This is Unique With a Capital U

The Found Elsewhere page of BizVoice, our Indiana Chamber magazine, does as the name suggests — offers interesting information first reported in other places (studies, publications, etc.). After all, we don’t claim to have the monopoly on fascinating facts.

While Found Elsewhere typically appears on the last page of the publication, I’m taking an educated guess that Governing’s Last Look has a permanent home in that spot. The May edition has an entry that we just had to share.

A few clues:

  • International border
  • Library and opera house in the same building
  • Jurisdictional implications

The story can’t be done justice without the photo. Check it out.

Students Want to Work in Government

Edwin Koc, research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) says for today’s students “taking home a hefty paycheck and quickly climbing the career ladder are not as important. They prize personal growth and opportunities to contribute to their communities over financial gain.”

NACE is a respected leader in its field. When it asked thousands of students expected to graduate college at the end of this academic year to identify the top industries in which they preferred to begin their careers, the leaders — by a wide margin — were:

  1. Government
  2. Human Services
  3. Education
  4. Social Services

A Mississippi State University professor adds, “The motivation to work in the public sector stems from a desire to help others. Young people in America are socialized with that aspect in mind.”

The comments from the 2013-2014 class are being backed up by students in the last few years who are enrolling in public administration or public affairs graduate problems at high levels. For example:

  • Graduate enrollment at the Ohio State University John Glenn School of Public Affairs has surged 48% since 2008
  • Overall, a Council of Graduate School study revealed first-time enrollment for public administration and services programs equaled growth for engineering students and outpaced business degree enrollment

Some would consider this a troubling trend due to the private sector struggling to find workers with the appropriate skills. I’ll go the other way, pointing out (as the Governing article does) that many of these students with public administration training end up pursuing careers in the non-profit or private sectors. More importantly, the attitude of serving the public and wanting to make a difference is strongly welcomed.

Education Pay and Rural Deaths

Two interesting numbers, courtesy of the folks at Governing magazine:

  • 28: the states in which the largest public paycheck goes to a higher education official — university president, chancellor or state commissioner. The top salary is $525,000 for the University of North Carolina president.
  • 74: deaths (criminal and accidental) per 100,000 residents in the nation's most rural counties. The rate in urban areas: 50 per 100,000 people.

At Home at the Ballpark

Among the reasons that Indianapolis was honored as the Indiana Chamber's 2012 Community of the Year was innovative economic development projects. One of those initiatives, turning the former Bush Stadium into a 138-unit apartment complex, is believed to be the first of its kind and earned some national attention in this Governing magazine story.

Bush Stadium — like many professional sports venues across the country — posed a problem for the community: What do you do with a stadium when a team leaves? (That topic was the subject of a 2011 Governing feature). Baseball stadiums are purpose-built, so they don't offer easy solutions for re-use. Yet they have sentimental and historic value that make demolition a sensitive topic.

Bush Stadium found its savior in John Watson, the principal of Core Redevelopment — which specializes in reusing historic buildings.

Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit that works to preserve and rehabilitate historic properties, had previously included the stadium on its list of endangered buildings. Marsh Davis, president of the nonprofit, joined Watson in pitching the city on the project, which ultimately contributed funding to the undertaking.

Cox calls the project a “three-dimensional puzzle.” About 85 percent of the building’s volume was torn out, so essentially a new structure was created in the shape of a stadium while maintaining the original wall. “Our company motto is, don’t fight the building,” Cox says.

The developers did retain some especially intriguing parts of the facility. The former owner’s office – complete with a fireplace and restored hardwood floors – is being incorporated into a one of the apartments.  The baseball diamond – once made of dirt – will be made of colored concrete and surrounded by grass. “If you’re in a unit looking down,” Cox says, “it still looks like a baseball field.” The effect makes the the apartments feel like luxury boxes.

Despite the high-profile status of the project, rents aren’t particular expensive: a large 1,600 square-foot studio goes for around $1,300 per month, and a smaller 580 square-foot, one-bedroom costs about $599 (the company’s already leased 35 units).

Davis says there was a risk that the stadium would be demolished, given that the area was poised for development and years had gone by without a viable method of re-use being identified.

“There are purists who would like to see it remain as a ballpark,” Davis says. “The city studied it every which way. There was no economically feasible way. There were no takers. So the alternative is: Do you scrap it, do you save a token wall, or do you do something creative?”

