Around the World in Local Government

Posted on July 14, 2014

ELGL green icon

Introducing Around the World in Local Government

The World Cup ends; Around the World begins. You’ve met the participants so let’s get right to the action.

I. Give us your best stereotypes about the other countries.


Andrew (Australia): I have to be a little careful with this one as I’m not Australian. But typically its believed all Australians surf, throw shrimps on the barbie (BBQ) and in general are all criminals with an English background.

knifeA typical greeting will start with ‘G’day mate’ and the shortening of words in conversation is a national past time.

The national dress is a hat with corks hanging from it, a singlet (vest style top) and thongs (flip flops) and you really do need a knife that big (Crocodile Dundee) because every animal in Australia is out to get you. Oh and watch out for Drop Bears…

Ashleigh (Canada): Australia (I have to be careful here, as one of my dear friends is married to an Australian… so… sorry, Luke and Sara, I’m gonna go full-bore on this):

Kangaroos EVERYWHERE, Is everyone like Crocodile Dundee?, Beaches, blondes and shrimp on the barbie…


Overly polite #sorrynotsorryactuallyyessorry,

Maple syrup on everything, and

 We live in igloos and have pet polar bears



The “World Series”: where only one country participates, yet the winner is a “world” champion. Sure.

One word: “ya’ll”

If you can paint it with stars-and-stripes (and maybe also a bald eagle), you will… if you can’t, you’ll still find a way.

moose6Patrick (Midwest): Everyone in Australia lives on the coast because the interior of the continent has already become something out of a Mad Max movie. Also crocodiles!

Canada is full of funny, interesting and intelligent people! Sorry that’s so tame. My sister studied there for several years, and her boyfriend is a Canadian, so I’ve had ample opportunities to go beyond the stereotypes as it pertains to our northern neighbor. Also everyone up there has a pet moose.

Josh (Pacific Northwest): A picture says a thousand words.





United States


Rafael (Southeast)


Australia: Awesome accent

Canada: Very Peaceful People

American: The Bigger the Better

John (Southwest): I’m not big on stereotypes but…

Australia: This is very unoriginal but, Crocodile Dundee is the first thing that comes to mind. I’m a little ashamed of that. But, I also enjoy a few Australian musicians; The Vines, Gotye, Xavier Rudd… Men at Work (of course).

Growing up in Michigan I always thought Australia was like the hottest place on earth, but I’m finding now that compared to Michigan, everywhere is the hottest place on earth. Of course, I also think of the Sydney Opera House’s cameo in “Finding Nemo”.

imagesCanada: I’m a native Michigander so I’ve been mistaken for Canadian several times. For the record, I’m not Canadian. When I think Canada I think a Canadian accent is unmistakable, I’ve had the best maple syrup I’ve ever had at a diner in central Ontario, hockey is awesome, the fishing is fantastic, and the people are some of the most genuinely friendly people I’ve ever met in my life.

US: It’s hard to self-evaluate but my first two answers might lend some wisdom to the third; maybe we’re not quite as worldly as we think? That might be a bit harsh.

ELGL ANALYSIS: We love pictures (similar to a 4-year old) so we give extra props to the Pacific NW for their short, succinct response. We also love when people start a sentence like the Southwest — “I’m not big on stereotypes but…” which is closely related to “I really like her but….” or “I like my job but…” — such a polite lead into what you really think. Similar to when you are in a meeting and someone uses the ol’ “what I hear you saying” phrase which is a polite way of saying “I kind of heard what you said, and you’re wrong, here’s how it really is.”

We have nothing to add to Canada’s comments about the United States as we feel they are accurate. Extra point for dropping ‘Murica on the reading audience.

II. Describe the state of local government in your area.


Andrew (Australia): Rates are rising, budgets are being cut, the austerity measures that the US and Europe used four years ago are now being rolled out here. In the council area I work in we have had great success with engaging the community on reserve and playground renewals highlighting collaboration and a desire for more fruit tress in public places whereas there has also been a move to make the City more digital through strategy consultation and the introduction of a digital hub, the council is also fully embracing the use of social media.

downloadIn South Australia local elections are due to take place in November for all councils of elected members and their Mayors. This makes it an interesting time as current Elected Members start to become more visible and attach themselves to feel good projects whilst the Local Government Association is advising council staff how to deal with candidates on social media as the age of campaigning with a flyer and a megaphone has changed to targeted tweets and Facebook frivolity.

