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Mark Funkhouser  |  Former Publisher

Email : mark@mayorfunk.com Twitter : @mayorfunk

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.

On Leadership

Governing in a Cynical Age

Public servants should work to restore people’s faith in government.

September 1, 2019
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On Leadership

Government Purchasers Could Do Far More to Help Minority-Owned Businesses

They need to correct the long history of discrimination baked into the system.

August 14, 2019
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On Leadership

The GovLove Generation: How Millennials Are Redefining Public Service

They're beginning to reshape local government in a big way.

July 11, 2019
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On Leadership

Activist Auditors Are Making Their Mark

A new crop is redefining the role.

June 26, 2019
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On Leadership

This Republican Has a Good Point About Going Green

For sustainability to be successful, it must also be affordable. Spokane, Wash.'s mayor thinks it can be.

May 1, 2019
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On Leadership

A Performance Innovation That Actually Works

The “theory of constraints” can help governments address the core of practically any problem.

April 16, 2019
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On Leadership

The Key to Nebraska's Water Conservation Success

Other places should emulate the state's model.

March 14, 2019
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On Leadership

How Governments Can Keep Their Employees Happy

As a Tennessee agency has shown, employee engagement isn't unattainable.

February 1, 2019
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On Leadership

‘Mobility’ Is Starting to Get the Attention It Deserves

Housing, jobs and health care depend on it. Pittsburgh has become a national leader in setting clear, intuitive transportation goals.

January 31, 2019
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Why We Need to See the Grisly Reality of Gun Carnage

Graphic images galvanized the civil-rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. That's what we need to get serious about gun control.

December 3, 2018
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On Leadership

In Poverty Fight, Philadelphia Mayor Takes a New Tactic

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.

December 17, 2018
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View

Giving More Women the Choice Not to Get Pregnant

We're not making the use we should of forms of contraception that can dramatically reduce unplanned pregnancies and infant mortality.

November 1, 2018
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On Leadership

In Government, There's a Big Difference Between Power and Leadership

Anyone can learn to lead. Not everyone has the courage to do it.

November 15, 2018
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On Leadership

Want to Be a Good Leader? Rely On a Little Help From Your Friends.

Communities can’t address the big issues without collaboration.

October 17, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Houses, Not Shelters

Mattie Quinn’s feature in this issue examines another variant in the increases in homelessness that cities are struggling with, in this case a surge in the number of people living in their cars.

September 1, 2018
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On Leadership

Racial Justice Can’t Be Achieved Without This

Civic leaders must reclaim racial integration as a policy goal.

September 14, 2018
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On Leadership

How to Take Government Budgets Off Autopilot

To shape effective policy and keep their promises, politicians need to focus on outcomes.

August 2, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Deluges and Dollars

As Governing’s Mike Maciag writes in this issue, many areas of the country are seeing significant residential and commercial development on flood-prone land.

August 1, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Bridging a Growing Gap

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.

July 1, 2018
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On Leadership

When's the Next Recession? Ask Medicaid Directors.

Health care costs can tell officials a lot about a state's fiscal temperature.

July 1, 2018
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On Leadership

The Truth About Racial Equity That Most White Leaders Don't See

Sometimes the morally right thing to do is also the economically smart thing to do.

June 4, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

The Real Housing Issue

Despite what you might think given recent media coverage, the U.S. city with the worst affordable housing problem is not San Francisco.

June 1, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Stadium Fantasies

An honest conversation about public funding for stadiums would reflect the fact that what is really at stake is civic pride and recognition, not economics.

May 1, 2018
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On Leadership

What People Get Wrong About ‘Political Will’

It’s not some innate quality -- good leaders must create it.

May 15, 2018
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On Leadership

Job Licensing Requirements Need Serious Scrutiny

Should you really need a license to teach hair braiding?

April 13, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Is That Really a P3?

What Anaheim has been doing to keep Disney happy is mischaracterized as a public-private partnership.

April 1, 2018
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Commentary

The Least Understood Job in Politics

Everyone thinks they know what a mayor does, but the role of a city leader varies greatly from one place to the next.

March 8, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Decency's Rewards

It’s worth considering whether elected leadership and other policymakers can learn from EMAC about how to better manage other shared problems.

March 1, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Injustice and Health

It’s hard to overstate the importance of geography in health outcomes.

February 1, 2018
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Commentary

How to Reduce the Opioid Epidemic's Stigma

Framing is key. Empathy is not.

February 15, 2018
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Commentary

5 Ways to Measure a Mayor's Success

In local government, success is defined by what you leave behind.

January 19, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

Jobs Without Bribes

There’s one other issue I wish would get more attention from legislators: curbing the use of tax incentives and other giveaways for economic development.

January 1, 2018
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Publisher's Desk

The Stakes of Service

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.

December 1, 2017
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Commentary

Homelessness Will Never End, But It Can Be Better Managed

The way we talk about the issue makes it more difficult to do what needs to be done.

