Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.

Ellen Perlman
May 1, 2010


Allowing skinny houses to be built on small lots can increase both density and affordability.

New Hires and the Facebook Effect

The texting generation needs help adjusting to a government's online ethos.
November 30, 2009

Collaborating for Technology

The Gaines County, Texas, Web site is not going to win design prizes anytime soon. The home page features a grainy photo of the county...

Can I Say No to an Electronic Health Record?

A majority of people want to 'own' their health data and choose who can access it.

Social Media Sites' Handicap Hurdle

As governments turn to Facebook and its ilk, they aren't paying enough attention to the needs of the visually or hearing-impaired.
September 20, 2009

Technology Ideas That Might Not Be So Great

I was drawn to the bmighty site by a tweet on my Twitter account that mentioned the Top 10 Best Technology Ideas...That Really Aren't.&...
September 17, 2009

Speed Cameras: Are They All About the Revenue?

Drive at night on a certain section of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and you'll routinely see bright white lights flash. This is ...

Catching a Bus with a BlackBerry

Mobile apps and social media are being tweaked to serve transportation needs.
August 24, 2009

Twitter Arrives at Metro in DC

You know a technology has arrived when the media stories are not about whether a government entity should be using it, but how it currently ...
August 21, 2009

Bill Cosby on School Spending in Pennsylvania: "Don't We Like Children?"

Smack. Down. Typically, when a celebrity attends a hearing or other political event in Washington, D.C., members of Congress and surrounding staff members go ...
August 19, 2009

Don't Insult the Donuts

Once upon a time there was a "don't malign vegetables" movement. In Florida recently, it was doughnuts and other fried or sugary ...
August 17, 2009

America's "Fast-Dying Cities" Pine for Resuscitation

When you're a dying Rust Belt city and you find yourself on a "top 10" list of the worst, it doesn't help ...
August 11, 2009

San Jose Goes to the People. Electronically.

You know what the city of San Jose, California, really needs? More street-level retail in the downtown area. And a convention center twice or three ...
August 5, 2009

Hacking Into Parking Meters

Uh oh. Those prepaid cards that San Francisco drivers use to feed the meter? Totally hackable. That's according to engineers and programmers who say ...

Caution: Outsourcing Ahead

Another big statewide IT project hits speed bumps. So does the CIO.
July 28, 2009

County Coroner Hopes "Beat the Reaper" Game Will Scare Kids Straight

Adults can talk, talk, talk about the stupid things teens shouldn't do. But how to get them to listen? Ben Blasdel, the coroner for ...
July 24, 2009

Are Crackdowns on Tattooed Officers Really Worth It?

Find out what's happening to law enforcement and police officers with tattoos.
July 17, 2009

Needed: 911 Fees?

Prepaid phones are a nice option for people who don't want a monthly wireless bill. But they're a scary prospect for the 911 emergency ...
July 17, 2009

Pennsylvania's YouTube Wars

Pennsylvania is getting into the fun and games of YouTube, something the Millennial set has been engaging in for ages now. Although the state's ...
July 15, 2009

The Future of the Internet is in Lafayette, Louisiana

What if you could hold a video conference from your home? What if your doctor could send your MRI electronically to another of your doctors ...
July 2, 2009

How Many Jobs Does a Playground Make?

"When it comes to jump-starting the economy, a playground isn't going to cut it," according to a story in the Virginian Pilot ...

Grab the Fee and Run

No phone charge is too small to escape a governor's grasp.
July 1, 2009

$4B in Stimulus Money for Broadband Ready, Biden Announces

Finally, $4 billion dollars in loans and grants will be available for expanding broadband access in underserved and un-served areas, Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday. ...
June 30, 2009

Virginia Fires Its Tech Chief, Readers Fire Off

A story in Friday's Richmond Times-Dispatch about how the "embattled" Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) interim CIO met with and praised employees, ...
June 18, 2009

Keep the $3.65 - I Don't Need it Anymore

I truly cannot believe what it took to get a $3.65 refund from the Metro system in D.C., also known as WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan ...
June 3, 2009

Not Just Topless -- Bottomless and Sideless, Too

Update: In March we wrote about a topless coffee shop in Maine and the ordinance banning nudity that it inspired. Well, don't plan your ...

Wi-Fi and Social Justice

A failed wireless deal has San Francisco's CIO pondering tough moral questions.
May 22, 2009

Brainstorming on Transparency in Government

You got ideas? The White House wants to hear them. Remember that Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government President Obama issued in January? Well, the ...
May 14, 2009

It's an Emergency! Now What?

How will your local government inform citizens if there's an emergency? I ask because a week or two ago, sometime during the swine flu ...
May 11, 2009

Spending Transparency: Vital to the State of our Union

The following Thomas Jefferson quote is getting a lot of play these days in connection with transparency Web sites. Not that Jefferson was much of ...

Broadband -- at Any Price

Small cities are eyeing stimulus money to bring high-speed Internet to all.
May 1, 2009

States CIOs Talk Transparency

Two words are reverberating around the halls of the Marriott in Baltimore this week where state CIOs are meeting: Transparency and recovery act money. Okay, ...
April 30, 2009

See-Thru Government

"A new level of transparency" is what President Obama says he wants as state and local governments spend economic-stimulus dollars. But what does that mean?...
April 30, 2009

Seeing the Sites

ALASKA/Checkbook Online URL: What it does: Provides Excel or PDF spreadsheets with spending by organization, vendor...
April 28, 2009

Getting in the GovLoop

People in thousands of government offices perform similar jobs. If only they could find a way to tap the expertise and wisdom of others via ...
April 23, 2009

Porn Available on Library Computers

That headline grabs you doesn't it? So did this one, when I read it yesterday morning: "San Jose Council votes down porn filters ...
April 14, 2009

Starry-eyed Politicians, Buy Your Domain Name Now

Planning to run for governor in 2010? Or 2014? Or 2018? Get your domain name now. Don't let a cybersquatter shake you down for the Web site ...

Powering Their Way Up

CIOs pushed to become cabinet-level appointees -- but it doesn't always work out.
April 1, 2009

More video from gov20camp

posted by Ellen Perlman I've added a second video to my post about Government 2.0 Camp (and a third below, as you can see). The ...
April 1, 2009

The 2016 Olympic Games Will Be Held in Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota, population nearing 4,000, is hoping to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Crews are starting now to drain Miners Lake to create the first in-ground Olympic ...
March 31, 2009

A Government "Unconference" Tackles Social Media

Gov2.0 camp was the most astounding example of the wisdom IN crowds I've ever witnessed. First thing in the morning on Friday, no one ...
March 26, 2009

Babble and Waffle

The Brits aren't any better at avoiding government jargon than we are. Hence the list of 200 of words the Local Government Association would like ...
March 13, 2009

This Small Town Ain't No Mayberry

Wait a minute. Topless coffee shops are allowed? Unless otherwise specified? I ask because a topless coffee shop opened in Vassalboro, Maine, and the only ...
March 3, 2009

Twitter and Widgets and Blogs, Oh My

Many states have created their own versions of, the federal Web site that tells taxpayers where their economic stimulus dollars are going. But ...
March 3, 2009

Technology: My, How Times Have Changed...And Will Again.

Once upon a time, people were skeptical about governments wasting their time creating Web sites. Remember those days? Yeah, me neither. Now we have Web ...

