National Forum on Local Government Collaboration

National Forum on Local Government Collaboration

Civic Commons ideastream
on Feb 13, 2014

As part of the EfficientGovNetwork's efforts to determine its future roles, goals and organizational model, we are holding this online forum with experts representing government collaboration initiatives and organizations, past and present, in other parts of the country. The purpose of the forum is to gain insights based on a variety of models outside of the region and to allow those interested in establishing EGN as a stable entity to ask their own questions about what works, what challenges exist and what might be the best course to pursue in Northeast Ohio. 

As part of this discussion, please review the following documents prepared by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) which is working to help EGN determine its future roles, goals and organizational model:

Proposed Roles and Goals for EfficientGovNetwork

Proposed Organizational Models for EfficientGovNetwork

Your forum panelists are: 

Dave Boerger
Director of Member Consulting Services
Southeast Michigan Council of Governments - Local Government Effectiveness and Collaboration

Ryan Chasey
Founder and President
High Performance Government Network

Linda Murphy
Consultant
Government Efficiency Movement

Rachel Rhodes
Research Assistant
Center for Governmental Research (CGR)

Bart Roberts
Policy Associate
University of Buffalo Regional Institute

 

Moderators (1)

Participants (12) See All

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2017-07-22T16:52:58+00:00
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Recent Activity

Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014
"HPG Network regularly surveys our client municipalities to determine our success in serving..."
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014
"Helen:  I agree 100% with that sentiment.  It's very true in my experience.  Thanks for posting."
"Helen, Jump in anytime! Early success is indeed important and a critical catalyst for..."
"SEMCOG performs a member satisfaction survey every other year that gives us a good understanding..."
Helen Humphrys
on Feb 21, 2014
"I agree with Rachel Rhodes on public engagement.  I believe it is very important because of the..."
Helen Humphrys
on Feb 21, 2014
"All, My apologies for jumping in but the Akron Roundtable had Jennifer Bradley speak Thursday on..."
Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 21, 2014
"We consider a project or effort successful if the organization or community we are working with..."
"SEMCOG's interaction with higher education has been three-fold: 1) Partnering with community..."
Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 21, 2014
"How do you measure the success of your efforts? "
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014
"We've built great partnerships with higher education.  One lesson learned for us has been to be..."
Polly Moss
on Feb 21, 2014
"Thank you all for sharing your expertise, experiences and information-so helpful!  We'dis..."
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014
"HPG Network operates primarily on a fee for service model.  As a non-profit, we will occassionaly..."
"More info on public-private partnerships can be found in the attached report about water system..."
"Terry, The SEMCOG dues vary by community size as indicated on this dues schedule. Dave"
"NJ used to have a grant program that funded the GEM program initially. This was discontinued with..."
The Uhl Group
on Feb 21, 2014
"CAn you give me an ideas on the range of membership dues?  Is it scaled by size of community?  Do..."
"SEMCOG is funded from State and Federal transportation, HUD, environmental, education and..."
Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 21, 2014
"How is your organization funded? If you had to start a new organization or initiative, what would..."
"Rachel, Thanks for your insightful post about partnerships between the private sector,..."
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014
"Rachel - thanks for the question! I concur that the cross-sectional partnership can be a powerful..."
Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 20, 2014
"Bart, After researching a host of government-efficiency minded organizations nationwide, I've..."
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 20, 2014
"Thanks all. Very helpful perspectives."
Michael Benson
on Feb 20, 2014
"I am local government, but I have provided planning, grant writing/funding and project management..."
"Fire Chief Mike Benson's comments above are absolutely on target based on our experience in SE..."
"In response to Chester's request for a seemingly impossible collaboration that turned out to be a..."
"Our GEM initiative was created as a non-profit entity and guided by elected officials in Morris..."
"Jill, In response to your earlier question about the threshold for collaborative projects, indeed..."
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014
"Because UB Regional Institute does not have a formal governance role in the region, the services..."
Michael Benson
on Feb 20, 2014
"I agree with Rachel, and we have done exactly that: cooperate first, then collaborate and..."
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 20, 2014
"Jill: In Indiana, we have seen less emphasis from the municipalities we work with on a..."
Helen Humphrys
on Feb 21, 2014 - 2:56 pm

All, My apologies for jumping in but the Akron Roundtable had Jennifer Bradley speak Thursday on regional collaboration.  She authored, The Metropolitan Revolution.  She was quoted as saying  "It is hard work, you have to have a pretty high tolerance for failures at the outset.  That is why you have to think on what you can succeed on, what you can get people to rally around, and post some early successes."

