During my more than 30-year career, each time I have attended a City Managers conference, I quickly found that our stories were very similar regardless of size of city.

So, what is ahead?

  • Local government will continue to make deep cuts and approach their budget levels they had earlier in the decade.
  • The state will continue its red ink $21+ billion deficit.

  • Unions will entrench, programs and services will be cut, education, and public safety unions will galvanize, taxes will increase and the economy will continue to suffer.
  • Voters will also galvanize under a simple and common message to challenge the status quo and the big money that shapes fiscal policy at the state level.
  • The state budget will be delayed and state legislators and the Governor will paralyze themselves with the same old rhetoric and blame game.
  • The federal government will continue the shell game of calling “waste fraud and abuse” as savings revenue they can spend on old programs called new names.  Deficit spending on programs with fraud waste and abuse is still red ink.
  • Moving the chairs around will not change the perilous course in Washington or in Sacramento.
  • Hard choices, program and service reductions at all levels of government must take place.
  • Long term politicians regardless of political party will take a hit in the next round of elections.

So what changed in 2009?

Other than that, 2010 should be a grand year.  What can be changed in 2010?
The list below is just a start.  I hope PublicCEO.com readers will contribute, challenge, add or just offer informed opinions.

Issue: Changed in 2009: Change in 2010:
1.  Discovering fraud, waste and abuse. Wasteful programs were cut and “savings” were reallocated to existing and new programs. Cut the program and do not fund other programs with red ink.
2.  Fund a “shovel-ready” project that has been shelved due to lack of funding. “Economic Stimulus” packages created more deficits at the federal level to stimulate local economies. Continue to shelve the project unless it can be maintained/operated without stimulus funding.
3.  Funding for social services (education, health, welfare). Program reductions resulted in service delays. Large-scale changes will be needed (e.g., identify core services and programs; create greater restrictions on program applicants; identify abusers and those no longer eligible).  See also “1. Discovering fraud, waste, and abuse.”
4.  State prison reform. Politicians gambled with public safety (e.g., threatened early prisoner release). Reduce the programs and services offered in the prisons.  Prison should be a life-changing event and not a way of life.
5.  Pension and benefit reform. Attempts to make any change failed. Public initiatives or collaboration among local government will cause change to occur.  Unions could agree to reduce pension and benefits.

Richard Kirkwood
Retired City Manager