On September 26, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a new whistleblower protection bill to extend whistleblower protections to city and county employees who report waste, fraud and abuse of government funds. The new law authorizes cities and counties to create and maintain whistleblower hotlines to receive calls from employees who have information regarding possible violations of state, federal or local statutes, rules or regulations. The new law also requires city and county auditors and controllers to maintain the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity throughout the investigation process. To read the bill, click here.
Source: Ray A. Scher, Government Finance Review, Vol. 24 no. 4, August 2008
Miami-Dade County’s strategy for improving service quality focuses on planning, measuring, and monitoring.
Source: Scott Lamothe, Meeyoung Lamothe, Richard C. Feiock, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 44 No. 1, September 2008
From the abstract:
While scholars of local service delivery arrangements are fully aware the process is dynamic, research has tended to take the form of cross-sectional studies that are inherently static in nature. In this article, the authors model the determinants of production mode accounting for past delivery decisions. They find, not surprisingly, that there are strong inertial effects; previous delivery mode is a strong predictor of the current service delivery arrangement. More interestingly, the impact of the transaction cost nature of services on production choice is conditioned on past decisions, such as the extent of contracting and the type of vendors used. There is also evidence that contract management capacity and the competitiveness of the contracting environment are influential.
Service Challenges and Governance Issues Confronting American Counties in the 21st Century: An Overview
Source: J. Edwin Benton, Jacqueline Byers, Beverly A. Cigler, Kenneth A. Klase, Donald C. Menzel, Tanis J. Salant, Gregory Streib, James H. Svara, and William L. Waugh Jr., State and Local Government Review, Vol. 40 no. 1, 2008
From the abstract:
More than ever, American counties are faced with service challenges and governance issues that have implications for their effectiveness as units of government. The authors of this essay offer insight into these matters based on their extensive interactions with county elected officials and practitioners and state and regional associations of counties.
Some proposed changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aimed directly at state and local governments and could amend the definitions of discrimination in the use of government services and facilities. However, according to the National Association of Counties (NACo), a Safe Harbor Provision would exempt public entities that had previously brought existing facilities into compliance with early ADA standards from having to further modify those facilities to comply with small changes to the standards.
From the abstract:
Global warming, climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the carbon footprint, and going green are just some of the buzz words in the news over the last two years that have captured the attention of lawmakers and policymakers at all levels of government. In Congress, lawmakers have proposed, among other things, mandating standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and governors across the country have announced myriad programs designed to encourage the use by governments of green products, the construction of green buildings, and the offering of a combination of tax incentives and grants for private developers and other members of the public who develop and install various renewable energy products. However, It is initiatives at the local government level that have the greatest potential for most quickly and most efficiently slowing the pace of global warming. This is because local governments are the critical decision-makers in how communities use and conserve key resources. Municipalities serious about curbing emissions as well as energy and water usage within their communities, to both combat global warming and to preserve the immediate environment, have found many successful ways to implement plans that reduce the strain on environmental resources. Local governments have begun to incorporate principles and goals of sustainability and carbon reduction into comprehensive land use plans. This paper begins to examine the elements of a “green audit” for local comprehensive plans and land use regulations.
Governments continue to address funding issues related to their budgets often resulting in the reduction of programs and services. In addition, governments often face an increase in service responsibilities. At the same time, residents are demanding that governments demonstrate improved efficiencies and even offer new or improved services without new taxes.
To meet these challenges, governments are becoming more and more interdependent, including cooperating to deliver services. The services most often provided collaboratively include health and human services, transit systems, airports, sewage collection, disposal of hazardous wastes, libraries, tax assessing, and title records.
Informal (handshake agreements) may include such items as sharing information or equipment, coordination of individual efforts, or joint promotion. More complex or formal agreements might include contracting with another government for service, sharing facilities, purchasing/insurance pools, merged departments, special districts, or regional planning. Shared services that might be the most difficult to achieve include mergers, annexation, or service provision transfers, especially where political support is required. Formal intergovernmental cooperation often includes written agreements among governments and may require a division of labor and/or transfer of funds.
Suburbs may be more likely to enter into shared services agreements due to the greater density of governments in a metropolitan area, proximity, and similar levels of service. Rural communities might consider shared services due to their smaller size and lack of resources. Rural areas may have more cooperative agreements between different types of governments.
In all cases, alternative service delivery that involves shared services requires governments working together to achieve shared policy objectives. Governments are encouraged to cooperate to provide their residents services they could not provide on their own or to provide their residents lower cost and/or higher quality services…..
Source: Colin P. Falato, Susan M. Smith, Tyler Kress, International Journal of Emergency Management Vol. 4, No. 4, 2007
From a summary:
A recent study in the International Journal of Emergency Management suggests that the nation’s federal and state governments should help local communities prepare for a range of large-scale disasters, United Press International reports. In analyzing local and federal response efforts, University of Tennessee researchers identified 902 disaster declarations made across the last 25 years related to hurricanes, fires, windstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes and floods.
Public schools and local governments may have more stringent requirements than most businesses for email archiving and electronic discovery. Yet, with their limited budgets, schools and local governments are often the least equipped to respond.
The newly revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedure define how email must be handled in federal court cases. Businesses tend to think that the FRCP focus is on interstate lawsuits. Schools and governments, however, also need to be concerned with emails relating to federally funded activities or any activity governed by federal legislation.
In addition, schools and local governments have the burden of responding to (1) requests under open meeting and Freedom of Information Act laws, (2) offensive emails or those with sexual content involving students, and (3) emailed threats.
Source: Thom Reilly, Shaun Schoener, and Alice Bolin, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
The purpose of this study was to examine local government compensation practices across the United States and to explore possible correlations of these practices to service delivery. One hundred twenty of the largest cities and counties responded to a mail survey, for a response rate of 40%. The data suggest a large percentage (86%) of local governments faced financial difficulties in the form of a budget shortfall since 2000. In response to these shortfalls, local governments were more likely to reduce their workforce, reduce or eliminate services, and/or raise taxes or user fees rather than scale back wages and benefits. Because of this reaction, more than one half of the respondents experienced a decrease in full-time equivalent employment per 1,000 residents. Collective bargaining status, geographical region, and type of government (county or city) were found to be significant factors in determining compensation practices. Implications for practice and policy are advanced.