To Serve, Virtually

Packing multiple applications on a single server can save big bucks.
February 20, 2009

The Dirt on Soil

We here at Governing (I'm a little ashamed to admit now) sometimes have made fun of the fact that states choose an official state ...

The Wisdom of Crowds

A CIO looks to the public to take city data and turn them into quick, nimble and useful software programs.
January 27, 2009

Follow the "Recovery" Money

If you want to follow the stimulus package state by state, the Center for American Progress is one place to go. CAP released a map ...
January 26, 2009

Technology and Openness in an Obama Administration

President Barack Obama signed a memo last week on government transparency. Even before he has named a chief technology officer, he's directed that person ...
January 23, 2009

Not on Twitter Yet?

I was late to Twitter. Well, relatively. Didn't think I'd like it. Didn't really see the point. Didn't think anyone cared ...
January 22, 2009

Pentium 386 anyone?

Imagine the shock. Obama's technological whiz kids arrive at the White House only to find Stone Age software in the vaunted West Wing. The ...
January 16, 2009

The Technology Treadmill, Good or Bad? Discuss.

Here are some mindblowing stats for you. There are approximately one trillion unique URL's in Google and roughly two billion Google searches daily. One ...
January 14, 2009

Staring Down At Your Cell Phone While Driving a 2,000-pound Weapon? Illegal.

Who reads the newspaper while driving? I'm guessing not that many. Who texts while driving? More than the number who read newspapers, is my ...
January 9, 2009

Stop the Presses: The DMV is Annoying to Citizens

I was so ready to praise the District of Columbia's electronic prowess. Then, just like a crash test dummy, I hit the wall at ...
January 8, 2009

A Second Government in Second Life

It's taken months and months since Missouri did it, but another government has landed in Second Life, the online virtual world. And, get this, ...
January 6, 2009

Toll Trap: Why a Fee for E-ZPass is NOT a Good Idea

Maryland is thinking about charging a fee for E-ZPass users, whether they use the pass or not, according to a Baltimore Sun story. Not a ...

The Texas Ten-Step

When a state tries to merge data centers from all its agencies, it's in for a bumpy ride -- and a very long one.
December 31, 2008

The Fix-IT Man

It seems everyone wants a piece of John Conley -- even if it's virtual. As Colorado's deputy chief information officer, he's been asked to help...
December 30, 2008

Real ID - How real is it?

By Ellen Perlman Speaking of bleak headlines, as Alan Greenblatt did here, how about this one: "Obama Administration to Inherit a real mess on Real ...
December 29, 2008

An Interstate Road Map for Bikes

By Ellen Perlman An interstate bicycle system! That's what the plan is and I'm all for it. The American Association of State Highway ...

Bloggerly Love

Techies and their interactive tools may be the way to lure tourists to local fairs and state parks.
November 30, 2008

Policing by the Odds

When a full moon rises in Richmond, Virginia, police officers may feel their hackles rise, too. The presence of a full moon statistically correlates with...

Lighten Up on Language

It's awfully hard to get legislators or the public excited about an IT program when the words that describe it sound like gibberish.
October 24, 2008

The ABC's of Communication

Yesterday I received an email with this subject line: MI Report: How Access to New Drugs has Slowed the Growth in America's Disability Rates It ...
October 20, 2008

Great Places

"State Street, that Great Street?"  It's not the only one. They also applaud that street called Broad. And toast Champagne to Annapolis' ...
October 15, 2008

What Are the Odds That Casinos Will Ruin Some Lives?

Clinicians in Pennsylvania are getting training in a new field: gambling addiction. Casinos began opening in the state two years ago. Compulsive gamblers surely are ...
October 8, 2008

How Many Energy-Saving Tips Do YOU Have?

Looking for more tips to offer residents on how to conserve energy? Take a look at these 50 simple tips from the Chicago Tribune. They came ...
October 8, 2008

Free Food! Take the Bus

What if someone told you that you could pocket more than $10,000 a year by making one change in behavior? That's quite a tidy sum. Well, ...

The Snake Within

There are ways to spot an employee with an eye on bringing down the network.
September 23, 2008

Does Sarah Palin read Governing?

In January, Governing ran a story on how governments should be managing e-mail. That feature included this bit of information: ...elected leaders are devising ways ...
September 11, 2008

Step Away From the Copier and Put Your Hands in the Air

Carl Malamud of Sebastopol, California, is a lawbreaker, a miscreant, a reprobate. Get this. He downloads and photocopies state laws and regulations! Yes, you heard ...
September 10, 2008

Last One Out of the Data Center, Turn Off the Lights

"Planned obsolescence" is a term coined decades ago but one I haven't heard much lately. I'm reminded of it by a recent Wall ...
September 5, 2008

"Un-friending" a Predator

Who says attorneys general aren't cool? Or phat or dope or awesome, or whatever the current word for cool is? The office of Anne Milgram, ...
August 31, 2008

The Plugged-In Patient

Call it the Google lift or the Microsoft bump. This spring, these tech powerhouses announced they were entering the field of personal health records, and...
August 14, 2008

Supercompute Your Way to Economic Success

New York State has laid claim to an economic development tool like no other. A supercomputer housed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute upstate. Available to ...
August 12, 2008

Fuel Economy

The public works department in Clemson, S.C., is saving 350 gallons of diesel each month by using GPS systems in garbage trucks, according to USA ...
August 6, 2008

Doctor of Technology

Why should physicians pay out of their pockets to set up electronic health records so that insurance companies can profit? That's something many docs are ...

This Little Light of Mine

Many cities have been switching to the efficiencies of as-needed lighting, thanks to their computer programmers.
July 24, 2008

Model Thin, Basketball-player Tall

This question is for the women out there: How much do you weigh? Really? What does your driver's license say you weigh? Are the numbers ...
July 18, 2008

Delaware's Cloud

Delaware's home page has a word cloud. Also known as a category cloud or a tag cloud. You know, one of those lists of words, ...
July 15, 2008

The Phishing Catch

When's the last time you've gone phishing at the office? New York State did an exercise in 2005, sending a fake email to 10,000 state employees in five agencies. The "scam" perpetrated by security officials, was a spot check on employee e-mail behavior.
June 30, 2008

The Buzz about 311

When a dozen peacocks turned up in Judi Zito's fenced backyard in Pinecrest, Florida, one of 28 small municipalities that are part of Miami-Dade County, she...
June 6, 2008

Fish, Pigs and Saving the Planet

Cities fighting to be the greenest in the land should look to Victoria, British Columbia, for some tips. In April, we wrote about cities hiring hiring sustainability or energy directors to encourage departments to turn off lights and shut computers when they're not in use.
June 5, 2008

The Grease Man

It has come to this: People griping that thieves are stealing leftover French fry grease from the back of San Francisco restaurants. Turns out, there's ...

Going Viral

The video a state or locality puts up on YouTube doesn't have to be wacky, but it helps.
May 28, 2008

311 is not as easy as 1-2-3

So we just finished a special pre-conference session on city 311 systems, and some of the panelists cited a common problem: You set up this great 311 system, and then what happens? Other departments and jurisdictions want to horn in on your success without paying their fair share or doing the work!
May 14, 2008

Lending More Than Books

War and Peace. Horton Hears a Who. And a fishing rod. You can borrow them all from the public libraries in Coventry, Lincoln and Scituate, ...