 

Responses(3)

Helen Humphrys
on Feb 21, 2014

I agree with Rachel Rhodes on public engagement.  I believe it is very important because of the groundswell that would move a project/initiative.  When the taxpayers see a proposal for better delivery of services / less money (maybe) and efficient use of personnel they would encourage their elected leaders to step up.

 

Helen,

Jump in anytime! Early success is indeed important and a critical catalyst for sustainable progress. Encouraging elected leaders to step it up can be a challenge. Lack of political will killed more collaborative ventures in SE Michigan than I can count! 

Thanks for your comments,

Dave

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014

Helen:  I agree 100% with that sentiment.  It's very true in my experience.  Thanks for posting.

 
Expand This Thread
Mike Shafarenko
From the Moderator: Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 21, 2014 - 2:09 pm

How do you measure the success of your efforts? 

 

Responses(3)

Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 21, 2014

We consider a project or effort successful if the organization or community we are working with gets the necessary information and/or data to make an educated decision.  Many of CGR's projects originate with a relatively heavy term such as "consolidation", "dissolution", and "merger", and communities often find after going through the study process and reviewing the data that a different course of action may be most beneficial for their residents (e.g. increase sharing / collaboration, pursuing other options with region/county/municipalities).

Public engagement is also very important--keeping the public in the loop when making decisions that can impact the entire community is vital to a successful effort/project. In the case of Princeton, NJ (a project directed by CGR President Joe Stefko, who also has been involved wtih EGN), both  town and borough residents were involved in the process throughout the study--an effort that paid off with a successful merger at the beginning of this year. Not really a measure of success, per se, but a part of it.

 

SEMCOG performs a member satisfaction survey every other year that gives us a good understanding how the agency is doing from a member perspective. For example, member satisfaction has averaged 8 on a 10 point scale over the last 3 surveys. Our low member turnover is another positive indicator, as we've been at or around 160 members for the last decade. Another excellent barometer of success is the high acceptance rate of our various state and federal grants submissions. The true testiment is SEMCOG has been in business for more than 40 years sustained only by grants and voluntary member dues. And a final sign of SEMCOG's success happened just recently when our Executive Director announced his retirement and his deputy, Katheen Lomako, was unanamously approved to succeed him.

Many times we've asked ourselves the question how can SEMCOG be succesful when Detroit is in bankruptcy. The collaboration needed to get Detroit through backruptcy cited in this recent article is providing proof positive of SEMCOG's track record at laying the foundation for partnership across this SE Michigan region.

Dave

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014

HPG Network regularly surveys our client municipalities to determine our success in serving them.  For individual projects, we determine metrics with the client.  Metrics may be financial, customer service, or service delivery related.  It varies greatly, but it is important to go through the process up front to agree upon the measures and goals.

 
Expand This Thread
Polly Moss
on Feb 21, 2014 - 10:16 am

Thank you all for sharing your expertise, experiences and information-so helpful!  We'dis recognized the many organizations that currently work in shared services and efficiency and want to make sure we do not duplicate those efforts but rather leverage them.  This also includes pulling in new collaborators (higher education, for example) to expand capability.  What are your thoughts and experiences with this?  Thanks!

 

Responses(2)

Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014

We've built great partnerships with higher education.  One lesson learned for us has been to be specific with the ask.  Typically colleges and universities are large and diverse, and by being specific we've often been directed to individual departments, centers or institutes who have been great long term partners for our efforts.

 

SEMCOG's interaction with higher education has been three-fold:

1) Partnering with community colleges for workforce development to make sure they are providing technical training programs for the jobs associated with the target businesses in our regional economic develoment plan.

2) Leveraging the expertise within higher education to assist local governments via faculty research, internships, class projects, co-op programs, etc.

3) Sponsoring and funding fellowships for officials from member communities to attend executive education programs with a government focus.

We consider such efforts to be critical building blocks for successful collaboration.

Dave

 
Expand This Thread
Mike Shafarenko
From the Moderator: Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 21, 2014 - 7:12 am

How is your organization funded? If you had to start a new organization or initiative, what would be your revenue model? 

