TABLE of CONTENTS February 2014

Cover Story

Financial Illiteracy: One of Government’s Biggest and Least-Discussed Problems

BY Liz Farmer

Failure to understand financial outcomes is more dangerous to states and localities than ever, and there’s a big gap between what public leaders know about finance and what they need to know.


Should California’s Crowded Prisons Look to San Francisco’s Shrinking Jails?

In the 1980s, San Francisco faced a court order similar to the one the state is facing now to reduce overcrowding. Rather than simply throwing the book at people, the city now often treats jail as a last resort and focuses on reintegrating ex-offenders back into society. BY Ryan Holeywell

Texas’ Next Governor? Meet Greg Abbott

The Attorney General is poised to beat Democrat Wendy Davis in the state's nationally watched and heated governor's race, but most Texans know very little about him. BY Alan Greenblatt

States Reinvest in Once-Abandoned Freight Lines

In the past year, several states have either created or rekindled grant programs dedicated to improving freight service. BY Jonathan Walters

States Aren’t the Only Ones Reforming Health Care

Some of the most promising experiments to improve quality of care while cutting expenses are taking place at the local level. BY Chris Kardish

Forget Technology; Denver Turns to Its Employees to Fix Problems

Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver looks to its own employees for simple, straightforward reforms. BY J.B. Wogan


Infrastructure & Environment

Cincinnati Opts to Move Forward with Streetcar After All

After Mayor John Cranley campaigned on opposition to the project, he announces "we're going to have a streetcar." BY Ryan Holeywell

California Rethinks Term Limits, Again

California voters eased restrictions in 2012 on how long lawmakers can serve. The changes are already helping some think more about the future when crafting policies. BY Chris Kardish

A Victim Himself, Georgia’s Revenue Commissioner Tackles Tax Fraud

In 2012, the federal government issued $5.2 billion in tax refunds to people who falsified their identity. Georgia found a way to keep that money out of scammers’ pockets. BY Liz Farmer
Public Safety & Justice

Copper and Robbers

More than half the states enacted laws to combat metal theft last year, but there’s little analysis of which legislative policies actually work. BY Ryan Holeywell

When Social Media Hits Home

How one agency handled a tragedy as it unfolded live on Twitter. BY Paul W. Taylor

Would We All Be Better Off If Mayors Ruled the World?

It’s a tempting idea, but cities simply don’t have the power to do what most of their residents want them to do. BY Alan Ehrenhalt
Potomac Chronicle

How the Feds Finally Reduced Crime on Indian Reservations

The feds set a goal of reducing crime on tribal reservations by 5 percent. Here’s how they brought it down by more than 700 percent. BY Donald F. Kettl

How Salt Lake City Solved Chronic Veteran Homelessness

Officials in Salt Lake City say that by the end of this month, they will have zero chronically homeless veterans. BY J.B. Wogan
Health & Human Services

All Policies Are Health Policies

For every future project the District of Columbia undertakes, it will ask the same question: How does this impact the public’s health? BY David Levine
Infrastructure & Environment

Solar Gardens: A Subscription to the Sun

75 percent of Americans can’t put solar panels on their property. Community-owned solar gardens allow those people to take advantage of renewable energy for a fraction of the cost, but they need state and local support to grow. BY Elizabeth Daigneau
Economic Engines

America’s Days of Dreaming Big Are Over

The United States once dreamed of building great things – like a library in every city – and made those dreams come true. But not anymore. BY Alex Marshall
Urban Notebook

Should Cities Run Subways Later to Attract Young Professionals?

Late-night transit options may make a city more attractive to younger generations, but running trains around the clock has its drawbacks. BY Tod Newcombe


Management & Labor

Pension Reforms Push Employees Out the Door in Some States

An analysis of retirement data finds that pension reforms contributed to significantly more workers filing retirement paperwork in at least six states. BY Mike Maciag
Smart Management

3 Ways to Keep Public Employees from Leaving

The turnover rate among young state employees is rising. Raising pay might be a way to change that, but it’s not a practical one. BY Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene
Better Government

Why Governments Need to Treat Labor Unions with Respect

For one town, dealing honestly with its unions paid off. BY Mark Funkhouser
Tech Talk

Government Needs to Rethink How They Attract IT Talent

Most agencies can’t match private-sector pay, and governments can no longer depend on superior benefits packages as a recruiting tool. BY Steve Towns
Public Money

This Annual Financial Report Says What?

If there’s a bright side to governments’ money problems, it’s that it’s forcing them to use plain English to talk about their finances. BY Justin Marlowe
Infrastructure & Environment

February 2014 Last Look: Sun Spot

This 20-foot sculpture is made from 90,000 stainless steel pet tags. BY Elizabeth Daigneau