Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Paradigm Change for Local Government

Brighton resident suggests a 'paradigm change' for governments
Deepak Seth • Community member, Editorial Board • May 27, 2008

Traditionally, attempts to balance government budgets have focused on the axiom: Raise taxes and/or cut staff and services. This generally raises the hackles of people on both sides of the ideological and political divide and ends up with muddled measures that do not balance the budget.
I would suggest a paradigm change: Raise revenue and cut costs.Implicit in this statement is the premise that raising revenue is not the same as raising taxes, and cutting costs is not the same as cutting services and staff. My proposals hinge on raising revenues through innovation and cutting costs by improving efficiency and effectiveness.
Raise revenues:

  • Sell/lease naming rights to as many county/city resources and events as possible. Airport, airport concourses, parks, park shelters and lodges, new streets, summer and winter festivals, sound and light shows, etc. Crass commercialism? No, not at all. Visit any college or university campus and you will get a sense of what I mean. The county leadership should pick the brains of the local universities to figure out how their kind of naming/branding programs can be replicated.
  • Most county/city resources like park shelters, etc. are rented out at a fixed price. Move to a demand-based pricing model where the same resource needs to be rented out at different rates depending on the popularity of the spot/time slot. People should pay more for peak times and less for lean times. Another option: Instead of a first-come, first-served booking model, a bidding model (akin to eBay) should be used with the highest bidder getting the resource. Some leeway could be allowed for charitable organizations, community groups, etc.
  • The county and city may be sitting on a treasure trove in terms of its historical archives. Genealogical and Internet search sites are willing to pay good money for such information. Recently, Ancestry.com paid a sizable amount to the federal government to digitize IRS archival data and sell it on the Web.
  • Many European countries charge differential penalties for minor traffic and civic violations based on the paying capacity of the violator. A similar model can be investigated here. A $100 surcharge on a traffic ticket is a lot for a fast-food attendant but is a mere slap on the wrist for a rich businessman.
  • Negotiate right-of-way agreements with utilities and telecom service providers based on a fixed fee plus a share of revenue rather than the fixed fee. If the cable company is making more money because of selling more premium and HD programming, county and city revenues should go up, too.
    I'll write on how to cut costs and improve efficiency in my next column two weeks from now.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

1 comment:

Middle Relief said...

Deepak - we may be more a like than we are willing to admit.

Efficiency in gov't is such a simple concept that it is profound.

I have always suspected, although I can't prove it, that millions of dollars could be saved by just being smart and running the gov't like a small business. Attention to simple details can add up to tons of savings.

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