Public Purpose Doctrine One of the most challenging parts of this great American experiment we call democracy, is defining exactly what it is we want our government to do. Tyrants, czars, and monarchs never had to worry about what they “should” do; they did whatever they #%&$#* well wanted. If you’re the tyrant life was good. But alas, revolutions ensued and our democracy was born. And that democracy is burdened with the responsibility of engaging the “will” of the people – which means we talk, argue and vote before we do anything. Individual interests compete to see who can emerge victorious by shouting the loudest or lasting the longest. Clusters of opinions tend to form around positions which we label as liberal, conservative, etc. but where do we find the “public good” that government is tasked to uphold? Is the public good defined by which individual gathers the most support? Or is it something greater than the sum of individual interests? Answer these questions and you’ll solve a lot of arguments that rage on in council chambers across America – and even here in Kent. I admit I am biased in favor of believing that government is more than just a bystander. I happen to think government has a responsibility to be an agent of progress in the name of the “public good.” I realize that sounds great but it takes us right back to figuring out what exactly the public good is. Really, all those arguments over the appropriate role for government in economic development – particularly when it comes to the use of eminent domain or purchasing land – are more about people’s different beliefs about the public good vs. private interests than they are about the tools being proposed. If we could agree where along the public good – private interests spectrum we reside, a lot of our arguments go away and government knows what it should be doing. Fail to resolve this and internal friction will keep government sputtering along trying to duck and dodge the arrows flying overhead between the opposing camps. With that in mind, I found the following court ruling from 1966 insightful and I thought I’d share it. This quote is from the concurring opinion of Justice Musmanno in Conrad v. City of Pittsburgh, 218 A.2d 906, 421 Pa. 492, when discussing the public purpose doctrine and the construction of the stadium for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a nicely phrased explanation of the ever-evolving “public purpose” doctrine: “It is argued by the Civic Club of Allegheny County, amicus curiae, that the construction of the Pittsburgh Stadium is not a proper use of municipal authority because, it says, it provides for “luxury service rather than an essential service.” Therefore, the construction should not be allowed under the conditions set out in the various obligations. It says that the “community can survive without a baseball and football stadium, but it must have police, fire, school, sewage disposal, and other basic services. The objective of a community is not merely to survive, but to progress, to go forward into an ever-increasing enjoyment of the blessings conferred by the rich resources of this nation under the benefaction of the Supreme Being for the benefit of all the people of that community. If a well governed city were to confine its governmental functions merely to the task of assuring survival, if it were to do nothing but provide ‘basic services’ for an animal survival, it would be a city without parks, swimming pools, zoo, baseball diamonds, football gridirons and playgrounds for children. Such a city would be a dreary city indeed. As a man cannot live by bread alone, a city cannot endure on cement, asphalt and sewer pipes alone. A city must have a municipal spirit beyond its physical properties, it must be alive with an esprit de corps, it’s personality must be such that visitors – both business and tourist – are attracted to the city, pleased by it and wish to return to it. That personality must be one to which the population contributes by mass participation in activities identified by that city. ” Something to think about…
Take 2 Kents and Call Me in the Morning
New study determines that Kent is good for your health. Newsweek magazine reports that commuting in heavy traffic to work increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Psychologists in Los Angeles report that 50% of their patients suffer from commuter stress. Researchers have noted a 3% increase in weight gain for every 30 minute increment of commute time (that’s because commuters eat an average of 32 meals a year in their cars and the Dodge Caliber even offers an optional fridge in the glove compartment). And if all that doesn’t get you, road rage is on the rise on our highways and byways.
I know, “what kind of idiot would say he loves traffic?” Well, it would be the kind of idiot that waged a daily war with traffic in Washington DC for 11 years. Traffic is definitely one of those perspective things and after rotting in my car for my 1 1/2 hour commute in DC (each way), I used to feel guilty about my 3 minutes and 45 second commute here in Kent — but now I just bask in it. It’s like being told that the dark chocolate we love is actually good for us. Kent isnt just good, it’s good for me too.
Think of it this way. In DC I wasted 3 hours a days, 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month and 720 hours a year entombed in my Nissan pick up truck. (We won’t even talk about the fact that I spent 5 times more on gas in DC than in Kent.) 720 hours a year is the equivalent of spending a total of 30 days a year sitting in my car. Over my 11 years that amounts to 11 months — almost a year of my life — sacrificed in the name of commuting.