Ashleigh (Canada): Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal (local). Each level is responsible for different types of public services and programs. The powers of municipal governments are determined by the provincial government.

ku-xlargeMunicipal governments can be regions, counties or municipalities. A region might contain municipalities (cities, towns, villages or townships). Municipalities can be “upper tier” or “lower tier.” Regions and counties are upper-tier municipalities because they contain member municipalities (lower-tier). Services and programs delivered by a county, region or municipality vary depending on location, size, and legislative context. In Ontario, the Municipal Act, 2001 governs all municipalities except for the City of Toronto, which is subject to the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

Generally speaking, there is growing interest in re-examining the powers and responsibilities of municipalities across Canada, lead by re-newed interest in urbanism, the complex challenges of community building and delivering public services, and the impact of various buy/grow/live-local movements.

Patrick (Midwest): As near as I can tell from having worked in the field for a scant two years, local government in Illinois is a mixed bag. You don’t often hear about transformative public servants making a difference in towns around the state. Instead you hear about scummy public officials and Twitter-averse mayors. But the change agents are out there, working quietly to make Illinois a better place. I hope to meet more of them through ELGL.

Josh (Pacific Northwest)5: Ahhh Portlandia. I think the local government bodies in the area do a great job embracing the “Keep Portland Weird” mentality of the city. I’m proud to be a representative of the City of Portland.

Rafael (Southeast): North Carolina local government is extremely professional with virtually all municipalities and counties employing a Council-Manager form of government. There are ten MPA programs in the State and the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill provides technical and professional support to over 10,000 local government professionals yearly.

John (Southwest): Citizen-centric. I don’t think this is unique to Texas, but at TCMA a few weeks ago it was a re-occurring theme in most sessions/discussions I had with fellow administrators. It all comes down to the quality of services provided to residents. Being new to the area I’ve also seen that water is a huge deal in Texas. Not just water distribution but drought (in most of Texas right now) and controlling flood waters (Houston is known as the “Bayou City”).

ELGL Analysis: We award negative points to Canada for neglecting to mention Rob Ford. They could have won simply by writing “Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford, Rob Ford.” Australia did not waste time blaming the United States and United Kingdom for their current financial situation. We believe they stole this tactic from the Obama administration’s and their strategy of saying  “It’s Bush’s fault” for the last five years. But, we digress from politics and the venom that you are directing toward us now. (And thank you for making it this far in the article. Isn’t this fun!)

III.  Movie and Book Recommendations


Andrew (Australia): These are not considered my favourites of all time, ever etc etc but films all should watch at least once – Dogma, The 9th Company (Russian), School of Rock…

Books: I don’t really read work related books so have gone for enjoyment – Novel = Filth by Irvine Welsh, Feelgood = The Twits by Roald Dahl and Auto biography = No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman.

Ashleigh (Canada)


Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” (stop right now and go watch her TED talk(s) – she will change your life.)

bckpkCheryl Strayed’s “Wild” (have a box of Kleenex handy)

Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” (it’s not even released yet and I know I’m going to love it forever)


Dirty Dancing (I could – and sometimes do – watch this almost every day. Crazy for Swayze!)

Rock of Ages (the best of the 80s + Russell Brand + Tom Cruise’s weird gun hip tattoos = basically karaoke in move form. Amazing.)

Scent of a Woman (the best snippet of dialogue from any movie ever)

Patrick (Midwest)

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – This documentary follows a group of fur trappers living in a remote village in Siberia. Despite living so far away from civilization (or perhaps because of it) these stoic woodsmen exhibit a remarkable degree of humor, self-reliance and wisdom. Simply put, they live a happy life. Highly recommended, but be careful – you’ll want to charter a flight to Siberia immediately to start your new career as a trapper.

0593057627.02.LZZZZZZZThe Terror – This 2007 novel by Dan Simmons is a work of speculative historical fiction. Using an actual historical event – the mysterious disappearance of the Franklin Expedition in the Arctic – the story follows the crew of two doomed ships trapped in ice near the North Pole. The crew’s bitter ordeal is almost more fascinating than the supernatural storyline that Simmons layers over the historical narrative.

