Restructuring Washington

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Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 9:00 pm  //  Craig Mayberry

Current Washington State Org Chart
At the Bellingham City Club on Wednesday, Norman Rice, the former mayor of Seattle, spoke about public process. It was an enlightening conversation for all that were in the room, as a politician (albeit former) clearly articulated many issues around government process. I could write a lot on the public process piece, but two other insights were important as well and parallel many of my own experiences and thoughts.

One of the problems of large bureaucracies (whether business or government) is the stove pipe organizations they have that limit innovation, communication, and the ability to solve complex problems. The other problem Rice articulated was about where power is held and how an organization will hold on to power, even if results are better when they give it up. He repeated a conversation he'd had with a federal cabinet member who, when presented with a new way of organizing, in effect stated, it is my budget and I am going to keep it. Senior executives (again in business and government) will make decisions based on their own personal power and preferences, and go against the greater good. He also told the story of Washington State legislators who would not cede control over their transportation budget to let regional governments solve transportation issues. In both instances, protecting their turf was more important than solving problems.

Washington State has a stove pipe organization, pictured in image 1. This style of organization takes critical government functions and creates silos which limit the ability to solve complex problems that cross organizations. Occasionally the state government will try to cross silos to solve issues, for instance, the Puget Sound Partnership. But overall the state government will never solve critical issues like the environment, education, poverty and job creation, simply because they do not have an organizational structure that will allow resources, both financial and human, to be directed so as to solve them.

Fundamentally, the government has three primary responsibilities. The first is children and making sure they are not only ready to learn, but that by the time they are 18, they have a solid education and life skills that will allow them to get jobs. Ensuring children are ready to learn is not the only function of local school districts, they must also concern themselves with things like poverty levels, parental support (or other appropriate mentorship), and health care access. We expect school districts to make sure children are ready to learn, but they do not have the financial resources to deal with all the issues that might hinder a child’s readiness. Image 2 shows a new organizational structure to give school districts the primary responsibility for readiness to learn and then gives them access to all the state's resources to help them in that effort.

The second responsibility of government is economic vitality. Jobs must be available and businesses must be able to function so they can create new jobs. Again, the current structure forces businesses to deal with all sorts of departments, each working against each other to promote economic vitality. Aligning all those functions, like Labor and Industries, Ecology, Commerce, higher education, and Agriculture and Transportation, allows the state to work with businesses to make sure they have both the resources and ability to successfully create good-paying jobs as well as people ready to fill them.

The last responsibility is livability, which is the community aspect of our state. Individuals need workable housing, health care, transportation, etc. to have a good quality of life. The livability portion of the state's responsibility should be controlled by local governments and state resources should be directed by local government as a way to help them be more successful. This is another instance where power would be better served at the local level instead of the state level. Norman Rice mentioned his idea of giving neighborhood organizations more power and authority in the budgeting process and having more say over police, parks, etc. This could be equivalent at the state level where taxes may be levied, but the state should not control how they are spent, that is left to local governments.

Certainly there are issues to be worked out, most notably to have some organizations with responsibilities in multiple areas (like transportation and social services), but those functions can easily be divided to provide necessary focus, and then cross-coordinated where needed. This also requires politicians and government bureaucrats to give up their kingdoms for the good of society. Considering they continually ask citizens to make sacrifices for the common good, maybe some politicians can follow their own advise and give up their turf to those who could better serve the citizens.

We can talk all we want about government funding and increasing the amounts for education, poverty, transportation, etc., but we will be talking until we are all dead and nothing will change because the funding level is not the problem; the structure is. Fix the organizational systems and then you can fix the problems. This is change we can really believe in.

Revised Org Chart

Dick Conoboy  //  Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 2:12 pm

An excellent summary of the problem.  Over 10 years ago I worked as a Re-invention Associate for the National Partnership for Re-inventing Government in the Office of the Vice-President (Al Gore) where we attempted, with some success, to convince federal managers to recreate the manner in which they did business to include merging with other organizations. They howled like stuck pigs.  Those who did begin to examine their processes soon discovered savings and efficiencies. Until then, federal managers were not valued for saving money and reducing their budgets.  We (I was a resource manager for over 10 years) all went through the end of the year spending spree so as not to lose monies for the next year.  All was puffery in the budget and personnel world. I assume that after the Clinton/Gore years, any advances we had made have since been lost.

Few organizations, once created, are ever eliminated even though there are such activities as the Quarterly Defense Review at the Pentagon (that I had to undergo several times) during which each office has to justify its existence. Attending these sessions was better than Reality TV as managers all but dissembled to justify the unjustifiable.  I admit that I even resorted to slight of hand [following orders, of course, from my boss :-)] by stating our budget in billions of dollars as did agencies with large budgets.  However, our yearly budget was about $15 million.  I told them that cutting us would only save $.015 billion.  That was under their radar.  We were saved.

