Learn the latest public administration news in today's edition of The Bridge!

May 26, 2021

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In This Issue:

Crowdsourcing Equity at the Federal Level

The Biden administration is putting an equity lens front-and-center in its policy decisions, including everything from health care to infrastructure to procurement—using some of the broadest definitions policymakers have seen since the New Deal.

The next step? Crowdsourcing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) solutions to improve government activities.

Earlier this month, the White House Office of Management and Budget took an unusual step: It released a request for information (RFI) for policy solutions that directly address DEI needs. Far from looking for easy solutions, the Biden administration is trying to assess whether government programs effectively serve the communities to which they are addressed and is looking for ideas for how to do it better.

Per the RFI, "OMB seeks input, information, and recommendations from a broad array of stakeholders in the public, private, advocacy, not-for-profit, and philanthropic sectors, including State, local, Tribal, and territorial areas, on available methods, approaches, and tools that could assist in this effort. OMB will consider the usability, applicability, and rigor of submissions in response to this RFI as OMB gathers resources to support agencies as they conduct internal assessments on the state of equity in their policies, programs, services, processes, and operations."

Not only is this RFI a demonstration of the administration's serious approach to equity, but also it provides an excellent opportunity for experts within the public administration and public policy communities to contribute to these agencies' efforts. The RFI closes July 6. Review it now and ponder your contributions.

Interested in more? Check out Stan Soloway's editorial on this subject here.

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Comparing the Biden Administration’s and Republicans’ Infrastructure Plans

A large crack was found in a critical beam in the I-40 bridge in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this month, forcing the bridge's immediate closure. The bridge spans the Mississippi River and carries more than 35,000 vehicles on a daily basis, not to mention the river traffic that proceeds under it. It will be months before the bridge can be reopened.

This is not the only bridge that has almost fallen into the water beneath it, nor is it the only example of broken infrastructure across the country. News headlines are replete with stories of the challenges we face, from water pipe replacements and broadband needs to train transit, wildfire management and environmental concerns. There is no question that we need to confront this problem. As always, the question is how to pay for it.

Released in March, the Biden administration's American Jobs Plan is a $2.7 trillion package of infrastructure priorities the Biden administration presented to Congress to start this serious conversation. Wide-ranging, it defines infrastructure far more broadly than past administrations, including such programs as transportation, manufacturing, research and development, community-based services to fund family caretaking, energy efficiency, power grid enhancement and more. Fully funded through tax increases, mostly on corporations and the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers, this plan will not add to the national debt. However, it is controversial due to both those tax increases and its wide range of programs to be funded.

Late in April, Republican senators released details of a counter-proposal that defines infrastructure more traditionally and is accompanied by a smaller price tag: originally only $568 billion. While roads, bridges, broadband, water and transit are included, funding is at lower levels and the "How do we pay for it?" question is unanswered.

The Peterson Foundation has released a comparison of the two to provide a snapshot of each plan’s size and scope. Check out this resource online and learn more as these national conversations continue in the coming weeks and months.

As both of these packages work their way through the legislative process, details continue to change and the price tags associated adjust, as well.

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E-Learning at Your Fingertips

ASPA staff work tirelessly to keep your skills up to date and the information flowing all year long through our e-learning program. Visit our website to see more details about upcoming KeepingCurrent, BookTalk and Students and New Professionals series programming. Members, visit our webinar archives to catch up on what you have missed!

KeepingCurrent: Algorithmic Decisionmaking and Transparency in the Public Sector
June 1 | 1 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. ET
Hector Dominguez Aguirre, Open Data and Privacy Coordinator, Portland, Oregon
Alex Foard, Algorithms Management and Policy Officer, New York City
Richard Greene, Moderator, Principal, Barrett and Greene, Inc.; Chair, Center for Accountability and Performance
Soizic Penicaud, Head of Capacity Building (Etalab), France
Linda van de Fliert, Chief Technology Officer, City of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Across all levels of government, agencies are incorporating algorithms into their decisionmaking to optimize service delivery or inspection routes, perform risk assessments for clients or assets or automate operational processes, among many other possible tasks. As the use of public-sector algorithmic tools becomes more commonplace, frameworks are needed to safeguard individuals' data and incorporate principles of fairness, responsibility and accountability into development and implementation. In partnership with ASPA's Center for Accountability and Performance, this webinar will discuss the complexities of establishing and implementing governing frameworks for the fair and responsible use of public-sector algorithms.

