Better, Faster, Cheaper

The Biggest Olympics Loser: the Public

Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., are vying to be the United States' entry into the competition to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) will make its selection later this winter, and word is that Boston has the inside track.

In a statement, the group spearheading Boston's effort wrote, "If Boston is selected by the USOC, a thoughtful and robust public process will begin ..." But the time for such a process is now, not after the USOC makes its selection. READ MORE

How Portland Is Tackling the Innovation Dilemma

We rightly expect a great deal from our municipal governments. We want city departments to be innovative -- but not to take unwise risks. We want their projects to generate impressive long-term results -- but not to cost taxpayers heavily upfront.

Can government be at once cutting-edge and careful? It's a paradox that for years has stymied municipal innovation in cities across the country. READ MORE

Can Chicago Ever Dig Itself Out of Its Pension Hole?

Incoming Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers is pledging to improve investment returns for the city's pension funds and reduce investment-management fees. Both are worthy goals, but he's the first to admit that they "aren't going to change the kinds of holes we have."

As treasurer, Summers will sit on the boards of all four Chicago pension funds, which are a mess. Combined, they have less than 33 percent of the funds needed to meet pension obligations. Two of them -- the police and fire systems -- are less than 30 percent funded. READ MORE

Getting Real about Pension Investments

It's certainly tempting for officials in charge of state pension systems to hike up assumed rates of return. Better investment returns translate into smaller appropriations to fund pensions and can facilitate generous cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.

But wishing for better returns doesn't make them so, and unrealistic assumptions about pension-fund investment performance take a heavy toll over time. A new study quantifies just what that toll is in six states; in five of them, it isn't pretty. READ MORE

Weaving Innovation into the Fabric of Bureaucracy

When 38 inches of snow buried Boston in 2011, most residents dug out their sidewalks. But no one dug out the fire hydrants so that fire trucks could find them. Today, however, Boston is prepared, courtesy of an innovative program in which citizens can "adopt" a hydrant and agree to be responsible for digging it out in a snowstorm.

That innovation was spawned via the nonprofit Code for America, but today, cities, states and even federal agencies are creating dedicated innovation offices with the goal of weaving innovation into the fabric of bureaucracy. But what do these offices do? And are they doing anything useful? READ MORE