December 13, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

Rising Waters

One of the things that we like to do at Governing is to take a problem that is relatively common to state or local governments and find a jurisdiction doing unusually well at addressing it.

November 1, 2017
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On Leadership

Governments Need to Start Preparing Budgets for Climate Change

It's important to get the money in order before the next disaster strikes. A few places already are.

November 14, 2017
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On Leadership

How Technology Can Help Police Departments Address Racial Bias and Be More Effective

Institutionalized racism can result in misdirected resources that do little to solve serious crimes.

October 11, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The Most Important Work

As near as I can recall, I’ve been reading Governing since the first issue appeared in October 1987.

October 1, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The Case for Density

In this issue, J.B. Wogan gives thoughtful consideration to an idea that most people accept uncritically in discussions of cities: that population growth equals success.

September 1, 2017
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On Leadership

How the ‘Theory of Constraints’ Applies to Government

The management paradigm could help rebuild our sense of community.

September 25, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The Costs We Will Bear

In the real world of government, the idea of cost can be summarized in a single plain truth: Pay now or pay later.

August 1, 2017
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On Leadership

Throwing Money at Businesses Has Been a Bad Idea Since the Start

It's time to abandon corporate tax breaks. Just look at their history.

August 1, 2017
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On Leadership

How to Create Good Jobs

The default strategy for many government officials isn’t working. Better policies could accomplish a lot.

July 28, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The Really Hard Stuff

Governing does about 40 live events a year, and my favorite has always been our annual Public Officials of the Year dinner, where we honor outstanding contributions to public service.

July 1, 2017
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On Leadership

The Problem With Evidence-Based Government

There's a big challenge that advocates need to recognize.

January 24, 2017
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On Leadership

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Double-Loop Government

The basketball player’s early career illustrates a learning strategy that produces conflict -- and innovation.

June 7, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

Where Decency Resides

Daniel C. Vock’s feature this month on the refugee crisis in Twin Falls, Idaho, is about the basic decency of Americans in places that the coastal elites rarely visit.

June 1, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

Government’s Plumbers

When I served as the auditor of Kansas City, Mo., I saw my role as that of a craftsman, like a carpenter or a plumber.

May 1, 2017
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On Leadership

Managing the Evil That Institutions Do

Guarding against evil poses a dilemma for government managers, but it can be done.

May 16, 2017
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On Leadership

New Hope for College Towns

Cities and universities may finally be learning to work together.

April 13, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The Pension Hammer

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.

April 1, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

The New Old Right

Splintering and fracturing are dominant forces in today’s social and political life.

March 1, 2017
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On Leadership

The Complexity of Simplicity in Government

It isn’t easy to achieve, but simplicity should be a vital goal when serving the public.

March 21, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

Women and Power

My wife used to be a doula and childbirth educator.

February 1, 2017
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On Leadership

Why America Should Redefine Political Losers

Success in public life is often defined by winning elections instead of making positive change.

February 7, 2017
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Publisher's Desk

A Strategy for Conflict

I used to play tournament chess, and the best players would deploy strategies with names like “the Spanish Opening” or “the Sicilian Defense.”

January 1, 2017
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On Leadership

Words of Wisdom for Public Officials Trying to Connect With Citizens

For one, realize that you have the "curse of knowledge."

December 15, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

Getting It Done

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.”

December 1, 2016
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On Leadership

America’s 20-Year Winter

Some economists say the country goes through two-decade-long seasons, each requiring its own kind of leader.

November 7, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

The Innovation Equation

In his book Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers writes that innovation “presents an individual or an organization with a new alternative or alternatives, with new means of solving problems.”

October 1, 2016
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On Leadership

D.C.’s Metro and the Power of a P3

If the District of Columbia’s transit system was a public-private partnership, some say it wouldn't be falling apart right now.

October 12, 2016
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The Innovation Equation

Working with Living Cities, Governing has identified a set of seven elements that constitute a framework for fostering the innovation cities need.

September 4, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

One Book’s Legacy

In this issue’s cover story, John Buntin takes a retrospective look at the impact of the 1992 book Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector.

September 1, 2016
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On Leadership

Just Catch the Killers

Solving homicide cases is the best way to prevent future ones.

September 8, 2016
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On Leadership

Can Depression Make Someone a Better Politician?

Maybe, but the stigma of mental health problems keeps public officials from talking about it.

August 10, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

The Rural Have-Nots

A couple of decades ago, many people thought technology would allow everybody to live and work wherever they wanted.

August 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

The Lifeblood of a City

This issue’s feature by Liz Farmer on Chicago’s city treasurer asks an important question: Is Kurt Summers Chicago’s future?

July 1, 2016
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On Leadership

A Veteran Cop’s Ideas for Solving Systemic Police Problems

In his two books, Norm Stamper offers recommendations for change.