I can’t get those hours back but I can sure make up for them. I did a rather unscientific study of travel time in Kent and I could get to anypoint within Kent’s 8 square miles within 15 minutes. So if you lived and worked in Kent the worse you should expect is to give up 15 minutes a day in drive time. That’s an amazing number but it’s still 5 times more than I am willing to spend. Actually, if I didn’t have to do the suit thing, I’d ride my bike or even walk to work.
Can you imagine, someone walking to work? Actually you don’t have to imagine just look at your window and you’ll see a surprisingly large number of foot peddlers communting to work each day down Kent’s sidewalks. Not only does walking have obvious health and environmental benefits I haven’t heard of a single incident of sidewalk rage anywhere.
Nationally, commute time average is 21 minutes. Move to Kent and traffic ( or the lack thereof ) is just another reason why you’ll beat the average every time.
Kent Best Kept Secret #128: Home Savings Concert Series
Last Thursday night my family and I joined about 100 other Kentites downtown on the Home Savings Plaza to enjoy another one of their summer stock concerts. It was a great event. We were a little late getting downtown so the plaza was packed by the time we arrived. That’s a good problem to have. I planned to park on the bridge but every spot was already taken (who says people won’t park on a bridge) so we had to drive on the freshly paved Alley 3 and park in the lot behind the Kent Stage before we enjoyed another one of Kent’s best kept secrets: Secret #128 Home Savings Summer Concert Series.
You know, if I believed everything I’ve heard about Kent, I would have been tempted to pack my bags and move on already but fortunately I’m a guy who likes to see for myself before I make up my mind and the truth is Kent has hundreds of little secret places, people, and events that go unnoticed but are really what’s so great about Kent.
From “free lunches” (yes, Portage Community Bank sponsored a free lunch series this summer, that’s secret # 105) to concerts (secrets 98, 45 and 128 respectively), Kent full of a zillion best kept secrets. All it takes is a willingness to rediscover Kent through a fresh pair of eyes and see what’s going on all around that you’ve been missing.
Home Savings Bank really puts it’s money where it’s mouth is. Major props to this corporate great neighbor that not only built a wonderful outdoor venue for all of Kent to enjoy, they also pay for events to be held their all year long. And it’s not just their money, their staff is out there passing out balloons for kids and making sure everything runs smooth. Are they advertising, sure, but if everyone would follow their lead the stage would be full 7 nights a week and we’d have that vibrant downtown that we’re all so desparately seeking.
Thanks to Home Savings — me, my wife and kids, and a couple hundred others sat in the shade of the trees that they paid for and planted, in the plaza they bought and built, and sang along to a classic rock band again sponsored by you know who (Home Savings).
The next time you see Howard Boyle, President of Home Savings Bank, or any of his hardworking staff, say thanks for all of us. This bank doesn’t just talk about what we need to make downtown great, they go out and do it.
Cities Selling Naming Rights
From just about Day 1 on the job here in Kent, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to fix our budget deficit (try a $2 million shortfall on for size) that doesn’t get me run out of town by City Council, City residents, City employees or all of the above. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that both “tax” and “cut” may look like three letters but in reality they are four letter words that often end with pitchforks, torches and a late night sprint to the border. I like it too much here in Kent to go down that path so I’m constantly scanning the wire for news of roads less traveled taken by other cities to see if somebody found that elusive money tree. Recently, I read a report that talked about how more and more cities are going commercial (some would call it selling out) — I can’t say for sure what we can name for who here in Kent but at this point I’m floating as many trial ballons as I can to see if anything sticks.
Sponsors of facilities at two public high schools in Sheboygen, Wisconsin and what they paid for the naming rights:
• Acuity Insurance field houses: $650,000
• Aurora Health Care cardiovascular (workout) rooms: $400,000
• Sheboygan Orthopaedic Associates locker rooms: $45,000
• Associated Bank school stores: $60,000
• Richard Bemis Foundation gyms: $300,000
• The Santa Cruz, Calif., parks and recreation department is trying to sell naming rights to a skate park to repay a $300,000 construction loan. “My goal is to keep our facilities up and running. This seems to be a natural,” says parks director Dannettee Shoemaker.
• In Newburyport, Mass., the high school offers naming rights to the principal’s office for $10,000, the auditorium for $100,000 and English classrooms for $5,000 each, according to its foundation’s website.