 

Responses(5)

SEMCOG is funded from State and Federal transportation, HUD, environmental, education and economic development grants with ~15-20% matching funds provided by annual membership dues from 160 member communities in the seven counties of SE Michigan. The funding formula has worked very effectively for over 40 years, so the same revenue model would likely be used if we had to start over.

Dave

 
The Uhl Group
on Feb 21, 2014

CAn you give me an ideas on the range of membership dues?  Is it scaled by size of community?  Do all get access to everything?

 

NJ used to have a grant program that funded the GEM program initially. This was discontinued with a new administration in the statehouse. After that, GEM became an incubator fund under the Community Foundation of NJ. The funding contributions came from participating elected officials, one in particular. There were no membership fees or public contributions. This was not a good model and helped lead to the group's demise at the end of 2011. Our focus was entirely on local government restructuring which restricted the alternative grant sources that could be pursued.

SEMCOG is fortunate to have government grants available with matching funds from annual membership dues. This funding model appears to give them a good economic foundation and keeps members 'skin in the game'. Since they have a broader range of services, this presents more grant opportunities for them to pursue as well.

 

Terry,

The SEMCOG dues vary by community size as indicated on this dues schedule.

Dave

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 21, 2014

HPG Network operates primarily on a fee for service model.  As a non-profit, we will occassionaly have programs underwritten by foundations.

 
Expand This Thread
Mike Shafarenko
From the Moderator: Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 20, 2014 - 12:44 pm

 

Some of the panelists have already spoken to this, but it's still worth asking - even if the response is a little more nuanced. 

What service(s) does your organization provide to local governments? Which services are the most often utilized/requested? 

 

Responses(10)

SEMCOG provides 9 different services to 160 member local governments in SE Michigan; each is shown at this link. SEMCOG was formed over 40 years ago to perform transportation planning for the 7 counties in SE Michigan and the services were expanded over the years to the nine listed; however, transportation planning continues to be the most utilized overall. Withing the service area I'm involved with entitled Local Government Effectiveness and Collaboration, the most frequent service request is for budgetary assistance. This provides the perfect opportunity to proactively suggest and offer assistance to collaborate with others to lower cost and improve services. Unfortunately, collaboration takes time, so immedate help for the current or upcoming budget year is typically not provided. In this regard, we strongly encourage communities to implement a multi-year budget so the impact of collaborative savings can be included.

 

Two things come to mind: 1) providing a venue for collaboration among like-minded elected and appointed offcials/facilitiating the dialog about sharing opportunities and 2) providing resources and expertise to actually assess the feasibility of a shared services opportunity. Both seem to be essential ingredients.

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 20, 2014

HPG Network provides a wide range of services for local government, including strategic planning, leadership development, management training, community development project management, process improvement training, public safety planning and exercises, and human resource services.  Many of these services can be provided to an individual unit of local government or a collaboration of multiple governments or agencies.  Oftentimes we are asked to provide basic planning or training services to multiple agencies that serve as the basis for a longer term collaboration.

Two of our most utilized services are strategic planning and community development project management, with a specific focus on housing issues.

 
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014

Because UB Regional Institute does not have a formal governance role in the region, the services we provide to local governments varies widely based upon how we are engaged by them. Our strengths lie in convening different actors - governmental, private sector, nonprofit, etc., informing decisions through applied research analysis, and educating the region about issues through engagement and research. Services that are most requested include those that help facilitate discussions with the general public and stakeholders as well as applied research that can help organizations focus their decisions.

 

Our GEM initiative was created as a non-profit entity and guided by elected officials in Morris County NJ. This was a good thing as there was considerable consensus re: rethinking the way that services were being delivered. Everything was done on a voluntary basis and we ended up with 90%+ of the municipalities in the County participating. We made great progress on innovative conceptual solutions for several years. This was also a bad thing because of the ultimate turnover in the elected officials - one became a judge, one dropped out of politics, one ran for a higher office, etc. Without their continued involvement, the GEM effort became unsustainable. I highly recommend that any such undertaking have an apolitical leadership structure with influential political leaders as trustees or some such role. That way, the efforts can continue unabated even when politics and personalities change.

 
Michael Benson
on Feb 20, 2014

I am local government, but I have provided planning, grant writing/funding and project management for our shared service projects (regional radio and dispatch consolidation).  The areas I feel are the easiest to achieve are based in shared IT.  Joint/shared computer networks make everything else possible: telephony, public safety dispatch, shared software, server backup, etc.

