As someone who’s advocated for local-government workers for 40 years, I’m going to tell you something you’d never expect me to say but that I truly believe: Cities should employ a lot fewer people.
In what felt like an eerie flashback, the scenes at the gas pumps following last month’s ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline resembled the gas crises of the 1970s: long lines and panic in reaction to a gas shortage. This begs the question: Over the last 40 years, have we become better able to respond to disruptions and to flex our muscles during a crisis?
Here’s a harsh reality that will be hard for some who lead and manage in municipal government to stomach. Those staffers you lost as COVID-19 battered your local government’s tax revenues? They aren’t all coming back any time soon.
As state and local governments celebrate the latest federal stimulus package, I’m struck by what I heard recently from Uri Monson, CFO of the Philadelphia School District: “The hardest thing to do in government,” Uri told me, “is to deal with one-time money and not waste it.”
In the 1990s, political scientist Robert Putnam documented a worrisome trend: Fewer Americans were members of groups that formed the very fabric of American life, such as unions, PTAs and even bowling leagues. As the bonds connecting us eroded, he argued, the foundations of democracy were under threat.
“The more you allow localities to control their destiny, the better they do.” That’s Mike Pagano, quoted in Neil Kleiman’s new paper, Remaking Federalism: How States Can Realign and Rebuild a Stronger and Healthier Union.
“Just as we come out of our holes and see what 25 percent unemployment looks like, we may also see what collective rage looks like.” That line, from Laurie Garrett, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health and The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases…