scenic picture from Washington state
MRSC In Focus › Focus Archive

Note: Some of the information on this archival Web page may no longer be current.

Focus Archive - October 2011

Please note that Focus section links were valid at the time of their original posting. However, since Web sites and addresses change frequently, we cannot guarantee that all links will remain operative.

The Politics of Outcomes (October 26)
Accountability-based government requires a culture shift for elected officials. It’s a change they’re not always ready to make. More from Governing.

What Makes a Good Urban Park (October 26)
City parks have been endangered by suburban flight, privatization and design overkill. Here’s a short list of basics for planning true public spaces. More from New Urban Network.

New Online Tool Tracks Personal Taxes (October 26)
The City of Houston has created a new tool to show taxpayers how their dollars are spent -- down to the very last cent. More from Governing's Idea Center.

It's the Parking, Stupid: One Transportation Consultant's Tough Love Approach (October 26)
People should pay for parking because parking in and of itself has a cost – and because by charging for parking, cities create parking availability, which is the real commodity. More from The Atlantic.

Affordable Housing That Doesn't Scream 'Affordable' (October 26)
Architects, builders and developers have succeeded in designing affordable housing free from stigma and institutional homogeneity, creating projects that express hope and possibility. More from The Atlantic.

The Only Hope for Reducing Traffic (October 26)
As soon as you manage to create space on the road, by whatever means, people are going to use that space. Except when people have to pay for it. More from The Atlantic.

Survey: Budget Shortfalls Persist among Counties (October 26)
Almost two-thirds of counties reported having passed budgets with anticipated shortfalls in a NACo economic status survey released Oct. 20, and half will dip into their rainy-day funds to plug budget holes. More from NACo's County News.

Transit Systems in Peril: Why Care? (October 26)
Why should we spring for the multi-billions of hard-to-find dollars that the experts say are necessary to patch up America’s essential — but often deteriorating — public transportation systems? More from Citiwire.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grants Available (October 26)
HUD recently announced Neighborhood Stablization Program grants to fund assessment tools and technical and capacity building assistance needed to fully understand local market conditions and leverage other public and private resources. More from

Green Purchasing Toolkit Helps Counties Save Dollars, Environment (October 26)
The National Association of County Official's County Green Purchasing Toolkit is an interactive Web-based resource that shares innovative county best practices with other local governments nationwide to help them save money while buying more environmentally preferable products. More from NACo's County News.

Americas Promise Alliance - 2011 Competition Winners (October 21)
Check out this year's "100 Best Communities for Young People." Congratulations to Bellevue, Greater Spokane, Lakewood, Prosser and Redmond for making the list!

3 Keys To Creating Great "Good Places" (October 19)
The liveliest public spaces share a few core ingredients. Here are three that have produced some of the best civic spaces in the country. More from Fast Company.

New Research on Local Roles in Small Business Growth (October 19)
The recent recessionary period has focused new attention on the role of small businesses in generating economic growth. More from Nation's Cities Weekly.

Managing Successfully in a Complex Built Environment (October 19)
Today’s commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency in the built environment is placing increased demands on the local government departments that oversee new construction and renovation of existing buildings. More from Public Management.

Budget Cuts Force Elections Departments to get Creative (October 19)
As counties continue to cut budgets, elections departments are often on the list. Their workers find themselves forced to keep what is perhaps the primary government service working with fewer resources. More from NACo's County News.

Countdown to Nationwide EAS test: Is Your County Ready? (October 19)
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct the first-ever, nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. EST. More from NACo's County News.

Keeping Cities Going Despite the Financial Crisis (October 19)
Local governments need to reevaluate the services they deliver to constituents—and identify other sources that could help them—to cope with ongoing fiscal distress. More from Urban Land.

Top 11 Worst Metro Areas for Seniors’ Mobility (October 19)
A recent report commissioned by Transportation for America predicts the number of senior citizens with poor access to mass transit will jump 35 percent between 2000 and 2015 in the nation’s metropolitan areas. More from Urban Land.

Requirements Still Require Leadership (October 19)
Producing results requires more than requirements. It requires more than missions, plans, indicators and measures. In any public agency, producing real results requires active, engaged, human leadership. More from Bob Behn's Performance Leadership Report.

Transit-Oriented and Joint Development: Case Studies and Legal Issues (October 19)
A recent report from the Transportation Research Board, "Transit-Oriented and Joint Development: Case Studies and Legal Issues," examines a number of transit-oriented development (TOD) projects since 1999 with an emphasis on what made the project succeed and how legal issues relate to TODs in general. More from the TRB.

The Limits of New Urbanism in Portland's Orenco Station (October 19)
While Portland's Orenco Station neighborhood has achieved a heightened sense of community and successfully encouraged walking, most residents still rely on the single-occupancy vehicle — not mass transit — as their primary mode of commute. More from The Atlantic.

