The KUPMC Blog

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Gaining the Trust of Your Citizens

November 8th, 2012 by KU PMC

Reprinted from the Kansas Government Journal October 2012 issue

Kansans enjoy autumn for many reasons. For farmers, the last harvest of the year is a time to get paid for months of hard work. For others, it’s a brief respite from our often-brutal summers and winters. But for me, autumn’s always been about football.

My dad got me hooked at a young age, but once I started playing the sport I had no chance of ever kicking that addiction. I know it’s cliché for a grown man to think back to the “old playing days,” but one part of those Friday night battles has stayed with me–how much teamwork was required for success. You’ll never gain one yard on a football field unless you work together with your teammates, and that requires a commitment to an important value—trust.

Unfortunately, beyond the gridiron, America is experiencing a trust-deficit. Public trust in institutions has been decreasing since the 1960s, and it’s now at record lows. Only 44% of Americans trust organized religion, 29% trust the criminal justice system, 25% trust the media, and 21% trust banks and big businesses. The federal government is possibly the least trusted, at only 13%. And although institutions closely connected to people like small businesses and local governments are still trusted (65% and 61% respectively), they too are garnering record-low levels.1

This diminished trust should matter to local governments. Studies have shown that as trust in government diminishes, so the does the rate of compliance with the law. Additionally, trust is necessary for a community to work together to fix problems, and without it there can be paralyzing inaction. Trust is also a fundamental component of a healthy democracy, as it encourages citizen engagement in politics and enhances support for democratic ideals.2

Why is contemporary trust so low? That debate is best left to the thousands of academic papers on the topic, but there are a few key factors worth mentioning, many of which are beyond the control of city officials. There is a strong relationship between economic growth and institutional trust, and sometimes trust just depends on the individual (citizens who are younger, have lower life satisfaction, and have more education, all tend to have lower levels of trust). Residents of bigger cities are also less trusting of local governments than those of smaller cities.3

But luckily, there are trust factors that local officials can influence. For example, residents that participate in community improvement activities tend to manifest higher degrees of trust in their municipalities.4 One organization in our state that’s been instrumental in coordinating these trust-building activities is Kansas PRIDE. The Kansas PRIDE Program is a partnership of Kansas State University, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and Kansas PRIDE, Inc., that assists local governments and volunteers in making their communities better places to live and work. PRIDE has facilitated the restoration of a mini-park in Smith Center, maintained historic structures in Greeley, started the farmers’ market in Elk City, and initiated hundreds of other projects in cities across Kansas.

Fighting the perception of corruption is another way to build trust. Even if corruption is non-existent, citizens are skeptical of entities managing large amounts of public funds, so municipalities should be as open as possible. Although transparency on its own is ineffective, educating the public about the local governments’ structure and decision-making processes is a proven way to build trust.

Overland Park, which was one of three Kansas municipalities to receive a 2012 Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review, a non-profit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency, has taken some great steps to build trust with public information. The City’s website,, gives the function and contact information of all governing body members, City departments, and City boards. The City also posts their own governing body manual online, which describes how specific decisions are made. These small steps demystify local government and increase citizens’ trust in their city officials.5

As many city leaders would probably guess, the most powerful explanation of public trust is the degree of satisfaction with municipal services. Recognizing the importance of high-quality city services, the City of Wichita has set up “Neighborhood City Halls.” These halls are in several convenient neighborhood locations, and allow residents to meet with city council members, talk to representatives of the city police, inspection, and health departments, enroll in parks and recreation programs, and get assistance with issues like trash, loose dogs, and dangerous structures.6

The City of Gardner has also taken action to improve municipal services. Each year, the City conducts a citizen survey to see which services its residents are satisfied with and which it needs to improve. This survey provides a comprehensive overview of the quality of municipal services, and is an important tool in its resource-allocation decisions. By providing tools that respond to citizens’ service demands, Gardner and Wichita have increased their residents’ trust in their local governments.

Any municipality trying to gain the trust of its residents needs to remember that trust can only be built up over time, and that any initiative requires the involvement of both parties. Whether that means creating volunteer opportunities, educating residents about how local governments work, staffing centers to respond to service requests, or simply asking residents how they feel about their community, trust can only be established by creating tools for residents to interact with the local government. Once that happens, the city and its residents can work together as a team to build great a community.

Michael Koss a student in the KU MPA program and serves as the Membership Services Manager for the League of Kansas Municipalities. He can be reached at or (785) 354-9565.

