Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Book Report: The Twenty-First Century City




Isn't it time that councillors from across the country stop wasting our tax dollars by flying (often in "herds" of five or more) to their annual junket (FCM) to dream up new ways of begging for money from other levels of government?


Of course it is. What they should be doing is reading former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith's book "The Twenty-First Century City".


Although finances were "sound" and taxes were "relatively low" when Goldsmith took office in 1992, reform introduced during his watch has been held up as a model for other cities to follow. During Mayor Goldsmith's 1992-99 tenure as Mayor of Indianapolis he implemented reforms which saved that city $400 million, allowed it to invest $800 million in infrastructure upgrades and reduced the city's crime rate.


Most importantly, Goldsmith improved city services while offering tax relief to Indianapolis residents. The secret to his success? Competition.


Mayor Goldsmith opened up virtually all city operations to competition with the exception of fire and police services. The results surprised many as his "managed competition" process allowed existing city union employees to bid into the competition (and they often won).


Here is a great excerpt from the book:


"Street repair crews previously consisted of an eight-man team that used two trucks to haul a patching device and a tar kettle. Once in charge, the city workers saw that by remounting the patching equipment they could eliminate one of the trucks, and by doing so reduce the crew from eight to five.


The city employees bid significantly below their private competitors and won the job decisively. While the city previously spent $425 per ton filling potholes with hot asphalt, the new proposal reduced the city's cost to $307 per ton - a 25 percent savings.


We were shocked. In fact, many within city government doubted the union proposal. But the city's employees not only met the bid price, they beat it - by $20,000. They increased the average production of a work crew from 3.1 to 5.2 miles per day - a 68 percent efficiency increase.


Union leaders declared that the bidding process brought them "from darkness into daylight." Isaac Sanders, a crew leader responsible for street repair, said that before the bidding process, "we didn't give a hoot what anything cost," but because of competition "we got efficient real quick."

Mayor Goldsmith’s book details several examples of “well operated” programs and services that improved as a result of introducing competitive forces. The book is a great read for any elected official, government bureaucrat or anyone with an interest in public policy.

1 comment:

Lee Harding said...

Now THIS is a good tip. Nice work.

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