Report: data-driven, collaborative approaches are big for local government going forward

     Google offices, luxury apartments, and upscale box stores now make up Bakery Square in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Nabisco once operated there. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Google offices, luxury apartments, and upscale box stores now make up Bakery Square in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Nabisco once operated there. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Trends and ideas to watch in the coming decade.

    The report comes from Government Executive, a business magazine for senior executives and managers in the federal government’s departments and agencies, and the International City/County Management Association. They released it in advance of the ICMA’s upcoming annual conference in Seattle. 

    What’s Next in Local Government? is 24 pages. It’s a quick read, but we’ll save you the trouble. Here are the highlights:

    •    Case management made more manageable? Maybe.

    Orange County, Calif., looked at more than 400 variables to figure out which would help predict whether parents will make child support payments, and how much they’ll pay. Pulling individual info and data from the U.S. Census and other public records, the formula spits out an “iScore” that county officials say is “meant to mimic the experience of a 20-year caseworker.” In other words, it helps workers arrive more quickly at possible solutions to underpayment of child support. One situation might call for punitive measures, while another might warrant solving a problem that affects the parent’s ability to pay (one caseworker, for example, helped a parent get federal aid and with more income, he could cover monthly child support payments). The county’s piloting the customized in-house software program using 69 caseworkers. Officials acknowledge evaluating its effectiveness will “take a while.” But if it works well, benefits could be extended to other agencies in the universe of human services and other government programs with staffers suffocating under caseload backlogs.

    •    The metropolitan revolution

    The idea here is that cities can become the more efficient, effective, democratic successor to the federal government as the lead fixers of the most pressing problems, according to the Brooking’s Institution’s Bruce Katz. The concept topped the ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O’Neill Jr.’s list of expectations for the coming decade.

    •    Formula for success

    O’Neill also shared an observation: communities that successfully “take matters into their own hands” have a few things in common: transparency, engagement, performance and accountability,  all of which engender public trust. Making progress during the next decade will require results-oriented initiatives using big data, and breaking down silos to foster collaboration among individual government departments, the private sector and the general public it’s supposed to serve, he says.

    •    Feds turn to municipal bonds for revenue

    Not by borrowing. By doing away with the exemption that allows bondholders to avoid paying federal income taxes on their earnings. That saved states, local governments and other municipal entities an estimated $714 billion in interest during 2000-2014, according to estimates from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs’ Justin Marlowe.  Marlowe and other experts interviewed by RouteFifty’s Bill Lucia say losing the tax exemption isn’t immient. But it remains a possibility — particularly when the federal government’s hard up for cash. Should it happen, the experts recommend starting to tax only certain types of municipal bonds, since the magnitude of savings differs among them.

    Report: data-driven, collaborative approaches big for local government going forward

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