Category Archives: Local Government

Smart Growth and the Greening of Comprehensive Plans and Land Use Regulations

Source: Patricia Salkin, Government Law Center, Albany Law School, July 17, 2008

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.

Alternative Service Delivery: Shared Services

Source: Government Finance Officers Association, Best Practice, Approved by GFOA’s Executive Board: October 2007

Background:
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…..

Local Government Involvement In Disaster Preparedness In The USA

Source: Colin P. Falato, Susan M. Smith, Tyler Kress, International Journal of Emergency Management Vol. 4, No. 4, 2007
(subscription required)

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.

Email Archiving Requirements for Schools and Local Governments

Source: Roger Matus, Sean True, and Chuck Ingold, InBoxer, Inc., 2007

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.

Public Sector Compensation in Local Governments: An Analysis

Source: Thom Reilly, Shaun Schoener, and Alice Bolin, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

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.

Customer Service is Just 3 Digits Away in San Antonio

Source: Cory Fleming, and Bryan Barnhouse, Public Management, December 2006, Volume 88, no. 11

Local governments exist to serve the needs of their residents, but determining the needs of these customers is not a simple task, whether in a community of a few thousand people or in a city with millions of residents. Defining and providing excellent customer service in local government also differs from these processes regarding customer service in the business community.

Local governments must provide equitable services to all residents, whereas businesses can vary their service levels based on a customer’s ability to pay. So, how do local governments determine customer needs and offer better customer service to their residents?