 
Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 20, 2014

Bart,

After researching a host of government-efficiency minded organizations nationwide, I've noticed that some of the most successful (and sustainable!) involve partnerships between the private sector, non-profit, AND public sectors. As a convenor of these different actors in the Buffalo region, what do you see as the principal benefit of these relationships? Is there a common "glue" that brings these actors together (besides you, of course)?

 
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014

Rachel - thanks for the question! I concur that the cross-sectional partnership can be a powerful approach. I guess I would say that success breeds success and if the partnership can demonstrate palpable success, it gains momentum and support and can change the dialogue regionally. As an example, we provide extensive capacity support for the WNY Regional Economic Development Council (http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/western-new-york). The obvious impetus for that collaborative partnership was the shift in state policy and funding approach that forced regions in NYS to collaborate. I can't speak for the experiences across the state, but in our neck of the woods, the collaboration has been viewed by many as a major success. Economically, this collaborative approach to regional economic development has coinicded with some very positive economic indicators. The business community appears to be extremely supportive as are many local governments. Even the nonprofit sector appears positive about it because they had a genuine voice in the process that shaped the planning process and their priorities (arts, equity, etc.) are valued in the region's economic development strategy.

 

Rachel,

Thanks for your insightful post about partnerships between the private sector, non-profit, AND public sectors. Here in SE Michigan, the elephant in the room is obviously the Detroit bankruptcy. Yet as the solution unfolds (proposed restructuring plan is to be published today), cross sectional collaboration is evolving as a key enabler to allow the bankruptcy to proceed relatively quickly. To that end, check out this statement from a recent Governing .com article entitled An Extraordinary Effort to Build a Future for Detroit: "....I have never experienced such a collection of diverse foundations, state legislators, federal judges, corporate leaders, city officials and a governor acting in profound ways to shape a future for a city...."

Dave

 

More info on public-private partnerships can be found in the attached report about water system managment approaches from Governing.com. By the way, Governing is an excellent and informative resource that is highly recommended - and free!

Dave

 
Expand This Thread
Chester Bowling
on Feb 20, 2014 - 8:42 am

Mike,

Thanks to you and all the folks at Civic Commons and WVIZ for making this forum posssible and all the great work you are doing in NEO.

 
Mike Shafarenko
From the Moderator: Mike Shafarenko
on Feb 19, 2014 - 8:50 pm

Hi everyone - I'm the Director of Civic Commons ideastream and I'll be your moderator throughout the course of this forum. To kick things off, here is the first question: 

What do you think are the most important roles an organization or initiative can play to advance local government collaboration? 

 

Responses(15)

Mike,

The most important role our Team at SEMCOG plays to drive collaboration is to bring potential partners together and help them get to yes. We act in a catalyst role that takes detailed analysis and much patience. One facet we've discovered is if the potential savings/service enhancements aren't at least 15% or more, the aggregated up front time and effort is not worth the benefits of the final outcome. 

 

I concur with SEMCOG. Our local governement structures in NJ are silos by design. There is a need to convene local government elected and appointed officials in a mannner that allows for relationship building, mutual trust, and opportunity identification. Our goal was/is to provide a means to collaborate on consequential and sustainable change. We focus efforts on the restructuring of three or more municipal partners (more regional focus) vs. municipal pairings wherever possible. I would say the threshold for savings through shared services in our area in 20%. Less is viewed as not worth the trouble.

 
The Uhl Group
on Feb 20, 2014

If 15%-20% is the threshold, are you finding there are enough other efforts to gain momentum?

 

We find that a regional approach to restructuring allows us to get to the desired threshold easier. Municipal pairings, not so much. Examples: three communities decide to share municipal courts for savings in the 25% to 45% range. Exeptions may be in the 'high cost' areas such as public safety and publice works. Our last DPW effort resulted in 46% and 54% in annual operational savings for two participants. 

 
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014

I think it depends on the organization. In a networked model of collaboration, different organizations need to play a role that fits their strengths and is in line with the broader role they play in the region. Ultimately though, a common need we see in our region is for some form of capacity support and technical assistance to local governments. Lack of government collaboration isn’t necessarily due to a resistance to working together, but because it isn’t easy or natural. I think a necessary ingredient to advance local government collaboration is technical support to get it done. 

