Smart Management

7 Ideas for Using Government Data More Effectively

When it comes to delivering services, the proverbial rubber meets the road at the local level. So what do local government practitioners struggle with when trying to use data to deliver services? And when a locality uses data to improve efficiency and effectiveness, what kinds of problems stand in its way?

In August, the Governing Exchange, a research arm of Governing, sent out a survey to executives and senior managers in cities, counties and special districts. Unlike our July cover story, “Bad Data,” which focused on information gathered from state officials, this survey concentrated on locals. The July article targeted oversight and performance officials who routinely work with data. Not surprisingly, then, data quality issues loomed large in their minds. READ MORE

A Conversation With Gary Blackmer, One of America's Performance Management Leaders

For the past 30 years, Oregon’s Gary Blackmer -- a nationally recognized authority on performance management and auditing -- has served in high-level positions at the city, county and state levels. He has been the elected auditor of Portland, Ore., as well as Multnomah County, and most recently served as director of Oregon’s audits division, a position within the secretary of state’s office.

When we heard he was retiring from his position as Oregon state auditor at the end of this year, we decided it was a good time to ask him some questions about his experiences as an auditor and what he’s learned.  READ MORE

The Temperament of a Great Leader

Most of the qualities of a good civic good leader, I'm convinced, can be learned. A reasonably empathetic person can master the arts of relationship-building, group management and persuasion. An observant person can learn the processes behind public policy and, in time, see opportunities for action. With a little modesty, a good leader can find her role and, with a little audacity, fill it brilliantly.

But there's one quality that the best leaders possess that I don't think can be learned easily, and that is temperament. It's an old-fashioned word that refers to a person's nature or disposition, especially as it affects his or her behavior. And the temperament that the best leaders possess allows them to "quiet the self." READ MORE

Financial Reports: Better Late Than Never?

States' comprehensive annual financial reports (CAFRs) are important for helping governments make decisions about taxes and spending, but according to the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), they're only useful if they show up on time.

The GFOA generally requires reports to be finished within six months of the close of the fiscal year in order for a state to get its certificate of excellence for financial reporting. On average, states get their reports in in 190 days (a tad late), but some governments are really late. READ MORE

The Continuing Costs of Budget Uncertainty

Back in February 2013 in this space, I wrote about the governmental costs of budget uncertainty. Predictably, however, the phenomenon is still alive and well. At the state level, Illinois has replaced California as the poster child for gridlock. As I write this, the state is in its fourth month without a budget. Because of a series of short-term fixes and judicial decisions, state employees are still being paid, aid to schools is continuing and funding to many other recipients of state funds has not been interrupted. The state comptroller estimates, however, that the state could have $8.5 billion in unpaid bills by the end of the calendar year.

There appears to be little optimism that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic legislature can put aside their differences over taxes and collective-bargaining rights to pass a budget anytime soon. And a similar budget drama is playing out in Pennsylvania, although that state's impasse pits a Democratic governor against a Republican-controlled legislature. READ MORE