Smart Management

The VA Isn't the Only Agency Mismanaging Waiting Lists

Government waiting lists made headlines in May when the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) blew the whistle on the agency. Some 1,700 veterans at its Phoenix hospital who believed themselves to be on the medical facility’s waiting lists were not. 

Worse, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently several VA facilities across the country had mucked around with their waiting lists to make it appear that veterans were receiving services in quick and efficient order, which, as we learned, was not remotely true. READ MORE

B&G Report: Last-Minute Meetings, Mental Health and Data on Child Deaths

We've frequently made the case that total transparency isn't always a goal to which cities and states should aspire. But a recent ruling from South Carolina's Supreme Court makes us feel like transparency zealots. 

In June, according to an article in Statehouse Report, the court decided that government public meeting agendas may not need to be made public. That means that a state or local agency could call a meeting, and then decide -- at the last minute -- to discuss a particularly contentious topic without giving the relevant advocates notice that their issue was coming up. READ MORE

Technology’s Crucial Role in the Fight Against Hunger

National Geographic recently sent three photographers to explore hunger in the United States. It was an effort to give a face to a very troubling statistic: Even today, one-sixth of Americans do not have enough food to eat. Fifty million people in this country are "food insecure" -- having to make daily trade-offs among paying for food, housing or medical care -- and 17 million of them skip at least one meal a day to get by. When choosing what to eat, many of these individuals must make choices between lesser quantities of higher-quality food and larger quantities of less-nutritious processed foods, the consumption of which often leads to expensive health problems down the road.

This is an extremely serious, but not easily visible, social problem. Nor does the challenge it poses become any easier when poorly designed public-assistance programs continue to count the sauce on a pizza as a vegetable. The deficiencies caused by hunger increase the likelihood that a child will drop out of school, lowering her lifetime earning potential. In 2010 alone, food insecurity cost America $167.5 billion, a figure that includes lost economic productivity, avoidable health-care expenses and social-services programs. READ MORE

The Debate We’re Not Having over Fiscal Disparities

It is an article of faith in public finance that the best formula for providing efficient public services is to decentralize to the lowest level of government possible. State and local governments have greater incentives to economize and improve productivity because they are, in effect, in competition with one another for taxpayers and businesses.

While the theory is alluring, competition does not play out on a neutral field. Significant disparities exist in the tax bases and needs across states and localities. A 2007 study by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution using the latest data on comparative fiscal capacities across states and localities showed fiscal capacity varying by nearly 120 percent between Connecticut's state and local governments and those of Mississippi. Typically, jurisdictions with low tax bases also are those with high spending needs, which together add up to a low fiscal-capacity score. READ MORE

B&G Report: Performance Pay Problems, Shark States and Meaningless Goals

It wasn't so many years ago that the idea of a city or state setting up a useful website was considered something of a technological marvel. Now, it's hard to find a government entity of any size without a website.

Still, there are problems with lots of sites, including out-of-date information, confusing navigation tools, undated documents and hard-to-find contact information like email addresses, phone numbers or even street addresses. READ MORE