12/20/2009 - Unlike many local governments in the United States trying to weather the recession with short-term fixes, Camden County has embarked on a long-term project aimed at permanent structural change.
Camden County's "Transformation Initiative" began in February, through a partnership between the county freeholders and Camden County College. The college is examining ways to consolidate or enhance the delivery of services by 18 freeholder-managed offices and autonomous agencies under county government. These agencies, from sewage treatment to higher education, require similar support services, such as insurance, human resource management, information technology, janitorial services, trash collection, and procurement. These common needs represent an opportunity for change.
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Surprisingly, in an examination of how 12 cities are dealing with the downturn, The Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that most are not making fundamental organizational changes. None of the 12 cities showed any examination of government or demonstrated efforts to change. Most have relied on a variety of wage freezes, furloughs, workforce reductions, tax increases, and service reductions, which may provide some short-term relief, but will not achieve sustained benefits to the taxpayers.
Louis S. Bezich is vice president of administrative services at Camden County College and principal investigator for the Camden County Transformation Initiative.
Read the full op-ed Camden Seeks Big Changes on the Philadelphia Inquirer's Web site.