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View from the Cordillera

A Commentary on Achieving Excellence in Local Government
Read by Municipal Leaders on 4 Continents
Published by the Cordillera Institute
Characteristics of Good Government
Laying the Foundation of Excellence in Local Government (Vol. 1, Issue 22)
We define excellence in local government according to a set of fundamental characteristics – or virtues.  These characteristics are the foundation of all truly successful organizations.  Achieving excellence in local government requires us to build excellent organizations.  Like any important building project, 'building' your organization to achieve excellence requires a solid foundation.  This issue begins our review of the characteristics of that foundation.  After an initial clarification of terminology, we choose from 2 competing paradigms of government and proceed to set the corner stone of our foundation – integrity.  Each of the 4 components of integrity is examined and applied to work-place situations.  The issue concludes with some thoughts on why this 'stuff' really matters to local government.
Integrity: The Corner Stone of Excellence (Vol. 1, Issue 23)
Integrity can be a touchy topic to raise.  Some may see it as a subject suitable for children and adolescents but not for adults.  Others may resent what, to them, appear to be 'lectures on morality'.  Still others may feel that their own integrity is being questioned.  This issue notes some of the causes of these attitudes and proposes a strategy to address them.  It offers ideas on where to start, how to change paradigms, as well as when and how to approach the subject with others.  Once you have successfully completed the prerequisites, you can offer a challenge.  There is a listing of some of the benefits for those who participate in the challenge and ideas on other key actions you can take.  If you are wondering how to begin laying the foundation of excellence in your organization, this is a must-read.
Industry: The Next Blocks in the Foundation of Excellence (Vol. 1, Issue 24)
This issue defines 'industry' as "using our creativity, our capability, our productivity, and our diligence to produce something of quality".  That 'something of quality' may be anything produced by local government – whether produced for external customers (the public) or internal customers (our co-workers).  We examine the 4 elements of industry and how to develop them in your organization.  And, we dispel the persistent myth that says productivity is improved by making people work harder or longer or both.  Quality also has 3 elements – accuracy, durability, and utility.  To put that in the context of local government, if you provide your residents with the services they want when they want them and do this for a reasonable price, they will reward you with their respect, their trust, and their votes.
What Is Excellence?  And, How Can We Achieve It? (Vol. 4, Issue 6)
The other day, I had the pleasure of meeting 1 of our newer readers.  During our brief discussion, he asked me to define excellence in local government.  He noted that this concept has appeared in virtually every issue of this publication that he has read and is found on every page of our web site.  However, he had yet to locate a full explanation of just what we had in mind.  In the short time available, I was able to give him a checklist of what we consider to be its main elements.  But, I promised to flesh out those points in an upcoming commentary.  This issue is the fulfilment of that commitment.  And, I expect that it may answer some questions that you have had, particularly if you are a newer reader or someone recently introduced to our Institute.  Some of the questions answered are: How do we define excellence?  How is accountability defined?  How is productivity defined?  How do we measure excellence?  How is excellence achieved?  This commentary concludes with descriptions of the essential elements of success – success in achieving excellence in local government.
How Transparent Is Local Government? (Vol. 1, Issue 15)
When we examine the 'transparency' of government, we are normally referring to just how clearly the 'eyes' of the public are able to 'see' into the workings of the organization in question.  These days, it's often translated simply as public access to government information.  But, this definition does not do justice to its importance.  That's because there is a strong link between transparency and accountability.  This issue assesses 3 aspects of transparency as it applies to local government – access-to-information, financial transparency, and the role of government structure.
Don't Forget the Other 'P' Word (Vol. 2, Issue 24)
Guest Author
C. Richard Tindal, Ph.D
President
Tindal Consulting Limited
Inverary, ON, Canada
Dr. Tindal is the co-author of Local Government in Canada which was published in its 7th edition in 2008.  A version of his commentary originally appeared in our Journal some 12 years ago.  But, like other well-reasoned and well-written pieces, its points are just as relevant today.  Since many municipalities act as service providers, an important part of operations is to find ways to deliver those services more productively and more profitably.  At times in our history, this service-provider role has taken precedence over all others.  However, Dr. Tindal reminds us that a municipality is a local government – with the emphasis on government.  To give this 'P' role – this political role – its proper priority, some municipalities have become service arrangers rather than service providers.  In this service-arranger role, they can serve as advocates for their communities, ensuring that they receive the level of services desired, irrespective of who actually delivers those services.  Of course, being a local government – emphasis on local – also means governing a single local community – not a patchwork of disparate communities spread over a wide metropolitan area.  Size does matter.  This issue concludes with an update from the author noting that the political role of our municipalities is still under attack.  Did someone say municipal independence is long overdue?
For more information on this guest author, see the sidebar to the right.
An Elusive Balance: Freedom versus Control in Government (Vol. 3, Issue 23)
Guest Author
C. Richard Tindal, Ph.D
President
Tindal Consulting Limited
Inverary, ON, Canada
Getting government right is an ongoing challenge, especially when history repeats and we don't seem to learn from it.  By the beginning of the 20th century, concerns about patronage and waste led to the imposition of controls to provide greater accountability.  These controls were increasingly seen as excessive and restrictive and were reduced over the past quarter century in pursuit of more streamlined and entrepreneurial governments.  But new concerns about government waste and irregularities have led to the introduction of new control and oversight regimes that threaten once again to restrict government operations.  In tracing this pattern, Dr. Tindal gives particular attention to recent changes affecting local governments in the Canadian province of Ontario.  Municipalities in other jurisdictions may find the Ontario experience instructive, however, since there has been some movement to grant municipalities greater authority to act while combining this authority with oversight and control measures to increase municipal accountability.
For more information on this guest author, see the sidebar to the right.
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About the Author
C. Richard Tindal has been teaching, researching, consulting, and writing about local government for more than 40 years.  His most recent books (both authored with his wife Susan) are Guide to Good Municipal Governance, St. Thomas, Municipal World Inc, 2007 and Local Government in Canada, 7th Edition, Toronto, Nelson/Thomson, 2008.  Richard can be reached at TCL@kingston.net.
VFC Catalog
To assist you in finding the issues of most interest to you, the VFC catalog groups them by major subject.  Each major subject has its own page in the catalog.  On each catalog page, you will find 1 or more summaries of the issues which relate to that major subject.  For your convenience when ordering, each summary title is followed by its volume and issue number.  To see the summaries on any of the major subjects, just click on its heading in the list below.
Achieving Sustainable Local Government
Characteristics of Good Government
Structuring Local Government
Assessing Policy Proposals
Paradigms of Leadership
Choosing Our Elected Officials
Building a Win-Win Organization
Accomplishing Your Objectives
Measuring Your Performance
Improving Your Productivity
Managing Your Finances
Relating to the Public
Relating to Senior Government
Growing a Robust Economy
Planning for the Future of Your Community
Moving People and Goods
Delivering Services
Reforming Social Programs
Improving Our Environment
Responding to Crises
What Can We Learn from ...?
Special Issues
Recent VFC Commentaries
Below are links to summaries of recent VFC commentaries.  To read a summary, just click on its title in the list below.
Local-Government Reform (part 1)
Local-Government Reform (part 2)
Local-Government Reform (part 3)
Local-Government Reform (part 4)
Local-Government Reform (part 5)
Local-Government Reform (part 6)
In Praise of Smaller Municipalities
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