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2015 Predictions and Prognostications

February 19, 2015  by  Byron Katsuyama
Category:  Management

2015 Predictions and Prognostications

This is the time of year when various articles aimed at making predictions and prognostications about the issues to watch in the coming year usually start to appear. I look for them because they are a often a good way to find out what local government experts and observers in various fields think will be the most significant state and local government issues over the next 12 months and beyond. This year’s lineup offers a variety of interesting and thoughtful observations that may help to prepare you for the next big issue in your community.

Management Issues

Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, two experts in government management and policy who write for Governing Magazine, outline six big management issues that they see as crucial for state and local governments to address in the coming year:

  • Building the workforce
  • Cybersecurity
  • Siloed data and big data
  • Deferred maintenance
  • Contracting out
  • Transparency

No big surprises here. “Building the workforce” is a response to reductions in training budgets over the last few years that have lowered the numbers of employees who are prepared to take the next step up in the organization. “Cybersecurity” strikes me as the one that is rising the fastest in our collective consciousness. The Washington State Auditor’s Office has identified state and local government IT security as a key emerging issue and will be providing increased scrutiny and assistance in this area going forward. “Deferred maintenance” has been on the list of big issues for a long time and, for better or worse (probably for worse), seems destined to stay there. Judging from recent very large public records requests (as in “give me every email you have sent or received since the beginning of time”) at the state and local level, the issue of “transparency” seems to be taking on some new and somewhat scary dimensions, which will be playing out over the next year and, most likely, for many years to come.

Legislative Issues

Governing’s take on The Top 10 Legislative Issues to Watch in 2015 include regulation of the new technology driven hospitality and taxi industries and the transporting of oil and gas coming out of North Dakota and Canada. In the Northwest much of the focus will be on the transportation of coal and oil by rail in increasingly high volumes, proposed new terminal facilities, and related environmental and safety issues. Fresh photos of fiery oil car derailments in recent days will only add to the sense of urgency and concern. Other legislative issues to watch nationally, according to Governing, include transportation funding, water-related infrastructure, and carbon emissions.

Public Finance Issues

Governing’s Public Finance Predictions for 2015 focus on the effects of tight budgets, declining oil prices, and the new pension accounting rules. On the budget front, the consensus seems to be that state and local revenues will grow but not by much more than the cost of inflation nationally, which doesn’t bode well for new spending in areas that took major hits during the recession. On the bright side, growth in the West and Southwest is projected to outpace growth in other parts of the country. Another bright spot, declining oil prices, will result in lower transportation costs for city and state government vehicle fleets, and should also begin showing up in the form of increased sales tax revenues as consumers who are saving money at the pump will now be able to spend those dollars on other local goods and services. The new Government Accounting Standards Board’s (GASB) pension reporting rules (GASB Statement No. 68) are predicted to draw more attention to underfunded pension systems and possibly lead to more reform efforts.

Police-Community Relations

I’ll add another one of my own for 2015 and beyond: a growing focus on police-community relations. This isn’t a big surprise either, but I have to say that I was struck by the size and immediacy of the community response in Pasco to the recent fatal shooting by police of a 35-year-old Latino man. Recent events across the country that have resulted in an intense focus on police-community relations, including, most notably, the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer, have created a new level of community activism, particularly in communities where large minority populations are not well represented in local police departments. The New York Times coverage has already referred to the incident in Pasco as a ‘Ferguson moment’ for Hispanics. However fair or unfair that comparison is, we have definitely crossed a threshold where future events of this nature will be more likely to produce strong community responses and increased calls for more serious efforts to address and improve police-community relations.

Even More

For even more 2015 predictions and prognostications, see:

Image courtesy of Christian Schnettelker.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Byron Katsuyama

Byron began work at the Center as a Research Assistant in July 1978. He holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and an M.P.A. from the University of Washington's Evan’s School of Public Policy and Governance. After completing his M.P.A., Byron joined MRSC's consulting staff as a Public Policy and Management Consultant concentrating on municipal administration and policy analysis. Byron is responsible for research in such areas as emerging local government issues, best practices, strategic planning, performance measurement, and local government management. In addition to his consulting duties, Byron also maintains the "Focus" section of MRSC's website and is editor of our "In Focus" and "Ask MRSC" e-newsletters. He also coordinates our HR, Planning, Finance, Government Performance, and Council/Commission Advisors. In his own community of Kirkland, Byron also served for eight years as a member of the city's planning commission. Byron is a member of the Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

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