How to escape government inefficiency one cynic at a time - Metropolitan Planning Council

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How to escape government inefficiency one cynic at a time

Metropolitan Planning Council

Panelists including Ill. Sen. Daniel Biss, Glenview Village Manager Todd Hileman and Michigan Municipal Services Authority CEO Robert Bruner shared lessons learned and successes at MPC's Dec. 9 government efficiency roundtable.

Where do you start when faced with a massive issue like Illinois’ government inefficiency?

As former Mayor of Glenview, I believe the answer is tailor-made community-level innovation. Municipal governments aren’t partisan, they are pragmatic. They are close to the people they serve and are therefore highly responsive.

The all-too-common pessimism and ensuing apathy in the face of Illinois’ oversized bureaucracy is anything but constructive. Even Winston Churchill recognized this notion, saying, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” 

However, innovative opportunities are being discovered by creative communities across the region. These local actors are looking to collaborate and learn from one another, and Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) provides a forum to do so.

MPC's Dec. 9 Roundtable, We’re All in This Together: Improving Government Efficiency, brought together key stakeholders on this topic. MPC President MarySue Barrett, along with a bipartisan and nonpartisan panel, delivered concrete examples of innovative strategies our region can put to work for residents now.

Moderated by Ill. Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee), Ill. State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Skokie), Michigan Municipal Services CEO Robert Bruner and Glenview Village Manager Todd Hileman presented proactive strategies to increase the efficiency of quality service delivery. Their accomplishments prove that inefficiencies can in fact be viewed as opportunities to improve service delivery.

Sen. Biss explained how a hard-won consolidation of the Evanston Township with the City of Evanston paid off in more ways than one: Not only did the City put administrative overhead savings to work for resident social assistance, but they were also able to deliver services more comprehensively, under one roof.

Todd Hileman, village manager of Glenview, Ill., is another local innovator. Most notably, Hileman spearheaded the formation of the Municipal Partnering Initiative, a consortium of 25 municipalities who collectively solicit bids for infrastructure and capital works projects.

The result? Cost savings for the taxpayer. In fact, Hileman reported many projects on the docket were moved up and finished early as a result of these newfound efficiencies.

Through my experience as mayor of Glenview and currently, as a senior advisor at MPC, I know state level pressures to streamline are also present at the municipal level. Cities across the region have faced dwindling revenues and increased costs since the economic recession hit. These communities must create forward-thinking policies specific to their needs.

MPC has been at the forefront of equipping communities across the region to do just that. Over the span of almost 10 years, HOMES for a Changing Region has crafted proactive housing policy plans for 30 communities. Like the Municipal Partnering Initiative, these plans identify instances where cross-community collaboration is mutually beneficial.

Our work has fostered other forms of innovative cooperation such as the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative. This is just another way MPC helps communities use tax dollars more efficiently and deliver quality services.

These localized solutions and collaborations are invaluable to the larger Illinois picture. Governor Elect Bruce Rauner has dedicated an entire transition team to the issue of government efficiency, and has brought together current and former municipal leaders, myself included, to inform broader policy initiatives.

It’s no secret. There is much to learn from creative municipal problem-solving. What’s more, discussions like the ones held at MPC’s roundtable facilitate the exchange of these ideas.

The takeaway is simple: The best way to increase government efficiency is on a case-by-case basis. And with a wealth of targeted, effective and creative solutions being discovered by communities across the state (like Glenview and Evanston) and beyond, we can all learn a thing or two from each other.

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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