Governing in a Cynical Age
Public servants should work to restore people’s faith in government.
Mark Funkhouser, a former publisher of Governing magazine, is president of Funkhouser & Associates, LLC, an independent consulting firm focused on helping public officials and their private-sector partners create better, more fiscally sustainable communities. He served as mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 2007 to 2011. Prior to being elected mayor, Funkhouser was the city's auditor for 18 years and was honored in 2003 as a Governing Public Official of the Year. Before becoming publisher of Governing, he served as director of the Governing Institute.
Funkhouser is an internationally recognized auditing expert, author and teacher in public administration and its fiscal disciplines. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public administration and sociology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, an M.B.A. in accounting and finance from Tennessee State University, and a master's degree in social work from West Virginia University.
They need to correct the long history of discrimination baked into the system.
They're beginning to reshape local government in a big way.
For sustainability to be successful, it must also be affordable. Spokane, Wash.'s mayor thinks it can be.
Housing, jobs and health care depend on it. Pittsburgh has become a national leader in setting clear, intuitive transportation goals.
Graphic images galvanized the civil-rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. That's what we need to get serious about gun control.
Jim Kenney is focused on rebuilding public spaces that everyone uses as a way to address the highest poverty rate of any big U.S. city.
Anyone can learn to lead. Not everyone has the courage to do it.
Communities can’t address the big issues without collaboration.
The concept of “maximum feasible participation,” which was written into the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -- legislation unofficially known as the War on Poverty -- captured one of the central, enduring problems in governance: how to balance administrative expertise and effective community involvement.
Health care costs can tell officials a lot about a state's fiscal temperature.
Sometimes the morally right thing to do is also the economically smart thing to do.
In this issue, we are honoring nine of the best public servants in the nation: a governor, a mayor, a cabinet secretary, a sheriff, a chief information officer, two state legislators, a county administrator and a city health commissioner.
The way we talk about the issue makes it more difficult to do what needs to be done.
It's important to get the money in order before the next disaster strikes. A few places already are.
Institutionalized racism can result in misdirected resources that do little to solve serious crimes.
The management paradigm could help rebuild our sense of community.
It's time to abandon corporate tax breaks. Just look at their history.
In this issue’s profile of John Arnold, the billionaire philanthropist who has become obsessed with public employee pensions, reporter Liz Farmer writes that he is “a mathematics whiz whose remarkable skill with numbers” is the basis of his fortune.
For one, realize that you have the "curse of knowledge."
Reading the profiles of Governing’s 2016 Public Officials of the Year, I was reminded of a phrase that Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, used at one of our recent events: “horses for courses.”
In his two books, Norm Stamper offers recommendations for change.
The people who manage our public transportation systems, says Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack in Daniel C. Vock’s profile of her in this issue, tend to see the data they gather in terms of operations and efficiency.
Everyone talks about taxing the rich to give to the poor, but doing so would only have a small impact. There are ways to have a larger one.
Last fall, in his first speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate -- a controlled rant that was equal parts astonishing and inspiring -- Republican Ben Sasse of Nebraska blasted his colleagues over the pointless partisanship that has paralyzed Congress.
To boost America's support for higher education, faculties and administrations need to remember why we have it.
As I read Alan Greenblatt’s cover story in this month’s issue about the profound demographic changes that have occurred in Nevada -- and that are coming, inevitably and quickly, to the rest of the nation -- I thought of an incident a few months ago.
Auditors are irrelevant in most places. Two things could change that.
It’s infrastructure, yet pensions get more of policymakers' attention.
Perhaps the next big thing in local government ought to be a “higher education relations officer” who leverages universities’ assets to benefit the cities they’re in.
If managers don't know when technology should replace people, they can destroy the product they're trying to create.
A book by a government HR expert explains what drives public-sector workers and how that differs from the private sector.
ESOPs give employees part ownership of their companies and prevent major job losses when owners retire. But only two states support them.
The country removes the anonymousness of government by publicly identifying the people responsible for particular projects on street signs. It’s an anti-corruption approach that has lots of possibilities for U.S. governments.
Results-based accountability measures results in the real world.
Trust in government is at historic lows. That will change, but it will happen from the bottom up.
For one town, dealing honestly with its unions paid off.
The state's voters want to reform redistricting, but the legislature has paid little attention.
Outdated laws and overly formal procedures for public meetings are eroding trust in government. There are better ways than three minutes at the microphone.
Wielding her influential blog as a weapon, this 75-year-old activist has created a powerful network united by revulsion against top-down, elite policymaking.
Bridgeport, Conn., illustrates why governance, debt and demographics are so crucial for a healthy functioning city.
Increasing family wealth is a much better public policy goal than the standard economic development mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs." And effective strategies won't come from Washington.
Can the state ever find a way out of its structural budget problems? A new book might suggest a path for places wrestling with policy dilemmas.
The standards-setting board for government financial reporting has been embroiled in one controversy after another, but the latest fight could result in the gutting of GASB's influence.
It’s tough to find the money and political support to provide public workers with safe, clean places to do their jobs. Tennessee went the privatization route, and the results look promising.
You can only tell you're not spending enough on public safety when it’s too late.
Wary investors and analysts not only want more information than ever, they want better information and they want it all now. Giving it to them could be a good deal for governments.
Bureaucracy allows us to do big things. But like every tool, it needs to be maintained and wielded with care and control.
Washington can't fix the broken structure that it built. The key is for state and local officials to channel an aroused citizenry.
In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, something interesting and unusual happened: People applauded their public employees.
Countries that rely heavily on midwives and home births have lower infant and maternal death rates than we do, and our numbers are getting worse. Isn't it time to rethink our reliance on hospitals and surgical interventions?
The winners of this year's National Public Policy Challenge had a guiding principle: Think big, start small.
Stephen Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., has ambitious goals for his city. He's off to a strong start.
Her rankings of states' education policies look at things from the wrong direction. It's a discussion we do need to have, but first we need to tone down the rhetoric.
Things are beginning to look up for Fitchburg, Mass., under Lisa Wong's leadership. It hasn't been easy.
Manufacturing is going the way of agriculture, which technology has reshaped to employ ever-fewer workers. But traditional manufacturing isn't the only game in town.
Some approaches to employee wellness programs have more of a track record than others. But they clearly can save a lot of money.
Effective government is critical to the stability we need for society to function. These days, that stability is threatened.
Ferreting out waste and mismanagement is important, but what we really need from our watchdogs is work that improves the public’s trust in government.
Saddled with antiquated revenue structures, county governments don’t have the flexibility they need to meet modern expectations for service delivery.
It’s the polarizers, not the consensus-seekers, who get the big things done.
"Regular people" still struggle even as economists interpret their behavior for policymakers.
In light of recent events involving Solyndra, Governing Institute head Mark Funkhouser explains how government can have a role in job creation without being venture capitalists.