The Martian – In this self-published e-book by first-time author Andy Weir, readers follow an astronaut on the first manned mission to Mars who is accidentally stranded on the red planet after a catastrophic accident. Alone, with just a small cache of supplies and no way to contact Earth, he must figure out how to survive more than a year on Mars (using equipment designed to last just 30 days) until a rescue mission can reach him. This novel was written by a rocket scientist, and it shows. Every detail, from the charge generated by a solar panel to the amount of carbon dioxide removed by a spacesuit’s life support system, are presented in incredible detail. My only criticism is that at times the story boils down to just another math problem that must be solved by the stranded astronaut, when instead it could have focused more on the humanity of the universe’s first Martian resident.

Josh (Pacific Northwest)

Movies: Saving Private Ryan (favorite movie of all time), How to Train Your Dragon, The Departed


Books: I’m currently reading the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection but here are three solid recommendations from my “completed” library.

The Stand by Stephen King (If you like post-apocalyptic stories, look no further).

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (This book is literary ice cream. So much information, so fast, you get brain freeze trying to process it all. This is my road trip go-to on audiobook. I’ve listened to it twice and still can’t remember 98% of the info).

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Stomach churning narrative about the housing bubble bursting in 2008).

Rafael (Southeast)



Forest Grump: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”

Rocky: No matter what challenges life threw at him, Rocky never gave up

Life is Beautiful: Wonderful Holocaust movie that shows the ability of humans to find positives in the darkest of times. Great movie to watch when dealing with a difficult situation will provide you with some great perspective.

Thanks for the Feedback by Sheila Heen and Douglas StoneDoes a great job of explaining how to make performance evaluations productive.
The Confession by John Grisham: A Gripping fiction tale about the criminal justice system.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: Great book about gender issues in the workplace.

John (Southwest)


Movies: Zoolander, Dodgeball, Stand By Me

Books: Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), Brave New World (Huxley), Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)

221301741699_1ELGL Analysis: RIP Patrick Swayze. He has clearly left Australia “hot and bothered.” We celebrate Swayze’s entire catalogue especially “Ghost.” We award everyone bonus points for their responses since it disproves our theory that segments of our membership cannot read. Well done!

IV. Top 3 Local Government Stories from the Past Week.


Andrew (Australia): Its NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week in Australia. Many local councils are holding specific events.

10177386_10152418372904659_1240276280294342488_nIt’s also the school holidays so all local councils are pushing their programs for kids during the break via the traditional media and online.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is starting to highlight the elections that will be held in four months because people need to enroll before the end of August to be eligible to vote.

Ashleigh (Canada)

Renewed federal agreement to govern flow of federal funds for infrastructure-based projects until 2024

BroD7BlCUAInGQRRichard Pietro sets off on cross-Canada “Open Government Tour” (Richard’s cross-Canada motorcycle tour is an effort to bring attention to the Open Government & Open Data movements. During his 90-day journey, he will host events in 19 cities to invite local participants to come and talk about new ways of civic engagement, and how open government and open data can build trust between government and its citizens. – for more about Richard and the tour, find him on twitter @RichardPietro)

Website: City of Guelph launches “Guide to Local Government”

Patrick (Midwest)

 (Anyone, anyone, anyone….)

Josh (Pacific Northwest)

Main Street McMinnville: My college roommate, Ben Schorzman, got a job writing for the Yamhill Valley News Register after he finished school. A few times a year our group of friends would get together in McMinnville, OR to try and re-live the college days. One of our trips happened to be scheduled the same weekend as the “Dragging the Gut Festival” that takes place in historic downtown McMinnville every summer. What a cool event. Hundreds of classic cars, trucks and motorcycles cruising Main Street with spectators in the thousands lining the sidewalks. That event is just one of the many things that makes McMinnville’s downtown strip so picturesque and awesome.

Main Streets can serve as proud examples of ‘Small-Town Americana’ and how great would it be for the city of McMinnville to have their Main Street voted the best in the nation? Check out this OPB story and Parade Magazine’s article on the competition to determine America’s best Main Street.


World Cup: I have been in full-on World Cup mode this past month. Often wondering why I’m not at a local pub or viewing spot for the matches during the work day. Curse you responsibility! Colombia may have my problems solved with this story I got a kick out of this past week (pun intended).