July 1, 2016
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On Leadership

A Mayor's Real Job

Running a city is mostly about building community -- and that's never easy.

June 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

Why We Regulate

There is a role for government regulation that allows for disruptive new business models without stifling innovation.

June 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

Pension Realities

Public employee pensions have been under fire from the right for decades, and that war intensified with the onset of the Great Recession.

May 1, 2016
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On Leadership

When Women Have Power

They’re more likely to use the tools of government in new ways. Just look at Kym Worthy in Detroit or Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

May 10, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

The Customer’s View

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.

April 1, 2016
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On Leadership

An Older, Poorer America Is Coming

As more aging Americans slip into poverty, governments need to be ready.

April 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

Bought and Sold

The three basic functions of government administration are human resources, procurement and financial management.

March 1, 2016
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On Leadership

The Poisoning of Our Politics: Partisan Elections

It’s time to take elections back from the parties and organizations that have given us the broken system of governance we now have.

March 1, 2016
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On Leadership

Patriotism and the Power of Public Spaces

Parks and other shared spaces can strengthen the bonds of citizenship, so why are they so underused?

February 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

Homes for the Homeless

Cities are being confronted with a problem they simply cannot manage effectively on their own.

February 1, 2016
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On Leadership

A Better Way to Attack Inequality Than Redistributing Wealth

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.

January 1, 2016
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Publisher's Desk

The Effective Partisans

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.

January 1, 2015
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On Leadership

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.

December 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

The Leaders Who Inspire

Every day on Governing.com and every month in the magazine, we document the challenges facing America’s states and localities and the ways in which public officials are working to meet them and seize opportunities.

December 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

Our Inverting Cities

The central idea of Alan Ehrenhalt’s 2012 book The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City is expressed in the title: the concept of a major demographic flip.

November 1, 2015
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On Leadership

What Costco Can Teach the Public Sector

Organizations that invest in their workers reap the biggest gains.

November 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

Our Demographic Bind

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.

October 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The Real Purpose of Government

At its heart, it’s about saving capitalism from itself.

October 1, 2015
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On Leadership

People Who Prove Broken Government Can Work

Laws and regulations make it increasingly difficult for public officials to get anything done. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

September 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

Pay Now or Pay Later

One way or another, somebody is going to pay.

September 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The Impact That Government Auditing Could Have (and Doesn't)

Auditors are irrelevant in most places. Two things could change that.

August 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

The Test of Time

At first glance, this month’s feature articles may not seem to have much to do with one another.

August 1, 2015
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On Leadership

Problems Only Government Can Solve

Foundations are important, but they have their limits.

July 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

When the Numbers Lie

It’s not a surprise that most of the people cited in this issue’s cover story by Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene on the problems states have with missing or inaccurate data are government auditors.

July 1, 2015
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On Leadership

Why the Fiscal Issue That Matters Most Isn't Pensions

It’s infrastructure, yet pensions get more of policymakers' attention.

June 1, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

The Hacks We Need

Without Frank Munsey and George Perkins, there would have been no Bull Moose Party.

June 1, 2015
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On Leadership

A Mayor's Advice for Avoiding Another Baltimore

Mark Funkhouser, Governing publisher and former mayor, has three suggestions for preventing riots in other cities and minimizing the violence if they ignite.

April 30, 2015
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Publisher's Desk

The Search for Sync

The role of government and the will of the people are constantly evolving and often at odds. It's public officials' job to make them converge.

May 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The Fantasy World of Financial Reporting

The rules that governments work under have little to do with reality.

May 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The Most Important Question in Government

While politicians easily offer policy prescriptions, they often fail to ask how they will be paid for.

April 1, 2015
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On Leadership

States Recognizing the Value of New Americans

Legal immigrants are some of the nation’s biggest job creators, which is why more cities are viewing them as a key to economic revival.

March 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The Benefits of a Better Town-and-Gown Relationship

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.

February 1, 2015
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On Leadership

The 3 Flavors of Corruption

What seems like a growing trend of overdiagnosing corruption has negative consequences for not only public officials but the people they serve.

January 1, 2015
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On Leadership

Why Loneliness Should Matter to Governments

How the public sector can use data and analytics to help knit communities back together.

December 1, 2014
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On Leadership

With Big Data Comes Bigger Goals

Today’s performance management tools eliminate the old ways of thinking about what government can and can’t do.

November 1, 2014
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On Leadership

Lessons from the Grateful Dead on Replacing Workers with Technology

If managers don't know when technology should replace people, they can destroy the product they're trying to create.

October 1, 2014
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On Leadership

Want More Crime with That Burger?

Good jobs are proven to reduce crime, yet much of the economy's recent growth is due to dead-end jobs with low wages and no benefits.

September 1, 2014
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On Leadership

How to Get Public Workers to Care About Their Jobs

A book by a government HR expert explains what drives public-sector workers and how that differs from the private sector.