KeepingCurrent: Maintaining Employee Engagement in the New Workplace
June 8 | 1 p.m. ET
Bob Lavigna, Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement

Decades of research have proven that employee engagement is the primary driver of organizational performance in government, including boosting employee productivity, achieving strategic goals, providing responsive customer service and recruiting and retaining talent. As a result of COVID-19, millions of employees are working remotely and this is not just a short-term adjustment. What lessons have we learned from the workplace transition, including how to maintain the engagement of employees working remotely, as well as those who continue to report to their work sites? This webinar will share lessons and strategies to maintain engagement, based on national research and work with governments across the nation.

From the Webinar Archives
A timely topic, ASPA’s Center for Accountability and Performance hosted "Performance Management for EMS—Now More Than Ever" last spring to take a close look at emergency medical services (EMS). EMS provide a valuable public service responding to medical emergencies, including timely assessment, treatment (including critical care interventions) and, in many cases, transport to the hospital. The traditional measure of success has been based solely on response time. However, experts in emergency care and medicine propose there are more meaningful ways to think about what value this service provides to our communities. Listen in on this important discussion.

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#ASPA2021 Available Online through June 30

"There was nothing not to like. It felt like we were there in person."

"The conference was so well done; I wouldn’t change a thing!"

"This conference was much better than other online activities I've attended this year!"

Feedback about the 2021 Annual Conference, which went live April 9-15, continues to roll in and attendees loved what they saw! If you wish you had been able to join us, you still can! All content is available online through the end of June, giving you one more month to register and access all 200+ panels and presentations we provided this year.

While online conferences are challenging for organizers, presenters and attendees, #ASPA2021 successfully brought together more than 1,800 people from across the profession to discuss current challenges within our theme, "Picking Up the Pieces: Pandemics, Protests and the Future of Public Service." Presentations fit within six tracks and provided numerous thoughtful discussions as presenters and attendees alike struggled with the most important questions our profession is facing and how to answer them. (Read a short recap here.)

The conference site remains online through June 30; registration is only $175 ($50 for students) and gives you access to view presentations, connect with attendees and download the 400+ conference resources available. Find more information online and learn more about everything the conference offered and register to join the conversation.

We look forward to seeing you online soon!

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California Town Sinks!

A California town in San Joaquin Valley is sinking—and not for the reasons you would think! According to the New York Times, Corcoran, California, has sunk almost 12 feet in the past 14 years and is expected to keep dropping further into the ground. The reason? Large amounts of water are being withdrawn from the ground under the town, causing the soil to cave in on itself and bring down everything above it. Experts expect the town to continue to sink—perhaps as much as 11 more feet in the next 20 years.

Want to know more, including the role agriculture plays? Click here to read the full article!

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Improving Performance through Employee Engagement

Decades of research have shown that an engaged and committed workforce is the primary driver of government performance. Organizations with highly engaged employees are more productive, achieve their missions and strategic goals, deliver responsive customer service and recruit and retain top talent.

Employee engagement is not about being touchy-feely or making sure employees are happy all the time. It's about creating the environment and culture for employees to operate at peak levels.

That's why ASPA and the CPS HR Consulting Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement are partnering to provide public-sector organizations with research-based tools and resources to understand, measure and improve employee engagement.

CPS HR is an independent and self-supporting government agency. The Institute's Director, Bob Lavigna (a long-time ASPA member), is a past chair of ASPA's Section on Personnel Administration and Labor Relations and a former Governing magazine "Public Official of the Year."

During the past year, both COVID-19 and social unrest have changed the workplace irreversibly and governments across the nation are continuing to adapt to our new work environment. This includes deciding whether—and how—to return employees to the workplace, and creating organizations that are diverse, equitable and inclusive.

As employees struggle to adapt to the new workplace, including balancing their work and personal lives, research has shown that employee engagement and wellbeing have declined in the past year.

At this critical moment, public sector organizations have a unique opportunity to successfully adapt to the evolving world of work by taking evidence-based action that can dramatically improve the engagement of employees and, therefore, drive organizational performance.

In partnership with ASPA, the Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement will work with you to tailor a strategy to understand how your employees feel about their work environment and culture, identify your key drivers of engagement and take action to improve the engagement of your workforce. This can include administering a validated employee survey that assesses key dimensions including leadership, the work itself, connection to mission, the culture, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

The CPS HR Institute also will provide national benchmark data from the public and private sectors, plus research-based recommendations and support, to help you create a more engaged workforce.

