WATCH IT LIVE:

 

Nigel Jacob, Urban Technologist-in-Residence at Living Cities and convener of its City Accelerator initiative, speaks at Lipscomb University's Collaboration 101 conference about leading examples of urban innovation that relied on collaboration and the emerging practice of collective impact to improve the lives of low-income residents.
Jacob is scheduled to speak at 1:50 Eastern/ 12:50 Central/ 10:50 Pacific on Tuesday, October 21.

At 1:50 p.m., former POY and leader of the City Accelerator initiative Nigel Jacob will discuss urban innovations to help the poor.

 

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Smart Management

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

What States Should Do to Keep Their Cities Out of Bankruptcy

Detroit's bankruptcy has added urgency to the discussion of how state and local governments should respond when a municipality faces financial distress. The Motor City's revenue shortfall is unusually large, mirroring its sharp population decline, but Detroit isn't alone in its struggle to balance its books after years of poor fiscal management and excessive reliance on debt. Tenuous finances have pushed other municipalities to the brink of receivership or bankruptcy, often requiring state policymakers to decide whether to intervene and, if so, when and how.

A small number -- about 10 -- of the nation's 55,000 local governments and special tax districts file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection each year. In addition to Detroit, recent high-profile examples include Jefferson County, Ala.; Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif.; and Central Falls, R.I. While fiscal distress usually builds up over several years, a variety of events or factors can push local governments into financial crisis. In Jefferson County, it was a failed sewer project. In the California and Rhode Island cities, it was escalating public-pension costs. Detroit's situation was more complex, the result of decades of decline in its tax base and the restructuring of the automobile industry. READ MORE

How Governments Can Hold on to Their Top Performers

As they work to build the workforces essential to executing their missions, government leaders need to recognize that they are competing with the private sector for talent as never before and that they face significant challenges in attracting and -- perhaps even more important -- retaining their best people.

Conventional wisdom says that employees will leave if they are dissatisfied but that money will make them stay. That greatly oversimplifies the issue. People stay in a job or leave it for a range of reasons. Top performers want to be well compensated, of course, but they are seeking other kinds of satisfaction, primarily related to their learning, growth and opportunities to make a positive difference. READ MORE