August 1, 2014
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On Leadership

The Real Threat to Democracy: Money Problems

Prudent fiscal stewardship is essential to self-government.

July 1, 2014
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On Leadership

A Better Way to Save Jobs: Employee Stock Ownership Plans

ESOPs give employees part ownership of their companies and prevent major job losses when owners retire. But only two states support them.

June 1, 2014
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On Leadership

South Korea’s Street-Level Transparency

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.

May 1, 2014
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On Leadership

Will Financial Reporting Finally Make Sense?

Paul Volcker and Richard Ravitch’s State Budget Crisis Task Force recommends ways government can make reporting cleaner, clearer and simpler.

April 1, 2014
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On Leadership

A Better Way to Link Policy Analysis and Performance Management

Results-based accountability measures results in the real world.

March 1, 2014
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On Leadership

The People Who Will Give Americans the Government They Want

Trust in government is at historic lows. That will change, but it will happen from the bottom up.

February 3, 2014
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On Leadership

Advice for New Mayors: Watch Your Mouth

It's tempting to plunge in and try to fix everything right away. But in trying to do too much too soon, it's easy to say something dumb and get into trouble.

January 27, 2014
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On Leadership

Why Governments Need to Treat Labor Unions with Respect

For one town, dealing honestly with its unions paid off.

February 1, 2014
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On Leadership

The Reforms That Public Pensions Really Need

As two experts demonstrate, there's more to the problems faced by state and local retirement systems than mere political shenanigans.

January 21, 2014
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On Leadership

Florida Lawmakers and the Thwarted Will of the People

The state's voters want to reform redistricting, but the legislature has paid little attention.

January 13, 2014
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On Leadership

The Failure and the Promise of Public Participation

Outdated laws and overly formal procedures for public meetings are eroding trust in government. There are better ways than three minutes at the microphone.

January 6, 2014
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On Leadership

All Things Fall Apart (Even Governments)

That's why organizations need constant renewal to survive.

January 1, 2014
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On Leadership

Diane Ravitch and the Angry Rebellion Against Common Core

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.

December 16, 2013
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On Leadership

Learning to Love the Numbers of Government

Governments' financial statements may seem intimidating to those without number-crunching expertise. But these documents contain important information that public officials need to know. Here's how to find it.

December 6, 2013
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On Leadership

How to Stop the Economic Development Wars

Tax incentives and other giveaways to business don't create prosperity. It's time for a federal law to stop the bribery and make better use of capitalism's strengths.

November 25, 2013
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Management & Labor

'Operator Perry Loves You!'

Governments really are in a competition. A lot is at stake.

November 30, 2013
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On Leadership

Why the 3 Fundamentals of Governance Are So Important

Bridgeport, Conn., illustrates why governance, debt and demographics are so crucial for a healthy functioning city.

November 1, 2013
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On Leadership

Reducing Economic Inequality: It's About Wealth, Not Jobs

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.

October 21, 2013
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On Leadership

California, Fiscal Reform and the Elusive 'Policy Window'

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.

October 15, 2013
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On Leadership

Accountability, Transparency and the Uncertain Future of GASB

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.

September 30, 2013
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On Leadership

The Enemy of Good Management

A new book has it right: We need to change the way we budget.

October 1, 2013
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On Leadership

When the Government Workspace Is Dirty and Dangerous

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.

September 9, 2013
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On Leadership

The Public Safety Tipping Point: When Saving Money Loses Lives

You can only tell you're not spending enough on public safety when it’s too late.

September 1, 2013
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On Leadership

Municipal Securities and the Exploding Demand for Transparency

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.

August 26, 2013
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On Leadership

Why Detroit and Its Neighbors Need Each Other

Regime change is coming to Detroit. The next mayor will have an opportunity to heal the long dysfunctional marriage between the city and its suburbs.

August 12, 2013
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On Leadership

IRS Scandal Shows What Happens When Bureaucracy is Pushed Too Far

Bureaucracy allows us to do big things. But like every tool, it needs to be maintained and wielded with care and control.

August 1, 2013
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On Leadership

Job Creation and the Snake Oil of Tax Incentives

The pressure to give away the public's money for economic development is as strong as ever, but the pushback is growing.

July 29, 2013
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On Leadership

A Genuine Effort to Reinvent Detroit

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Gov. Rick Snyder say they want the city to emerge from bankruptcy as a livable, sustainable city. It looks like they really mean it.

July 22, 2013
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On Leadership

Innovating in the Crucible of Local Government

A New York county manager who made the jump to elective office is looking to fundamentally change how local government operates.

July 11, 2013
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On Leadership

Why the Federal Budget Crisis Won't be Solved Inside the Beltway

Washington can't fix the broken structure that it built. The key is for state and local officials to channel an aroused citizenry.

July 1, 2013
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On Leadership

Raleigh & Oakland Overdoing Hands-On Government

In these cities, as in many more across the country, elected council members have confused governing with administering.

