Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Efforts to Engage the Public

August 12, 2009

The healthcare reform debates raging across the country in townhalls and on-line, all show that Americans do want to actively engage in their government.  Obama’s Open Government Directive, which is still under development, intends to expand public involvement.  But various agencies are already jumping in.

The Environmental Protection Agency has long been a leader in engaging citizens.  They’ve developed extensive resources and networks that can be of help to others.  They are currently helping revamp the main website for public participation in e-rulemaking,  Here, they are encouraging citizen involvement in redesigning the website.

The Office of Personnel Management has posted a draft version of its 2010 strategic plan on line and is asking for both employee and public comment.

The Department of Homeland Security has invited the public to participate in a statutorily required Quadrennial Review of its policies and priorities. Federal Computer Week’s Ben Bain notes that the review covers six areas, such as border security and disaster response.  The first on-line dialogue sponsored by this effort ended several days ago, with 10,000 participants.  The next dialogue will launch at the end of the month, followed by a third several weeks later.

Federal agencies aren’t the only ones getting excited about increasing citizen participation.  A conference held earlier this month brought together over 90 participants committed to “strengthening our nation’s democracy” via a range of efforts, including voting reforms, institutional changes to that way government engages citizens, as well as grassroots organizing.  Participants developed a draft set of action items for Obama’s White House as well as the broader democracy movement, which participant Sandy Heierbacher summarized in her blog:

1. Draft Statement of Principles (The preamble which will likely carry the definitions, values and ethics talked about during the conference)
2. Democracy Skill-Building Agenda (How to transfer knowledge and ability to do this work)
3. Health of Democracy Report (The state of this imperfect union)
4. National Demonstration Projects (To show the real world value of what was proposed)
5. Recognize and Support Engagement by Disenfranchised Communities (To ensure full inclusion)
6. Institutionalize Participatory and Collaborative Governance (Embed it in federal, state and local institutions)
7. Ensure Adequate Resources for Public Engagement (Paying for it)
8. Adopt and Electoral Reform Agenda (Self explanatory — more later)
9. Feedback on Consultation Efforts (Evaluation)
10. Mechanism for Sustaining Leadership (Ensuring that this doesn’t disappear in four years)
11. International Exchange (Learning from our global colleagues)

Details and the final report will be posted here where available.


Obama Agency Visits

March 19, 2009

During campaign his campaign, President Obama said he wanted to “make government cool again.”  A good place is to start at home.  And he seems to be following some of his predecessors by visiting different federal agencies in his first weeks in office.  Both the President and his wife have been making visits to agencies, holding listening sessions and town halls. . . . and in the process they are stirring up a good bit of excitement.


His first visit was to the Defense Department in late January, where he met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to get briefed on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This visit was followed by a visit to Energy, where he told employees that it was time to get serious about renewable energy, to the Department of the Interior, where he helped celebrate the Departments’ 160th anniversary, and to the Department of Transportation, where he and Vice President Biden touted the Administration’s transportation investments.


His wife Michelle Obama has been on “listening tours” of a number of agencies as well, visiting EPA, and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Housing and Urban Development.


The President’s most recent visit was to the Department of Veterans Affairs, just across Lafayette Park from the White House, for their 20th anniversary celebration.

Leadership Advice

December 23, 2008

leadershipThe Obama team’s appointments are coming at a record pace, notes the Wall Street Journal.  For those being appointed, there is lots of policy advice.  But there’s also some useful leadership advice from those who have been in these kinds of roles before.  I’d like to highlight a couple.

First, the outgoing EPA deputy administrator, Marcus Peacock, offered some sage advice, in a letter several weeks ago to the readers of Federal Time: Memo to Future Deputies. He gives 10 pointers to his successors:

1. Be your agency’s chief operating officer. No one else has the scope of authority to do this job.
2. Listen. Within the first 15 days, interview 10 to 20 people who know the agency well.
3. Plan. Take what you learned from the interviews to your boss.
4. Learn.
5. Get help. Establish a team that can help you interpret the performance data.
6. Manage. Regularly meet with the head of every major office.
7. Motivate. Link awards, promotions, pay increases, bonuses and other recognition to the agency’s performance.
8. Show the world. Publicly release performance data; accountability is your friend.
9. Be honest. In Washington, reputation is the coin of the realm.
10. Have a blast.

The second is offered by author David Osborne and his PSG colleagues.  In an essay titled “Seven Signs of a Game Changing Leader,” they identify those signs as:

1. Someone willing to challenge the organization with “unreasonable” or “impractical” goals.  
2. Someone ready to invest her/his first dollars in change.  . 
3. Someone willing to invest her/his best people in change. 
4. Someone willing to get personally involved with the change. 
5. Someone with a vision or a blueprint for change. 
6. Someone willing to take extinguishers away and let fires of change burn. 
7. Someone who validates what was good about the past. 

There’ll be lots of advice to new leaders in coming months, but these are clearly worth thinking about!

Agency Review Teams Reporting Back

December 3, 2008

The Obama Transition’s agency review teams began their visits two weeks ago and are reporting back to the main office this week on what they are finding.  A Washington Post article by Shailagh Murray and Carol Leonnig, “Obama Teams Are Scrutinizing Agencies,” provides some insights into what is going on:


“Obama’s teams — 135 people divided into 10 groups, along with a list of other advisers — started earlier than most, gearing up months before Election Day with preliminary planning, and will work until mid-December preparing reports to guide the White House, Cabinet members and other senior officials. . . .


“. . . . The Obama teams say they have benefited from a commitment by the Bush White House to cooperate as fully as possible to ease the shift.


“. . . . A typical approach has been playing out at the Environmental Protection Agency, where the Obama team is led by Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Robert Sussman, a former Clinton official and now a lawyer and fellow at the Center for American Progress. Both are considered front-runners for senior administration jobs (Jackson as EPA administrator, Sussman as a top EPA deputy). . . . Jackson, Sussman and their team members hope to interview 100 staffers before filing their report, but they will do so with agreed-upon “rules of engagement,” as the EPA’s lawyers call them. The lawyers have urged senior managers to answer questions but to avoid idle chatter.


“. . . .But those closely watching the review process warn that it is too early to judge its value. “I feel like those of us in the good government community need to settle in for a wait,” Alyssa Rosenberg, a blogger for the publication Government Executive, told readers last week.”