Dick Conoboy  //  Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 4:05 pm

Forgive my mis-statement above.  The Pentagon conducts the Quadrennial Defense Review.  If they did it quarterly, there would not be time for much else, although some might see that as an improvement in itself.

Restructuring Washington

Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 9:00 pm  //  Craig Mayberry

At the Bellingham City Club on Wednesday, Norman Rice, the former mayor of Seattle, spoke about public process. It was an enlightening conversation for all that were…

2 comments; last on Oct 30, 2009

What is a hit piece?

Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 7:46 pm  //  Craig Mayberry

There is a lot of discussion about this time every year on hit pieces and negative campaigning. So now I have to ask the question: What is the…

14 comments; last on Nov 02, 2009

Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

The Way I See It - Protect the Net

Wed, Oct 28, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Ham Hayes

We are looking at the all but certain demise of printed newspapers, and the conversion of TV and cable news into entertainment. Our last, best hope for getting…


Know your…friends?

Tue, Oct 27, 2009, 1:20 pm  //  Tip Johnson

This is probably old news to Responsible Development advocates, but just in case, here's a little heads up on TIm Stewart. He appears to have experience with developments…

3 comments; last on Oct 28, 2009

Crosscut publishes article on Fairhaven Highlands

Mon, Oct 26, 2009, 12:02 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Professional journalist and local resident, Bob Simmons, has published an article entitled Horizon Bank and the fate of Fairhaven Highlands on the Seattle-based Crosscut.com3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Fairhaven Highlands Draft EIS

Fri, Oct 23, 2009, 4:11 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

A public hearing on the Fairhaven Highlands Draft EIS was held on Tuesday, October 20 at the County Council Chambers. Approximately 250 to 300 were in attendance.

Channel 10…

1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2009

Voting Recommendations

Fri, Oct 23, 2009, 1:46 am  //  John Servais

I usually post these election recommendations late in the game so as to have the best confidence about the candidates. It is time. These do not reflect the…

11 comments; last on Oct 28, 2009

Local Right Wing campaign operating plan

Wed, Oct 21, 2009, 6:56 pm  //  John Servais

Yes, this is real. It is the organizational plan at work during this election to put four conservative candidates on the Whatcom County Council. That gift of $20,000…

15 comments; last on Nov 01, 2009

The Way I See It - Compassion, Dead or Alive?

Wed, Oct 21, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Ham Hayes

Compassion: We get it, and then we don’t get it. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.


Public Hearing tonight on Fairhaven Highlands

Tue, Oct 20, 2009, 4:39 pm  //  John Servais

Public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Fairhaven Highlands is tonight, Tuesday, October 20 at 6 pm at the Whatcom County Courthouse.

You wo

1 comments; last on Oct 20, 2009

Big Money to Buy Elections

Mon, Oct 19, 2009, 6:20 pm  //  John Servais

As most of us political junkies know, there are many many ways to get around the Public Disclosure Commission and its complex set of campaign reporting rules. Indeed,…

3 comments; last on Oct 28, 2009

Why the Fairhaven Highlands Draft EIS violates SEPA law

Sun, Oct 18, 2009, 10:58 am  //  Larry Horowitz

No confidence. That’s right. NO CONFIDENCE! I have no confidence in the Fairhaven Highlands EIS… and neither should you.

And it’s not for the obvious reasons. Sure,

4 comments; last on Oct 19, 2009

The Way I See It - Port Reform

Wed, Oct 14, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Ham Hayes

It is time to change the guard at the Port Commission. Our two incumbents running for re-election just don’t get it. Commissioners Walker and Smith have been in…

1 comments; last on Oct 16, 2009

Here’s To Washington State’s Women! A Visit with Dr.Linda Allen

Sat, Oct 10, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Kamalla Rose Kaur

Dr. Linda Allen takes the long way home to Bellingham once again as she tours the nooks and crannies of Washington State in 2010 with a multi-media presentation…


The Way I See It - The Elephant in the Room

Wed, Oct 07, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Ham Hayes

Healthcare and other socio-political dueling monologues are beginning to wear thin. Not because the topics aren’t worthy of our consideration. Far from it. What is discouraging is how

3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2009

Saving Blanchard Mountain

Sat, Oct 03, 2009, 9:00 am  //  Ken Wilcox

[This is an updated and abridged version of an article published earlier this year in The Wild Cascades, journal of the North Cascades Conservation Council]

Controversy is still stewi

1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2009

Hope for Chuckanut Ridge

Thu, Oct 01, 2009, 5:20 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

If you are interested in saving Chuckanut Ridge, there is some glimmer of hope for preserving this ecologically-rich and environmentally-sensitive property. If you are willing to make a…

3 comments; last on Oct 04, 2009

Notes from the League of Women Voters Forum

Thu, Oct 01, 2009, 2:04 am  //  John Servais

What a comfort. I can sit at my computer, watch the forum in a small TV window while I type this column in another - all at the…

6 comments; last on Oct 01, 2009


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