June 28, 2013
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On Leadership

The Wrong Place to Look for Fiscal Transparency

In charging Harrisburg with securities fraud based partly on a former mayor's state-of-the-city speech, the SEC is taking a path it shouldn't.

June 24, 2013
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On Leadership

L.A. Leads the Way in Police Auditing

After a police scandal involving illegal and unethical behavior, Los Angeles started the nation’s first school designed to train people to audit cops.

May 30, 2013
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On Leadership

How to Bring Citizens' Voices to the Table

It's vital that we begin restoring the public's trust in government. A recently published book amounts to a detailed manual for officials who want to take on that challenge.

May 30, 2013
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On Leadership

Creating a Culture of Community Health

From jails to factories to streets to schools, the winning programs in a foundation's competition stretch the boundaries of what we normally think of as public health.

May 13, 2013
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On Leadership

Appreciating Public Servants in an Age of Cynicism

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, something interesting and unusual happened: People applauded their public employees.

May 6, 2013
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On Leadership

Governing for a Rainy Day

Healthy reserve funds allow governments to be careful and smart.

April 30, 2013
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On Leadership

A Powerful Measure of Urban Health: Strollers

Cities compete for residents and tax base. Nothing defines urban livability more than a city that's kid-friendly.

April 24, 2013
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On Leadership

Our Dangerous, Expensive System of Childbirth

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?

April 18, 2013
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On Leadership

Sharing the Burdens of a Broken City

We're going to see more cities like Stockton. We need better ways to deal with the downward fiscal spiral.

April 8, 2013
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On Leadership

What's Really Needed to Save Detroit: Democracy

Certainly spending must be cut and services must be restored, but it's essential that the voices of the loyal Detroiters who have stayed be heard.

April 1, 2013
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On Leadership

How to Insult Government Workers

There are lots of problems with pay for performance, but one of the most salient is that it implies that employees are slackers.

March 29, 2013
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On Leadership

How Four Students Solved a Difficult Mental-Health Service Problem

The winners of this year's National Public Policy Challenge had a guiding principle: Think big, start small.

March 28, 2013
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On Leadership

A Transplant from Queens in the Heart of the Confederacy

Stephen Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., has ambitious goals for his city. He's off to a strong start.

March 21, 2013
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On Leadership

The Tools We Need to Help Poor Neighborhoods

The Community Reinvestment Act doesn't always get at underlying economic issues. It's time to redesign it.

March 11, 2013
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On Leadership

A Transportation Funding Power Shift

States are moving into the void left by Washington’s paralysis.

February 28, 2013
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On Leadership

A Small-Town Mayor in the National Arena

Clarence Anthony, the National League of Cities' new executive director, wants the NLC to be a strike force for cities at a time when our federal system is undergoing profound changes.

February 28, 2013
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On Leadership

Giving Citizens Numbers They Can Understand

'Citizen-centric' financial reporting is a way for governments to improve transparency and accountability. It isn't hard, so why aren't more jurisdictions doing it?

February 25, 2013
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On Leadership

Municipal Securities and the Waiting Game

Federal law gives the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board the authority to protect issuers, but it can't do that job until the SEC gives it a tool it needs.

February 21, 2013
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On Leadership

Our Ebbing Urge to Incarcerate

California seems to be finding a way out of its prison-overcrowding problems. Have we decided that locking up so many people isn't the best way to keep the public safe?

February 7, 2013
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On Leadership

The Emerging Power of China's Auditors

Cracking down on corruption is critical to China's growth.

January 31, 2013
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On Leadership

The Real Role of Cities

As one thoughtful city manager see it, in our focus on service delivery we're lost sight of a fundamental purpose of government.

January 31, 2013
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On Leadership

Can You Run a Government on $9.90 an Hour?

There are signs that the pendulum is swinging away from the anti-public-employee rhetoric of recent years. That's good for governments and for the people they serve.

January 28, 2013
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On Leadership

Bringing a 'Green Tint' to Sacramento

Mayor Kevin Johnson has big ideas for California's capital. Will the drive that made him an NBA star serve him as he tries to remake his city?

January 23, 2013
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On Leadership

Lincoln and the Dirty Business of Politics

Appealing to rightness and reason is rarely enough to achieve big things. Politics requires dealing with human beings, and human beings are flawed.

January 16, 2013
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On Leadership

Michelle Rhee, Education and the Inputs-Outcomes Trap

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.

January 10, 2013
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On Leadership

The Political Future of a Browning America

People of color now account for most of the country's population growth. That has profound implications for the way elections are won and the nation is governed.

January 7, 2013
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On Leadership

Can a 'Millennial Mayor' Turn a Factory Town Around?

Things are beginning to look up for Fitchburg, Mass., under Lisa Wong's leadership. It hasn't been easy.

