Quick Hits 6-21-2012

Catching up today on a schedule that is in flux.

Collaboration Across Boundaries

Governing contributor Jerry Mechling discusses intergovernmental collaboration across the county.  Of local interest:

Shared GIS for enhanced 911: To enable emergency communications via any device and data format including video, the nation must dramatically enhance the original 911 system. The goal is an integrated nationwide emergency response system holding clean GIS data shared among multiple jurisdictions, applications and users. To get started in Michigan, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is supplying seed money matched by the state ($1.7 million each) to provide grants to localities and regions to update their 911 operations and tie them together so that they can supply and receive continually updated data.

The East Grand Forks City Council will begin discussions on July 10 regarding Next Generation 911 and the potential of public safety dispatch collaboration with Polk County and/or other local governments.

Tough Times

In case you missed it, cities are facing the worst fiscal situation since the 1980’s.  Guess which state has seen one of the largest decreases in state aid to localities.  Similarly, cities generally are losing more power to the states.  This is probably not a huge surprise to those who follow state and local issues.  This gives a slightly different spin to the “doing more with less” cliché.  This is such an unfortunate trend given that continuing research shows that cities are the real hotbeds for innovation (more on that later).

Predicament of Local Government

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns, in his usual eloquent manner, expands on the tough times theme by looking back over the entire infrastructure lifecycle to explain where we are now.   He compares the city to the boom and bust cycle of a hypothetical popular restaurant that expands while a movie is shooting in town.

To make sure his new investment is secure, he needs to make sure he keeps his best two chefs around. He gives them both a raise of 20% and then hires a third chef to help out. He also increases the wages of the entire staff, many of which are getting even more tips now as well. They expand the menu and even start serving breakfast, which is immediately lucrative. Everything seems great until, of course, the movie shoot ends, all of the cast and crew leave town never to return, and the demand at the restaurant returns to normal.

We’re not as smart as we think

Finally, if you think the world would be so much better off if only we had more smart people, think again.  Jonah Lehrer (whose latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, is his best yet) reports that individuals with higher IQs become more embedded in their beliefs even when they are wrong.  And, why wouldn’t they?  They’re really smart, right?  Ironically, those who plead for “open-mindedness” may be the least aware of their own biases.  To be fair, those with higher IQs are probably correct more often.  But, when they are wrong, good luck trying to get them to admit it.