To Catch a Thief

High-level data analysis is helping police spot crimes -- sometimes before they happen.
March 18, 2008

Wanna Slow Global Warming? Start a Recession!

A slowing economy may be the answer to global warming. Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch. But Mesa, Arizona, has found that ...

The Safety Gap

To protect the children they serve, child welfare caseworkers need high-tech connections between field and office.
January 31, 2008

The Year of the Superbus

In the Atlanta region, commuter buses have all the comforts of home. With television sets on board, passengers can lean back in cushy seats and...
January 17, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now? Are You Stealing My Data?

My head is still spinning from reading about all the government laptops that go missing, potentially exposing private data. Connecticut has had a heck of ...
December 31, 2007

Delete at Your Own Risk

For several months last fall, the St. Louis media had a field day with Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's office for doing the equivalent of crumpling...

Crazy Cool in L.A.

A fire department taps into microblogging to keep itself on top of situations.

Crazy Cool in L.A

A fire department taps into microblogging to keep itself on top of situations.
November 15, 2007

How Green is your Building?

Step right up, ladies and gentleman, and see for yourself! It's the amazing, one-of-a-kind, Aldo Leopold Legacy Center , located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. THE GREENEST BUILDING ...
November 14, 2007

Weather, weather everywhere. Little of it rain.

Yesterday, Governor Sonny Perdue asked a crowd of 250 Georgians outside the Capitol to "pray up a storm." The state and the region badly ...
November 13, 2007

Do Governors Have a Prayer?

I just checked the weather in Atlanta today. It's 52 degrees and very sunny, (see the bright yellow sun on Georgia has had it ...
November 12, 2007

How Hip Are the Burbs?

Governing doesn't check in with hip, stylish men nearly enough. So, today, we present you with the cool guys' view on city versus suburban living. ...
November 1, 2007

Vroom for Improvement

New ordinances seek to reduce motorcycle noise.
November 1, 2007

Change Agent

Two years ago, Missouri's new governor, Matt Blunt, and the state's new chief information officer, Dan Ross, had a vision: an efficient, centralized, streamlined IT operation that delivered each cabinet agency the services it needed while relieving the agencies of the considerable burden of managing an IT shop. Accomplishing this goal meant consolidating the technology operations of 14 agencies, with thousands of employees and more than $250 million in funding among them.
November 1, 2007

Fresh Perspectives

Much of the time in government, change is brought about by those on the inside. Over the years, we have often told the story of career public servants who knew precisely how to transform troubled institutions once they got the chance.
October 1, 2007

Text Talk: Boston Keys in for Crime Tips

Picking up and dialing from a pay phone is the best way to give an anonymous crime tip to police. Or is it?

The Power Switch

The emerging topic for state CIOs is how to reconfigure desktops and computing practices to save energy.

The Power Switch

The emerging topic for state CIOs is how to reconfigure desktops and computing practices to save energy.
September 30, 2007

Radio Activity

Two years ago, a report came in of a plane crash on a grassy hillside near Anchorage's airport, in the middle of a park where...
September 1, 2007

eHealth confidential

Can health information exchange systems keep snoops out of patients' online records?
August 20, 2007

Check-up: Do Docs Need Financial Aid?

One thing a lot of people don't think about when discussing the idea of a national health records exchange is that it all begins in ...
August 14, 2007

Promises, Promises

Now that Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson has dropped out of the race for president, I guess breast cancer is going to remain a ...
August 7, 2007

A Red is a Red is a Red

This week is National Stop on Red week. Which does not  mean you get to Go on Red all other times. The week of ...
August 1, 2007

Tribes and Tribulations

Localities are struggling to deal with the issues that arise from being adjacent to Indian lands.

311 Potholes

Consolidating call centers is proving to be a boon to cities, but the roll-outs are rough.
July 15, 2007

Be Merry, But Don't Eat and Drink So Much

Mmmm. The smell of the French fries. The sight of the pizza. It's lunchtime! But before Phoenix city employees can enter their building's cafeteria, where ...
July 1, 2007

Gimme Shelter: Boosting Florida's Turnpike Power

When a hurricane strikes Florida, the first concern of residents is to protect their homes and evacuate if necessary. The Florida Turnpike Enterprise, part of the Florida Department of Transportation, sees its job as providing a safe haven as evacuees travel the road.

The Hit Record

When it comes to using technology to streamline the health care system, the biggest buzz is about digitizing individuals' health records--putting them in a standardized format and connecting them via the Web.
June 30, 2007

The Valley of Surveillance

You can find practically anything you need along Indian School and Thomas roads in Phoenix - at the tortillerias, the pharmacies, the supermarkets, the auto...

Hiring Help

In their search for young workers, IT departments are seeking ways to make technology jobs look more like a day at a Play Station.
May 31, 2007

REAL Nightmare

For the past five years, clerks at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles have been enforcing new rules for getting a driver's license. It hasn't...
May 31, 2007

Digitally Dazed

Rhode Island's been quick off the mark. When it comes to health IT, it's got a lot going for it. The governor, Donald Carcieri, doesn't...
April 16, 2007

Get-Off-The-Phone Laws

Here's the part I don't understand about Washington State's new law, or any other state's law, that prohibits driving while holding a cell phone to ...
April 1, 2007

Spitzer's Web: You Could Be on Youtube

Starting this summer, New York State meetings must be webcast for the public if they fall under the state's open meetings law. As one of his first official actions as governor, Eliot Spitzer signed an executive order requiring state agencies and public authorities to come up with plans to broadcast all such meetings on the Internet.

Keeping Personal Data Safe

Not many know how many cybersecurity breaches occur in state and local governments.
March 19, 2007

Get Real

States must be crying crocodile tears over woes at the State Department about delays in issuing passports. The federal government is struggling under an onslaught ...
March 12, 2007

Freedom vs. Keeping All Your Body Parts

Just for the record, if anyone hears me say, "I'd give my right arm" for something, I'm speaking figuratively. But prison inmates in ...
March 8, 2007

Time, and Time Again

This Sunday night it's going to be nice and light an hour later than usual, thanks to the Daylight Savings Saving [Ed. note: Thanks, Scott!] ...
March 7, 2007

Marketing 202

It's ingenious. Pennsylvania uses marketing moxie to make money from items people must surrender at airports, according to a local story. For the past three ...
February 27, 2007

Medical Cost Confusion

posted by Ellen Perlman All politics may be local, but often it's personal too. If someday West Virginians can understand their medical bills, it could ...
February 9, 2007

I (heart) the BWI Parking Garage

Okay, how weird would it be to wax poetic about a parking garage? Well, here I go. There I was, late as usual for a ...

Smash Hit

It's not just for the young and hip. State and local IT officials are tapping into a cool Google tool to create maps with new, improved uses.
January 26, 2007

Why Should I Travel to Your State?

Most states have lousy looking or ineffective home pages for their tourism web sites, in one cat's opinion. Smiley Cat's to be exact. Smiley Cat ...
January 12, 2007


Baltimore wants us to believe. It's just that I'm not sure in what. In God? In country? In ourselves? In a chicken in every pot? ...
January 1, 2007

"Stat" Fever

The practice of collecting data to monitor and improve government performance continues to gain momentum and evolve.
December 4, 2006

Ride Forever, Charlie

There's nothing better than a city with a sense of humor. The new electronic fare cards for the "T," or the transit system, ...