According to one government leader, "We selected the CPS HR Institute because of its holistic approach to engagement. Not just conducting the survey but also analyzing the results and helping us decide how to take action to improve engagement."

To learn more about how you can improve your organization's performance and service delivery by improving employee engagement, visit the CPS HR website or contact ASPA at [email protected].

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Celebration of Life for Audrey Mathews

As announced earlier this year, ASPA life member Audrey Mathews passed away December 31, 2020.

A Celebration of Life will be held in San Bernardino, California, on June 26. Those who wish to attend may do so in person or virtually via Zoom. Please contact Victoria Seitz for more information.

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Public Integrity Call for Papers—Final Days!

Is Hindsight 20/20? Ethical Decision Making and Leadership During Compounding Disasters
Co-Guest Editors:
Claire Connolly Knox, University of Central Florida
Amanda Olejarski, West Chester University

Unethical decisionmaking and leadership plagues disasters. It was brought to the forefront during the response efforts for Hurricane Katrina and scholars spent more than a decade analyzing these failures from multiple disciplines. Since then, the United States has experienced an increase in "natural" disasters with 2020 breaking the record with $22 billion in damages as a result of disasters. In addition to these disasters, 2020 brought with it a global pandemic, police shootings, social unrest and a contested national presidential election.

Regardless of the size of the disaster or crisis, they remain dynamic and complex, and thereby challenge leaders at every level of government and in every sector—even the most ethical ones. In the emergency and crisis management profession, the path forward needs to be created with lessons learned. Yet, ethical leadership scholarship tends to focus on one emergency, disaster or crisis—not multiple ones at the same time. 2020 has produced multiple compound disasters which tested individuals, communities, logistics systems and political institutions.

This special symposium invites empirical and theoretical explorations of various aspects of ethical decisionmaking and leadership during a recent human-induced or "natural" disaster or crisis. We welcome broad contributions from myriad angles and disciplines. Please submit your manuscript to Public Integrity’s online portal by May 28, 2021.

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New from Public Administration Review

The most recent edition of Public Administration Review is available online. Find the full edition here; a few highlights include:

State Fiscal Constraints and Local Responses: Evidence from the Property Tax Limit Overrides in Massachusetts
Wenchi Wei and J. S. Butler

Politics, Competence, and Performance: Evidence from the US State Budget Agencies
Jinhai Yu and Edward T. Jennings, Jr.

The Demise of the Overhead Myth: Administrative Capacity and Financial Sustainability in Nonprofit Nursing Homes
Young Joo Park and David S.T. Matkin

The American State Administrators Project: A New 50-State, 50-Year Data Resource for Scholars
Jason Webb Yackee and Susan Webb Yackee

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Tips and Resources

Here are a range of resources posted online recently that you should check out!

You're Not Fully Vaccinated the Day of Your Last Dose
Immunity to the coronavirus doesn't magically manifest the day someone gets a shot. The CDC does not grant membership to the "fully vaccinated" club until at least two weeks after the final dose in a vaccine regimen—a time that roughly corresponds to when most people are thought to acquire enough immunity to defend against a symptomatic case of COVID-19. Only then, the agency announced im March, can vaccinees start to carefully change their behavior, mingling maskless in small groups indoors, visiting the unvaccinated on a limited basis and skipping postexposure quarantines.

Here’s How Much Your Personal Information Is Worth to Cybercriminals—and What They Do with It
Though data breaches can be a national security threat, 86 percent are about money and 55 percent are committed by organized criminal groups, according to Verizon's annual data breach report.

Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back from Full Vaccination
Getting everyone vaccinated in the United States has become much harder now that demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is flagging. America's vaccination strategy needs to change to address this, and it starts with understanding the specific reasons people have not been vaccinated yet.

Why Being a Self-Serving Leader Is So Dangerous
Good leadership is focused on others, but self-serving leadership undermines that principle to focus on the ego and the symptoms can take hold and begin damaging your leadership before you're even aware. Be on guard against these signs so you can recognize them in yourself before they take root and grow.

How to Be Inclusive of Employees with Mental Health Disabilities
The best way to honor Mental Health Awareness Month is to understand how your actions affect others.

Can People Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Still Spread the Coronavirus?
Vaccines help slow down the spread of an infectious disease by breaking the chain of infection.

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Coronavirus in the News
While you can find our usual assortment of news headlines from the past several weeks below, here are stories specific to the coronavirus that are noteworthy.