The Fiscal Conversation We Need (October 12)
The budget stress that governments face now is structural, not cyclical. What’s called for is an examination of the entire public enterprise. More from Governing.

Tsunami of Rental Housing Demand is on the Way (October 12)
The echo boom generation (i.e., those born after 1986) is expected to contribute more than 11 million new renters over the next decade. Rental housing supply, however, is not keeping up with demand. More from Urban Land.

Changing the Culture of the Workplace (October 12)
It is better to be driving change than sitting back and letting change drive you! More from Public Management.

Help for Communities Pursuing Smart Growth (October 12)
Communities that want obtain technical assistance to help them tackle smart growth objectives are invited to submit letters of interest by Oct. 28 to the US Environmental Protection Agency. More from New Urban Network.

NLC Seeks Successful Models for Engaging with Community (October 12)
The National League of Cities (NLC) is seeking examples of practices and models, including online and other technologies, that are used regularly to engage residents and community stakeholders in the practice of deliberating and making decisions in the community. More from Nation's Cities Weekly.

Where the Healthy Savings Are (October 12)
Programs pushing public-sector workers to adopt healthier lifestyles are making a real difference to some governments' bottom lines. More from Governing.

High-Touch/High-Tech Charrettes (October 12)
How social media and web-based tools are increasing the capacity for involvement. More from Planning.

Planning for Transportation Needs of Vulnerable Populations during Emergencies (October 12)
A new publication from the Transportation Research Board (TRB), Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit, describes how to create a communication process to reach vulnerable populations regarding their transportation options in emergencies. More from the TRB.

Should Governments Start Borrowing Again? (October 12)
The word 'borrow' may be taboo still, but one economist says states and localities should take advantage of historic low interest rates. More from Governing.

Consolidation Caveats (October 12)
Many articles celebrate successful efforts at merging or consolidating police services. Not all such efforts result in a successful complete merger of departments, however, and it is important to examine the barriers—real and manufactured—that may stand in the way of police consolidation initiatives. More from The Police Chief.

Cities Cut Jobs and Infrastructure as Finances Continue to Weaken (October 06)
The nation’s cities are cutting personnel and infrastructure projects as the economic downturn continues to take its toll on city finances according to NLC’s 26th annual City Fiscal Conditions report. More from Nation's Cities Weekly.

APA Picks 10 Great Places In America: Public Spaces (October 06)
Every year the American Planning Association (APA) selects a number of great public spaces in America. Tacoma's Point Defiance Park is among the 10 great public spaces chosen for 2011. More from APA.

Trustworthy Leaders (October 06)
Make no mistake: unless you and all the leaders in your organization can gain the trust of employees, performance will suffer. More from Public Management.

Web Sightings – Initiatives and Referenda (October 06)

With election season on the horizon, this month we have selected sites with current information on initiatives and referenda, including those that affect Washington local governments.

The initiative process is the direct power of the voters to enact new laws or change existing laws and can include initiatives to the people and initiatives to the Legislature. The primary purpose of a referendum is to give voters an opportunity to approve or reject laws either proposed or enacted by the Legislature.

For municipalities, the power of initiative refers to the authority of the voters of a city or charter county to directly initiate and enact legislation. The power of referendum as applied to municipalities is the right of the people to have an ordinance that has been enacted by the city or charter county council submitted to the voters for approval or rejection.

Washington State Initiative and Referendum Information

Local Ballot Measures

For information from other counties, see County Auditors and Elections Departments in Washington State - Includes links to county elections contact information and websites

Recession is Producing a Needed Reset on Land Use (October 06)
Instead of the foolish rush of development during the housing bubble, cities are now stopping to think about how to foster smart growth. More from Crosscut.

Beyond Foreclosure: The Future of Suburban Housing (October 06)
Large-scale social, cultural and economic changes — in family structure, household income and mobility, gas prices, home heating and cooling costs — have registered hardly at all in the built environment of suburbia. More from Places.

2011 May Mark the End of Federal Aid (October 06)
The modern era of federal aid championed by President Nixon and his “new federalism” program draws to a close. More from Governing.

The National League of Cities (NLC) Launches Economic Development Peer Network (October 06)
NLC’s Center for Research and Innovation has launched a new Economic Development Peer Network for local elected officials, economic development staff and other local policymakers and practitioners. More from Nation's Cities Weekly.

Report: County Officials Find Guidance in Health Impact Assessments (October 06)
A new report from the National Research Council suggests that a health impact assessment (HIA) can help county officials factor health and related costs into decision making — an essential step to solving the nation’s health problems. More from NACo's County News.

The Empowerhouse: An Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home Built by College Students (October 06)
This home costs less than $250,000, uses 90% less energy than a standard U.S. home--and was built by a group of college students. More from Fast Company.

Need more information?

Feel free to Ask MRSC. Washington cities, counties, and our contract partners can call or email MRSC for more information and advice - free of charge.