17
Dec

A Rewarding Year for Consulting

Eric Schnurer2015 has been a good year for my consulting firm, Public Works LLC.  We’ve had 23 consultants and staff at work on over a dozen projects stretching from Alaska to Puerto Rico, and covering all the firm’s major areas of traditional strength.

As always, the bulk of our work has come in government spending and efficiency.  We were retained to help close budget gaps in two of the most high-profile fiscal challenges in the country:  Over the late spring and early summer, we worked with Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia to help stanch the flow of red ink in the Commonwealth’s budget.  I wrote about the Puerto Rico budget situation this past summer  and appeared on a panel to discuss possible solutions on Capitol Hill last month.

Meanwhile, we undertook similar work in late summer and early fall to address the City of Chicago’s budget gap.  Thanks to union leaders like Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez and conscientious city officials like budget director Alexandra Holt, we helped to develop a package totaling over $100 million in savings.  We rounded out the year improving the fleet efficiency of one of the largest independent public authorities in the country, and launching an efficiency review of the county government in Travis County (Austin), Texas.

The year opened with finishing development of a strategic plan for human services in Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) Florida, and launching a review of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.  Our final report in Alaska was just released publicly last week.  Meanwhile, we’re providing the subject-matter and analytic expertise on a 5-year, federally-funded study of minority health disparities in Virginia.

We’ve also been expanding our education footprint, with a performance review of four school districts in South Carolina, and two more reviews now underway in Alaska, of both the state’s preK-12 and higher ed systems.  Meanwhile, we’ve spent the latter half of 2015 preparing the Comprehensive System Improvement Plan for Rhode Island’s workforce investment system, the subject area in which we’ve probably undertaken the most work in recent years.

We’re expecting 2016 to be even better:  Half of these contracts extend well into the New Year, totaling 70% as much work signed on already for 2016 as we had for all of 2015.  We’re therefore expecting a close-to-record year in 2016.  We’re also expecting some major announcements early in the New Year, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, all of us at Public Works wish all of you, and your families, a healthy and happy holiday season.

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9
Dec

No Shortage of Radicals

No Shortage of Radicals-US-NewsMy latest post for U.S. News & World Report, “No Shortage of Radicals” addresses the subject at the heart of my course at the University of Chicago (and the theme of the occasional series I write for The Atlantic): “The Future of Government”.  This usually elicits a quip about it being a very short course.

Short or not, I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time – since I was asked in college (while writing for The Washington Monthly) to review a pre-publication copy of a new book by a little-known, back-bencher congressman named Newt Gingrich:  I realized that Gingrich was right about the coming, technology-induced fall of the 20th Century welfare state.  But I was perturbed by his vision of a 21st Century in which, as Anatole France once put it, everyone, rich and poor alike, would be equally free to sleep under a bridge – now, with a laptop.  When Gingrich ultimately masterminded the more-or-less-permanent conservative takeover of Congress in 1994 (and cost me my own job as chief-of-staff), I realized it was probably the last time I’d ever serve in government again – and that government itself was changing forever.

Those changes – the impetus for founding Public Works, a consulting firm conducting high-level government policy design from outside government, and for the “Future of Government” course and series – are coming faster and faster these days.  As I often tell my students, the class was designed three years ago to think about what government would look like 30 years from now – but every year I have to update it as events keep overtaking my timeline.

Sunday night, President Obama spoke to the nation to attempt to dampen rising fears about Islamic terrorism. I agree that the hysterical reaction is overstated (although, as I wrote a few weeks ago, we need to realize that there will be increasing levels of terrorism for quite some time) – but the diagnosis is way too narrow.  The world is undergoing globe-wide changes that will generate stresses – and violence – in cultures and societies far beyond Islam and the Arab world.  In fact, it is already doing so.  The adjustments will be far-reaching and a long time coming.  Among them will be dramatic changes in how we govern ourselves, how power is wielded, distributed and channeled, and how – perhaps even if – we live together successfully.  This article is one of several I’ve been writing lately trying to grapple with these coming changes.

To read the full piece on “No Shortage of Radicals” in U.S News & World Report, click here.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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