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Apr 2020 | March-April Issue

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

 

These are extraordinary times. It is still too early to tell what the social, economic and political fallout will be from the COVID-19 global pandemic, but it is clear that the world will be drastically different. As governments struggle to cope with the spread of the virus, remote and mobile work has become the new normal, further straining governments that lack the technological and operational tools to ease the transition.

For those not working tirelessly on the frontlines to battle the pandemic, work now feels a bit strange. How do we carry on with our daily tasks, whether that be implementing a new asset management strategy or writing a Letter from the Editor, when the world around us is in a state of complete disruption? The advice that governments and medical professionals are providing individuals during the pandemic in many ways can apply to organizations. If you’re not providing an essential service, stay home and establish a routine. Likewise, the departments and staff in your organization that don’t need to be out in the public should be home and should establish a new routine.

Carrying on with the important work that you were doing before COVID-19 disrupted everything will not only offer a much-needed distraction but will ensure that your organization comes out the other side of the chaos with some well-laid plans. In fact, for some, remote work may offer the opportunity to get more planning and strategizing done than ever before.

It is in that spirit that we’ve selected editorial content for the March-April issue of the Digest to inspire future planning. Diane Kalen-Sukra makes the case that the greatest challenges facing our local governments, from infrastructure decay to the worsening impacts of climate change, are made even more difficult by the lack of civic education being provided to residents. We are seeing a significant rise in the level of maturity in local governments related to asset management and climate change adaptation, but Kalen-Sukra argues that not enough attention has been paid to informing the public about these efforts. She writes, “fixing systemic and big problems, such as those related to infrastructure, require us to understand the political climate and culture that led us to govern ourselves in a way that threatens the long-term sustainability of local governments and communities.”

The Asset Leadership Network, based in the United States, provides a case study of the District of Columbia’s leading approach to asset management. The DC Government is unique in that it operates several public sector entities, including a school district, a city, a county and a state. With a growing population, DC is experiencing strains on its public infrastructure and with a significant backlog of deferred maintenance projects, the government’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer took swift action to launch an asset management program. Starting with a maturity assessment and data gap analysis across 80 departments, the CFO Office was able to implement new asset management processes and software that fit the unique needs of the DC Government. With better information and improved decision-making, the DC Government’s bond rating was increased to AAA, projecting to save DC more than $100 million in reduced bond interest payments over 10 years.

Long-term planning can yield significant results in almost any practice area. But for those leaders responsible for organizing their government’s response to COVID-19, long-term planning was hardly an option. As the situation changes daily, staff and decision-makers must make quick decisions based on as much information as they can access. PSD has provided a summary in this issue of some of the actions being taken by local governments to respond to the pandemic. Our team of researchers is also participating in the national research project, being led by the Canadian Urban Institute, to provide real-time updates about local government policy actions in the form of an online dashboard called CityWatch.

Whether you are working on a long-term project or developing plans and policies on a daily basis, I wish you the best of luck with your efforts, as well as good health for you, your colleagues and your loved ones.

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest