Better, Faster, Cheaper

Milwaukee’s Push to Turn Vacant Land into Urban Farms

After one of the longer winters in recent memory, the city of Milwaukee is planning to engage in a new kind of rebirth. As the ice melts away, a number of parcels of city-owned land that have long lain vacant and unused will be coming back to life, set to become urban farms and orchards yielding healthy food along with new opportunities for employment and business entrepreneurship.

It's all part of Mayor Tom Barrett's HOME GR/OWN program, a Bloomberg Mayors Challenge finalist whose mission, beyond increasing access to fruits and vegetables, is to turn the city's growing liability of vacant, foreclosed land into an asset: space for new economic activity that helps to stabilize distressed neighborhoods. We recently had a chance to talk with HOME GR/OWN's program manager, Tim McCollow, about the program's launch now that spring appears to finally be on its way. READ MORE

How Colorado's Transportation Department Is Institutionalizing Improvement

Not so many years ago, it would have been unheard of for anyone in government to have Gary Vansuch's title. He's the director of process improvement for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and a symbol of the fact that change can be a very good thing.

Vansuch is charged with introducing continuous-improvement tools and techniques at CDOT. In the process, he's also overseeing a change in the department's culture. READ MORE

10 Key Questions for Launching an Effective Government Program

Implementation plans for government programs are as diverse as the constituents that they are meant to serve. What led to extraordinary results and outcomes in one city or state may cause the program to fall flat on its face in another jurisdiction. But while every program needs to be tailored for its particular setting, there are some key lessons, gleaned from the experiences of previous efforts, that can increase the chances of success and help to deliver more public value.

This list of 10 questions can be used to chart a path for a new initiative, identify how a faltering program can get back on track, or look back and see why a program hit the mark or failed short of the finish line. READ MORE

Maryland's Data-Driven Approach to Reducing Infant Mortality

In 2007, when Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley set a goal of a 10 percent reduction in the state's high infant-mortality rate by 2012, he knew Maryland had a problem. What he may not have known was that the solution would help pay for itself.

Maryland achieved its goal three years ahead of schedule, reducing the statewide infant-mortality rate from 8 per 1,000 live births to 7.2. But although the overall rate fell, it was still above the national average and infant mortality among African-Americans remained alarmingly high, so O'Malley set another goal: a 10 percent reduction in Maryland's African-American infant-mortality rate by 2017. READ MORE

A Quasi-Governmental Recipe for Efficiency

Governments have more responsibilities than ever, and more areas of concern to dilute and distract public managers' time and attention. The onslaught of responsibilities has outpaced changes in the available processes as public officials face hurdles in hiring, procurement and partnering that increase the time and effort necessary to produce positive change.

In response, many public officials, with the support of civic groups, are looking to new models for delivering results more efficiently. One such model involves quasi-governmental entities that are accountable to the public but rely more heavily on private-sector management approaches. These organizations operate with smaller scale and scope, and typically with reduced politics and red tape. This model can be seen in economic development corporations, convention and visitor bureaus, and more. It can also work for the management of other areas of interest, such as public spaces. READ MORE