Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.
Anthony Toppi (LinkedIn and Twitter) is the Assistant to the Committee on Admissions, Harvard Medical School and serves as a ONEin3 Council Member. He has worked as an intern for Congressman Stephen Lynch, government relations firm O’Neill and Associates, and a member of the UK House of Commons during his undergrad years. He was named 2013 Volunteer of the Year, Allston Village Main Streets. Anthony graduated from Stonehill College with a B.A. in Public Administration.
What I’m Listening to: The Head and the Heart, “Rivers and Roads”
What I’m Reading: Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture by Rowan Moore
What I’m Watching: Season 3 of Downton Abbey
What I’m Doing: Editing an OpEd about civic engagement that my working group will be submitting to local press outlets soon
What I’m Proud of: Remembering to wear a scarf this morning
What I’m Thinking: Where should I get lunch today?
What I’m Afraid of: Grad school debt
What I Want to Know From You: How to start an ELGL chapter in New England.
Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?
I’m a little removed from the direct local government action, but what I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing my efforts and the efforts of my colleagues create tangible and significant impact on the communities we serve. The most frustrating aspect of working in/with local government is that sometimes they don’t have jurisdiction to work on problems alone and have to rely on slower moving state agencies.
Describe the current state of local government. Grade?
Boston is under a new administration that has hit the ground running to improve big ticket items (planning and development processes, school reform) and smaller mundane problems (street lights, pot holes, etc). There’s a ton of pressure on the administration to live up to its predecessor (where the mayor served for over 20 years), but they’ve definitely carved out their own identity as a transparent, data-drive administration that isn’t afraid to shake things up.
I’d give it a solid A-. Short of a full A/A+ because there are still issues around transit and housing that have yet to be tackled.
Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.
- Economic development, particularly the start-ups/innovation economy
- Use of data and integrating technology into decision making processes
- Regional collaboration with neighboring cities
Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.
- Transit planning
- Community outreach and engagement
- Transparency (working on it, but needs improvement)
For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?
I don’t think so, but the amount and pace of development in Boston is probably the result of projects being put on hold because of the Great Recession.
Evaluate whether local government is prepared for silver tsunami.
The amount of talent generated in Boston will make it easy to replace the large wave of civil servants who will soon begin to retire. In terms of paying out pensions, I’m not sure. That will be determined by forces larger than the City.
Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.
Boston has been particularly good with integrating new technologies (and the ideas that stem from these new technologies) into their decision making processes. User-friendly mobile apps to report graffiti, power outages, and flooding help citizens feel empowered; direct communication with offices and officials via social media helps citizens feel connected; and the use of data harnessed from both of those platforms helps citizens feel confident that the city is making the best decisions possible.
I’d give them:
- a better understanding of architectural design and how incorporate it into development projects;
- a pause in time to complete a thorough and thoughtful master plan; and
- a big wad of cash to redesign some parks.
Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.
New administration at the state level should bring some energy to long ignored projects, but I’m fearful that the new governor will try to remove funding from major transit projects that are already in the works. The federal government is a mess, but what else is new?
What question(s) should we have asked?
What skills do young leaders in government bring to the table, and how can they best utilize those skills to create change?
- Kevin Knutson, Management Partners
- Mattie Sue Stevens, City and County of Durham, NC
- Mitch Foster, Village of Kingsley, MI
- Josh Dukelow, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce
- Ashleigh Weeden, SWEA
- Lee Jay Feldman, Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission
- Carlos Moreno, Code for Tulsa
- Andrew Opalewski, City of Troy, MI
- Shawn Ahmadi, Socrata
- Ryan Mannion, SeeClickFix
- Matt Huffaker, City of Walnut Creek, CA
- Katie Babits, City of Veneta, OR
- Chad Doran, City of Appleton, WI