Better Government

D.C.’s Metro and the Power of a P3

As I listened to S&P Global’s Anne Selting at a Governing event earlier this year describe how public-private partnerships work, I had a sort of epiphany. “If Metro in Washington, D.C., were a P3,” I asked her, “would it still be falling apart right now?” She replied that, while S&P’s role is not to opine on public policy, her answer would be a qualified no. Under a P3 structure, she explained, the concession grantor, typically a government, is contractually committed to a funding regime that provides for adequate maintenance.

Maintenance -- the lack of it, that is -- is at the heart of the crisis facing the Washington region’s transit system. In the past year it has had several serious maintenance-related smoke and fire incidents, including one that resulted in a passenger’s death. Train delays and equipment failures, such as escalators and elevators not working, are an everyday reality for riders. With the subway system facing an $18 billion capital deficit over the next 10 years, fixing these problems will be extraordinarily difficult. READ MORE

Just Catch the Killers

Like many mayors, New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu is trying to stop people from killing each other in his city. In an article in Governing’s May issue, J.B. Wogan describes Landrieu’s staff as seeing homicide as “a problem driven by forces largely outside the mayor’s control -- poverty, unemployment, substandard education, inadequate housing and regional migration trends.”

Actually, for mayors who struggle with how to respond to homicide, the answer is right in front of them: Focus on arresting those who commit murders. Three different ways of looking at violence in our communities bring me to this conclusion. READ MORE

Can Depression Make Someone a Better Politician?

Public officials at every level are united in their concern about growing opioid abuse. Calling it “a public health and safety crisis affecting communities across the country,” the National Governors Association released a report in February detailing the priorities of the nation’s governors for addressing that crisis.

What seems to be unrecognized, however, is that opioid abuse is just one of several concurrent crises relating to mental health, none of which can be dealt with successfully in isolation from the others. As many researchers have documented, suicide, loneliness and depression all have increased dramatically over the last several decades. READ MORE

A Veteran Cop’s Ideas for Solving Systemic Police Problems

The seemingly daily drumbeat of news of disastrous citizen-police interactions makes it clear that there is a real crisis today in policing in America. If you doubt it, search the words “police violence” on YouTube or Google and you’ll see what lots of our citizens have been seeing for a long time. A cottage industry has grown up around chronicling and counting these incidents, from the Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project to The Washington Post blog The Watch, written by Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop.

This is not about a few bad cops or a few bad police departments. The problems we are seeing are systemic, and at some point we should no longer be shocked when a new revelation or disturbing video comes to light. READ MORE

A Mayor's Real Job

R. T. Rybak says he tried to write Pothole Confidential: My Life as Mayor of Minneapolis as a “journalist embedded at city hall.” That’s something he could legitimately pull off, since his first job was as the entire staff of a suburban Minneapolis newspaper, followed by stints as a crime reporter at the Star Tribune and publisher of an alternative weekly. The result is an intimate and, from my own perspective as a former mayor, highly authentic view from inside the maelstrom of urban governance.

From an early age, Rybak was obsessed with politics. He went to Boston College for a double major in political science and communications. But the real object of his interest was architecture and city planning, and he spent nearly all the time he was not in class immersed in those subjects. READ MORE