Muni sweeps: “We’re gonna have thousands of eyes lookin’ at this stuff”

By Cate Long
June 6, 2011

The Sunshine Portal

Watch this great video of New Mexico state senator Sander Rue, Republican of Albuquerque, as he delivers the keynote speech to the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government on March 26th. He is speaking about the Sunshine Portal of New Mexico and the legislative efforts he and others have made to create transparency for the business of the state. “We’re gonna have thousands of eyes lookin’ at this stuff,” he says in the video. It takes committed and tenacious public servants like Rue to expose the people’s business to sunlight. Ride on, Senator Rue! (Hat tip: Government in the Lab)

State level consolidation

In the private sector, large corporations often reorganize their operations to respond to changes in demand or market structure. It hasn’t been as common for state governments to shuffle state agencies, until recently:

An unusually large number of governors are proposing merging agencies this year. That’s partially because the fiscal crisis has governors looking to find savings anywhere they can find them. But it’s also because a majority of states have new governors this year, and as chief executive officer, they often come into office with their own ideas about how government should be structured.

“We have 29 new folks taking a fresh look at all of this,” says John Thomasian, director of the National Governors Association Center of Best Practices. “That is accelerating these types of changes.” According to Thomasian, there is a theme in the recent wave of consolidation proposals. States are moving toward having more mega-agencies overseen by directors who report directly to the governor. They’re hoping to increase cooperation among arms of the bureaucracy that carry out similar functions.

Good luck, governors.

Read and weep

The New York Times has done another exceptional bit of reporting on abuses in the large institutions in New York that house the developmentally disabled:

Jonathan Carey did not die for lack of money.

New York State and the federal government provided $1.4 million annually per person to care for Jonathan and the other residents of the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, a warren of low-rise concrete and brick buildings near Albany.

Yet on a February afternoon in 2007, Jonathan, a skinny, autistic 13-year-old, was asphyxiated, slowly crushed to death in the back seat of a van by a state employee who had worked nearly 200 hours without a day off over 15 days. The employee, a ninth-grade dropout with a criminal conviction for selling marijuana, had been on duty during at least one previous episode of alleged abuse involving Jonathan.

“I could be a good king or a bad king,” he told the dying boy beneath him, according to court documents.

Read it and weep.

Development that spurs revitalization

The New York Times has an article today about the High Line Project on the west side of New York City. It’s a very interesting example of public development that is free and open in contrast to developments like sports stadiums that cater to only a small segment of the public who can afford access. The economic benefits of the High Line are improved neighborhood values as opposed to tax-revenue schemes for projects like sports stadiums. It’s a very different paradigm:

Indeed, what started out as a community-based campaign to convert an eyesore into an asset evolved into one of the most successful economic-development projects of the mayor’s nine years in office. The co-founders of Friends of the High Line, a group that operates the city-owned park, said the mayor and his staff deserved credit for having embraced the park and rezoned the neighborhoods it passes through to help it flourish.

Mini sweeps

Bloomberg: China Local-Government Debt Risk Needs ‘Attention,’ PBOC Says

The National Association of State Budget Officers: Spring 2011 Fiscal Survey of States

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Health Care Quality Gaps and Disparities Persist in Every State

HuffPo: Municipal Bond Issuance Down By Half This Year

Loop Capital Markets: Municipal Strategy Report  June 2011

Bloomberg: New York Sells Water Bonds as Returns Outperform: Muni Credit

Think Progress: Wisconsin Committee Votes To Cut Business And Investment Taxes While Increasing Taxes On Poor

Sunlight Foundation: Sunlight’s GoViz Blog

Government Technology: Lobbyists Help Oregon Legislature Stream Video to Mobile Devices

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