• The Clark, Texas, council voted in November to rename the town DISH in exchange for a decade of free satellite TV from the DISH Network. The deal was worth $4,500 to each of DISH’s 55 homeowners.
Kitchens at two high schools in Sheboygan will soon be called the Kohler Credit Union kitchens, thanks to a $45,000 donation. The cafeterias are up for grabs for $300,000.
Cities and schools can get one-time payments in excess of $500,000 for naming big facilities. Schools have been selling the rights for several years, and now an increasing number of cities are joining the trend, says Larry Foxman of the National League of Cities.
Chicago is accepting bids to name the freeway now called the Chicago Skyway. Washington, D.C., considered selling naming rights to its subway stations. Las Vegas sells naming rights for its monorail.
Dean Bonham, CEO of the Bonham Group, a sports marketing company that negotiates naming rights, says the deals work for schools and cities because “it costs them nothing to create this revenue.” For companies, it’s “the best marketing platform available.”
Other cities on bandwagon
Critics argue against commercializing civic buildings. The answer to budget woes isn’t for cities and schools “to put themselves up for sale,” says Gary Ruskin of Commercial Alert, a non-profit group. “It shows the decline in our values.”
The school board in Sheboygan voted unanimously last year to sell naming rights. The City Council did the same thing in May. The alternatives: cut programs or raise taxes.
Ben Salzmann, CEO of Acuity, eagerly paid $650,000 to put the name of his insurance company on two new high school field houses forever.
He’s not hoping for new customers; he’s looking for future employees. “We use naming rights to get our name out, to attract people, to keep people,” he says. “When people graduate, we want them to say, ‘I want to work at Acuity.’ ”
More than $1.5 million in naming rights to schools have been sold here. That success prompted the city to pursue the idea. Mayor Juan Perez says it’s a painless way to increase revenue, because the economic situation is “very bleak.”
“Like so many cities, we’re struggling with an ever-shrinking budget and with the fact that our taxpayers are just tapped out,” says Alderman Mark Hanna.
There has been little controversy in this city of 51,000 about the rush to sell naming rights. Perez says he has had maybe two e-mails from constituents objecting to the plan.
“If it’s something that’s going to allow us to improve the school system or the city, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” says Bill Greinke, owner of The Sign Shop of Sheboygan.
Naming rights for school facilities are handled by a non-profit foundation that came up with the idea to help pay for programs and facilities that the Sheboygan Area School District can’t afford, foundation President David Sachse says.
The money goes to the foundation, which then makes grants to school programs. So far, Sachse says, the funds have been used to refurbish musical instruments, to provide calculators to needy students, to buy supplies for a culinary class and for a marketing plan for school stores.
Recruiting future workers?
Without the money, schools Superintendent Joe Sheehan says, “we’d still be surviving, offering our kids a strong base, but nowhere near where we are with the help of this program.”
School districts in other Wisconsin cities, such as Plymouth and New Berlin, also sell naming rights. Sheboygan is among the first cities in the state to adopt the idea.
Many city-owned facilities — except the new police station and places such as parks that already are named to honor residents — will be available for naming. A committee will assign prices and screen prospective buyers, then the council will vote on each.
The mayor says naming rights aren’t just about bringing more cash into the city coffers. “It’s also a way of creating a sense of ownership in our community,” Perez says.
And it’s good business, Salzmann says. Acuity, which has 820 employees at its headquarters here, sponsors an art room for kids at the local museum, a spelling bee, math programs and a technology center at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan. Acuity paid $325,000 to put its name on a high school auditorium in Plymouth.
“We’re investing in the 5-year-olds who, two decades from now, may start working here,” Salzmann says. “We’re using naming rights to recruit employees over decades.”
So what have we, or can we, name here in Kent?
City Government at its Best (and worst)
For the record, I didn’t flunk out of the private sector and roll myself up to the public trough — I actually chose to work in city government. Call me a bureaucrat and the hair on my neck stands up, my teeth grind and my fists clench. I’m on a lifelong crusade to change the public persona of government employees. I am out to show that governments can be as smart, hardworking and productive as any business. Yes, you read that last sentence right, your government can be an example of business excellence.