 

Absolutely, it's seldom that the 15% threshold is not met; in fact most are in the 20-30% range. The service areas of low hanging fruit seems to be 911 Dispatch, Assessing, DPW, Fire and Parks/Rec. Click this link for a searchable database of ~1000 successful regional collaboration projects in SE Michigan.

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 20, 2014

I would echo what the others have said.  The most critical roles an organization or initiative can play in advancing collaboration is being a convenor and/or providing external expertise and technical assistance that the local governments do not have access to or cannot afford.

In some cases, we have seen measurable service improvements that matter more to the local government than cost savings, so this can be a driver of collaboration and improvement as well.

 
The Uhl Group
on Feb 20, 2014

very helpful -- thanks

 
Michael Benson
on Feb 20, 2014

As a local public official (Fire Chief) my role has been one of facilitating the conversation about shared services and the subsequent effort.  Good networking and being a "friend" to your neighbor first makes the transition to actually doing something together much easier.  I subscribe to the cooperation leads to collaboration leads to consolidation path for shared services.  If you do not already cooperate with your neighbor, your conversation on sharing services will be a non-starter.  I work very hard to develop and maintain good relationships with my neighbors and that work has resulted in succesful shared service projects for communities in our area.

 
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 20, 2014

Thanks to all participating in this forum. I'm a former city council member in NE Ohio and also facilitated EGN for a couple of years, including its time applying for state funding through its Local Government Innovation Fund program.

I've just read through all the questions and comments and I keep coming back to this thread. The percentages noted in terms of amount of savings look incredibly high to me, based on what I recall hearing about from EGN members over the last couple of years. One theme that we often came to was that collaboration shouldn't be pursued if it's only for the monetary savings, but that there are other values in it as well. I imagine the target savings threshold for pursuing a collaboration has to do with where a collaborative starts, in terms of how inefficient they're been, individually, before the collaboration. Dave - could you say more about how it is that that threshold holds?

 

I would say the focus on % cost savings for NJ municipalities comes from the fact that we have the highest in the nation property taxes which fund municipal, county, and school operations. That is why this is top-of-mind in any shared services intiative. Perhaps this is a less significant criteria in other states.

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 20, 2014

Jill: In Indiana, we have seen less emphasis from the municipalities we work with on a "threshold" figure for cost savings.  Here, it seems, the focus is on collaboration in pursuit of improved services or elimination of redundancy, with cost savings calculated during the transition or after the fact.

 

Jill, In response to your earlier question about the threshold for collaborative projects, indeed there has to be some benefit for collaborating, typically a combination of cost savings and service delivery enhancements, otherwise, why would a community bother. Typically the community initiating the collaborating project has a defined shortfall in performance or cost of their current method of delivering that service, along with the political will to address those shortfalls. Both factors are equally important. To help the process, SEMCOG has developed performance benchmarks for 17 different service areas that are very helpful for local communities to identify the gaps in performance and in turn the targets to be attained by a particular collaboration project. If several communities are going to take the time and effort to forge a collaborative venture, why not shoot for the condolidated service to perform at the benchmark levels.

 

Fire Chief Mike Benson's comments above are absolutely on target based on our experience in SE Michigan. Fire Department's (and to a some extent Police Departments) are especially prepared for such conversations about collaboration because of long standing mutual aid agreements among neighboring communities. That means Public Safety officers have worked together on serious emergencies over the years and have a confidence and positive working relationship that can be tapped and leveraged very effectively to identify and pursue collaborative opportunities.

 
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 20, 2014

Thanks all. Very helpful perspectives.

 
Expand This Thread
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 19, 2014 - 2:08 pm

Thank you for the invitation to participate in this forum.  I am the Founder and President of the High Performance Government Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit that is dedicated to cultivating thriving communities.  The HPG Network strengthens communities by establishing a framework for collaboration, convening local resources, and equipping stakeholders by providing services such as: municipal partnering and planning, organizational and staff development, strategic planning, process improvement, neighborhood engagement, compliant community development programs, community convening, emergency preparedness, emergency planning & exercises, project management, and educational conferences.

HPG Network believes strongly in collaboration between local governments.  Regardless of size or location, local governments across the country are finding innovative ways to address similar challenges.  We work hard to build partnerships both within and between the communities we serve.