2 Sofie Marien and Marc Hooghe, Does political trust matter?, European Journal of Political Research, Volume 50, Issue 2 (March 2011).

A Win-Win? Wellness Programs and Employee Productivity

April 14th, 2010 by KU PMC

A report on the Business Wire indicates that, according to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 68% of employees said that over the last 12 months they were affected by increased feelings of job insecurity, a decrease in the quality of their work, an increase in their workload or being distracted at work because of financial worries.

The challenge, of course, is that managers are asking more from their employees because of the very conditions that are causing these stresses.

What would help? The MetLife report suggests that providing access to health and wellness programs, work/life balance programs, and financial advice and guidance in the workplace could be a win-win as approximately eight out of ten employees say that they believe their productivity would be favorably impacted by these programs:

* 77% of employees said financial advice and guidance programs would improve their productivity.
* 81% said that health and wellness programs would improve their productivity.
* 82% stated that work/life balance programs would improve their productivity.

Many employers have yet to act on this information, however, even when they recognize the value of such wellness programs. Read more.

Next ASPA KC luncheon to feature Matt Meyer, CEO, American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City

April 11th, 2010 by KU PMC

The next Greater Kansas City ASPA chapter luncheon is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28th and will feature Matt Meyer of the Greater KC American Red Cross.

The luncheon will run from 11:45 to 1:00pm at the Hereford House Hollywood Room, 20th and Walnut Streets, Kansas City, MO.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, Matt Meyer serves as both the chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Chapter and the regional chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Regional Grouping. At the Greater Kansas City Chapter, Matt works with a 30 member board of directors, 35 full-time staff and more than 700 volunteers to ensure the effective delivery of Red Cross services throughout a 16 county area in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

To register for the luncheon, visit the website of the Kansas City ASPA.

Join Us on April 12th for “The Impact of a Catastrophic Disaster on Government Operations: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina”

April 6th, 2010 by KU PMC

On Monday, April 12, join us at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park for a presentation by Steve Adukaitis, Retired, Director of Management Operations, FEMA Philadelphia Regional Office.

The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the City of New Orleans is approaching. Mr. Adukaitis was assigned to the City in the weeks following landfall and spent the following 8 months assisting local officials in their initial re-entry and recovery efforts. He will review his personal experiences and offer some lessons learned based on his work with the City of New Orleans and surrounding parishes. His observations are applicable to government and community officials at all levels who will be called upon to respond to a “big one” in the Kansas City area.

The presentation is scheduled for 4:30pm in room 155 Regnier Hall. The Edwards Campus is located at 127th and Quivira in Overland Park.

FDIC chair and KU grad Sheila Bair to give 2010 Dole Lecture

April 3rd, 2010 by KU PMC

Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and University of Kansas alumna, will give the 2010 Dole Lecture. The free event is open to the public and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 19, at the Dole Institute of Politics. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Bair has spent most of her professional life in public service, beginning her career as a civil rights attorney in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 2007, Bair warned of the impending sub-prime mortgage crisis. Bair organized a meeting to persuade financial institutions to reduce monthly payments, but bank investors were not convinced.

Forbes magazine named Bair the second most powerful woman in the world in 2008 and 2009 for her role as chair. She also made Time magazine’s “Time 100” list of the most influential people of 2009.

Read more about Bair and the Dole lecture.

Kansas CPM student wins national award for Olathe recycling project

March 22nd, 2010 by KU PMC

Kent Seyfried, City of Olathe Solid Waste Manager, developed a recycling plan for the City as his capstone project for the Certified Public Manager program. The plan will save Olathe $500,000 in dumping fees and it won Seyfried the 2009 national Askew award from the American Academy of Certified Public Managers. Read more.

See what past participants have said about the Kansas Certified Public Manager Program.

Developing great leadership requires ongoing organizational commitment

February 17th, 2010 by KU PMC

This article in Business Week reflects on the importance of a continued focus on leadership development, even in times of economic strain. “The best companies for developing leaders recognize the value of strong leadership in both the good times and the bad,” says John Larrere, who heads Hay Group’s leadership and talent practice in the U.S. “Culturally they just cannot do away with leadership development, even in a recession. They don’t see it as a perk but as a necessity.”

We face even tighter constraints in the public sector than do the private sector companies examined in the article. Yet leadership development remains critically important for our organizations, especially when so many people are being called on to cover the responsibilities of positions that are vacant. Managers have the opportunity to see the next generation of leaders in action, and must continue to invest in their development.

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January 23rd, 2010 by admin

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