“The Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzon also encouraged local governments to allow their employees the day off stating via Twitter, “I solicit to mayors and governors to study the possibility of declaring Friday afternoon as a public holiday, to be able to enjoy the Brazil Colombia match.”” Get with it, Biden!

Google “Portland Street Fee”. There are any number of news stories on any given day covering this controversial idea for the City of Portland. There will be a lot of speculation, debate, and moving parts if this fee is implemented by the city. Keep your eye on this as it could attract national attention depending on what decisions are made.

Rafael (Southeast)

CityLab: A Photo Project Ponders Skyscrapers Without a Skyline

American City & County Magazine: Local Government Hiring is on the Rise

American City & County Magazine: Current Immigration Reform Bill will Affect County Spending

John (Southwest) League City City Council Ready to Vote on Immigration Ordinance; ABC 13: Galveston County, League City OK Resolution Telling Feds Not to Bring Illegal Immigrants to Area

Houston Press: The Texas Drought (After All This Rain) Is Still a Thing; Climate Wire: Parched Texas Town Turns to Wastewater as Emergency Drinking Source

Detroit Free Press: Detroit Bankruptcy Vote: Pensioners Appear to Agree to Bargain; Detroit Free Press: Federal Judge: Insurers Can’t Trap Detroit’s Casino Revenue

ELGL Analysis: Apparently it was a slow week in the Midwest or the Midwest just doesn’t know that you can read newspapers online. We are excited the Internet has found its way to Australia, although we wonder if they have to use the free AOL dial-up CDs. We’re most worried about the Southwest as they appear to have a boatload of unsolvable problems, maybe Texas should consider succession after all.

V. Three Strategies for Improving Local Government.


Andrew (Australia)

Digital: lets get digital, digital… wifi hotspots, co-working spaces, digital hubs.

images (1)Innovation: facilitating reform and change in communities allowing staff (and the community) to be innovative helps solutions to come the craziest of places.

Collaboration: Your communities are experts by experience, they use the services you provide, they know the gaps, the cost savings and the priorities. Work with them.

Ashleigh (Canada)

OpenGov: In many ways, I think there has been a tragic breakdown in trust between citizens and their government(s). To fix this, I think we need to lean in to a spirit of openness and a willingness to engage with people as equal partners in co-creating solutions to complex problems. Due to our proximity to our people, local governments (and, more importantly, local government professionals) are uniquely positioned to do this in immediate, tangible ways.

world brownLocal Gov Interchange: I benefited from an internship experience in the early days of my career that had me rotate through all corporate areas within the City of London. It was amazing and still informs a lot of my perspective on collaboration within organizations. I think that any aspiring municipal executive should go through this kind of “interchange” and try out different roles in different departments. Taking it one step further, it would be amazing to experience this kind of interchange/exchange with other municipalities in other parts of the country or world. (Let’s take this “Around the World” feature and make it into an exchange-student program? How ‘bout it?!)

Widening the Net: by this I mean – open the doors to people who have non-government or non-administrative backgrounds. I love the Code for America model and think it could be applied to many, many different aspects of local government. Bring on the hackers, the artists, the anthropologists, the designers, the writers, and the social innovators. We need them.

Patrick (Midwest): Attract knowledgeable workers! It’s imperative that local government attract the best talent. There’s a reason people make a big deal about the fringe benefits at big tech companies – they are competing for the best in their field.

images (2)Make the case for the mid-career transition. I had no idea I’d end up in local government, but here I am. There was no template for my transition so I’ve just been making it up as I go along. There’s definitely room to offer mentorship and a transition plan to people who find their way to local gov after a previous career.

Try something, fail fast, move on. This is an adage from the tech community. Don’t be afraid  to try new things – give it your best, but be the first to admit failure, and then quickly pivot to work on a better solution.

Josh (Pacific Northwest)


Become more engaging to your community by utilizing the many newer technological pathways of communication in addition to preserving the older pathways.

Believe in, trust, and promote your local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Be receptive to your community. Efficiency and satisfaction surveys are great ways to identify areas of improvement in your local government structure and the community.