Critical Connectors

During emergencies, citizens and even some disaster workers depend on libraries for Internet connections to the world.
November 1, 2006

Wi-Fi Visionary

Helping all of Philadelphia connect to the Web.
October 19, 2006

Up to Snuff?

Winston Churchill and state chief information officers. Not usually grouped in the same category as examples of great leadership. Unless Churchill's granddaughter is speaking to ...
October 18, 2006

Lifting the IT Curtain

"I smiled politely but I had no idea what you were saying." So said a non-techie National Parks Service employee, referring to the ...
October 1, 2006

Rx For a Headache

States are experiencing a lot of pain in switching seniors out of state programs and into the Medicare Part D drug plan.

A Very Long Haul

It's taken a dozen years and may take a few more as states struggle to put IT into their child welfare systems.
September 27, 2006

Tasty. But Necessary?

I'm pretty certain that people who are sensitive to the needs of strangers on public transit don't do their good deeds with the hope of ...
September 15, 2006


How's this for a gripping item? It's from a media advisory sent to reporters with the hope they would jump all over the story: At ...
September 12, 2006

Yes, I Voted

Thank goodness it's primary election day in the District of Columbia. Maybe now I'll stop hearing from a lot of my new "friends." ...
September 1, 2006

Bouncing Down the Block

Some cities have sidewalks made of recycled tires.
August 28, 2006

Otherwise, Have a Nice Day

Counties - this question's for you. Since returning from the National Association of Counties meeting in Chicago three weeks ago, what steps have you taken ...
August 17, 2006

Ride, Sally, Ride

We bicyclists here on the 13th Floor are lucky because our building offers a shower. That allows the seven or so of us who commute ...
August 11, 2006

Counties Need Stuff. Lots of stuff

All sorts of educational sessions were taking place at the National Association of Counties meeting in Chicago from August 4th to 8th. But for a ...
August 9, 2006

Jumping Jacks are So 20th Century

The windy, second, gritty city of big shoulders, tool maker, wheat stacker and hog butcher to the world. Yes Chicago, with all its epithets given ...
August 9, 2006

Everyone Likes to Win!

Journalists often would prefer to think inside the box, stick with old paradigms and face fair-to-middlin' -- not perfect -- storms, rather than be caught ...
August 2, 2006

A Material Girl

posted by Ellen Perlman When I read that Washington, D.C. had put down some rubber sidewalks I decided I just had to go test ...
July 28, 2006

Boot, Suits and Geeks

Many people have a vision of fire fighters that involves red trucks, ladders, hoses and a couple of dalmatians. But police and fire work also ...
July 27, 2006

Man on the Street Q&A

Yes, we all know politics is local. Sometimes, it's also individual. Yesterday morning I was biking to work and came across about eight people spread ...
July 20, 2006

The Pink-Blue Divide

It happens in the medical field and apparently it also happens in government. For a long time, researchers used men for studies on heart attacks ...
July 14, 2006

Where's the Head?

For those who think offshore oil rigs ruin the view, how about floating toilets? But the latter could be an environmental lifesaver. Virginia wants to ...
June 1, 2006

Getting Back Taxes

Big cities go to court over online hotel-rate deals
June 1, 2006

Where Will Sex Offenders Live?

Creating buffer zones around schools and other public places can make entire cities off-limits.

Born Digital

A handful of states are beginning to focus on the need to preserve digital documents.
May 16, 2006

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Out of Sight They Go...

The L.A. Times says a California sex offender program was criticized by state lawmakers who complained that 23 offenders had been housed within 11 miles of ...
May 15, 2006

Finally. Relief Is In Sight

Sometimes you forget the crazy assortment of details a city mayor has to attend to. That is, until you read a headline such as, "$1.4 ...
May 12, 2006

Statehouse Blogging in Utah

Talk about variety. The Utah Senate has a blog that one day has pols and citizens squabbling over how to spend a $1 billion surplus, and ...
May 11, 2006

Be Nice or Be Anonymous

We really want you to share your opinions on what we write here on the 13th Floor. But we ask that you don't rant, rave ...
May 11, 2006

Sign of the Times

Seems like Wisconsin has Vegas envy. The state is most likely going to allow electronic billboards that look like high-def TV screens. The only electronic ...
May 1, 2006

Gas and Go. Or not.

There's a gas-up game people on the East Coast play, when driving from New York to Washington, or vice versa. Can you make it to ...
April 28, 2006

Sex, Lies and Registries

Out of curiosity, I went to a sex offender Web site this morning to see if any such people lived near my home. (This is ...
April 20, 2006

You Hear This, Geena Davis?

Does Hollywood have a water cooler? If so, someone should put up this quote from Martin Sheen somewhere near it, for all the celebrity political ...
April 13, 2006

Nobody Home?

I have a friend Alex who, when I call or email to ask her to do something she doesn't want to do, doesn't get back ...
April 1, 2006

The Hidden Cost of Construction

Tempe will lighten the load for businesses on a light-rail line.
April 1, 2006

FedEx Delivers: Tennessee Gets Tips on its DMV

Half the people in Tennessee's motor vehicle offices don't need to be there. They could be getting their services online. Tennessee learned this by getting research assistance from its native logistics expert: Federal Express.
April 1, 2006

Helping the Overwhelmed Family

States are accentuating the positive to protect children.

Online Via Power Line

Small towns and cities are finding high-speed Internet access is as close as their electric grid.
March 24, 2006

Is this a reality show or are we really outside?

How do you get people into your state parks and forests? One way is to tap into their penchant for being TV-watching couch potatoes. Connecticut ...
March 22, 2006

The Presidents will be missed

Who knew that four dead presidents - all white males, of course - would end up right in the middle of the latest abortion debate? ...
March 21, 2006

Crime Costs

A zero-tolerance crackdown on drug- and quality-of-life crimes in Buffalo is working very well. Police arrested 500 more people in January and February of this year ...
March 17, 2006

Drum on Your Heart's Content

Powwows are back in Georgia state parks. For a while there, a recommended ban on powwows, which was never formally adopted but was enforced anyway (...
March 9, 2006

Oldster Speedsters

I can see it now: Senior citizens angling with teenagers at the video arcades to get a turn at one of those race-car games where ...
March 7, 2006

Wine To Go, Whining To Stop

Waiters in Massachusetts' restaurants are going to have to figure out how to make those little foil swans for wrapping up leftover wine and sending ...
March 2, 2006

Grateful, Dead Bears

posted by Ellen Perlman Two bears in Richmond were killed by health officials and tested for rabies after biting a four-year-old boy who got too ...
March 1, 2006

The Missing Link

Wikis, blogs and other interactive tools are making it easier to find out what people really think of their government and its services.
February 27, 2006

The State Dirt

Here's today's assignment: turn to your neighbors at home or at work and ask them if they know what their official state dirt is. Okay, ...
February 2, 2006

Se Habla Español?

Boston's city council is headed to Spanish class. According to the Boston Globe, Council President Michael Flaherty hired a Spanish tutor to come by City ...
February 1, 2006

New Mexico Goes on Call

Nurses to staff an advice line 24/7
February 1, 2006

Piecemeal Parity

When it comes to health insurance for mental illness, states are still wary of full coverage.