Public Finance Public Service Social Equity Back to Top


(Otherwise) in the News

Today's headlines contain plenty of news coverage of some of our nation's most pressing public administration challenges. ASPA has curated some of the most important stories from recent weeks. If you have not seen these yet, make sure you read them now!


Public Finance Public Service Social Equity
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Members in the News

ASPA members are in the news in a variety of ways. If you have been featured, please send a link to the article to us and we will be happy to include it in a future newsletter.

The Foundation of the GS System Has Become a Sham
From Howard Risher, this article looks at the failure of the job classification system and how it affects every HR practice, putting billions of dollars in payroll in question.

'Not Every Place Is Going to End Up with Competitive Elections,’ Says Redistricting Chair on Utah Politics Podcast
An interview with ASPA National Council representative Rex Facer about his commission's work in Utah.

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Welcome New ASPA Members!
Click here to view the most recent new ASPA members!

Around Public Administration

Here are the most recent updates from across the profession. Did we miss you? Send us your news and we'll include it in the next round!

Upcoming Events:

  • 2021 ASPA Annual Conference
    Online through June 30
    Theme: "Picking Up the Pieces: Pandemic, Protests and the Future of Public Service"
    Registration is open!

  • 2021 PA Theory Annual Conference
    Online | June 4-6
    Theme: "Administrative (Dys)function and Dedication: Contradictions in Public Service Values"

  • 20th Annual Social Equity Leadership Conference
    Online | June 9-11
    Theme: "Fostering Social Equity: Innovation and Change"

  • NFBPA Forum 2021
    Online | June 22-25
    Theme: "Resilience Rising"
    Registration available now

  • 2021 Korean Association for Public Administration (KAPA) International Conference
    Online | June 23-25
    Theme: "Restructuring Government and Public Service to the Era of Digital Transformation and Pandemic"
    Registration is required by June 20. Send questions to [email protected]

  • ASPA South Florida Chapter Annual Awards Reception
    Online | June 24
    Honoring outstanding contributions in public service and including special scholarship presentations, ASPA’s South Florida Chapter invites all ASPA members to join them for a celebration of public service. Ten awards will be given out to city managers, nonprofit organizations, young scholars, Chapter members and more.

  • ABFM 2021 Annual Conference
    Washington, DC | September 30 - October 2
    The call for proposals deadline has been extended to June 18; online registration is open.

  • NISPAcee Annual Conference 2021
    Ljubljana, Slovenia | October 21-23
    Theme: "Citizens' Engagement and Empowerment—The Era of Collaborative Innovation in Governance"
    This conference has been moved from May 2021 to the fall to enable in-person attendance. The Call for Papers will be re-opened shortly to accommodate this change of schedule. More details will be printed here as they are announced.

  • NASPAA 2021 Annual Conference with SPAE's Teaching Public Administration Conference
    Online | October 27-29
    Theme: “Reimagining the Civic Square”
    Registration is open

  • COMPA 2022 Annual Conference
    New Orleans | March 2-5, 2022
    More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Calls for proposals, nominations and announcements:
  • GovExec Government Hall of Fame and Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards Call for Nominations
    Sponsored by GovExec, the Government Hall of Fame awards are accepting nominations for individuals to consider for both the Government Hall of Fame awards and the Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards. Both awarded to the “best of the best,” the Hall of Fame is for those who have reached a high pinnacle of success during their careers in civil service and the Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards (the Teddies) honor distinguished federal officials and industry leaders for outstanding achievement in delivering on government’s promise to serve the American people. All nominations are due May 28, 2021. Click here for more information.

  • NFBPA 2021 Scholarship Program Accepting Applicants
    The National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) is pleased to announce its 2021 Scholarship Program, designed to recognize African American or other minority students who are currently enrolled full-time at an accredited, traditional four-year college or university, preferably an HBCU, who exemplify outstanding scholarship, and leadership, particularly as related to public service. We invite undergraduate and graduate students to participate in this year’s program as we look forward to making this year’s scholarship awards. NFBPA provides several scholarships to college students each year through partnerships with corporate supporters, public sector organizations and individual contributors. Scholarships are offered in furtherance of NFBPA’s goal of lending support to African American and other minority students interested in leadership roles in public service. All applications are due May 31, 2021. Click here for more information.

