by Bruce Lisman Good public policy badly executed is not better than bad public policy executed well. The outcome is often the same for Vermont citizens—bad. And, of course, bad ideas executed badly are a special hell for Vermonters. We’ve just re-elected a government that has made bad ideas, bad management, and bad leadership seem ordinary. No whining here. The people voted to return many of them to office—but protested by withholding support for our Governor and reducing the ruling party’s majorities in the House and Senate.It’s a rebuke and a fair warning to those just elected. The Governor is wrong: we don’t want ‘bold’ leadership; we want competent leadership. We expect them to act as fiduciaries for the public’s money. We want them to take seriously the embedded philosophy of Vermont that would offer a helping hand or a comforting hand to those in need but balanced with those other great Vermont characteristics, frugality and commonsense.My colleague, Tom Pelham has written and spoken often of our government’s unwillingness to restrain their passion to spend money without regard to the state’s constrained resources, its modest economic growth and the obvious uncertainties in the broader economy.The Governor proposed budget increases that averaged 4.8% over the past three years; he and the Legislature reached agreement on budget increases that averaged 4.5%. Of course, those increases far outstripped economic growth and could only be accomplished by using one-time stopgap funds, cost shifts and other budgetary gimmicks. With disappointing tax receipts, the Governor was forced to rescind $20 million of spending and employ yet another $10 million in one-time funds and, 5 years into an economic recovery now faces a more than $100 million deficit. Worse, our government doesn’t have the capacity to invest in the very priorities they’ve outlined. Delusional leadership. Vermonters pay the price.Now, everyone seems to know about the education funding/property tax crisis after thirty-five towns voted down their school budgets in protest, with more protests likely to come next March. We don’t expect our elected leaders to predict the future, but we don’t expect them to create a future crisis, either. That’s exactly what the Governor and the Legislature did in 2011 when they transferred $27 million to the general fund that should have gone to the education fund. It caused the growth rate of property taxes to accelerate, even as they hung more mandates on school budgets. A lack of transparency and short-term thinking gave us long-term problems. The Governor is now proposing consolidation but without data that would support that strategy; and the Speaker of the House has a secret plan. That’s like someone breaking your leg and then offering you a crutch. It’s the people who pay for bad ideas.Vermont Health Connect is a catastrophe of major proportion—its poor execution is already legend; the $100 million spent is astronomical, the loss of credibility is nearly complete. However, those Vermonters who use the system are paying the price – incredible delays, lost information, uncertainty, questionable access to services and medicines, and higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many.Campaign for Vermont believes that our government has an obligation to tell taxpayers not only where money is spent, but how well it’s spent. Our government can’t do that. Our leaders don’t have critical information when analyzing current challenges, so they make decisions blindly. They can’t manage our government to serve the people.And, the implications of this are significant. Problems cannot be properly analyzed, the costs of the cure cannot be measured, and the benefit value of real solutions for real people cannot be evaluated. I know of no successful enterprise that operates without data to support decision-making, the capacity to execute policy, and the willingness and ability to measure outcomes. Because of such dysfunction, Vermont leaders and managers in our government are handicapped and Vermonters pay for their failures.Bruce Lisman lives in Shelburne and is a co-founder of Campaign for Vermont Prosperity, Inc.
March 15, 2011 Regular News Florida Bar’s website will soon sport a new look A cleaner looking website that’s easier for lawyers and the public to use was unveiled to the Bar Board of Governors at its recent Tallahassee meeting. The new website is scheduled to go online around May 1.Board member Jake Schickel, who chairs a subcommittee overseeing the redesign, gave the board a sneak peak and explained the reasoning behind the changes.“One of the conscious decisions we made is to get the site right for lawyers to use,” Schickel said. The Bar hired an outside company to handle the redesign, which included an extensive study of how people use the site, which included observing people navigate the site and inquiring what they liked and didn’t like and what could be made easier.The overhaul was necessary, he said, because of the massive growth of the site, which attracts millions of viewers each month and now has over 60,000 pages.The review has already resulted in several improvements to the site, in addition to the ones to be rolled out in May. Schickel said those include:• An improved Google-based search function to replace the site’s original search engine. While that might sound like a simple change, setting up the Google analytics also provided the opportunity to optimize the most widely used search engine on the Internet.• A “sounds like” feature that allows searchers to find a particular lawyer even if they don’t know exactly how to spell the name. Unlike the original search function, the new member search can handle hyphenated names.• A v-card service to allow a viewer to download contact and other information about a lawyer in the Find-a-Lawyer section.• A quick-links function on the homepage that facilitates navigation around the site.• The ability of lawyers to add additional information, such as practice areas, languages spoken, and the like to their member page on the site and for website users to use an expanded search for Bar members based on that information. Around 40,000 Bar members have taken advantage of the service to include more information on their member page.Improvements still to come, he said, are:• A visually cleaner, less complicated homepage. Schickel said everyone wants a presence on the homepage, which has led to a cluttered homepage that sometimes is hard to use or find information.• Relocating the search function from the bottom left homepage menu to the top of the page. Schickel said this change makes the search service much easier to find.• A drop-down menu when the cursor is moved over a link, showing options of that link. Currently, users have to click the link to see the menu, and if the item they want isn’t there, they have to use the back button on their browser to return to the previous page. The drop-down menus will make site navigation simpler, Schickel said.• Making it straightforward for users to retrace their steps through the website via “bread crumbs,” in case they’ve taken a wrong click or want to return to information on a previous page. Francine Walker, director of the Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department, said studies showed “that a lot of our members were getting lost; they were getting deep into the site and found they were in the wrong place and couldn’t get out unless they clicked home.”• Including a “what do you want to do?” button on the home page that will provide users with direct links to complete tasks on the site, such as registering for CLE and updating their profiles.• Redesigning the site to conform to the wider computer monitors now in use.• Allowing members the option to remain logged in at the site, so they are signed in even if they leave the site and return later.• The Find-a-Lawyer search function would be available on the homepage, instead of requiring a click to get to the search.In addition to the user study, Walker said the Bar looked at other state bar websites and studies on effective web design. Florida Bar’s website will soon sport a new look
GERMANY: Deutsche Bahn has signed a €160m contract for 38 Alstom Coradia Lint regional diesel multiple-units, which will be used on Dieselnetz Südwest services in Rheinland-Pfalz, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg from 2015.The contract announced on June 28 includes 14 DMUs with 112 seats ordered under a framework agreement signed in 2008, and 24 units with 160 seats as an option on a 2011 order. They will be manufactured at Alstom’s Salzgitter site. The low-floor units will be equipped with air-conditioning, CCTV, two wheelchair spaces and an accessible toilet.
Ghana’s sole representative in the CAF Champions league, Aduana Stars say they are hopeful of getting a favourable result against Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca despite CAF rejection of their postponement request.The reigning Glo Premier League Champions wrote to CAF to postpone their game this weekend after providing four players and Coach Herbert Addo to Ghana’s CHAN Squad which is also a CAF organized competition.The continental football governing body has thrown out the request because the CHAN which starts on February 4 is not expected to affect the game which comes off on Sunday January 30.Aduana will leave Accra on Tuesday and will be joined in Morocco by their four players and Coach Herbert Addo who are all currently in Kenya preparing for the CHAN.Acting Chairman of Aduana Stars, Kofi Manu said the club was determined to make history as well as make Ghana proud.He said the Ghana Football Association was giving the club all the necessary support for the encounter. Source: Joy News/Ghana