Rental Signs

After years of neglect and false starts, low-income housing is finally finding an online home.
January 27, 2006

Dodging the Bullet

When I read the story about the Virginia legislator who fired his handgun in his legislative office -- right into the bulletproof vest hanging on ...
January 23, 2006

Criminal Policy for the Mentally Ill

While I was reporting a story on mental health parity laws for the upcoming issue of Governing, one source asked me a trivia question: "...
January 11, 2006

HOV Chutzpah

High-occupancy vehicle laws are intended to help cut down on traffic congestion by getting people to carpool. A woman in Arizona, however, tried to beat ...
January 11, 2006

On the Wave Watch

Norfolk, Virginia has been declared "TsunamiReady." Norfolk joins Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, as the only East Coast localities to meet the government's preparedness ...
January 5, 2006

Md. Judge: Go Ahead and Drop Trou

I don't imagine students at high-priced law schools, who have lofty dreams about public service, think about the possibility they might be hearing a case ...
January 1, 2006

A Looser Lockup

Get-tough programs for juvenile offenders have largely failed to reduce recidivism. Missouri has had success with a less punitive approach.
December 29, 2005

A Mile High

If I were to say, "Holland," what is the first thing that comes to mind? "Drug-addled populace?" "Crime run rampant?&...
December 23, 2005

Fatal Mistakes

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner just pardoned two more men who it appears were possibly innocent. Newly discovered DNA evidence in old files helped to exonerate ...
December 15, 2005

Costly 411

My mother used to tell us children to use the phone book instead of automatically, lazily, dialing 411 for directory assistance. One cost money, the other ...
December 9, 2005

Money Makes the Tickets Go Round?

People often complain that cities issue traffic tickets or set up red-light cameras for revenue rather than public safety. Many officials deny that is the ...
December 1, 2005

Pairing Up

Mississippi is moving ahead by marrying GIS data to a host of state and local social indicators.
November 30, 2005

Rethinking Juvie Jail

Anyone who's ever advocated throwing juvenile offenders in prison to teach them a lesson ought to meet some of the youths who are in detention ...
November 14, 2005

Punting on Quake Readiness

Post-Hurricane Katrina, post-9/11, post-Northridge earthquake, post-Rita/Wilma/Andrew, post-fill-in-disaster-of-your-choice-here, I can't help but roll my eyes at this story from Sacramento. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently ...
November 10, 2005

Let's "Incent" Plain English

I remember being shocked--shocked--when Jack Kemp expounded on his housing initiatives, decades ago now, by talking about "incentivizing" and "de-incentivizing" (or ...
November 7, 2005

E-Vote Anxiety

Feeling jittery about Election Day? Either you're a candidate running for office or an election official hoping the voting machines will do their job correctly. ...
November 1, 2005

Bringing Home The Bacon

Some day soon, a food-tasting event at New York's LaGuardia Airport might help fund the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's budget.
November 1, 2005

A State Shapes Up

With a bureaucracy grown rigid and rule-bound, Iowa is pushing its agencies to act like entrepreneurs.
October 11, 2005


Governors know a trend when they see one. According to the AP, Maine Gov. John Baldacci has replaced his SUV with a sedan, while New ...
October 1, 2005

Where Are They Now?

States and localities are using GPS to put moving targets on the map.
October 1, 2005

Government To Go

A handful of public officials and agencies are making their messages and meetings available by "podcast."

A Sticky Business

No state is immune from hosting private contractors who come to do a job, are paid well--and never leave.
September 29, 2005

Happy Hookers

I'm not here to argue the merits or morality of prostitution. But I have seen the difference in the sleaze factor between legalized and outlawed ...
September 18, 2005

Hey, Partner

Food, water, shelter. Monitors, servers, network cables. Hey, the basic necessities are different for everyone after Katrina's onslaught. For Freddie Manint, the chief information officer ...
September 5, 2005

Get Out While You Can

Politicians, pundits and people everywhere are shaking their heads and wondering why people in New Orleans didn't evacuate when they were told to. For starters, ...
September 1, 2005

Uncharted Waters

What's it like to be the mayor of a large city with no residents? If total evacuation orders are fully carried out, New Orleans Mayor ...
August 26, 2005

Meth Message

A proposed ordinance in Phoenix to make it tougher to buy pseudoephedrine, a major ingredient in meth, is going to "send a powerful message." So ...
August 1, 2005

Phantom of the Neighborhood

Population explosions usually mean lots of new residents. But that's not always the case.
August 1, 2005

Superfund Setbacks

Damaged sites don't fade away. They just give local officials a planning headache.

Block that Broadband

Any city that tries to build its own high-speed Internet connections can expect a whole lot of pushback.
July 1, 2005

Hard Luck on Slots

Pennsylvania's plan to use gambling revenue for property tax relief has turned into a political lemon.
June 15, 2005

Easy money?

Gambling as financial salvation? Not so fast. States that bring in slot machines do not witness an end to their tax and spend woes, according ...
June 1, 2005

Rx Data on Demand

A computer system helps reduce pain-killer abuse.
June 1, 2005

Hurricane Hubris

Evacuating residents from the path of a storm is often a frustrating task for emergency officials.
May 1, 2005

Cheering Squad: Seattle Settles a Line-Cutting Score

In most places, traffic cops don't get no respect for hanging around to nab drivers for their sins. In Seattle, however, two motorcycle cops are revered for patrolling a freeway ramp to stop drivers who cut in line.

The Frequency Factor

When children in school and books in libraries can be tracked by radio waves, privacy advocates get all upset.
April 1, 2005

Courting Cuba

States have been wooing trade with Havana, but politics may put an end to it.
April 1, 2005

American Patrol

Public agencies are training citizens to provide an additional layer of homeland security.
April 1, 2005

Pushing the Limit: Minn. Localities Chafe at Pay Constraints

Municipalities in Minnesota, constrained by a state law that limits public employee salaries to 95 percent of the governor's pay, have been trying to figure out ways to get around the $114,000 a year cap.
March 1, 2005

The Fiscal Fast Lane

When a county is growing like Topsy, its finance officers have to move even faster--just to keep up.
March 1, 2005

Space Hogs

SUVs Send Cities To the Redrawing Boards

The eTax Collector Cometh

As states streamline their sales tax codes, they are moving ahead with the technology to make it easy for online businesses to collect the tax.
February 1, 2005

Embracing Racing

Rev your engine and floor it! Take it up to 100 mph if you can. Not only will the cops not arrest you, they'll probably be there cheering you on. They may even race with you.
February 1, 2005

Shop Talk

Training beauticians to direct battered women toward help.
January 1, 2005

Ready Money

About $2,500 worth of checks was bouncing each semester before the high school in Grossmont, California, adopted a no-check policy. But that doesn't mean that students have to come to school with wads of cash for their books, cheerleader uniforms, prom tickets and class rings. Instead, they can take plastic to an automatic teller machine and get the cash they need--right at school.
January 1, 2005

Foiling Forgers

Security features protect driver's licenses.
January 1, 2005

Ready Money

About $2,500 worth of checks was bouncing each semester before the high school in Grossmont, California, adopted a no-check policy.

