State and Local Government
The Irish Institute at Boston College is pleased to have hosted the Local Government Program. The objectives of the program were to give the participants access to skills and management techniques that could make them more effective in their organization and to meet with their American peers to see models of good local administration and to discuss the challenges that face municipal administrators everywhere. The group built relationships with each other and learned about the cross border system of local government while breaking down social and cultural barriers.
These administrators discussed policy and improved their financial-, strategic-management skills while meeting their peers and colleagues to discuss the latest waste management directives. The administrators and their American counterparts both suffered from imposed "unfunded mandates." These European Union directives that were not supported financially by the federal government are often unpopular with the citizens and these local administrators are forced to implement unpopular regulations with no additional funding. Water quality was an example of a service that had to be upgraded but no one would pay for it and the local authority was not allowed to impose water charges. The Deere Island story Boston was very appropriate for the group as were most of the visits. The seminars gave good management skills and the visits allowed the group to meet with their peers and discuss issues that were instantly recognizable.
Our seminars ranged from: finance with Professor Elliot Smith, always our most popular session; public service marketing with Professor Gerry Smith; strategic management with Professor Hussein Safizadeh; and leadership in a changing environment with Professor Joe Raelin. Professor John Tierney facilitated both a seminar on federalism and on local government in the United States. The participants were usually in the front line of federally mandated regulation and the discussion in this department was very lively. Chair of the Political Science Department, Professor Marc Landy, wrapped up the program with a comparative overview of the system. He was joined by David Baer, Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a cross-regional planning and lobbying body.
The site visits for the program were very practical. The Massachusetts Water Resource Authority oversaw the clean up of Boston harbor by building one of the most advanced water treatment facilities in the United States. This state-of-the-art plant is an engineering feat and the engineers on this program are often enthralled by it. The program was had a mixed group of administrators, including waste management experts, technology administrators, public works professionals and human services administrators. They were readily engaged by their peers and learned about the differences in local government that existed in their respective jurisdictions. One of the objectives of the program was to create cross-border and cross-community relationships. The groups traditionally maintain strong formal and informal links after the program with reunions and professional exchanges common, and this group was no different.
The group visited a recycling plant, a planning office, and a waste management facility. The group will met with officials and elected representatives in three municipalities: Newton and Boston, MA, and Baltimore, MD.
Boston and Baltimore presented problems of traffic, technology management and planning for strong growth that many towns in Ireland and Northern Ireland were then and are still now experiencing. In Boston, the group was hosted by Councilor Honan on City Council day, Wednesday, so that the group was given the opportunity to meet with all the council. Brian Kane introduced the group to their counterparts in public works and environmental services. Community development was one of the growing departments, so we met with the Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development in City Hall and payed a courtesy call on the Mayor, one of the most popular (and powerful) in the United States. Boston and Baltimore are part of a wave of resurgent cities across America.
Baltimore is a city on the rise and the use of the unique and innovative Citistat technology is reason enough to have visited this city, which, although it has a lot of assets, faces great challenges. Mayor O'Malley was our host in the city and he is proud of the great achievements that Citistat has allowed in the last couple of years. His greatest source of pride was the drop in the murder rate but the turnaround in city productivity is impressive in relation to public works or housing stock. We travelled around the city to the most impoverished areas and we met the citizens of this very diverse city. With over "60%" minority makeup the election of Mayor O'Malley was a story in itself but the changes and affects since then have created a positive story that administrators from everywhere will want to learn from.
The State component, a meeting with the Secretary of Environment and his senior team, offered the opportunity for a wide exchange of ideas. Participants were initially intrigued by the concept of an appointed administrator (they all answer to their elected councils), but many came to like the idea of an appointed expert, as is the current Secretary in Massachusetts. The team presented the participants with regulations, codes and production figures from the various waste management and environmental control agencies and there was a discussion about the relationship with federal regulators in the Environmental Protection Agency