I look forward to interacting with you during this forum.

 

Responses(3)

Chester Bowling
on Feb 20, 2014

Ryan,

Thanks for being part of this important conversation.  Would you describe one municiple partering project that looked at first glance like it would be impossible to achieve but ended up being very ssucessful?

 
Ryan Chasey
on Feb 20, 2014

Chester, thanks for your question.  Quite honestly, most of the municipal partnering we see looks impossible to the local government leaders at the beginning.  There are so many barriers - some structural, such as ordinances, state laws, and differing forms of government; some political; and some technical, such as utilizing different systems or software packages. 

The most challenging types of collaborations we have assisted with here in Indiana have been between multiple municipalities and counties.  This has proven difficult primarily from a structural standpoint.  Counties have 3 elected commissioners, as well as elected sheriff, auditor, assessor, etc. There are a lot of decision makers who must buy in. Still, we have seen some tremendous partnerships develop that resulted in shared services, reduced costs, and improved services.

 

In response to Chester's request for a seemingly impossible collaboration that turned out to be a very successful, the following example is provided:

4 communities in SE Michigan were seeing double digit annual water rate increases from their water provider. Coincidently, one of the communities had an underutilized water storage tower that was originally installed to support a now-closed auto plant in the city. The SEMCOG team help facilitate the creation of an agreement among the 4 communities and the water provider to be interconnected so peak water usage drops about 25% by sharing the water stored in the tower during peak periods, which meant the water provider could avoid an expensive capacity increase. As a result, the water provider will reduce water costs to the 4 communities by 15% next year assuming a test period this summer confirms the lower peak usage.

 
Expand This Thread
Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 18, 2014 - 11:35 am

As a research assistant at CGR, I analyze data and conduct research for projects spanning a variety of sectors, including government managment/organization, public finance, community indicators, health and human services, and education. Recently, I have been working with CGR President Joe Stefko to develop a sustainable organizational model for EfficentGov Network. As part of this effort, I administered a regional stakeholder survey, researched efficiency-minded peer models across the nation, and conducted interviews with peer models.  Before that, I was involved with a consolidation/shared service study in Cuyahoga County and multiple consolidation/shared service studies in New York.

At CGR, it is our mission to provide leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about the future of their organizations or communities. As communities are increasingly feeling financial strain, some turn to collaboration or consolidation to ease the tax burden on residents. In recent years, CGR has  completing over 70 shared service/consolidation studies in Ohio, New York, and New Jersey.

 

 

 

Responses(4)

The Uhl Group
on Feb 19, 2014

Looking forward to a useful dialogue over the next few days, Rachel.  Your personal base of knowledge has been of great help to the EGN feasibility steering committee.  Thanks for your help on this1

 
Chester Bowling
on Feb 20, 2014

Rachel,

I second Terry's comments and want you to know how very much we appreciate all your work on the EGNet feasibility study.  Of all the shared services work you have seen and done yourself what do you think holds the most promise for making a real difference in government efficiency as measured by either improved services and/or reduced costs?

 
Rachel Rhodes
on Feb 20, 2014

Here at CGR we sometimes use the marriage metaphor to describe collaboration in local governments, using the catch phrase "Date before getting married."  Shared service/collaboration initiatives can often be successful when accomplished incrementally. For example, rather than consolidate two villages  (often not popular among residents), the two villages may start sharing responsibility for plowing, then a Public Works/Service Department, then a Police Department, and eventually move towards full merger.  This process allows village staff and residents time to adjust to the idea of merger, and also gives them hard evidence that sharing saves money.

An organization attempting to move the needle in government efficiency could be effective as a convener for this less formal sharing, i.e. equipment sharing, automatic aid for police/fire, sharing of staff members b/w municipalities or school districts, etc. Making elected officials and administrators more aware of these relatively cheap and easy collaborative options could lead to both improved services AND reduced costs--while avoiding big changes than can sometimes be unpopular politically.

 
Michael Benson
on Feb 20, 2014

I agree with Rachel, and we have done exactly that: cooperate first, then collaborate and consolidate if it makes sense fiscally and operationally.  In the fire service the example is to work with your neighbor on joint training, response standards, etc.  Then you can discuss joint purchasing, collaborative projects for communications, interoperability, etc.  A merger of two agencies/communities should be built on a succesful foundation of sharing which includes trust and a proof of concept for a merged model.

