Government Jobshops and the Rust Belt

See that thing up above? That is a webpage from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

NOACA is metro Cleveland’s regional planning agency, responsible for charting the area’s path into the future. The agency distributes tens of millions of dollars annually in federal transportation money.

Again, this is an agency that’s been entrusted with tens of millions of dollars to PLAN THE REGION. But it is clearly incapable of putting together a respectable website.

Let’s examine the evidence, shall we? Here we have a pixelated logo in the corner. Ok guys, you need a larger image file.

You know what, forget it, I’m not going to go into details. The website speaks for itself.

The reason I bring this up is because I think it speaks to a larger problem in Rust Belt cities. The problem of the government jobshop. Whoever is getting paid to maintain the website at NOACA is certainly a nice person. But they have no business getting paid with public money to maintain a website. In fact, they have no business building websites period, this side of 1997.

What frustrates me, is that our government agencies are chock full of people like this. They are unqualified, out of touch. But they have the ability to show up for work to collect a paycheck. Often times, they collect two simultaneously.

Cleveland is just a classic example of this.

The Plain Dealer recently reported about what a mess the Cuyahoga County IT department is. The former director paid $10,000 to since-indicted Cuyahoga County Treasurer Frank Russo for his position.

The new director has been working hard to clean up the colossal mess he left behind. According to the Plain Dealer, the county owns 1.4 printers per employee. It operates 10 different servers and 13 payroll systems.

But if we look just a few miles south in Columbus, things are different. The NOACA equivalent in Columbus is called MORPC. Let’s take a look at their website.

Not bad, right? And their planning efforts match it. They could be called respectable. That’s an agency that’s probably worth the federal investment.

Meanwhile, NOACA continues to employ a bunch of people that have been there for 20-plus years. It never hires graduates of the local planning school, for some reason. It is just aging and graying and not progressing, and it is hurting the region a great deal.

So why can’t Cleveland get it together? Is it the history of government corruption? In Rust Belt cities does the promise of a steady government job just mean so much more that they become essentially favors to be traded by government elites?

How can we inject some fresh energy in local government institutions?

I am really curious to hear from other cities on this issue. How can it be fixed?


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