Smart Management

B&G Report: Questionable Credit Ratings, Tax Credit Disclosures and Gas Tax Secrets

You’d have to go far to find a taxpayer who is particularly fond of the property tax as a way for cities and schools to raise money. Yet, according to the Council on State Taxation (COST), people are far more willing to comply if they believe their property taxes are fair and efficient. With that in mind, COST has published a new version of an intriguing study, last done in 2011, measuring several elements of property tax administration and management: perceived fairness, transparency and consistency.

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How Denver's Attracting Top Private-Sector Talent from Places Like Chipotle

When Denver went searching for a new Chief Information Officer (CIO), the local government was facing an uphill battle. The city's Technology Services agency was struggling: employees weren't happy; workers were stretched thin; and other city agencies viewed the department negatively. But the agency turned itself around by getting creative in the hiring process to bring in top talent from outside government. 

The agency turned to a panel of experts to focus on drafting a unique job posting rather than the standard, run-of-the-mill government job posting that lists key duties and qualifications. The panel's revamped job advertisement (which you can view in full at the bottom of this column) began with “Can you imagine being part of a team running a major metropolitan city? Can you imagine actually doing something about the issues facing your community?” and ended with “You could change the world.” That language helped get the attention of a number of top candidates, including the CIO of Chipotle. READ MORE

Managing a Crisis Before It Happens

I like crises. Mind you, I don't like being in them; I just like reading about them and thinking about how I might manage them. (I don't read Stephen King novels, but I suppose the effect is the same.)

You, too, should think about crises because, knock on wood, you are likely to find yourself in one at some point in your public-leadership career if you haven't already. And these things go better with a little forethought. READ MORE

The Culture of Ethics That the Public Sector Needs

The current issue of Public Administration Review includes a fascinating article by James Svara of Arizona State University on ethics for public servants. The genesis of Svara's inquiry is the adoption last year by the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) of a revision of its code of ethics.

ASPA first adopted a code of ethics in 1984, but other professional organizations had such codes much earlier, going back (at least in this country) to the International City/County Management Association's code that was adopted in 1924. Svara recounts the history of codes of ethics and reviews the debates about their usefulness. This could not be more timely. Given the seemingly incessant drumbeat of scandals at all levels of government these days, the need has never been greater for a strong culture of ethical behavior in the public sector. READ MORE

Why Governments Don’t Know Bridges Are Deteriorating

“There is no single un-reported or under-reported number on the balance sheets of state and local governments greater than the value of deferred maintenance of infrastructure,” according to Edward Mazur, senior advisor to the accounting firm Clifton Larson Allen and one-time member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

It’s hard to understand how cities and states can manage their assets effectively without clear data about the amount of deferred maintenance accumulated. Consider: About one in nine of America’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” (This doesn’t mean the bridges are unsafe, but it does mean engineers have to inspect them every year because at least one load-carrying part is in poor condition.) Potholes blossom like malicious dandelions on the nation’s roads. Every time a government puts off maintenance on its infrastructure, the cost of rehabilitating those assets grows larger, like a credit card bill on which the holder makes only the minimum payment each month. READ MORE