Tell us what you think. Are performance appraisals worthwhile? We'll keep our opinions to ourselves and get the conversation rolling by referring to a recent piece by Jason Lauritsen, a former HR executive who is now a consultant and a frequent speaker. As he wrote, "A few weeks ago, I asked a large room of recruiting professionals at a conference to raise their hands if they felt that traditional performance appraisals were a reliable and consistent way of measuring performance. Not one hand went up. Not one."

Among other things, he argues that everyone hates performance reviews, that "Traditional performance appraisals" provide little evidence of actually improving performance, and that "Most organizations would better able to deal with problem employees if they had no performance appraisal at all."

We look forward to your comments:

Chicago is trying out an interesting approach to covering about $25 million of its $600 million budget gap. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration is selling ad space on city property, "including bridges, electrical storage boxes and garbage cans," according to the Associated Press. Ads have already been posted on the city's Wabash Avenue bridge by Bank of America. "The municipal marketing strategy is really about pursuing innovative opportunities to avoid having to cut city services or increase the tax burden on Chicagoans," city spokeswoman Kathleen Strand told the AP.

As you'd expect this strategy has been met with some controversy. The Chicago Tribune's architecture critic called the ads on the bridge "a grotesque cheapening of the public realm," while the Chicago Sun-Times editorialized that while the ads may not be attractive they still "beat going bust."

Turnover can be a very expensive proposition. That's part of the reason why turnover rates are often used as a measure of the success for HR experts. With this in mind, we were pleased to see that the Center for Economic and Policy Research has put together a form to calculate the cost of turnover. Though it was designed primarily with the private sector in mind, we can't see any reason why it wouldn't also work for cities, counties or states.

Need information about TANF rules and the states? The Urban Institute provides a goldmine of useful and interesting data in its Welfare Rules Database which includes, "a detailed database of the AFDC TANF rules in effect for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for years 1996 through 2010; information on rules that are in effect at point in time; a point-and-click interface for querying the database" and more.

We told you so. Regular readers of the B&G Report will recall items we've run in the not-too-distant past that reflected our belief that fears about state and municipal bankruptcies were thoroughly exaggerated and potentially hazardous to the economic well-being of states and cities.

With that in mind, we enjoyed reading the following from the National Association of State Budget Officers in late November:

"The state and local government bond markets have held up well throughout the year despite a few high profile municipal defaults or bankruptcies by local governments. The forecasts from some commentators in 2010 and earlier this year predicting a municipal bond crisis have not come to fruition, and a collapse of the municipal debt markets is not likely to arise anytime soon. Certainly states and localities will continue to encounter fiscal strain, but potential defaults or bankruptcies are so few and far between that they are the 'exceptions' that prove the 'rule.' Earlier this year, NASBO and other state and local groups provided information indicating that significant concerns about the municipal markets were overblown. Recent trends indicate that the state and local groups' analyses were correct, that municipal bonds were generally safe."

"Some insomniacs take this or that potion. Our favorite soporific is the announcement by some official that this or that department will be run without regard to politics." -- Franklin P. Adams (FPA), 1944

Do trees encourage shady behavior? Over the course of time, studies that explore the relationship between trees and neighborhood safety have had conflicting results. Sometimes trees appear to make people safer and sometimes not. But a recent study by Geoffrey Donovan, an economist and research forester with the Pacific Northwest Research Station delved into the details, focusing on the idea that the actual type of trees involved wasn't studied in the past. His research, according to Science Findings, revealed that "Larger trees, including trees located near the street are associated with a lower incidence of property crimes. Larger numbers of smaller trees -- especially trees planted near the home, which may provide a screen for burglars, are associated with higher crime." Apparently, cities in the Portland, Ore., metro area are using this information as they rewrite street tree regulations.

The other side of the story. Some weeks back we published an item, based on a piece in The St. Petersburg Times, about a Florida state senator who received an invoice of nearly $11,000 from the State Board of Administration to fulfill his request for detailed information about some pension investments. Our take was that elected officials should clearly have access to all the details of such transactions, and that this was an instance in which it seemed as though transparency was worthwhile. Subsequently, we heard from the Board of Administration, and have come to understand some additional wrinkles in the story. We're not in a position to critique the St. Petersburg Times article, but thought we'd pass along the additional information we now have in hand:

For example, according to a Board of Administration document, "Not emphasized in the reporting on this matter is the fact that an exemption to the public records laws related to certain types of investments (alternative investments) exists. This law ... recognizes that the SBA has access to far more information regarding alternative investments than is typically available regarding publicly traded investments (e.g. business plans, marketing strategies etc.). If this type of information is improperly released, it can cause participants of the Florida Retirement System, private citizens, business owners and other investors to suffer significant financial losses and subject the SBA and the funds we manage to lawsuits."

Moreover, points out a representative of the Board of Administration, "It is also understandable that someone may question whether or not a legislator should have access to information to be able to review governmental agencies in their official capacity. That potential scenario is addressed in Florida Statute, which provides unfettered access to information by a committee of competent jurisdiction. This is not the case here ... " The senator was making a request on behalf of an outside entity.

California may be strapped for cash, but its Legislature doesn't seem to be in much of a rush to take advantage of some revenue-raising opportunities recommended by the Bureau of State Audits more than ten years ago. Back in November 2000, the Bureau issued a report that called for "state-level guidance for administering intellectual property such as copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets." There's no question that there's money to be made here, and more than half the state agencies queried indicated that they would very much like this kind of information.

But, according to a recently-released auditor's report, "the State has not enacted a statutory framework nor has it implemented its recommendations made in the 2000 audit report or otherwise provided guidance to state agencies regarding the management and protection of intellectual property."

In fairness, the Legislature hasn't ignored the issue entirely. It's simply been unable to work through the details on any of the eight bills proposed since the 2000 audit, in order to actually move forward.

This is the last issue of the B&G Report you'll be receiving this year. We'll be back again in 2012. But we wanted to take this opportunity to thank our extremely faithful readers for their constant support and the steady volley of e-mails we get in response to our queries. As most of you who have written know, we try to get back to all e-mails we receive within a few days. Sometimes, we fail at that task (especially when a question we've asked provokes scores of responses). That's relatively rare, but our New Year's resolution is to make sure that 100 percent of e-mails we receive are carefully read and responded to within just a few days.

One last thing: We'd really love to hear suggestions for topics or lines of management-related inquiry you'd like to hear more from us about in 2012. We aim to please. Happy New Year!