The project cost around $13 million, with the city picking up $3.5 million of the tab. Those funds were generated by the city's downtown tax incremental financing district, though the stadium falls outside its boundaries. Another $1.8 million for the project came from the state.

Deron Kintner, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, says the Stadium Lofts complex is part of a larger effort the city has taken to redevelop the area as a hub for the life sciences industry, given its proximity to a university, a medical school, and hospitals. The city kicked in its funding since leaders thought it was important to preserve the historic building and believes Stadium Lofts would help bring momentum to the development of the community.

‘Smart’ Efforts Help Restore Power

Some East Coast communities have been able to rebound from Superstorm Sandy faster than others. Part of the reason can be attributed to smart grids and smart power meters. Stephen Goldsmith writes about their impact now and in the future in Governing:

Sandy’s claiming of the title as the second most costly hurricane in U.S. history shows us the advantages and limitations of rigorous planning. The slow and arduous recovery faced by some East Coast communities has been coupled with the impressive speed with which many other communities have been able to return to business as usual. New emergency procedures put in place at the local and state levels deserve a lot of the credit. These included shutting down infrastructure and battening the hatches to protect vital resources and prepare for recovery.

Yet the storm teaches us that the best way to plan for the truly unexpected will be by being prepared to to improvise and by understanding that resilience in times of disaster isn’t determined only by a static disaster plan but to a greater degree by being dynamic and responsive to change. Being dynamic requires real-time data. Recent technologies are beginning to provide more access to more data, allowing analytics to find the patterns fast enough to make it useful during a disaster.

Smart grids, and particularly smart electric meters, played a promising role in improving disaster response and the speed with which power could be restored after Sandy passed. That role was small-scale and local, since electric utilities’ conversion to smart-grid technology has been slower and spottier than desired, but the potential is there for the technology to have a much larger impact as these systems are rolled out more widely.

At best, phone calls and spotty service-outage reports can slowly piece together a hazy picture of the conditions of a power network. But smart meters, programmed to send out a "last call of distress" when power is lost, can automatically report service cuts. This gives a utility company instant access to regional maps of outages, allowing it to prioritize repair-crew mobilization and begin getting service back to customers without them even having to report an outage.

Smart meters also can help identify the locations of particularly tricky "nested" outages, when more than one break is affecting an area. Additionally, smart meters can automatically report getting back on line when power is restored, eliminating unnecessary calls between the utility company and customers or follow-up service-crew visits. Repair crews can move on to the next repair rather than spending time checking on their last one, increasing efficiency and reducing system repair time considerably.

Pepco, the electric utility serving Washington, D.C., and nearby parts of Maryland, is crediting its partially implemented smart-meter system with helping get the power back on for its 100,000 customers affected by outages in the wake of Sandy. The store of information generated by the smart meters not only is available to the company’s repair crews to inform their response but also is aggregated into a regional map available online to give customers a better idea of system conditions.

PPL Electric Utilities’ smart meters allowed the company’s Pennsylvania customers to check on the status of their power’s return online and from the safety and comfort of remote locations, without having to trek out to potentially powerless homes or using the precious resource of repair-crew hours to do so. And while Baltimore Gas and Electric’s smart-meter system is only 10 percent complete, the utility credits the program with facilitating much faster troubleshooting and with replacing phone calls to customers to check on service–calls that often go unanswered–with a quick and reliable stream of information.

The next time a major storm hits, there will be more examples of service-restoration improvements enabled by this technology. In the face of consumer suspicions and resistance to smart meters, utilities need to publicize these success stories to build support for continued smart-grid development. The more data government and utilities can tap, the faster they can act and the more resilient a community can become.
 

Magic Numbers: A Few Key Indicators Can Predict Success

Whether an organization succeeds or fails is typically not that complicated, according to a Governing columnist. John Bernard writes that a few numbers, or even a single one, are often leading indicators. Measuring and closely managing these are essential processes.

The nature of organizational work is that certain work really matters, and if we do that work well, other areas of our work also will benefit. What we measure is what we manage, so finding the right measures to drive the right behavior is among the most important work leaders do.

In working with the leadership teams of state agencies in Oregon and Washington over the past few years, it has become obvious to me that certain numbers, measures or other indicators really drive or predict others.