Don’t laugh, it’s true. I’ve seen it work. All those armchair government quarterbacks rattle on for hours about how government can cripple businesses…yadah, yadah, yadah. I’m not saying there’s not some bad apples out there but let’s not forget about the shining stars.
I’m sure that one of Newton’s Laws explained how if government can mess things up it can also propel things in an equal and opposite direction — I guess that would be the law of “conservation of government impact”. In other words, we’ve all become so callous quoting our favorite government flop that all we aspire for is a government that doesn’t do too much damage. And as a result we get exactly what we deserve.
- When someone asks about what you do for a living, you lie.
- You get really excited about a 2% pay raise.
- Your biggest loss from a system crash is you lose your best jokes.
- Your supervisor doesn’t have the ability to do your job.
- You sit in a cubicle smaller than your bedroom closet.
- Computer specialists know less about computers than your teenager.
- Lunch is like another scheduled meeting, only shorter.
- You see a good looking person and know they are a visitor.
- Management thinks a business trip with uncompensated mandatory weekend travel is a perk.
- Although you have a telephone, pager, E-mail, FAX, company distribution, Fed-X, US mail and coworkers sitting right on the other side of the partition…communication is a continuing problem.
- You know, and everyone that works with you knows, your performance is superior, but “satisfactory” is the highest level on the documented performance rating.
- You work 200 hours for the $100 bonus check and jubilantly say “Oh wow, thanks!”
- Dilbert cartoons hang outside every cube.
- When workers screw up they are transferred to another office to be someone else’s problem; when management screws up they are promoted.
- Your boss’ favorite lines are “when you get a few minutes,” “in your spare time,” “when you’re freed up” and “I have an opportunity for you.”
- Training is something spoken about but never seen.
- Vacation is something you roll over to next year.
- The worst possible reputation comes from being the initiator of a complaint.
- You only have makeup for fluorescent lighting.
I want a government that leads positive change, raises the bar, sets a higher standard, and aspires to be great. I didn’t come to Kent to be part of an irrelevant city government. I want our city government to make a difference and be something that the community depends on and is proud of.
My mission statement is “Work Hard. Do Good. Be Proud.” If we do those three things we will be a city government that people want in the game, not sitting on the bench. We did that in my last city. We were one of the first cities in the nation to use Six Sigma to reduce variability in our services. We used quality practices to improve everything we did. We pushed innovation. We leveraged technology. We cut costs and raised the level of service at the same time. We became the first city in the state of Tennessee to achieve level 3 (out of 5) for performance excellence using the Baldrige criteria.
As we got better our reputation grew. We began to see businesses copy us. Other cities came to visit with us to see how we did what we did. We started to use government excellence as a hub from which we built a whole new cluster of businesses that were devotees of quality and performance excellence and wanted to be part of a city that did the same.
I get that it’s chic to crack on your city government. And any government that can’t laugh at itself isn’t worth talking to. But frankly, busting on city government is old news and to prove my point I found this quote from an 1888 study of city government in the Philadelphia:
The affairs of the city of Philadelphia have fallen into a most deplorable condition. The amounts required annually for the payment of interest upon the funded debt and current expenses render it necessary to impose a rate of taxation which is as heavy as can be borne.
In the meantime the streets of the city have been allowed to fall into such a state as to be a reproach and a disgrace. Philadelphia is now recognized as the worst-paved and worst-cleaned city in the civilized world.
The water supply is so bad that during many weeks of the last winter it was not only distasteful and unwholesome for drinking, but offensive for bathing purposes.
The effort to clean the streets was abandoned for months, and no attempt was made to that end until some public-spirited citizens, at their own expense, cleaned a number of the principal thoroughfares.
The system of sewerage and the physical condition of the sewers is notoriously bad—so much so as to be dangerous to the health and most offensive to the comfort of our people.
Public work has been done so badly that structures have had to be renewed almost as soon as finished. Others have been in part constructed at enormous expense, and then permitted to fall to decay without completion.
Inefficiency, waste, badly-paved and filthy streets, unwholesome and offensive water, and slovenly and costly management, have been the rule for years past throughout the city government.
118 years later the vocabulary may have changed but the message is the same. I’m out to change that by speaking the language of possibility — what we’re capable of as a city government. Enough with the problems, let’s get fixing things. Let’s start using government to elevate and drive success. I admit it, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder because I’ve got something to prove. And there’s nothing I enjoy better than proving the skeptics wrong.