 
Expand This Thread
Bart Roberts
on Feb 17, 2014 - 9:27 am

My name is Bart Roberts and I am a research assistant profesor at the UB Regional Institute, a major policy and research center at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. I specialize in proiving planning, research, and technical support to community development initiatives and regional affairs related to sustainability, governance, economic development, and land use policy. 

I am managing Buffalo Niagara’s HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant – One Region Forward (www.oneregionforward.org), which is developing a regional plan to provide guidance on how the region can use land for economic growth, coordinate housing and transportation investments, prepare for climate change and make it easier and cost effective to grow food and distribute it locally. In the final year of that pllanning process, One Region Forward is strategizing to build the capacity to implement this plan, exploring various models of networked, collaborative governance.

In addition, I provide regular technical support to the Western New York Regional Council’s Smart Growth Coordinating Council (http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/western-new-york

Prior to joining the UB Regional Institute, I worked as the lead analyst under Mayor Byron Brown on the management accountability program CitiStat Buffalo, where I oversaw the development and analysis of performance metrics for services delivered by the City of Buffalo. 

 

Responses(3)

The Uhl Group
on Feb 19, 2014

Bart I'm sure your work in Buffalo on the HUD Sustainable Communities grant brought some key issues to the forefront, like NEOSCC did here under Hunter Morrison's leadership.  We look forward to your thoughts on a sustainable efficient local government effort.

 
Chester Bowling
on Feb 20, 2014

Bart,

Thanks for being part of this conversation.  Would you please tell us the story of the UB Regional Institute?  How long has it existed?  How did it get started?  How is it goverened?  Where does its funding come from? Who does it work with?

 
Bart Roberts
on Feb 20, 2014

Chester - thanks for the question! Not sure I can address all of it, but I will try. The Regional Institute is a policy center at the University at Buffalo with a detailed history of adding capacity and research expertise to regional initiatives in the Buffalo Niagara region. There is no regional planning entity in our region so we have traditionally performed in ways that one might expect from a regional planning organization - indicator tracking, policy inquiries, capacity support, convening, etc.

Our funding comes primarily from grants and contracts, which means our ability to play this role for the region is intermittent. We were fortunate to be among a partnership awarded a 2011 HUD Sustainable Communities regional planning grant which has supported our work in this area in a very focused way over the past ~2 years. That initiative - www.oneregionforward.org - is seeking strategies for continuing the collaboration and funding the types of capacity support the grant is supporting now. In that sense, I am very much here to learn from you all as our region is grappling with many of the questions being asked through this forum.

 
Expand This Thread

My name is Dave Boerger and for the last 7 years we at SEMCOG have been helping to initiate and facilitate collaborative ventures among our 160 member local governments in SE Michigan. Over the course of our work, the Collaboration Checklist was developed to help our members quickly assess the viability of a potential collaboration project.  The attached chart shows the variety and frequency of the >1000 successful collaboraton examples in our database. 

 

Responses(3)

The Uhl Group
on Feb 19, 2014

Dave -- SEMCOG seems like a great success story for local government efficiency efforts.  Your stories on how you made it happen and tips for Northeast Ohio to consider will be useful as we near the end of our feasibility study.

 
Chester Bowling
on Feb 20, 2014

Dave,

Thanks for taking the time to be part of the this forum.  I am impressed with your quick assessment Collaboration Checklist.  I assume it comes from your experience of the most critical issues in collaboration projects.  Would you tell us about a particulary difficult collaboration project that turned into a big success? 

 

Chester,

Our Team has helped facilitate hundreds of collaboration projects; howver, an early one stands out involving the consolidation of fire and EMS protection for the TriCities of Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake, by the West Bloomfield Fire department in SE Michigan. The solution benefited all communities involved. The Tri-Cities were able to upgrade their fire department from a paid-on-call, basic life support agency to a full-time, advanced life support system at an affordable cost. West Bloomfield, by utilizing the existing Tri-City Fire station was able to reduce response times to the north-east portion of the township without incurring the costs of building a new station or purchasing Fire & EMS apparatus. The challenge was getting all four communities on the same page as well as developing a viable solution that effectively dealt with the existing paid on call fire fighters. Concurrently a hospital was being but in the area that allowed hospital transport to bring in an additonal $1.2m of incremental cost recovery revenue.

 
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