Laptop Lessons

As school districts try to stretch their tech dollars, they are testing ways to bring the Internet and mobile computing to the classroom.
December 1, 2004

Putting the Disabled to Work

A county program links public benefits and private jobs.
November 1, 2004

Broadcasting News

A free system could help states and localities improve the way they alert responders and residents to emergencies.
November 1, 2004

Heavy Traffic

A surprising number of SUVs violate weight limits for local streets.
November 1, 2004

Library Living

Mixed-use projects are putting library resources, residents and retail in close proximity.
October 1, 2004

Keeping Tabs on Schools

In New Hampshire, a state system will track the progress of each student--as well as each school.
October 1, 2004

Massachusetts Pulls Its Transportation Forces Together

It didn't seem to make much sense that within a two-mile stretch of his commute south into Boston, Daniel Grabauskas, Massachusetts' secretary of transportation, drove on a road maintained by the highway department, a bridge run by the port authority and a parkway run by the conservation and recreation department.
September 1, 2004

Dealing In Data

Forget about building a big all-purpose database. There are other ways to integrate state and local information.
September 1, 2004

Double Duty

A handful of states and localities are taking their digitized data to a higher level.
August 1, 2004

At Least It's Not Haunted

They are accommodations any college student might die for, but it's different when South Carolina's chief executive is sleeping on a futon in the pool house on the grounds of the governor's mansion.
July 1, 2004

Calling All Phones

VoIP looks to be the next new thing, although an Internet-based telephone system may not be right for all governments right now.
June 1, 2004

The Streets of San Diego

The "vroom, vroom" of engines getting ready to drag race may still be heard on San Diego streets, but the shouts of encouragement from onlookers have diminished markedly. It's not that the "sport" of illegal street racing is any less exciting to aficionados. Rather, those who watch can now be arrested and fined $1,000 or thrown in jail for six months.
June 1, 2004

Combing Forces: Two States to Share Security Essentials

The governors of Arizona and New Mexico have made it official: Homeland security and law enforcement officials will share unclassified intelligence information state to state. And perhaps eventually expand the effort to other states as well.
May 1, 2004

Brother, Can You Spare an RN?

There aren't enough nurses to go around, and there's no cure in sight.
May 1, 2004

Unlocking the Code

It may be free and totally adaptable, but whether or when to use non- proprietary software is far from an open and shut case.
April 1, 2004

They Won't Make a Peep

When it came time for Rowley, Massachusetts, to decide on a permanent site for its stuffed bird collection, the debate ruffled more than a few local feathers.
April 1, 2004

Evidence of Failure

Overwhelmed by a flood of DNA evidence, public crime labs are performing poorly.
April 1, 2004

The Struggle Over Schools

New York City's Reforms Aren't Easy to Implement
March 1, 2004

Take Nothing for Granted

Even minor mistakes can be deadly when an agency applies for a grant. Advances in technology can fix the paperwork pitfalls.
March 1, 2004

Take Nothing for Granted

Even minor mistakes can be deadly when an agency applies for a grant. Advances in technology can fix the paperwork pitfalls.
February 1, 2004

Lifting Waits

Powder rooms, ladies' rooms, restrooms. Call them what you will, just make enough available for women in need, say members of the New York City Council, announcing a bill requiring public facilities to offer more lavatory amenities for women than men.
February 1, 2004

Wishing They Were Tone Deaf

It's been dubbed the Kokomo hum, but it isn't soothing music to the people who hear it. In the late 1990s, people in Kokomo, Indiana, started complaining about a baffling low-level noise they claimed was affecting their health.
February 1, 2004

Records as a Resource

It's all about results. Government agencies are learning that by uniting data from many sources they can get a better understanding of how well their missions are being carried out.
February 1, 2004

A Liking for Biking

Cities Make Room for Two-Wheelers
January 1, 2004

CIOs Branch Out--And In

A growing number of local agencies--and even a state legislature--are hiring CIOs to bolster their top management teams.
December 1, 2003

High And Mighty: Medicinal Marijuana Gets Carded

California is taking its approach to marijuana-as-medicine one step further: Patients will be able to whip out a piece of plastic proving that they're entitled to inhale for medicinal purposes.
December 1, 2003

Line-Item Value

To make a business case for IT projects, state and local agencies have to factor in hard costs and soft benefits.
December 1, 2003

Two-Bit Squabble

Cheeseheads rule! Despite the fact that Wisconsin's Commemorative Quarter Council chose a theme of "early exploration" for the state's new quarter design, that turned out to be a no go.
December 1, 2003

Imaginations Run Wild In The West

When people think of old-time bordello dancers, or "sisters of riotous sensuality," as they were sometimes called, what generally come to mind are young dancers in black stockings, high heels and frilly dresses.
November 1, 2003

Addressing URLs

The feds are asking cities and counties to change their .gov ways, but its new rule is getting some kickback.
November 1, 2003

Fowl Smelling

A brochure with a manure-odor scratch 'n' sniff might not sound like a very good civic advertisement. But it's what Ottawa County, Michigan, is using to provide a reality check to city folk who hope to move out to the country for the fresh air, quietude and sweet smell of hay.
October 1, 2003

Measuring Up: After-School Activities Are Put To The Rest

No more of this milk-and-cookies stuff. Detroit wants hard numbers on what kids are doing after school and how that affects their grades, their likelihood to use drugs or engage in sexual activity and other outcomes.
September 1, 2003

The Inside Story

It's not just outsiders who need to be kept out of online files. Limits have to be set on what public employees can see.
September 1, 2003

Truth Busters

Nothing can undermine the growth of online government faster than a digital database that leaks information.
September 1, 2003

Trash Sites

When public employees abuse their Internet privileges at work, IT managers need to know how to deal with it.
August 1, 2003

Managing Medicaid

Internet Sign-Up Inches Forward.
August 1, 2003

Idle Threats

Earlier this year, Illinois' new secretary of transportation pulled his car over on the Dan Ryan Expressway to introduce himself to some highway maintenance workers and found a couple of them sleeping in their vehicles by the side of the road.
July 1, 2003

Guide To Contracting: The Art of Re-Doing The Deal

Whether it's renegotiating, renewing or rebidding, state and local governments are looking for IT savings.
July 1, 2003

Measure for Measuring

Borrowing a lesson from corporate America, state and local IT agencies are using metrics to quantify how they're doing.
July 1, 2003

Sweat Equity

You've got to wonder why men would be clamoring to join a fitness center called "Curves for Women." Then again, maybe you don't.
June 1, 2003

Outside The Box CIOs

The role of chief information officer is now about politics and relationships as much as it is about computer systems.
June 1, 2003

The Paper Chase

Maryland Medicaid Keys Up Provider Relief.
June 1, 2003

Tax Me More

Some states are making it easier for taxpayers to donate a little extra money.
May 1, 2003

Homemade Access

State housing agencies are finding ways to bring residents of public housing across the digital divide.
March 1, 2003

Roswell's Image Takes Flight

What, exactly, does a pilot's ability to right a plane after the tail fin snaps off have to do with the prosperity of Roswell, New Mexico? Plenty. The small city has landed a flight safety training center that will boost its image as an aviation hub and help attract more aviation-related businesses to the area.
March 1, 2003

Gaming The Budget

In the midst of a fiscal crisis, many states are betting on the legalization or expansion of gambling to boost their revenues.
March 1, 2003

The Deficit Diet

Meals are generally considered to be a highlight of life behind bars. So states take a risk when they mess with inmates' mess. In the wake of budget cuts, however, Iowa has been pruning prison meals to save money on food.
March 1, 2003

Don't Bug Me

Protecting network systems against virus attacks takes good management--and a little bit of luck.
February 1, 2003

Staying Within The Lines...

