TABLE of CONTENTS August 2013

Cover Story

America Watches as Philadelphia Battles Obesity

The city, which is one of the nation’s poorest and most obese, is resorting to creative measures to get people to eat healthier. There are signs that its efforts are working.

FEATURES

Why Critics of Workplace Safety Laws Might be Right

The fatal explosion earlier this year at a Texas fertilizer plant that hadn’t been inspected since 1985 brought attention to the nation’s dysfunctional and ineffective system of keeping employees -- both in the public and private sectors -- safe. BY Jonathan Walters

3 Cities That Used Disaster to Revitalize Their Future

Hit by tornadoes and earthquakes, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Greensburg, Kan.; and San Francisco all learned how to turn local tragedy into a new and vibrant vision. Their lessons are a playbook for local officials dealing with disasters. BY Liz Farmer

How L.A. is Trying to Fix Its Traffic Problem

After years of development, Los Angeles reached a milestone that few other, if any, major cities can claim: Every single traffic light -- all 4,398 of them -- can be monitored and controlled remotely. BY Liz Farmer

How Governments Are Innovating Their Workforces

The results of a Governing survey paint a portrait of a public sector hard-hit by budget cuts, pay freezes and a lack of advancement opportunities. But employees have reasons for optimism. BY Mike Maciag

POLITICS + POLICY

Finance

Why States Should Take Budget Surpluses with a Grain of Salt

Many states ended fiscal year 2013 with a surplus, but experts warn that it doesn’t mean their financial woes are over. BY Caroline Cournoyer
Public Safety & Justice

Should Reckless People Pay to Get Rescued?

At least three states already allow and more are considering allowing localities to charge citizens for what can be dangerous and expensive rescues that occur when recklessness (like kayaking during a flood) is involved. BY Caroline Cournoyer
View

Arkansas Could Crack Health-Care Cost Containment

The state is making an unprecedented effort to cut health costs by instituting performance pay into its health-care industry and paying doctors based on quality instead of quantity. BY Dylan Scott
Health & Human Services

In S.C., Park Prescriptions Used to Fight Obesity

Doctors can write a parks prescription for patients that gives free admission to one of South Carolina’s 30 state parks. BY Caroline Cournoyer
Columns

A Streetcar Route Drives Typically Calm Arlington County into Conflict

The wealthy Virginia county outside Washington, D.C., has been free of the nasty political environment home to its neighbors – until now. Causing the controversy is a proposed streetcar, which nearly a dozen cities are building. BY Brian Peteritas
Dispatch

Public Officials Beware: Media Will Uncover Your Lies

A little lie the Seattle mayor told his constituents about a gun buyback program may now cost him his re-election. It’s a lesson for all public officials about dealing with reporters. BY Brian Peteritas
Potomac Chronicle

Governments Embrace More and More Revenue Schemes

The combination of a limping economy and tight federal budgets has led many state and local governments to ever more imaginative -- and risky -- revenue sources like violence and buzzkill taxes. BY Brian Peteritas
FedWatch

Building an Infrastructure Bank Without Government Funds

One Congressman hopes to solve the problem of overseas tax havens and failing infrastructure with one piece of legislation. BY Ryan Holeywell
Health & Human Services

Do Gay Marriage Bans Make People Sick?

Gay marriage is more than a social issue -- it’s a public health issue. New research suggests prohibitions on gay unions may take a psychological toll. BY Caroline Cournoyer
Infrastructure & Environment

What's the Economic Worth of a Tree?

With so many states and localities pruning money from parks and tree-planting programs to balance budgets, a free app helps public officials put a monetary value on the benefits of growing them. BY Caroline Cournoyer
Economic Engines

Why Bike Sharing is Such a Game-Changer for U.S. Cities

New York City’s first bike-sharing program, which is the nation’s largest, has the potential to revolutionize city life -- and not just in the Big Apple. BY Brian Peteritas
Urban Notebook

Crime, Not Debt, is Detroit’s Biggest Problem

Two powerful women in Detroit are pushing hard for the city to focus its resources on fighting its high violent crime rate, which, in 2012, was five times the national average. BY Caroline Cournoyer

PROBLEM SOLVER

State News

Municipally Owned Bridges in Worse Condition Than State-Owned Ones

Bridges localities own are more than twice as likely to be considered structurally deficient as those on state roads. View detailed bridge inspection data for your state. BY Michael Maciag
Smart Management

To Keep Up with the Private Sector, Governments Must Focus on More Than Just Pay

Thanks to recent revenue increases, some states are unfreezing public workers’ pay for the first time since before the recession. But looking at pay levels rather than total compensation hides a great deal of the story. BY Brian Peteritas
Better Government

IRS Scandal Shows What Happens When Bureaucracy is Pushed Too Far

Bureaucracy allows us to do big things. But like every tool, it needs to be maintained and wielded with care and control. BY Mark Funkhouser
Tech Talk

When IT Projects Fail, Technology Often Isn’t to Blame

From the moment an IT project is launched, there’s political pressure from agencies to back off business changes that would deliver results. BY Brian Peteritas
Public Money

Do Cities Actually Save Money When They Merge?

There are benefits in city consolidations, but the payback may not be financial. BY Brian Peteritas
Infrastructure & Environment

August 2013 Last Look: Seattle's Ramps to Nowhere

Seattle's so-called "ramps to nowhere" will be torn down in 2014. BY Caroline Cournoyer