January 3, 2013
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Columns

The Secret to Massachusetts’ High Credit Rating

Massachusetts has the highest credit rating it’s ever had. Its secret? Discipline.

December 28, 2012
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On Leadership

A Fraudster's Nightmare Called 'Bubba'

Tennessee's Arthur Hayes has had a major impact on the world of government auditing. Don't get him started on "gray areas."

December 20, 2012
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On Leadership

Childhood Obesity and the Medicaid Squeeze

We're beginning to turn this serious health problem around. That is very good news for efforts to get our health-care costs under control.

December 13, 2012
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On Leadership

Community Health and the Competition for Jobs

Community health is about more than quality of life. Increasingly, companies are basing their location decisions on the availability of a healthy workforce.

December 10, 2012
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On Leadership

Barking Dogs and the Potluck Model of Government

A city in California is working to move beyond the customer-service approach to government and engage citizens as problem-solvers.

December 6, 2012
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On Leadership

Houston's Mayor and the Imperative to Compete

For Annise Parker, competing globally is about a lot more than delivering services efficiently.

December 3, 2012
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Columns

The Fiscal Future That Won’t Happen

Arithmetic always triumphs; our unsustainable trends will stop. What matters is how.

November 30, 2012
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On Leadership

The Need for Data with Meaning

Community-indicator projects are popping up all over. They are serving an important function for regions that must compete on a global scale.

November 29, 2012
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On Leadership

The Real Story of Public Pensions

An important new book provides insights far beyond the conventional wisdom and the political arguments.

November 19, 2012
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On Leadership

A Crucial Player in Effective Governance

To see how much impact an auditor can have in improving the way government is run, look no further than California's Elaine Howle.

November 15, 2012
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On Leadership

You Won the Election. Now Go Meet Your Auditor.

Auditors can flush out government's fat rabbits and lurking demons. But they can do a lot more than that: They can help you govern effectively.

November 8, 2012
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On Leadership

What the Schools Can Learn from the Cops

The way law enforcement has been transformed points the way to fixing out broken public-education system.

November 5, 2012
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On Leadership

When the Press Asks Uncomfortable Questions

Public officials should pay attention, as a town in Missouri learned the hard way. If an economic-development deal seems too good to be true, maybe it is.

November 1, 2012
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Public Money

Can California Fix Its Budget Problems?

Changes in its political system may point the way for it to meet financial challenges.

October 31, 2012
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On Leadership

The Very Plugged-In Mayor of Long Beach

Bob Foster is a former energy-company president, but expertise in that subject isn't the only thing he brings to his city.

October 29, 2012
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On Leadership

Weaving Innovation into the Fabric of Government

Can the search for new ideas be institutionalized? Some people think so, and what they're doing could be just what government needs.

October 25, 2012
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On Leadership

The Mayor Who's Determined to Bring Flint Back

Dayne Walling came back to his hometown intent on turning it around. Don't bet against him.

October 22, 2012
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On Leadership

Fraud, Waste, Abuse and Big Scary Numbers

Drawing distinctions is important for better policy responses. That doesn't happen very often.

October 18, 2012
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On Leadership

Government and the Big Unknowns

We don't know what kind of huge, transformation events are coming, but one thing is certain: Governments will have to be ready to deal with them.

October 11, 2012
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On Leadership

Why 'Politics' Shouldn't Be a Dirty Word

It's the way we get things done as a society. We seem to have lost sight of that.

October 4, 2012
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On Leadership

Bicycles, Beer and the Factory Jobs that Aren't Coming Back

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.

October 1, 2012
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Public Money

Cities, Counties and the Urge to Merge

Consolidating governments is hard to do, but the idea keeps coming up.

September 28, 2012
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On Leadership

When the Music Stops

A lot of our symphony orchestras are in trouble, and the changing nature of cities is part of the problem. But Buck Owens may have some lessons for Beethoven.

September 27, 2012
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On Leadership

Essential Values and the American Character

We're better than we think we are, and so are our leaders. Just ask Tony Blair.

September 24, 2012
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On Leadership

The Bottom-Line Benefit of a Healthier Public Workforce

Some approaches to employee wellness programs have more of a track record than others. But they clearly can save a lot of money.

September 20, 2012
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On Leadership

The Subtle Slide into Municipal Bankruptcy

The insolvency that leads to local-government bankruptcy unfolds gradually. Public officials need to monitor and heed the early warnings.

September 17, 2012
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On Leadership

The Inexorable Pressure to Say Something Dumb

The 24-hour news cycle makes it all too easy for public officials to react too quickly. They would do better to "think gray."

September 13, 2012
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On Leadership

Riots, Rebellions and the Importance of Social Order

Effective government is critical to the stability we need for society to function. These days, that stability is threatened.

September 10, 2012
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Public Money

What We Need Our Auditors to Do

It’s more crucial than ever to know whether government programs are effective.

