors

Regime change is coming to Detroit. The next mayor will have an opportunity to heal the long dysfunctional marriage between the city and its suburbs.
August 1, 2013

IRS Scandal Shows What Happens When Bureaucracy is Pushed Too Far

Bureaucracy allows us to do big things. But like every tool, it needs to be maintained and wielded with care and control.
July 29, 2013

Job Creation and the Snake Oil of Tax Incentives

The pressure to give away the public's money for economic development is as strong as ever, but the pushback is growing.
July 22, 2013

Kevyn Orr, Rick Snyder and a Genuine Effort to Reinvent Detroit

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Gov. Rick Snyder say they want the city to emerge from bankruptcy as a livable, sustainable city. It looks like they really mean it.
July 11, 2013

Mike Hein's Campaign to Reinvent Ulster County, N.Y.

A New York county manager who made the jump to elective office is looking to fundamentally change how local government operates.
July 1, 2013

Why the Federal Budget Crisis Won't be Solved in Washington

Washington can't fix the broken structure that it built. The key is for state and local officials to channel an aroused citizenry.
June 28, 2013

Raleigh and Oakland Are Overdoing Hands-On Government

In these cities, as in many more across the country, elected council members have confused governing with administering.
June 24, 2013

The SEC and Harrisburg: the Wrong Path to Fiscal Transparency

In charging Harrisburg with securities fraud based partly on a former mayor's state-of-the-city speech, the SEC is taking a path it shouldn't.
May 30, 2013

A How-To Manual for Bringing Citizens' Voices to the Public-Policy Table

It's vital that we begin restoring the public's trust in government. A recently published book amounts to a detailed manual for officials who want to take on that challenge.
May 30, 2013

Los Angeles Leads the Way in Police Auditing

After a police scandal involving illegal and unethical behavior, Los Angeles started the nation’s first school designed to train people to audit cops.
May 13, 2013

How a Foundation's Winning Programs Are Creating a Culture of Community Health

From jails to factories to streets to schools, the winning programs in a foundation's competition stretch the boundaries of what we normally think of as public health.
May 6, 2013

Appreciating Public Servants in an Age of Cynicism

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, something interesting and unusual happened: People applauded their public employees.
April 30, 2013

Governing for a Rainy Day

Healthy reserve funds allow governments to be careful and smart.
April 24, 2013

A Powerful Measure of Urban Health: the Stroller Index

Cities compete for residents and tax base. Nothing defines urban livability more than a city that's kid-friendly.
April 18, 2013

Our Dangerous, Expensive System of Childbirth

Countries that rely heavily on midwives and home births have lower infant and maternal death rates than we do, and our numbers are getting worse. Isn't it time to rethink our reliance on hospitals and surgical interventions?
April 8, 2013

Sharing the Burdens of a Broken City

We're going to see more cities like Stockton. We need better ways to deal with the downward fiscal spiral.
April 1, 2013

What's Really Needed to Save Detroit: Democracy

Certainly spending must be cut and services must be restored, but it's essential that the voices of the loyal Detroiters who have stayed be heard.
March 29, 2013

How to Insult Government Workers

There are lots of problems with pay for performance, but one of the most salient is that it implies that employees are slackers.
March 28, 2013

How Four Students Solved a Difficult Mental-Health Service Problem

The winners of this year's National Public Policy Challenge had a guiding principle: Think big, start small.
March 21, 2013

A Transplant from Queens in the Heart of the Confederacy

Stephen Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., has ambitious goals for his city. He's off to a strong start.
March 11, 2013

The Tools We Need to Help Poor Neighborhoods

The Community Reinvestment Act doesn't always get at underlying economic issues. It's time to redesign it.
February 28, 2013

A Transportation Funding Power Shift

States are moving into the void left by Washington’s paralysis.
February 28, 2013

A Small-Town Mayor in the National Arena

Clarence Anthony, the National League of Cities' new executive director, wants the NLC to be a strike force for cities at a time when our federal system is undergoing profound changes.
February 25, 2013

