TABLE of CONTENTS December 2015

Cover Story

Introducing the 2015 Public Officials of the Year

These nine outstanding state and local government leaders have taken decisive action to address some of the toughest, most entrenched problems in the country.

FEATURES

After the Asylum: How America's Trying to Fix Its Broken Mental Health System

Patients with mental illness are being detained in emergency rooms, often for weeks at a time. Now some states are rethinking the entire psychiatric care system. BY J.B. Wogan

Is Bigger and Better Always the Best for Suburbia?

Old houses are being torn down and replaced in suburbs all over the country. But not everyone, especially the people being priced out of once-affordable neighborhoods, is happy seeing the past obliterated. BY Alan Greenblatt

OBSERVER

Politics

Campaign Spending’s Gray Areas Getting Politicians in Trouble

High-level officials around the country have recently been caught misusing their campaign funds. BY Alan Greenblatt
Politics

The Biggest Victim of Weekly Newspapers' Demise: Good Government

Alternative weekly newspapers are going out of business all over the country, leaving a huge void in local government coverage. Who will scrutinize city halls now? BY Daniel C. Vock
Public Safety & Justice

Can You Find Me Now? Why Calling 911 Will Get Easier

Phones can detect your location, but emergency responders can’t. That’s all going to change soon. BY Mike Maciag
Health & Human Services

How Many Homeless Kids Are in America? No One Knows.

But a new effort could provide a true count of the number as well as insights into why they became homeless in the first place. BY J.B. Wogan

POLITICS + POLICY

Assessments

Resisting Inevitable Urbanization

In North Carolina, lawmakers don't want to embrace the state’s shift away from rural, small-town life. But their efforts may be futile. BY Alan Ehrenhalt
Potomac Chronicle

The Gap Between What Voters Want and Who They Support

The governors running for president possess what voters are looking for -- yet all of them are struggling in the polls. BY Donald Kettl
Politics

The Waning Power of State Political Parties

They’re far from irrelevant, but campaign financing laws have hurt their influence. BY Alan Greenblatt
Health & Human Services

To Cut Health Costs, One State Makes Patients Shop Around

California is saving millions making people compare prices for certain medical services. BY Penelope Lemov
Infrastructure & Environment

L.A. Says Goodbye to ‘Shade Balls’

You most likely saw a photo or video of the millions of black plastic balls covering the Los Angeles Reservoir. They protect the region’s drinking water, but now they're being replaced. BY Elizabeth Daigneau
Economic Engines

An Old Idea for the New App-Based Economy

Companies like Uber drive money out of local communities and erase the benefits that employees fought hard for. Co-ops could fix that. BY Alex Marshall
Urban Notebook

When Less (Regulation) Is More

A solution to a decades-old parking problem in one city shows how others can harness the power of market economics. BY William Fulton

PROBLEM SOLVER

Management & Labor

Black and Out of Work: How the Recession Changed Government Employment

The public sector used to be a place of upward mobility for minorities, particularly black women. BY Mike Maciag
Smart Management

7 Ideas for Using Government Data More Effectively

From city managers to auditors, local officials offer ways to fix data collection. BY Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene
Better Government

A Homework Assignment for the People Running Public Universities

To boost America's support for higher education, faculties and administrations need to remember why we have it. BY Mark Funkhouser
Tech Talk

Making Government Transparency More Transparent

In their quest to make public records requests easier, faster and cheaper, some governments are publishing them online for anyone to see. BY Tod Newcombe
Public Money

Is 'Fair Value' Accounting Actually Fair?

The practice is loved by government accountants and scorned by bankers and investors. BY Justin Marlowe
Infrastructure & Environment

Iconic Detroit Building Gets Revitalized

The city's main train station, which shuttered its doors in 1988, is getting a makeover. BY David Kidd