August 31, 2012
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On Leadership

Cops, Cutbacks and Crime

It’s clear that more police, strategically deployed, reduce crime. Cities that are cutting their police forces are risking more than public safety.

August 29, 2012
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On Leadership

Government’s Big Bags of Money

Many jurisdictions lack good internal controls for handling the money their employees collect. A treasurers’ group can help fix that.

August 27, 2012
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On Leadership

The Qualities an Auditor Really Needs

Being a CPA isn’t necessarily one of them. Independence, courage and leadership are more important.

August 23, 2012
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On Leadership

When the Public’s Money Disappears

A team from the SEC has a message for public treasurers: If something "seems weird," give us a call.

August 20, 2012
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On Leadership

Can a Very Determined Mayor Save Gary, Indiana?

The declining industrial city has tried all the usual economic-development approaches. Mayor Freeman-Wilson has other ideas.

August 16, 2012
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On Leadership

Why the State Budget Crisis is Real

According to two new reports, states’ fiscal situation is either (a) looking better or (b) looking worse. Pay attention to (b).

August 13, 2012
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On Leadership

Why Ethics Training is a Waste

It won’t stop the worst abuses. Making everybody in government sit through it is like fishing for minnows, but it’s the sharks that are the problem.

August 9, 2012
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On Leadership

Government and the Making of Our Markets

A new book argues that markets are political creations -- not natural occurrences -- that we can shape to increase prosperity.

August 6, 2012
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On Leadership

Regular Folks and the People in Charge

The mainstream public and the political class have very different ideas about what government should do. It’s a gap that is broadening and deepening.

August 2, 2012
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On Leadership

Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

To err is human. Public officials shouldn’t be reluctant to admit mistakes and to apologize for them.

July 30, 2012
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On Leadership

Our Deadly Health-Care Disconnect

Despite the billions we spend on programs like Medicaid, some desperately ill patients fall through the cracks.

July 26, 2012
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On Leadership

The Secrets of Sioux Falls’ Success

While other cities flounder in fiscal distress, the South Dakota city thrives. Its long-term commitment to prudence keeps paying off.

July 16, 2012
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On Leadership

Productivity and the Value of a Public Worker

We focus too much on how much government employees are paid. The real question we should be asking is what a good public worker is worth.

July 12, 2012
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On Leadership

Why Honest Numbers Are Good for Public Pensions

The new pension-accounting standards for governments were bitterly opposed by unions and many pension administrators, but they are good for governments, their employees and their taxpayers.

July 9, 2012
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On Leadership

John Roberts and the Defiance of the Tribe

In choosing a courageous path in the health-care ruling, the chief justice acted to protect and strengthen institutions that are in a very fragile place.

July 2, 2012
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On Leadership

The Myth That We Lack Good Leaders

There are as many of them as there ever have been. Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to recognize them.

June 28, 2012
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On Leadership

Dogtown and the Dirtiest City in America

Santa Monica and Chattanooga were in trouble a few decades ago. They placed their bets on sustainability, and today it’s paying off.

June 25, 2012
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On Leadership

Our Brewing Federal Fiscal Calamity

We can’t keep borrowing to pay for the basic operating costs of government.

June 21, 2012
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On Leadership

Why Our Unions Need to Leave Politics Behind

A strong labor movement is good for the country. Unions should stop doling out campaign cash and focus on organizing.

June 18, 2012
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On Leadership

America’s Looming Pension Shock

After decades of gains, millions of Americans are slipping into poverty just as they near retirement age. The result will be a crisis for governments — one that they should be thinking about now.

June 14, 2012
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On Leadership

The Question Our Auditors Don’t Answer: Is This Program Working?

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.

June 11, 2012
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On Leadership

Cities and the Coming Walmart Invasion

The world’s biggest retailer wants to build stores in urban areas. That’s good for cities, but they need to be careful.

June 7, 2012
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On Leadership

Why We Shouldn’t Be Cutting Higher Ed

Reducing our investments in public colleges and universities — one of our great engines of economic development — may cost more than it saves.

June 4, 2012
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On Leadership

Human Services and Our Obsession with Fraud

Sometimes it seems as if all we care about in delivering benefits is making sure the wrong people don’t get them. There are more important things to worry about.

May 31, 2012
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On Leadership

The Real Costs of Infrastructure

It’s hard to find trillions of dollars to fix our infrastructure. But not fixing our roads and bridges and ports is also expensive — and not just in dollars.

May 24, 2012
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On Leadership

When Citizens Understand the Cost of Government

There’s more to engaging the public in governance — making them part of decisions about paying for the services they value — than simply ‘educating’ them.

May 21, 2012
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On Leadership

Random Idiots and Useless Blowhard Gasbags

Bad things happen, and the media amplifies them. But they are not the indicators of the decline of our culture that some would have us believe.

May 17, 2012
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On Leadership

Why We Shouldn’t Fear a Shrinking Labor Force

It’s good for our communities when toiling for a paycheck isn’t the only thing people do.

