Smart Management

Public Policy and the Blame Game

"It may not be your fault, but it is your problem."

The first time I heard that phrase, I was 3,000 feet in the air, piloting a single-engine plane, with a hood wrapped around my head that blocked all view of the horizon and the ground. Beside me, the instructor watched as I struggled to scan the instrument panel and keep the plane within the instrument flight rules tolerance of 100 feet above or below the assigned altitude. READ MORE

Is a 40-Hour Workweek Enough in Government?

Do you have trouble getting all your work done in a 35- to 40-hour week?

More than half (53 percent) of local government officials do, according to a survey by the Governing Exchange, a research arm of Governing. It polled nearly 300 executives and senior managers in cities, counties and special districts.  READ MORE

The Wrong Lessons From a Voting Fiasco

For the 2016 presidential primary season, it was the classic and inevitable television "election moment": As the clock ticked past midnight, thousands of Maricopa County, Ariz., voters were still standing in line to cast ballots in Arizona's presidential primary.

Longtime County Recorder Helen Purcell soon became the logical "film-at-11" culprit, especially after she'd initially suggested, not implausibly, that nearly 20,000 non-party-affiliated voters who couldn't legally cast ballots in Arizona's closed presidential primary had clogged the lines by showing up anyway on March 22. READ MORE

Can Government Be Too Transparent?

Open records laws make it possible for the public to get their hands on valuable government information. That's generally a good thing.

But there are a number of instances in which greater transparency can actually work against public-sector employees and taxpayers. READ MORE

Managing Life-and-Death Situations

When former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was about to take office in 1999, he went to the National Governors Association’s New Governor’s School, and sat next to then-Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia. Vilsack had one big question to ask his seatmate: “What are the one or two things I should focus on? Should it be health care? Jobs? Education?” 

As Vilsack recalls, “Gov. Miller said, ‘Son, emergency management. I guarantee you that within six months something is going to happen in your state and if you don’t handle it well, it won’t make any damn difference what you do in health care or jobs or education.” Vilsack took Miller’s advice, and when the state was hit with a huge tornado three months later, its leaders handled the situation in a coordinated, capable way that saved lives and property. READ MORE