Rafael (Southeast)

Smart Performance Measurement: Doing performance measurement correctly can allow your local government to work smarter and more efficiently. It’s a way to challenge and improve traditions that we stick by without evidence. UNC Professor David Ammons is an international expert on the subject. His books and articles are must-reads.

Invest in Your Employees: An organization is nothing more than the sum of its people. Good employees’ working together as a team is the only way to have a truly successful local government.

Develop Partnerships: As budgets tighten, partnerships are a great way to provide citizens with quality services while achieving economics of scale.

John (Southwest)

images (3)Balancing accountability and innovation. I’ve seen a big push toward becoming more innovative, collaborative, and adaptive. I’m totally on board but the challenge becomes how to design our systems to be innovative, collaborative, and adaptive while still maintaining the accountability a traditional hierarchical system was designed to underline. As public servants we not only serve the public good but have to be good stewards of public funds. While we have to change to get better results (for less money), we also have to acknowledge our responsibility to our residents to spend their money in responsible, effective ways. How do we balance the inherent failure that comes with trying new things with the out-dated, unmovable structures that demand accountability?

Design systems that encourage openness within the organization and with the community. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my (limited) experience thus far in local government it’s that if we operate within silos, our solutions will be siloed. Meaning they won’t be inclusive, they won’t be expansive, and we will inevitably miss out on creative, non-traditional approaches.

Think in the long term. Pensions. Infrastructure. Succession planning. Bottom line: we can’t mortgage our future in the name of the present anymore.

ELGL Analysis: Bonus points to Canada for celebrating the success of the “Around the World” despite this being the inaugural edition. We are tempted to make this column a complete dud just to make Canada look bad. The biggest takeaway is our respondents are intelligent and have some great ideas. It’s refreshing to read about their interest in creating more transparency and accountability in local government. Following the theme of transparency, we should let you know that we watched “Keepin’ Up with the Kardashians” all weekend and we had a hamburger for breakfast this morning.

VI. (Complete the sentence) ELGL could help improve local government by……….

images (1)

….sharing the good practice in local government that often councils get scared to share themselves.  Andrew (Australia)

…. continuing to shine a light on the amazing people that make local government work. I think, sometimes, the world labours under the false idea that public servants are boring, joyless widgets. The humour, love, and admiration you show for our local-gov brothers and sisters is amazing and helps dispel myths and promotes our profession in a fun, engaging way. Ashleigh (Canada)

…Becoming a clarion call for young professionals entering the field, as well as mid-career professionals with a flair for public service looking to make a transition. Patrick (Midwest)

4….Continuing to make public service an alluring career choice for this generation’s bright young minds. ELGL has established an online and offline culture of ‘local-government minded’ individuals who can network and communicate in an innovative and professional way.

Staying up to date on trending topics through social media, offering a variety networking events, luncheons, and happy hours, providing the opportunity to create original, unique content… this is what your post-grads are looking for. This is where you are going to continue to find emerging leaders. I can promise that if ELGL keeps bringing sexy back to local government, you’ll find a bulk of tomorrow’s leaders with “ELGL” on their resumes (and proud of it).  Josh (Pacific Northwest)

….Helping emerging professionals develop a supportive professional network. Rafael (Southeast)

….Continuing to foster connections between local government professionals around the US and the world. John (Southwest)

ELGL Analysis: The Pacific Northwest brought the noise on this one with a well-thought-out response. Everyone else appeared to get lazy on this one. What do you guys have against ELGL?

VII. Top 3 Summer Destinations in your Area.


Andrew (Australia): In South Australia – Kangaroo Island for Wildlife, The Barossa wine region for a gourmet experience or one of the 100s of pristine beaches along the SA coastline for a dip and a sun bathe.

Ashleigh (Canada)

images (4)Cottaging (for me, on Lake Huron): our winters might but long and cold, but our summers are amazing.

Wineries: Ontario has got some class act wineries. Locally, I love Coffin Ridge in Annan, just outside of Owen Sound.

Music Festivals: you can keep Coachella, America, we have our own amazing list of music festivals, big and small and and everything in between, from coast to coast. Canada’s where the good music comes from, you know…

Patrick (Midwest)

Chicago! From neighborhood shopping to the glory that is Lake Michigan, the Second City is a destination for the entire Midwest.

t600-850 5x8 300 summer SRL KCJWest Coast of Michigan! A whole string of beautiful lakefront towns are just a quick 2 or 3-hour drive from the Chicago area. Saugatuck is my personal fave.

