Government Reform: Starting the DialogueSeptember 15, 2010
Joseph A. Kask, CPA
As the economy has continued to struggle this year and political races across the state and the country have heated up, one issue that seems to consistently arise is the role of government. Specifically, the question is often, "Is government functioning as efficiently as it can and, if not, what can be done to improve upon it?"
From the perspective of someone who enjoys working closely with and advising dozens of municipal governments, it indeed would behoove elected officials everywhere this year to consider this question and start the dialogue on how to address this issue. In 2010, we cannot afford inaction.
The role of government and finding meaningful ways to bring about reform is not an easy subject to tackle, nor is it something that can be solved easily. But if the discussion can get underway with all the right parties talking – elected officials, business leaders, community leaders, union members and other workforce members – we can began moving in the right direction towards real reform.
Government reform and improved government efficiency can only be addressed by asking the right questions at the outset. Questions such as:
- What would meaningful reform look like?
- What are the kinds of efficiencies that would be easiest to implement right away?
- Should we consider things such as consolidation, shared services and/or regionalization?
- Do we know that all the right parties are represented at the outset of these discussions?
- Can we develop benchmarks that will represent success in our effort to bring more efficiency?
- Are the long-term savings substantial enough to make these possible reforms meaningful?
Once again, it all begins with a willingness to start the dialogue, and it requires teamwork and an agreement that all parties brought to the table are critical to the process. The truth is such an effort simply cannot be done without buy-in from all the relevant partners in the process. However, if all potential partners can agree that, at the very least, discussions should begin, it could be the start of a slow but steady movement towards real reform.
In 2010, people have shown that this is an issue that matters to them. It is an issue that needs to transcend politics, parties and ideologies and instead keep the focus squarely fixed on the future. There may be no better time to start talking to each other than right now.