Giving Citizens Numbers They Can Understand

'Citizen-centric' financial reporting is a way for governments to improve transparency and accountability. It isn't hard, so why aren't more jurisdictions doing it?
February 21, 2013

Municipal Securities and the Waiting Game

Federal law gives the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board the authority to protect issuers, but it can't do that job until the SEC gives it a tool it needs.
February 7, 2013

Our Ebbing Urge to Incarcerate

California seems to be finding a way out of its prison-overcrowding problems. Have we decided that locking up so many people isn't the best way to keep the public safe?
January 31, 2013

The Emerging Power of China's Auditors

Cracking down on corruption is critical to China's growth.
January 31, 2013

The Real Role of Cities

As one thoughtful city manager see it, in our focus on service delivery we're lost sight of a fundamental purpose of government.
January 28, 2013

Can You Run a Government on $9.90 an Hour?

There are signs that the pendulum is swinging away from the anti-public-employee rhetoric of recent years. That's good for governments and for the people they serve.
January 23, 2013

Bringing a 'Green Tint' to Sacramento

Mayor Kevin Johnson has big ideas for California's capital. Will the drive that made him an NBA star serve him as he tries to remake his city?
January 16, 2013

Lincoln and the Dirty Business of Politics

Appealing to rightness and reason is rarely enough to achieve big things. Politics requires dealing with human beings, and human beings are flawed.
January 10, 2013

Michelle Rhee, Education and the Inputs-Outcomes Trap

Her rankings of states' education policies look at things from the wrong direction. It's a discussion we do need to have, but first we need to tone down the rhetoric.
January 7, 2013

The Political Future of a Browning America

People of color now account for most of the country's population growth. That has profound implications for the way elections are won and the nation is governed.
January 3, 2013

Can a 'Millennial Mayor' Turn a Factory Town Around?

Things are beginning to look up for Fitchburg, Mass., under Lisa Wong's leadership. It hasn't been easy.
December 28, 2012

The Secret to Massachusetts’ High Credit Rating

Massachusetts has the highest credit rating it’s ever had. Its secret? Discipline.
December 20, 2012

A Fraudster's Nightmare Called 'Bubba'

Tennessee's Arthur Hayes has had a major impact on the world of government auditing. Don't get him started on "gray areas."
December 13, 2012

Childhood Obesity and the Medicaid Squeeze

We're beginning to turn this serious health problem around. That is very good news for efforts to get our health-care costs under control.
December 10, 2012

Community Health and the Competition for Jobs

Community health is about more than quality of life. Increasingly, companies are basing their location decisions on the availability of a healthy workforce.
December 6, 2012

Barking Dogs and the Potluck Model of Government

A city in California is working to move beyond the customer-service approach to government and engage citizens as problem-solvers.
December 3, 2012

Houston's Mayor and the Imperative to Compete

For Annise Parker, competing globally is about a lot more than delivering services efficiently.
November 30, 2012

The Fiscal Future That Won’t Happen

Arithmetic always triumphs; our unsustainable trends will stop. What matters is how.
November 29, 2012

The Need for Data with Meaning

Community-indicator projects are popping up all over. They are serving an important function for regions that must compete on a global scale.
November 19, 2012

The Real Story of Public Pensions

An important new book provides insights far beyond the conventional wisdom and the political arguments.
November 15, 2012

A Crucial Player in Effective Governance

To see how much impact an auditor can have in improving the way government is run, look no further than California's Elaine Howle.
November 8, 2012

You Won the Election. Now Go Meet Your Auditor.

Auditors can flush out government's fat rabbits and lurking demons. But they can do a lot more than that: They can help you govern effectively.
November 5, 2012

What the Schools Can Learn from the Cops

The way law enforcement has been transformed points the way to fixing out broken public-education system.
November 1, 2012

When the Press Asks Uncomfortable Questions

Public officials should pay attention, as a town in Missouri learned the hard way. If an economic-development deal seems too good to be true, maybe it is.
October 31, 2012

Can California Fix Its Budget Problems?