You've heard of the "thin blue line"? Bethany, Oklahoma, is pinning its hopes on a thick one. The town painted a bright blue, 8-foot-wide line to denote where its boundaries end and those of the next city over begin.
February 1, 2003

Helping The Elderly Buy Pills For A Pittance

The cost of prescription drugs is rising faster than any other component of health care--as much as 20 percent this year, according to estimates. With those escalating prices in mind, several states are making efforts to help older citizens deal with the pocketbook pressure of paying for their medicines.
January 1, 2003

Good Spirits

Governments hope lower prices on high-quality liquor will boost tax revenues.
January 1, 2003

Techies At The Top

When the governor or mayor comes from the IT business world, it makes implementing e-government easier--at least it should.
December 1, 2002

Digital Divide

The award didn't come with a dinner, money or even a handshake. And it wasn't exactly what you'd describe as an honor. Yet winning the national "Pickled Skunk Brain" award did bring Monroe County, Indiana, its 15 minutes of...well, recognition.
December 1, 2002

Uncovering Purchashing Card Misuse in Missouri

The state giveth, and now it may taketh away. Missouri started a procurement card program in 1998 to reduce the administrative expenses of low-cost purchases. But a recent state audit showed that procurement cards may be leaving the state unnecessarily liable.
November 1, 2002

IT's Tower of Babel

The name of the game for enterprise architecture is linking all the technological systems a government uses.
October 1, 2002

Gilding the Building

Private fundraising to enhance public schools raises questions of inequity.
October 1, 2002

N.J. Gets Down to Business with School Repairs

New Jersey is counting on a new public corporation to speed up sorely needed school financing and construction--and end the bureaucratic tangle that was tripping up school districts trying to make improvements or build new facilities.
September 1, 2002

Mind Your Own Business

Techies in several states are all keyed up about providing public employees with do-it-yourself services.
August 1, 2002

Less Than Thrilled

The "not in my backyard" syndrome typically applies to landfills or sewage-treatment facilities. But Las Vegas is not your typical community and neither is the NIMBY situation there. In the case of Sin City, residents have been fighting over the placement of a thrill ride.
August 1, 2002

A School For Catching Cyber Scoundrels

Just as sheriffs rounded up posses in the old days, state attorneys general today are collaborating with two groups to enhance the cybercrime-fighting skills of personnel in their offices.
July 1, 2002

Blast From the Past

The situation could hardly have been more ironic. At the same time that Nevada's top officials were fighting against becoming the nation's nuclear waste dumping ground, the state proudly unveiled a new license plate design: a mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion.
July 1, 2002

Putting Business First

CIOs from the private sector bring a refreshing mindset to their government jobs, and vice versa.
June 1, 2002

Making Sure New Systems Compute

Every so often, a handful of social service workers in Hennepin County, Minnesota, give away their pending cases and stop visiting families in need. Instead, they turn into technology liaisons.
May 1, 2002

Check Your Tickets at the Border

The odds of winning the South Carolina lottery are one in several million. The chances of being arrested in neighboring North Carolina for merely having a lottery ticket in hand are far better.
March 1, 2002

No Need to Tuck it In

Heavy, wool plaid is what most people think of first when they hear the words "school uniform." But at Newport Elementary School in Newport Beach, California, the uniform is a tad less traditional:
February 1, 2002

Parking Pardons

A small New Jersey-based company has tapped into humankind's primal instinct to fight parking tickets. For a fee,'s software will scan databases in New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., hunting for technicalities or other reasons why a ticket could be challenged in those cities.
February 1, 2002

Turnabout on Red

Some places are rethinking the right-turn-on-red rules.
January 1, 2002

Wisconsin Upgrades Its Undergrad Fund

Last May, Wisconsin's college-savings program, EdVest, held $9 million in cash that parents had invested for their children's higher education. By November, EdVest had $120 million in hand.
January 1, 2002

Staying Ahead of Hackers

Somewhere out there, as all government techies know, lurk bad guys itching to inflict mayhem on government computer systems.
December 1, 2001

Wedded to Civics

Politics may make strange bedfellows. But it's rare for bona fide bedfellows to be the top elected officials in overlapping local governments.
December 1, 2001

Reducing the Risks of Being Sued

It had to hurt. Washington State paid $85 million in court judgments and settlements this past fiscal year, a 240 percent jump over the year before and a quantum leap over the highest payout--$26 million-- in the past 10 years. "We tend to be the deep pocket," says Marty Brown, director of the Governor's Office of Financial Management.
November 1, 2001

Holding the Line on Fines

Fifty dollars went a long way in the era of the horse and buggy. But issuing a $50 fine in the 21st century, as a penalty for potentially dangerous municipal code infractions, doesn't seem like much of a deterrent. Yet, under a Tennessee constitutional provision set in 1796, that is the maximum amount the Metropolitan government of Nashville and Davidson County can impose as punishment, according to a ruling issued by the state Supreme Court in September.
November 1, 2001

Going, Going ... Click!

The auctioneer's cry can still be heard as state and local governments periodically put surplus goods on the block. But governments are finding that selling surplus goods online can be more efficient--and can bring in a lot more money than a traditional auction.
November 1, 2001

Aldona K. Valicenti: Information Visionary

Teaching a bureaucracy to think like an enterprise
October 1, 2001

Begging Their Pardon

The police department in Lewiston, Maine, believes that to err is human. So it's being pretty divine about forgiving parking tickets-- but only for first-time violators whose meters have run out.
October 1, 2001

Performance Payoffs: Rewarding in-House Experts

A penny saved is a penny shared by Delaware Department of Transportation employees. Millions of dollars saved can turn into real dollars in their pockets under two new pilot programs that reward employees with cash if they propose money-saving ideas.
September 1, 2001

Card Tricks

Some states have a reputation for easy-to-fake IDs.
September 1, 2001

Losing Numbers

Lottery profits are down in a majority of states. And officials are scrambling to reverse the trend.
September 1, 2001

E-Gov on the Cheap

What does it cost to launch a government Web site? It's a question that makes some governments uncomfortable, fearing apples-and-oranges comparisons with other jurisdictions. Governments budget for their Web sites in different ways, some including staff time and maintenance time, some paying from a central IT office, some paying through individual departments, some outsourcing, some building in-house.
July 1, 2001

Slowdown Ahead for Financing E-Procurement

Self-funding models for e-procurement seemed like a grand idea for budget-strapped purchasing departments: The private sector would foot the bill while the public sector got itself an automated purchasing system.
July 1, 2001

A Strong Set of Cards?

It's been a while since the odor from the stockyards wafted across Chicago, but now the Windy City is grappling with a new source of olfactory offensiveness.
July 1, 2001

Few-Plate Special

Car tags with low numbers are highly coveted and controlled.
July 1, 2001

The Privacy Czars

Corporations have been rushing to create a new executive position: "chief privacy officer." They're awash in a flood of privacy concerns from customers who worry whether their personal information is being trafficked over the Internet. Few governments have created such a position, but some now are starting to follow in those corporate footsteps.
June 1, 2001

Spirits from the Past

The recent discovery of wooden vats from an old rum distillery doesn't mean that Albany, New York, suddenly has a new brownfield on its hands. Indeed, there's no contamination on the downtown site--only artifacts. But deciding what to do with them has delayed construction of a $12 million municipal parking garage.
June 1, 2001

Indiana Makes Exceptions for E-Mail Privacy

Indiana legislators don't have to play by the same rules of disclosure as everyone else. On the last day of Indiana's legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that exempts them from the state's public- records law.
May 1, 2001

Seeing Red

Many drivers are livid about photo-cop systems.
May 1, 2001

Cashing in on Affiliations

Affiliated with, sponsored by, partnered with ...