  • Health Equity Scholars for Action
    The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation is looking for scholars interested in health, well-being and equity who have completed a doctoral degree within the last five years and are researchers with a full-time academic appointment that can lead to tenure, or postdoctoral fellows poised to be in such a position by the start of the program (Dec 1, 2021). They are seeking applicants from groups that are historically underrepresented in research, such as racially minoritized groups; first-generation college graduates; people for whom English is not a native language; people from low-income communities; LGBTQ+ individuals; individuals experiencing disabilities, and others. All applications are due June 16, 2021. Click here for more information.

  • ABFM 2021 Annual Conference Call for Papers
    The Association for Budgeting and Financial Management invites proposals for panels, papers and posters for its 33rd annual research conference, September 30-October 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Proposals are invited from practitioners, scholars and students of public budgeting and financial management and should address relevant issues at any level of government or other public serving organization, across the full range of practical and theoretical applications. Topics may include budget theory, revenue diversification, tax policy and administration, public pensions, health care finance and more. The proposal deadline has been extended. All proposals are due June 18, 2021. Click here for more information.

  • Call for Conference Papers: Redefining Public Administration: New Paradigms for the Post Pandemic Era
    As the pandemic moves beyond the one-year mark, we seek to organize a symposium that will focus upon a forward-looking examination of key paradigm shifts in public administration. Consequently, this symposium builds on the unprecedented intellectual explosion arising from the pandemic and, collectively, we hope to explore questions like: What does the past year's events mean for the future of public administration? What do they mean for the future of democratic government? What are the consequences for public policy and in what new directions will these events lead? We welcome proposals regarding these and all other relevant topics. This symposium will take place during a hybrid conference organized by Central Police University and Taiwan Association for Schools of Public Administration and Affairs (TASPAA) in Taiwan. All proposals are due by June 30, 2021. Click here for more information. Contact Elaine Lu and Chun Yuan Wang with any questions.

  • Call for Applications: Inaugural Editor in Chief, Journal of Social Equity and Public Administration (JSEPA)
    ASPA's Section on Democracy and Social Justice (SDSJ) has launched a new journal, Journal of Social Equity and Public Administration (JSEPA) and has issued a search for the inaugural editor in chief. The editor in chief will serve in a highly visible role concerning the editorial and strategic position of JSEPA. We expect that JSEPA's content will reflect a breadth of theory, applied research and professional interests across the field of public administration, public affairs and public policy. The journal's organizing committee is seeking applications from doctorate-holding senior figures in the field who are active ASPA members. If not a member of SDSJ, the selected editor in chief agrees to become a member. Applicants should have publishing experience to ensure the success and sustainability of JSEPA in the journal's formative years and an established network spanning public, private and nonprofit sectors. All applications are due July 1, 2021. Click here for the full call for nominations.

  • Call for Papers: PPMR—Beyond COVID-19: Public Management and Governance for a New Era
    Public Performance & Management Review (PPMR) is a leading peer-reviewed academic journal that addresses a broad array of factors influencing the performance of public and nonprofit organizations. In recognition of the critical need to reexamine public management challenges and emergency management practices in the context of COVID-19, PPMR is organizing a special issue inviting submission of theoretical and empirical manuscripts that address the public management and governance implications of COVID-19. Manuscripts are due by July 15, 2021. Contact Qian Hu and Yihong Liu with any questions. Click here for more information.

  • Call for Papers: KIPA Public Policy Review
    Korea Institute for Public Administration has issued a call for papers for its journal, Public Policy Review. The journal seeks to advance scholarly discourse in public administration and policy and addresses public policy practice by sharing robust policy research findings and best policy practices worldwide. Contact [email protected] for more information or with any questions. Click here for more information.

  • Nonprofit Policy Forum Call for Papers
    The journal, Nonprofit Policy Forum, is pleased to welcome the submission of unsolicited manuscripts year-round. NPF publishes original, high-quality research and analysis from all scholarly disciplines and all parts of the world that address important public policy issues affecting nonprofits, philanthropy and social enterprise. Articles published in NPF address a broad range of nonprofit public policy issues including but are not limited to government funding, tax, and regulatory policies related to nonprofits and philanthropy; nonprofit advocacy and lobbying; other aspects of nonprofit-government relations; social enterprise and sector boundary issues; global/cross-national NGO issues; and developments in policy fields such as health care, social justice, the environment, education, and the arts that affect nonprofits. Click here for more information.

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Here's a selection of current pieces on PA TIMES Online, covering a range of issues within the profession. We accept individual articles on a rolling basis; if you have a piece you think would fit our publication, submit it to [email protected] for consideration. (Please review our submission guidelines in advance!)

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Please send inquiries to Managing Editor Karen E. T. Garrett.