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Remembering Mayor Menino

Newly elected mayors like to be judged, and generally are judged, on the breadth of their vision. They march into office following campaigns in which they promise to produce world-class schools, dramatic new efficiencies in management and spectacular economic development. They deliver inaugural speeches proclaiming that, given enough energy and creativity, no goal is unreachable.

When they leave office, however, it is a different story. By then, the public and most of the pundits have lost track of what the original promises were, and judge mayors on how well they handled the details -- clearing away snow, repairing the streets, keeping municipal employees on the job and a myriad of other administrative challenges far beneath the lofty rhetoric of Inauguration Day. READ MORE

Can Water Use Be Cut with Equity and Fairness?

California's ongoing drought "has created a water crisis second to none," says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is asking residents and businesses to cut their water use by 20 percent over the next two and a half years. Garcetti's description of the situation as a crisis is well placed: Even though L.A. has already reduced its water use by 17 percent over the last seven years and now uses less water than it did 40 years ago, when it had a million fewer residents, the city still imports more than 80 percent of its water, and those sources are drying up.

Garcetti's goal is to cut those expensive water imports in half by 2024. For the moment, he's counting on largely voluntary restrictions for residents, but whether voluntary measures can get the city to Garcetti's goal is an open question. A recent UCLA study of water use in Los Angeles over a 10-year period found that current prices and household allocations were not sufficiently targeting high water users. And the researchers found that previous mandatory restrictions, coupled with increased prices, had a greater impact than voluntary measures. READ MORE

Cuts to Child Welfare Force States to Spend Smarter

At a glance, it appears we have something of an epidemic. Reports out of Florida, South Carolina and Texas, among others, suggest that several state children and family services systems are struggling. This naturally leads to the question of whether, in light of all these reports, we're headed for further (or chronic) crisis in the child welfare world?

Whenever bad stories start flowing from states, there are a few additional key questions that invariably come up: The first is, are we spending enough money on child welfare? The second is, are we spending money in as effective a fashion as possible? The former is a particularly relevant question right now in the wake of two recent reports. READ MORE

How We Can Get Our Mobility Back

Americans embraced the automobile in the 20th century as a way to freely travel when and where they wanted -- it offered us unparalleled mobility. Traffic congestion from that love affair, however, has made mobility one of the biggest challenges faced by our metropolitan areas in the 21st century.

Americans aren't alone. Global gridlock is what Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Co., predicts if there aren't significant changes to our transportation strategies. "Any business only exists to make peoples' lives better," he told an audience of government leaders and technology specialists recently. "At a certain point, shoving more vehicles into urban environments doesn't do that." READ MORE

A New Direction in the War on Poverty

There are some politicians who would have you think that half the United States is on welfare, lounging in that now famous "hammock" versus struggling to free themselves from the "safety net." This view prevails even in the wake of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, also known as welfare reform, which very pointedly -- and arguably effectively -- put time limits on benefits.

Now along comes Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with a bold proposal to consolidate and block grant 24 antipoverty programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, housing assistance and child care subsidies. Under the Ryan plan, states would be free to spend the money any way they saw fit as long as it wasn't on unrelated programs such as roads and parks. As my colleague, Governing columnist Don Kettl, will argue in the October issue of the magazine, it's an idea worth considering. READ MORE