May 14, 2012
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On Leadership

Public Service in an Age of Corrosive Cynicism

As disdain for government grows, it’s more important than ever to recognize those who do outstanding work.

May 10, 2012
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On Leadership

Counties and the Revenue Crisis that Won’t Go Away

Saddled with antiquated revenue structures, county governments don’t have the flexibility they need to meet modern expectations for service delivery.

May 7, 2012
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On Leadership

One City’s Comeback from the Fiscal Brink

The Kansas community of Junction City got itself into serious financial trouble. Now, without emergency managers or threats of bankruptcy, it’s getting itself out.

May 3, 2012
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On Leadership

How We’re Losing the War on Corruption

Increasingly, we’re trivializing ethics and falling short on financial accountability. The citizens deserve better.

April 30, 2012
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On Leadership

Public Pay and the Cost of Transparency

Many public officials don’t want their compensation posted online for all to see. That’s understandable. But making government workers’ pay public is probably inevitable, and it raises some difficult questions.

April 26, 2012
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On Leadership

The Expensive Folly of Tax Incentives

There is little evidence that giving away the taxpayers’ money for economic development works. Only the market can create jobs.

April 23, 2012
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On Leadership

Leading from the Middle

Organizational change, the mantra goes, must come from the top. Not necessarily.

April 19, 2012
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On Leadership

Five Reasons for Hope and Optimism

Amid all the gloom and doom, with our constant focus on what’s wrong, there are some hopeful things happening.

April 16, 2012
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On Leadership

Charles Dickens’ Fiscal Lessons for Government

Managing the taxpayers’ money wisely is about more than balancing the books. The daily lives of ordinary people are at stake.

April 12, 2012
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On Leadership

The Wastebusters that Government Needs

The scandal at the General Services Administration illustrates the value of inspectors general. Trust in government is at stake, so why are so many federal IG positions vacant?

April 9, 2012
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On Leadership

The Big Mistake that Unions Are Making

Accepting wage and benefit cuts to preserve jobs is bad for unions, and it’s bad for the rest of us.

April 5, 2012
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On Leadership

Public Pensions and the Infrastructure We Need

It's going to cost a lot of money to bring our infrastructure systems up to snuff. Public pensions could have a big role to play.

April 2, 2012
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On Leadership

A Competition for Ideas in Public Policy

An event coming up in Philadelphia promises to go a long way toward matching the challenges government faces with ideas coming out of some of the top schools of public policy.

March 29, 2012
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On Leadership

The Incalculable Things that Define Us

As we try to measure everything that moves, we need to remember that some of the most important things about us can’t be measured.

March 26, 2012
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On Leadership

Our Misguided Love Affair with Political Consensus

It’s the polarizers, not the consensus-seekers, who get the big things done.

March 22, 2012
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On Leadership

The Numbers that Tell the Real Story

We rely too much on aggregate data about our cities and states. It’s the differences among the numbers that are truly important.

March 19, 2012
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On Leadership

The Inherent Tensions of Regulation

None of us are angels. Government regulatory and inspection programs are a crucial way of making up for that.

March 15, 2012
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Governing Institute

Finding Our Way Out of a Nobel-Caliber Economic Mess

"Regular people" still struggle even as economists interpret their behavior for policymakers.

October 11, 2011
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On Leadership

Bridges and the Inexorable Laws of Physics

Structurally deficient bridges will fall. The only question is when. We need to be thinking about risks like those, and about what to do about them.

March 12, 2012
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On Leadership

Collaboration and the Outcomes We Need

Competition in government service delivery is powerful, but it isn’t sufficient. The best leaders are recognizing that.

March 8, 2012
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On Leadership

How Not to Protect Kids from Sexual Assault

Only a few states have complied with a federal law requiring sex-offender registration and notification. The rest have good reasons for holding out.

March 5, 2012
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On Leadership

Getting the Fiscal Fundamentals Wrong

Stockton’s fiscal meltdown isn't the result of a dumb idea or corruption. That's why it’s particularly scary.

February 29, 2012
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View

The Once and Future City

The head of the Governing Institute found a couple of surprises when he looked at population trends in a number of U.S. cities. Populations in big and small cities are bouncing back.

December 23, 2011
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View

The Postal Ties That Bind

The Governing Insitute's director explains that in thousands of small towns and cities across the country, the local post office is seen as the heart and soul of the community.

December 19, 2011
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View

Advice For New City Mayors

New mayors stepped up to the rigors of campaigning and succeeded in getting themselves elected. Now, they begin the hard part.

December 12, 2011
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View

Opinion: Let’s Stop Taking the People’s Money to the Casino

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.

November 17, 2011
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On Leadership

The Other 20 Words That Make a Great Promise Real

Reflections on a lesser-known part of the Declaration of Independence remind us that good government is needed to secure our unalienable rights.

August 31, 2011
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