Changes in its political system may point the way for it to meet financial challenges.
October 29, 2012

The Very Plugged-In Mayor of Long Beach

Bob Foster is a former energy-company president, but expertise in that subject isn't the only thing he brings to his city.
October 25, 2012

Weaving Innovation into the Fabric of Government

Can the search for new ideas be institutionalized? Some people think so, and what they're doing could be just what government needs.
October 22, 2012

The Mayor Who's Determined to Bring Flint Back

Dayne Walling came back to his hometown intent on turning it around. Don't bet against him.
October 18, 2012

Fraud, Waste, Abuse and Big Scary Numbers

Drawing distinctions is important for better policy responses. That doesn't happen very often.
October 11, 2012

Government and the Big Unknowns

We don't know what kind of huge, transformation events are coming, but one thing is certain: Governments will have to be ready to deal with them.
October 4, 2012

Why 'Politics' Shouldn't Be a Dirty Word

It's the way we get things done as a society. We seem to have lost sight of that.
October 1, 2012

Bicycles, Beer and the Factory Jobs that Aren't Coming Back

Manufacturing is going the way of agriculture, which technology has reshaped to employ ever-fewer workers. But traditional manufacturing isn't the only game in town.
September 28, 2012

Cities, Counties and the Urge to Merge

Consolidating governments is hard to do, but the idea keeps coming up.
September 27, 2012

When the Music Stops

A lot of our symphony orchestras are in trouble, and the changing nature of cities is part of the problem. But Buck Owens may have some lessons for Beethoven.
September 24, 2012

Essential Values and the American Character

We're better than we think we are, and so are our leaders. Just ask Tony Blair.
September 20, 2012

The Bottom-Line Benefit of a Healthier Public Workforce

Some approaches to employee wellness programs have more of a track record than others. But they clearly can save a lot of money.
September 17, 2012

The Subtle Slide into Municipal Bankruptcy

The insolvency that leads to local-government bankruptcy unfolds gradually. Public officials need to monitor and heed the early warnings.
September 13, 2012

The Inexorable Pressure to Say Something Dumb

The 24-hour news cycle makes it all too easy for public officials to react too quickly. They would do better to "think gray."
September 10, 2012

Riots, Rebellions and the Importance of Social Order

Effective government is critical to the stability we need for society to function. These days, that stability is threatened.
August 31, 2012

What We Need Our Auditors to Do

It’s more crucial than ever to know whether government programs are effective.
August 29, 2012

Cops, Cutbacks and Crime

It’s clear that more police, strategically deployed, reduce crime. Cities that are cutting their police forces are risking more than public safety.
August 27, 2012

Government’s Big Bags of Money

Many jurisdictions lack good internal controls for handling the money their employees collect. A treasurers’ group can help fix that.
August 23, 2012

The Qualities an Auditor Really Needs

Being a CPA isn’t necessarily one of them. Independence, courage and leadership are more important.
August 20, 2012

When the Public’s Money Disappears

A team from the SEC has a message for public treasurers: If something "seems weird," give us a call.
August 16, 2012

Can a Very Determined Mayor Save Gary, Indiana?

The declining industrial city has tried all the usual economic-development approaches. Mayor Freeman-Wilson has other ideas.
August 13, 2012

Why the State Budget Crisis is Real

According to two new reports, states’ fiscal situation is either (a) looking better or (b) looking worse. Pay attention to (b).
August 9, 2012

Why Ethics Training is a Waste

It won’t stop the worst abuses. Making everybody in government sit through it is like fishing for minnows, but it’s the sharks that are the problem.
August 6, 2012

Government and the Making of Our Markets

A new book argues that markets are political creations -- not natural occurrences -- that we can shape to increase prosperity.
August 2, 2012