Starved Rock State Park! Great hiking, gorgeous riverfront scenery, but crowded most weekends.

Josh (Pacific Northwest)

The Beach. You have to take a trip to the Oregon Coast a couple times a summer.

The Columbia Gorge. So many good hikes and sights it is difficult to stay away.

Crater Lake. It is a beautiful and majestic landmark THAT I’VE NEVER BEEN TO!

Rafael (Southeast)

DirtyDancingFestivalLake Lure, North Carolina: Maybe not one of the most known but it is beautiful and host of the Dirty Dancing Festival in homage to it being the scene of the famous lake dance scene in Dirty Dancing.

Charleston, South Carolina: Charleston has it all: beaches, nightlife, history, parks, beautiful neighborhoods, and great food.

Wilmington, North Carolina: Beautiful beach and wonderful nightlife. A great weekend getaway for folks in the Carolinas.

John (Southwest)images (5)

An air conditioned movie theater.

An air conditioned restaurant.

A walk in freezer.

ELGL Analysis: We’re calling Canada’s bluff on this one. We don’t believe that there is a single winery in Canada. We give them credit for creating a whole bunch of fake websites that highlight wineries in Canada. That must have take a long time, but we still don’t believe you. The Southwest wins for the best response but loses out on any chance of ever working for the Chamber of Commerce. Australia could have left this question blank and we still would visit. You had us at kangaroos and beaches. #ELGL15 in Australia?

VIII. What Do You Dislike About Your Area?


Andrew (Australia)

Its a million miles from the rest of the world… and therefore costly to go anywhere

Indiscriminate graffiti tagging… what does that squiggle actually mean :/

No cafes open on a Sunday within a 10 minute walk… grrr

Ashleigh (Canada)

slide_339400_3476427_freeCanada is big. Huge. And pretty expensive to travel within (seriously: I could book a very fancy all-inclusive vacation for the price of some Toronto-Vancouver flights). Having lived in a lot of different spots across our vast geography, one thing I hate is just how far away some things can be…

On a more local note, the winters in Grey County can be tough. You might have seen photos on the Huffington Post this past winter of snow-banks that were taller than school buses – those were from my neck of the woods. We had several weeks where nearly everything was closed and days where even my 2km commute to the office was impossible. Great for skiing – awful when the roads are closed and you can’t get to the ski hill.

People either have a very limited understanding of Canada and Canadians – or they forget about us up here. Typically, people think of Toronto, Vancouver, or snow – or they don’t think of us at all. Going back to the stereotype question and the first point in this list: we’re a huge country with a lot of amazing things going on. We don’t celebrate it enough.

Patrick (Midwest)

tumblr_me0lh4vlxX1rkgnh8o1_400TRAFFIC. Ugh. So terrible, not so much for me as for my wife, whose 30-mile daily commute takes 2+ hours most days. Even quick neighborhood jaunts, like visiting a friend 3 miles away or stopping in at a bakery across town, take minimum 30 minutes, often more like an hour.

THE GRINDING WHEEL OF BUREACRACY. Everything in Chicago takes time. Everything is an arduous process. Nothing is simple or clear cut.

THE CRIME. Even though crime in Chicago is at historic lows (despite the increased media scrutiny), there’s still too much violence in the city. It hasn’t affected me personally, but more and more I’m hearing from people who are fed up and are moving elsewhere.

7Josh (Pacific Northwest): I commute in from St. Helens, OR to work downtown Portland every day. St. Helens lacks a lot of the qualities I have grown to admire about other areas/communities I have lived in or visited.

There are very limited food options in the area for folks who think sustainable and shop local. Your restaurant options are limited to the big names in fast food and the grocery stores are definitely not New Seasons or Zupans.

The lack of Portland-ness (for lack of a better term). There are pockets of St. Helens where you may get that Portland feeling; the new Columbia County Brewery, a disc-golf course in the making at McCormick Park, Scappoose Bay Kayaking (a must do if you’re in the area on the weekend), and some other stuff here and there. But… and keep in mind this is small-town, mill community built around the timber industry – it lacks that Portland vibe. Call it artisan or hipster or whatever, but it just isn’t there.