They're phrases used by the not-for-profit government associations when they talk about deals they have cut with for-profit companies, usually to provide goods and services to members. Mayors, county executives and other members of national membership organizations may wonder how their associations decide to make agreements with particular technology vendors and e-government companies, why they do it, and how those deals benefit the associations and their members.

April 1, 2001

Probing the Past

Conducting background checks on teachers and other workers is expensive. But not doing them can also be costly.
April 1, 2001

Rooked on Phonics

If you're planning to run for office as a write-in, you might want to be sure your surname is Jones--or Bush or even Gore. John D. Schmidt of Hays County, Texas, found that out the hard way.
April 1, 2001

Wisconsin Tells its Localities to Collaborate--or Else

The pressure is on Wisconsin localities to work together. Governor Scott McCallum has endorsed a major recommendation in a report commissioned by former Governor Tommy Thompson that was supposed to come up with "radical and bold" ideas for Wisconsin government.
March 1, 2001

The Outsourcing Option

As governments turn to private partners to put their transactions online, they're finding that there's more than one way to make e- commerce happen.
March 1, 2001

A Lot of Pots

Among the first things you see on entering Kerrville, Texas, are dozens of yellow portable toilets. It's not the kind of pleasant welcome that city officials had planned on when they changed zoning restrictions in 1997. That's when planners decided to zone for a "gateway" into town that would foster tourism with hotels, restaurants and other visitor services.
March 1, 2001

Governors and E-Expectations

This year's crop of new governors faced a transition task that their predecessors did not. Incoming administrations have always had to change names on office doors and update highway welcome signs. This time, administration employees also had to update state Web sites to reflect the change in administration.
February 1, 2001

Foiling Food Fights

When food fights started erupting on a regular basis last fall at Paul V. Moore High School in upstate New York, something had to be done. So the principal came up with an idea: Have the parents of students suspended for launching their lunch across the table--or the room--eat in the cafeteria with their progeny for a week in exchange for expunging the suspension from school records.
February 1, 2001

The Imperial Usps

When it's time to build a new post office, towns often have little input.
February 1, 2001

Dallas Goes for the Green

Tiger Woods would love it. The city of Dallas' newly refurbished golf course is designed to attract golfers who used to drive 30 minutes out of the city to play on fancy, upper-end courses. Its quality grasses can be mowed to an eighth of an inch so that balls roll as if they're on low-nap carpet.
February 1, 2001

W.VA. Defends a Privatized Contract

Don't always believe what you read, says Bruce Kenney, a systems management engineer with the West Virginia Department of Transportation. A local newspaper recently ran a story saying that since the state privatized the striping of its highways, costs have almost doubled to $9 million. And that, Kenney says, is simply not so. The overall costs may actually be lower.
January 1, 2001

Putting the Brakes on Scooters

A weed-whacker on wheels: That's how New Jersey Assemblyman Kenneth LeFevre describes the sound of the motorized scooters that have become popular with teens in his hometown of Brigantine Island.
November 1, 2000

Rest in Place

Development is endangering many rural cemeteries.
November 1, 2000

The Electronic BIllboard

Go to Honolulu's Web site for information on the city council or local elections, and you will encounter something you might not expect to see on a government Web page: an advertisement from Prudential Locations.
October 1, 2000

The Poseidon Adventure II

"Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee." The poet John Donne may have extolled the virtues of nudity, but the Institute in Basic Life Principles doesn't buy it. When the Christian home-schooling group arrived in Sacramento and saw an unclad statue of Poseidon outside the convention center where its week-long meeting was to be held, attendees recoiled in dismay.
October 1, 2000

Taking Away the Keys

Drive-home cars can be a legitimate employee benefit--or a big luxury.
September 1, 2000

Poetic Government

States without official poets laureate are getting on the bard wagon.
September 1, 2000

Turmoil in Gov-Com Land

Last year at this time, it was the calm before the marketing storm of e-government. Dot-com companies were beginning to burst onto the scene, offering to make it easy and convenient for citizens to go online to pay tickets and taxes and get licenses and permits.
August 1, 2000

Smoothing the Way to Lay Cable Lines

Tooth-rattling bumps, zigzag detours: These are what city drivers experience when roads are ripped up by telecommunications companies laying fiber-optic cable.
July 1, 2000

The Lure of the Private Sector

Where have all the CIOs gone? Gone to the private sector, almost every one. In the past year, nine top state technology managers have left their jobs.
June 1, 2000

Cards With Brains

Several large transit systems are successfully using `smart' farecards. Others are clamoring to get on board.
May 1, 2000

Potluck Politics

Imagine arriving at the American Legion Hall with a crockpot of baked beans to contribute to the potluck dinner--only to be told they're not welcome there.
May 1, 2000

Paying the Security Price

An auditing team looking into the Chicago school system's technology operations had an interesting experience last summer: They were able to walk right into a new data center during normal business hours, without an escort and without being questioned, and were even able to get their hands on equipment and data.
April 1, 2000

Terms of Imprisonment

More than half the states have mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. Some of them are starting to rethink and revise their laws.
March 1, 2000

Pooling Prescription Price Controls

The cost of prescription drugs is soaring. For many states, it is the fastest-growing health care expense, with prescription drugs doubling over the past six years in some states and costs for Medicaid prescription drugs increasing 15 percent annually in several states.
March 1, 2000

San Francisco's Pet Peeves

In San Francisco, it appears as though political correctness might be going to the dogs--and cats.
February 1, 2000

The Threadbare Carpet Treatment

Sometimes, a penny saved is an accident waiting to happen. California Governor Gray Davis learned that lesson the hard way when a secretary in his office tripped over the very old, worn and wrinkled carpeting he'd decided not to have replaced. She fell right before his eyes, slightly injuring her ankle.
February 1, 2000

Ruling the Open Road

Cities are trying to gain some control over the fiber-optic cable- laying frenzy.
February 1, 2000

New Mexico Grabs a Guarantee Against Road Wear and Tear

Some people buy an extended warranty for a car. New Mexico bought one for a highway.
February 1, 2000

Factoring Time Into Housing Aid

Delaware is placing a three-year time limit on rent subsidies. The experiment is part of a larger federal demonstration program to help long-time public housing residents become financially independent.
January 1, 2000

Wisconsin Breaks a Lottery Rule

When Wisconsin created a state lottery 12 years ago, legislators promised it would be self-funding and they would never, ever tap into state tax dollars. Yet, last session, legislators did just that.
January 1, 2000

The Meth Monster

Combatting the homemade drug methamphetamine is proving to be a difficult and costly job for law enforcement agencies in many states.
January 1, 2000

Services Online, CIOs on Loan

With their sights set on a lucrative market, companies are elbowing each other out of the way for the chance to set governments up with e- government capability--for free.