Regular Folks and the People in Charge

The mainstream public and the political class have very different ideas about what government should do. It’s a gap that is broadening and deepening.
July 30, 2012

Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

To err is human. Public officials shouldn’t be reluctant to admit mistakes and to apologize for them.
July 26, 2012

Our Deadly Health-Care Disconnect

Despite the billions we spend on programs like Medicaid, some desperately ill patients fall through the cracks.
July 16, 2012

The Secrets of Sioux Falls’ Success

While other cities flounder in fiscal distress, the South Dakota city thrives. Its long-term commitment to prudence keeps paying off.
July 12, 2012

Productivity and the Value of a Public Worker

We focus too much on how much government employees are paid. The real question we should be asking is what a good public worker is worth.
July 9, 2012

Why Honest Numbers Are Good for Public Pensions

The new pension-accounting standards for governments were bitterly opposed by unions and many pension administrators, but they are good for governments, their employees and their taxpayers.
July 2, 2012

John Roberts and the Defiance of the Tribe

In choosing a courageous path in the health-care ruling, the chief justice acted to protect and strengthen institutions that are in a very fragile place.
June 28, 2012

The Myth That We Lack Good Leaders

There are as many of them as there ever have been. Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to recognize them.
June 25, 2012

Dogtown and the Dirtiest City in America

Santa Monica and Chattanooga were in trouble a few decades ago. They placed their bets on sustainability, and today it’s paying off.
June 21, 2012

Our Brewing Federal Fiscal Calamity

We can’t keep borrowing to pay for the basic operating costs of government.
June 18, 2012

Why Our Unions Need to Leave Politics Behind

A strong labor movement is good for the country. Unions should stop doling out campaign cash and focus on organizing.
June 14, 2012

America’s Looming Pension Shock

After decades of gains, millions of Americans are slipping into poverty just as they near retirement age. The result will be a crisis for governments — one that they should be thinking about now.
June 11, 2012

The Question Our Auditors Don’t Answer: Is This Program Working?

Ferreting out waste and mismanagement is important, but what we really need from our watchdogs is work that improves the public’s trust in government.
June 7, 2012

Cities and the Coming Walmart Invasion

The world’s biggest retailer wants to build stores in urban areas. That’s good for cities, but they need to be careful.
June 4, 2012

Why We Shouldn’t Be Cutting Higher Ed

Reducing our investments in public colleges and universities — one of our great engines of economic development — may cost more than it saves.
May 31, 2012

Human Services and Our Obsession with Fraud

Sometimes it seems as if all we care about in delivering benefits is making sure the wrong people don’t get them. There are more important things to worry about.
May 24, 2012

The Real Costs of Infrastructure

It’s hard to find trillions of dollars to fix our infrastructure. But not fixing our roads and bridges and ports is also expensive — and not just in dollars.
May 21, 2012

When Citizens Understand the Cost of Government

There’s more to engaging the public in governance — making them part of decisions about paying for the services they value — than simply ‘educating’ them.
May 17, 2012

Random Idiots and Useless Blowhard Gasbags

Bad things happen, and the media amplifies them. But they are not the indicators of the decline of our culture that some would have us believe.
May 14, 2012

Why We Shouldn’t Fear a Shrinking Labor Force

It’s good for our communities when toiling for a paycheck isn’t the only thing people do.
May 10, 2012

Public Service in an Age of Corrosive Cynicism

As disdain for government grows, it’s more important than ever to recognize those who do outstanding work.
May 7, 2012

Counties and the Revenue Crisis that Won’t Go Away

Saddled with antiquated revenue structures, county governments don’t have the flexibility they need to meet modern expectations for service delivery.
May 3, 2012

One City’s Comeback from the Fiscal Brink

The Kansas community of Junction City got itself into serious financial trouble. Now, without emergency managers or threats of bankruptcy, it’s getting itself out.
April 30, 2012

