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    Entries in management (3)

    Monday
    May012017

    The City Managers on a Constant Quest for New Places to Fix

    BY  MAY 2017

     

    In the early 2000s, Mark Scott had been working for the city of Beverly Hills for 20 years -- 14 of them as city manager. Thanks to the opulence of the town, it was the kind of place where a budding manager could learn the business minus the typical “city” problems. But eventually the absence of serious issues started to get to Scott. During his tenure, he had watched neighboring Los Angeles endure dramatic civil and social unrest. Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, luxury merchants and developers were bending over backward to do business. In 2003, the town’s Rodeo Drive Committee announced that the glassware company Baccarat was displaying $1 million worth of crystal chandeliers along the famous road’s median. It all triggered something in Scott, and he decided he needed a change. Or, really, a challenge.

    He couldn’t have picked a more opposite place for his next chapter. Scott landed in Spartanburg, S.C., a former mill town divided almost evenly between white and black residents. About one-quarter of the town lived in poverty.

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    Monday
    Apr032017

    John Arnold: The Most Hated Man in Pensionland

    The billionaire philanthropist has vowed to secure retirement for public employees. So why do so many public employees despise him?
    BY  APRIL 2017
    (Photos by Brent Humphreys)

    John Arnold wasn’t a pension guy.

    The billionaire financier, who made a fortune in the stock market before retiring at 38, hadn’t ever really been interested in public retirement plans. But in early 2009, just months into the global financial crisis, Arnold began seeing a flurry of news articles about public pension funds collectively losing billions in the stock market crash. Assets had plummeted, causing unfunded liabilities to shoot up. Cash-strapped governments couldn’t afford to fix the shortfall, and the longer they delayed putting more money in their pensions, the worse the problem would get. In short, it was a policy nightmare.

    Arnold became intrigued. “The fact that you could go in one year from having a system that was well-funded to having a major gap -- that affected me,” he says. He started digging and found a book called Plunder: How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation, by conservative writer Steven Greenhut. As the title suggests, the book is an anti-union take on public pensions that details the misdeeds of the system’s bad actors -- public employees who game the system and wind up with pensions that are equal to or better than what their working salaries had been. Reading that book, says the now-43-year-old Arnold, “just made me mad.”

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    Monday
    Feb012016

    The Evolving Job Description (and Requirements) of a CFO

    Chief financial officers used to be concerned with just balancing the books. But today’s CFOs have taken on a higher role.
    BY  FEBRUARY 2016

    Kenneth Rust is a key player in redeveloping an old post office in downtown Portland, Ore. Denise Olson is pushing new technology to save Phoenix money on procurement. Jim Beard figured out how to update and expand Atlanta’s water and sewer systems while avoiding a scheduled rate hike.

    These tasks require different kinds of know-how, but Rust, Olson and Beard all have the same job title: chief financial officer. It’s a position that has morphed in recent decades. Where CFOs were once primarily in charge of numbers -- making sure the books were balanced, bills paid and audits clean -- they now are called on to be strategists with an eye to developing the city’s economy. And where CFOs came to the job touting experience in a local or state finance department (and perhaps a stint as city controller as well), they now hail from more varied backgrounds. Just as in the private sector, many public enterprises are looking for CFOs with talents that include creative thinking, communication skills and long-range planning -- and for good reason. Today, just about everything a municipality does is either under the CFO’s purview or at least under his or her watchful eye. “Almost every major decision the city makes,” Beard says, “I get to be in the room.”

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