Smart Management

The Uberizing of the Government Workforce

More and more, state and local governments are turning to temporary and contract employees in the wake of the Great Recession, which left their workforces shrunken by some 600,000 workers. Forty-two percent of human-resources managers surveyed this year by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) reported that they were hiring temporary or contract employees.

It's not hard to see why this is happening in government, just as it is in the private sector. One city manager put it this way: "Hiring contract employees is less risky if we have to downsize again -- and we don't have to cover their benefits." But governments have traditionally relied on high-quality benefits to attract and retain the stable workforces they need for the long haul. "If we're all Uberized, where do I get my benefits?" AFSCME's Steve Kreisberg asked at SLGE's recent Retirement Security Summit. READ MORE

Helping Doctors Go Digital

Over the last years, while interviewing state Medicaid directors and local health officials, we’ve heard that the use of electronic health records has the potential to be a great cost saver for governments. They let doctors from different departments or different hospitals easily work together with the same records with far less costly human intervention. Though there's a lot of potential here, the vision for what can be ultimately accomplished falls short in the implementation.

We’ve heard many doctors -- both journalistic sources and personal contacts -- complain about the negative effects of this technology. Among the issues most obvious to patients are delays from frozen screens and missing digital records. During our own experience with doctors at New York City hospitals, health-care providers told us repeatedly to carry our own medical records in old-fashioned manila folders in case the digital transfer didn’t materialize. When hospitals merge, the problems just get worse.  READ MORE

Dubious Surpluses, Questionable Savings, Beneficial Failures and More

Three years ago, Atlanta streamlined the building permit process in an effort to make up for increased building fees. That seemed like a rational tradeoff. But when the city auditor’s office took a look, it came up with a few unexpected -- and negative -- findings.

First of all, the Office of Buildings didn’t even bother to assess the costs of the new streamlined services so that fees could be set appropriately. As a result, it ended up with a $28 million surplus in fiscal year 2014. That’s equal to about three years of operating expenses. Fees really aren’t supposed to be a profitable enterprise, though; their simple function is to pay for services.  READ MORE

The Long, Long Haul of Civic Progress

In March, Mayor Bob Buckhorn dedicated the latest section of Tampa's Riverwalk, which now stretches nearly two miles down a river and along a channel leading to Tampa Bay. As he cut the ribbon, Buckhorn said something that must have puzzled some in the audience: "This is a day that we have waited for for decades."

For decades? Actually, yes. You see, the Tampa Riverwalk was proposed in 1975 by then-Mayor Bill Poe -- as a Bicentennial project. The celebration of the American Bicentennial was in 1976. The Riverwalk has, well, taken longer than expected. READ MORE

Why Evidence-Based Policymaking Is Just the Beginning

State legislatures are turning to evidence-based policymaking as a way to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. This is a very important development. For example, many states -- in response to research confirming that the early years of childhood affect learning, behavior and health for a lifetime -- have invested in family support and coaching programs.

These programs, often referred to as "home visiting," focus on strengthening vulnerable families during the critical period before age 5. Evidence shows that families that participate in visiting programs are often more stable and self-sufficient and are better able to handle stress. At the same time, parents who benefit from family support and coaching programs frequently raise their children with greater skill and confidence, leaving the children safer, healthier and better prepared to learn and grow. READ MORE