Category Archives: Local Government

Understanding Local Service Delivery Arrangements: Are the ICMA ASD Data Reliable?

Source: Meeyoung Lamothe, Scott Lamothe, Elizabeth Bell, Public Administration Review, Volume 78, Issue 4 July/August 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors utilize the two latest ICMA Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices surveys to investigate whether the service provision and delivery arrangement information reported in the surveys accurately represents reality and, if not, what factors contribute to generating incorrect or unreliable survey responses. Interviews with practitioners are used to better understand both the accuracy of the survey responses and improvements that could be made to the survey instrument. Results suggest that the ICMA ASD survey data are highly erratic, with more than 70 percent of the cases (N = 70) investigated containing some inaccuracies. A qualitative analysis shows that the majority of the errors appear to be caused by the lack of a clear definition of service provision or by the service titles being too vague or too broad, both of which likely lead to discretion in interpreting survey questions and thus inconsistent answers by individual respondents over time.

State takeovers of schools are about political power, not school improvement

Source: Domingo Morel, The Conversation, July 3, 2018

When states take over local school districts – like they’ve done or are trying to do in Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi – school improvement is typically the stated objective.

Although the research on the effects of state takeovers on academic outcomes is mixed, takeovers often have devastating political and economic implications for black communities. As states increasingly attempt to take over school districts in major Southern cities, it’s worth exploring whether school improvement is the real purpose, or whether political motives are at play.

I raise this issue as the author of the first systematic study of state takeovers of local school districts. I am also a researcher who focuses racial and ethnic politics, urban politics, education politics and public policy…..

State and Local Government Workforce: 2018 Data and 10 Year Trends

Source: Gerald Young, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and the National Association of State Personnel Executives, May 2018

From the summary:
Since 2009, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence has partnered with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and the National Association of State Personnel Executives to conduct a study on state and local workforce issues. This year’s report contains both 2018 data on emerging issues like the gig economy and flexible work practices and longitudinal data on recruiting challenges, retirement plan or health benefit changes, hiring, and separations from service.

When the City Goes Broke: Pensions, Retirees, and Municipal Bankruptcies

Source: Kevin M. Lewis, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10116, April 10, 2018

In recent years, a significant number of cities, towns, and other municipalities in the United States have found themselves increasingly unable to pay their debts. In order to offer municipalities relief from many types of debts they cannot repay, Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code authorizes certain municipalities to file for bankruptcy. However, filing for bankruptcy may adversely affect the municipality’s creditors, especially beneficiaries of underfunded municipal retirement plans (who, along with bondholders, often hold “the lion’s share” of a municipality’s financial obligations). Because a number of municipalities face a “dramatic and growing shortfall in public pension funds,” many “firefighters, teachers, police officers, and other public employees” who purportedly have “a right to pension benefits at retirement” face a significant risk that their pensions will ultimately not be fully repaid. The fact that public pensions, unlike their private counterparts, are neither subject to the “vesting and funding rules imposed by” the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 nor “protected by the federal pension guarantee program operated by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation” could, according to some commentators, further exacerbate that risk. Moreover, because courts presiding over municipal bankruptcy cases have generally been “amenable to modifying pension debt in bankruptcy,” retirees’ pension benefits may potentially be significantly curtailed when a municipality declares bankruptcy. Although many Chapter 9 debtors have ultimately opted not to cut pensions “for political or practical reasons,” courts and commentators generally accept that, under certain circumstances, municipalities “have the legal ability to shed pension debt” in bankruptcy if they so choose.

This Sidebar first explains how, under current bankruptcy law, Chapter 9 debtors have significant freedom to modify their outstanding pension obligations through the bankruptcy process. The Sidebar then explores proposals to alter the legal principles governing the adjustment of municipal pensions in bankruptcy….

PolicyInsights

Source: PolicyInsights, 2018

We want to build you a simple and intuitive national platform to engage with your local governments, to understand the services provided and their outcomes. We are starting with four locations (two counties and two cities with similar demographic for comparison purpose). Here are some ways you can explore …. :
– select a location and explore the various programs
– compare the demographic to another location and their programs
– rate the programs of your local governments (if you happen to live in one of these four areas)
– this is a wiki style product, any users could update or add location/programs information (if you see something incorrect or want to add anything, you can contribute)

Locations:
Montgomery County, MD
Washington, DC
Fairfax County, VA
New York, NY

Implementing Downsizing Reforms in County Governments

Source: Kuotsai Tom Liou, Mary Ann Feldheim, Public Administration Quarterly, Vol. 42 no. 1, Spring 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examined the implementation of downsizing reforms in U.S. county governments to understand popular strategies considered and to test related influence factors. Based on the analysis of data from a national survey, this study examines the implementation of different downsizing reform strategies and tests the influence of individual and organizational factors on the use of downsizing strategies. The descriptive statistics revealed that county governments are conservative in the implementation of downsizing strategies: the top three strategies are redesigning jobs and positions, combining agency units, and simplifying rules and procedures. Factor analysis results indicated three downsizing groups that support the interest in applying different strategies in structural and cultural changes. The findings of multivariate regression analyses showed that the size of the county budget and the population are related to the downsizing group, which preferred introducing buy-out packages and introducing bottom-up changes. Implications of the research findings are presented for future studies of public management reforms.

Resistance to school integration in the name of ‘local control’: 5 questions answered

Source: Erica Frankenberg, Kendra Taylor, The Conversation, April 12, 2018

Editor’s note: The word “secession” is often used in reference to states or countries that wish to break off and form their own government. But here in the United States, there are communities that want to secede from their school districts to form their own. One of the latest examples is a case in Gardendale, Alabama, where a court recently ruled that the community’s attempt to leave the Jefferson County, Alabama, school district was motivated by racial discrimination and therefore unconstitutional. In order to gain more insight into what’s driving school district secession efforts, The Conversation reached out to Erica Frankenberg, who has examined the effect of the school secession movement on school segregation in Jefferson County and throughout the nation…..

Does County Form of Government Impact Economic Growth and Development Trends? The Case of Four States

Source: Stephanie A. Pink-Harper, The American Review of Public Administration, Vol. 48 no. 3, April 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Counties have expanded the scope of their activities in the economic development process. However, limited research exists of the factors that influence economic growth and development trends of these unique communities. The primary focus of this case study analysis is to determine whether form of government has an impact on county economic growth and development trends while controlling for environmental context and demographic characteristics in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Washington. To empirically test the impact that county form of government and environmental factors have on local economic growth and development trends, ordinary least squares regression is used. The results of this study show that form of government has only a marginal impact on county economic growth and development trends. County environmental factors are found to have a more substantive impact on the economic growth and development trends of counties across these four states.

Domestic Migration and Fewer Births Reshaping America

Source: Kenneth M. Johnson, Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, National Fact Sheet #38, Spring 2018

From the summary:
New Census Bureau data released on March 22, 2018, demonstrate the continuing influence of domestic migration on U.S. demographic trends. Migration patterns are reverting to those common before the recession. Suburban counties of large metropolitan areas, smaller metropolitan areas, and rural counties proximate to metropolitan areas all gained more domestic migrants in the last year. In contrast, domestic migration losses grew in the core counties of metropolitan areas of 1 million or more and remained substantial in rural counties that are not adjacent to an urban area.

Key findings:
– Domestic migration losses from large urban cores rose sharply.
– Domestic migration gains are accelerating in other metro areas.
– Population growth has resumed in rural areas.
– More people are dying, but births remain low.