How We’re Losing the War on Corruption

Increasingly, we’re trivializing ethics and falling short on financial accountability. The citizens deserve better.
April 26, 2012

Public Pay and the Cost of Transparency

Many public officials don’t want their compensation posted online for all to see. That’s understandable. But making government workers’ pay public is probably inevitable, and it raises some difficult questions.
April 23, 2012

The Expensive Folly of Tax Incentives

There is little evidence that giving away the taxpayers’ money for economic development works. Only the market can create jobs.
April 19, 2012

Leading from the Middle

Organizational change, the mantra goes, must come from the top. Not necessarily.
April 16, 2012

Five Reasons for Hope and Optimism

Amid all the gloom and doom, with our constant focus on what’s wrong, there are some hopeful things happening.
April 12, 2012

Charles Dickens’ Fiscal Lessons for Government

Managing the taxpayers’ money wisely is about more than balancing the books. The daily lives of ordinary people are at stake.
April 9, 2012

The Wastebusters that Government Needs

The scandal at the General Services Administration illustrates the value of inspectors general. Trust in government is at stake, so why are so many federal IG positions vacant?
April 5, 2012

The Big Mistake that Unions Are Making

Accepting wage and benefit cuts to preserve jobs is bad for unions, and it’s bad for the rest of us.
April 2, 2012

Public Pensions and the Infrastructure We Need

It's going to cost a lot of money to bring our infrastructure systems up to snuff. Public pensions could have a big role to play.
March 29, 2012

A Competition for Ideas in Public Policy

An event coming up in Philadelphia promises to go a long way toward matching the challenges government faces with ideas coming out of some of the top schools of public policy.
March 26, 2012

The Incalculable Things that Define Us

As we try to measure everything that moves, we need to remember that some of the most important things about us can’t be measured.
March 22, 2012

Our Misguided Love Affair with Political Consensus

It’s the polarizers, not the consensus-seekers, who get the big things done.
March 19, 2012

The Numbers that Tell the Real Story

We rely too much on aggregate data about our cities and states. It’s the differences among the numbers that are truly important.
March 15, 2012

The Inherent Tensions of Regulation

None of us are angels. Government regulatory and inspection programs are a crucial way of making up for that.
March 12, 2012

Bridges and the Inexorable Laws of Physics

Structurally deficient bridges will fall. The only question is when. We need to be thinking about risks like those, and about what to do about them.
March 8, 2012

Collaboration and the Outcomes We Need

Competition in government service delivery is powerful, but it isn’t sufficient. The best leaders are recognizing that.
March 5, 2012

How Not to Protect Kids from Sexual Assault

Only a few states have complied with a federal law requiring sex-offender registration and notification. The rest have good reasons for holding out.
February 29, 2012

Getting the Fiscal Fundamentals Wrong

Stockton’s fiscal meltdown isn't the result of a dumb idea or corruption. That's why it’s particularly scary.
December 23, 2011

The Once and Future City

The head of the Governing Institute found a couple of surprises when he looked at population trends in a number of U.S. cities. Populations in big and small cities are bouncing back.
December 19, 2011

The Postal Ties That Bind

The Governing Insitute's director explains that in thousands of small towns and cities across the country, the local post office is seen as the heart and soul of the community.
December 12, 2011

Advice For New City Mayors

New mayors stepped up to the rigors of campaigning and succeeded in getting themselves elected. Now, they begin the hard part.
November 17, 2011

Opinion: Let’s Stop Taking the People’s Money to the Casino

In light of recent events involving Solyndra, Governing Institute head Mark Funkhouser explains how government can have a role in job creation without being venture capitalists.
October 11, 2011

Finding Our Way Out of a Nobel-Caliber Economic Mess

"Regular people" still struggle even as economists interpret their behavior for policymakers.
August 31, 2011

The Other 20 Words That Make a Great Promise Real

Reflections on a lesser-known part of the Declaration of Independence remind us that good government is needed to secure our unalienable rights.