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And Now the News

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Susan Paddock
October 25, 2016

paddockAs a professor and student of public administration, one of my regular routines—as I read the daily news—is to consider implications for public servants. In that vein, I offer you my tour of news as reported in the Oct. 18. 2016 editions of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun and urge you to engage in a similar exercise with your daily news and to encourage students and colleagues to do likewise. It’s a way to think about the challenges and opportunities facing us as public administrators and to engage in strategic conversations.

Clark County schools in need. Clark County and Nevada regularly rank at the bottom of any ranking of school quality. As a result, measuring performance has become central. In this article, top-performing schools (“shining stars”) were identified; the key feature is that these are top-performing schools where at least 75 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. This story emphasizes the importance of incorporating mitigating factors (in this case, poverty) in our performance measurement process.

The U.S. sets quantity mark in grads; quality lags. The graduation rate in the U.S. has increased, though the math and reading test scores have decreased. These statistics should be of concern to every public administrator because these high school graduates will arrive at our front doors as potential employees, clients, students and citizens. I’ve noted before that public agencies should consider what they can do to strengthen local education, including allowing employees to volunteer in classrooms, providing supportive services to schools, co-locating in schools, and encouraging financial support of the system.

We’re ready for the debate. By the time you read this the third presidential debate will have happened in Las Vegas. Las Vegas was able to win the competition as a debate site because the private Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority partnered with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The former brought the expertise in planning big events, the latter brought a site on a university campus. This partnership underlines the value of collaboration and cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Supply rocket’s launch goes off without a hitch. The launch of the Orbital ATK’s unmanned Antares rocket is interesting for two reasons. First, the private sector is now undertaking activities that once were the purview of government. Second, the Antares was powered by Russian engines. We see the changing role of the private sector in areas once thought reserved to the government, as well as the complex relationships of our global economy.

Officials fight claims of a rigged vote. Yes, this is a story about the presidential election, but it has a more important message: the significance of transparency in all public matters. While there are some areas, like personnel issues, where transparency may be either prohibited or unwise, public administrators should, for the most part, err on the side of more, not less, transparency, including more data that is understandable by the general public. This is the foundation of public trust in government.

Suspect killed had a fake gun. This story described the four attempts of police to arrest a suspected armed robber, before shooting him after a miles-long car chase. Las Vegas/Clark County law enforcement has been recognized nationally for its proactive programs of community engagement so that police shootings have not received the kind of community reaction that has occurred in other cities. While reading this article I glanced at the TV schedule and noticed just how many prime-time shows feature police or firefighters. Without a doubt, law enforcement has made headlines this year. In addition, many Americans’ understanding of public safety is based only on TV shows. This makes it even more imperative that everyone—public administrators and citizens alike—understand the job of the police, the challenges they face and the problems needing to be addressed; that public safety agencies plan recruitment, training and planning to take all of this into account; and that public administrators find ways to work with and support public safety professionals’ legal actions.

And, finally, top photos from around the globe. The Las Vegas Sun includes a full-page with photos from around the world—riots, war, festivals. On this day, there were photos of two Syrian refugee boys in Beirut hugging each other, Thai people mourning the death of their king, Haitian residents awaiting USAID relief supplies in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and two people praying after the flooding in South Carolina. These photos always remind me that, no matter what problems we face, others cope with even bigger issues. This perspective allows a more measured, reasoned, resolute and global approach to problem-solving and decision-making.

What do the headlines of your news, whether print or online, suggest to you about your roles, responsibilities and future actions?

Author: Susan Paddock is a University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada  She is the former director of Certified Public Manager programs in Arizona and Wisconsin; has published in the areas of leadership, organizational development and human resources; and is an active student and researcher on what works in current or emerging organizational settings. Email [email protected].

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