Just this past Sunday, July 6th, it was pretty warm. It had to be in the low to mid-90’s outside and after a somewhat sloppy round of beach volleyball at the park we started tossing around the idea of going swimming or floating. But where? There is a public pool but I’ve seen that episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. There are no good swimming holes or floating opportunities this far down the Columbia River and that is because this…..


….and that….


don’t mix.

Rafael (Southeast)

images (6)Dook: I believe that the majority of Americans agree with this.

Humidity: While the constant sun and heat during the summer is great, I sure could do without the humidity.

Dook: I don’t think this can be stressed enough.

John (Southwest): The humidity. My glasses fog up every time I walk outside. I feel foolish every time.

Like many metropolitan areas, we are very car-centric. That being said, we are moving in the right direction! Harris County is expanding their rail system and there has been talk of a Houston-to-Dallas high speed system being built. Rail isn’t the only answer but it’s a big part of the discussion right now. Traveling using sidewalks/pedestrian paths and via bikes becomes uncomfortable in the summer months (see previous answer).

I don’t have a third thing I don’t like yet. Check back in a few months.

Analysis: The Southwest is really milking this whole “I just moved here” thing. We love the Southeast response as we also strongly dislike Dook. There is no way that we are moving to the Midwest or Canada after reading their responses. Australia, on the other hand, we might be an option…

IX. What Questions Do You Have for the Other Areas?


Andrew (Australia): Is Face to Face community engagement still popular with your council or are you seeing a shift towards more online engagement?

Ashleigh (Canada)

  • How does local government work where you are?
  • What are your biggest challenges? Biggest opportunities?
  • What’s the biggest, best thing you see happening in your community?

Patrick (Midwest): How do residents use digital technology to stay in touch with each other, and with their local governments?

Here in Chicago we have EveryBlock, Twitter, Facebook, etc, so it always feels like I’m surrounded by neighbors (even if the elected officials rarely make an appearance).

Josh (Pacific Northwest)

  • What is the public perception of government in your area?
  • Are there stereotypes for public employees in your area?
  • Do you get World Cup matches off as public holidays?

Rafael (Southeast): What is the biggest looming challenge for local governments in your region?

John (Southwest)

  • What kind of challenges do local governments in your area face in dealing with other governmental entities (counties, state, federal, etc.)?
  • Is the Council-Manager form of government the dominant form in your area?
  • What’s something you (or a neighboring community) are working that will change the way local government operates?

Analysis: Australia and the Midwest need to get a room to……. discuss community engagement. The Pacific Northwest appears to have a mancrush on soccer. The Southeast appears to be running out of steam.

X. Who Should Represent Your Area in the Next Edition?


Andrew (Australia): From Australia and with a local government perspective – Matt Murray or @mattbrisvegas who works in Communications for Redland City Council in Queensland. Matt also runs @commsgodigital – #digital #comms blogs & case studies from around Australia

Ashleigh (Canada): Stephen O’Brien, Clerk at the City of Guelph

Patrick (Midwest): My spirit twin, Bridget Doyle, of course!

Josh (Pacific Northwest): My friend, Nicholas Grisham, just graduated from the University of Michigan with a Master of Urban Planning degree and recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest. He should have a fresh prospective on these and many other topics that could come up in “Around the World.”

Rafael (Southeast): UNC Professor Bill Rivenbark. Professor Rivenbark has extensive local government and budgeting experience in both North and South Carolina.

John (Southwest): Clay Pearson, Pearland, Texas City Manager or Jim Nichols, former Midland, Texas assistant city managerworld-flags2

Analysis: Our dream “Around the World” lineup…..thanks for asking….here it is:

Australia:  Kylie Minogue, Sir Henry Parkes,  ‘The Don’ of Australian cricket, Sir Don Bradman

Canada: Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, John Molson, founder of Molson Breweries, Scott Abbott, co-inventor of Trivial Pursuit, James Naismith, invented basketball

Midwest: Prince, Rod Blagojevich, Michael Jordan

Pacific Northwest: Richard Sherman, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Eddie Vedder, and the Barefoot Bandit

Southeast: Frank Underwood, Cate Edwards, Patrick Cannon, and Petey Pablo

Southwest: J.R Ewing, H. Ross Perot, and ZZ Top


Close window