For the Washington States Department of Retirement Systems, which manages retirement programs for most governmental entities in the state, the most important driver is the accuracy of member data. When the data is accurate (for such items as compensation and years of service), many other things then go smoothly. But when the data is inaccurate, it means extra work, confusion, delays and, in the worst case, the risk of a member making a retirement decision based on erroneous information.

By the time a worker retires, all discrepancies have to be resolved. And, the cleanup of old inaccuracies can create a significant challenge in getting those benefits rolling. "We rely on the data we get from 1,300-plus public employers in the state," explains DRS Deputy Director Marcie Frost, "but we must do everything in our power to make sure the data we receive is accurate and complete."

While member accuracy is key for DRS, the Oregon Youth Authority has its own special number: the percentage of youth who have been in the corrections agency’s custody who have a positive mentor outside of incarceration. Because external mentors dramatically reduce the odds that a young man or woman released from the penal system will end up back behind bars, finding good mentors is key for youth to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Lack of Leaders Just Not True

In a policy world too often filled with political preferences and partisanship, there do remain outstanding leaders. Governing recognizes some of those public officials each year and reminds all that leadership is not always readily apparent with this World War II story.

Have you ever heard of Ralph Carr? Neither had I until Adam Schrager gave a presentation about him at a Governing event. Carr was governor of Colorado from 1939 to 1943, and from Schrager’s book, "The Principled Politician: the Ralph Carr Story," we learn that Carr was a rising star in the Republican Party until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In the fear and anti-Japanese sentiment that gripped the nation following the attack, Carr was virtually the only politician who spoke out against the internment of Japanese-American citizens. His political career ended soon thereafter.

We hear regularly about the dearth of good political leadership in our time, but it seems to me that the incidence of good leadership is probably about the same now as it was in any earlier age. Sometimes it’s easy to believe that our perception to the contrary is the fault of the media or our modern methods of communication. I think not. There have always been demagogues and unprincipled critics, and their voices were as loud in the public square then as they are now. Then as now, it is difficult to recognize some of the truly great leaders among us until long after the smoke has cleared.

Outstanding public leadership is often shaped by circumstances that we would not want to occur. There is no Lincoln without slavery and the Civil War, just as there is no Ralph Carr without Pearl Harbor and World War II. But more frequently, we are unaware of the many other good leaders among us, the ones quietly doing the work in their own spheres of the world and not engaging in a lot of image-building and branding. In other cases, their names are familiar but we do not recognize their value at the time. Nearly everyone in Colorado and many across the nation knew who Ralph Carr was; they just didn’t recognize that he was right. He never wavered from his support for the civil rights of Japanese-Americans even as he ran for and narrowly lost a race for the U.S. Senate in 1942.

After I heard Schrager’s presentation, I asked him, "Was Ralph Carr a good politician?" After all, maybe a better politician would have trimmed his sails a bit and scooted through the storm to win the Senate seat. After his loss, one Denver newspaper described Carr’s position on the Japanese-Americans as "a fatal blunder." Schrager’s answer to my question? Yes, Carr stood on principle, was ultimately proved right, and although he lost the bid for the Senate, he did so narrowly and, had he not died in 1950, he might well have won another term as governor that year.

There are surely many good political leaders among us now. Sometimes, as with Ralph Carr, it may take a while before we recognize them. We at Governing make it our job to look past the swirling tweets, the pundits’ diatribes and the intemperate blog posts and identify the most effective leaders who are among us right now. We celebrate their accomplishments as our Public Officials of the Year. The fact that the hard part is not finding enough candidates but narrowing the list down to a few tells me that great leadership is no more in short supply than it ever has been.

41 Minutes a Day on Grooming?

Did you know that there is an annual American Time Use Survey? Neither did we. There is, and it is a product of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Check it out to learn about time devoted to a variety of work, play and lifestyle activities. Governing reports:

The typical American spends 28 minutes per day on educational activities, 74 minutes eating or drinking and another 41 minutes grooming themselves.

That’s according to data released today as part of the American Time Use Survey, an annual assessment by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measuring how people spend their days.

The 2011 estimates cover a range of activities – everything from hours spent looking for a job to yardwork.

Numbers from recent years indicate a gradual decline in non-work related communication, with average time spent on phone, e-mail and other messages down 24 percent from 2008. Among the other findings:

  • Those who worked spent an average of 7.99 hours per day doing so, up from 7.82 hours in 2010.
  • 42 percent of U.S. eldercare providers cared for a parent.
  • Those age 15 and over spent an average of 2.8 hours watching television.
  • Self-employed workers were three times more likely than wage and salary employees to have performed some work at home on days they worked.

Additional national data for select population groups is available on the survey website. The agency said the survey was designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population, so yearly estimates for each state are not published.

Hey Indiana, Get on the Bike!

Indiana is home to seven of the 214 U.S. bicycle-friendly communities, according to the League of American Bicyclists. There are only three communities in the platinum grouping. In Indiana, Bloomington is a silver designee, with the following in the large bronze category: Carmel, Columbus, Fort Wayne, Goshen, Indianapolis and South Bend. Governing reports:

The United States is now home to 214 bicycle-friendly communities in 47 states, according to a new list released Monday by the League of American Bicyclists.

Municipalities are evaluated based on their efforts to promote bicycling, investments in bicycling infrastructure and bicycling education programs, the league said in a news release. They must apply to be considered for the list. Localities are also divided into four categories: platinum, gold, silver and bronze.

Boulder, Colo., Davis, Calif., and Portland, Ore., remained the only three communities to earn the platinum distinction on the 2012 list. All three ranked in the top 10 for their percentage of commuters who bike to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, as Governing previously reported.

The league also singled out Durango, Colo., and Missoula, Mont., which were moved up from a silver to a gold designation.

More than 7 percent of Missoula’s commuters bike to work, according to the league’s report, well above the national average of 1 percent. The city has recently installed protected bike lanes, added bike path signage and created more bike parking. Durango has constructed more than 300 miles of mountain biking trails and continues to invest in city biking lanes, the league noted in its release.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans who use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation has doubled in the last decade, up to 730,000.
 

Who is “LEEDing” the Way?

Put "green" and "government" in the same sentence and the story is usually about funding fights in our nation’s capital. In this case, Washington, D.C. has been recognized as having the most LEED-certified green buildings per capita. More than 100 are used by the federal government. Colorado is the top state. Governing reports: 

The District of Columbia and Colorado have the most LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita in the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

D.C. easily led the nation with 31.5-square-feet of LEED-certified space per capita as of 2011, according to the report. The council highlighted the renovation of the U.S. Treasury Building, which became the oldest LEED-certified building in the country, as an example of the city’s work toward becoming a more sustainable community. More than 100 D.C. buildings used by the federal government are LEED-certified, according to a complete list of LEED projects in the United States provided by the USGBC, along with dozens of local government, private and non-profit buildings.

The city’s green-building efforts began in 2006, when the city council passed a bill requiring that all publicly-owned commercial projects be LEED-certified, according to a USGBC database of policies in all 50 states. D.C. also initiated an incentive program in 2009 for private and residential buildings to pursue LEED certification.

"This is a great accomplishment for the D.C. metropolitan region and a testament to the drive, commitment and leadership of all those who live, work and play in our community," Mike Babcock, board chair of the National Capital Region Chapter of USGBC, said in a statement. "We also realize there is still more to do and hope to effectively guide the effort by engaging, educating and encouraging the dialogue around the value of sustainability."

Colorado ranked as the top state with 2.74 square-feet of LEED space per resident. Former Gov. Bill Owens issued an executive order in 2005 requiring that all state buildings be LEED-certified, according to the USGBC. Former Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation in 2007 that required any project receiving 25 percent or more of its funding from the state to be designed and built to high-performance green-building standards, such as LEED. Numerous municipalities, including Denver, have adopted their own green-building statutes.

Illinois (2.69 sq. ft. per capita), Virginia (2.42), Washington (2.18) and Maryland (2.07) rounded out the top five. Delaware (0.03), West Virginia (0.14) and Mississippi (0.21) sat at the bottom.

"Our local green building chapters from around the country have been instrumental in accelerating the adoption of green building policies and initiatives that drive construction locally," Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the USGBC, said in a statement. "These states should be recognized for working to reinvent their local building landscapes with buildings that enliven and bolster the health of our environment, communities and local economies."