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Public administration professor part of research team offering ideas on government effectiveness

Following West Virginia University's involvement in transition planning for incoming Gov. Jim Justice, a multi-disciplinary group at the university has continued to look at ways government can be made more efficient, and not incidentally, less expensive. 

"Our state is at a crossroads, which offers us a wonderful opportunity to map out a prosperous future for all West Virginians,” Provost Joyce McConnell said. 

In a forward to the report, McConnell notes that sometimes even those most committed to the state’s welfare lack “the time to stop and take stock of whether we are getting the most out of our governmental structures and delivery systems.” 

The collaboratively produced report represents WVU’s recent effort to take “a moment to listen and learn.” 

"Changes in population, advances in technology and new funding mechanisms allow for innovative problem solving in ways not previously possible," the report's executive summary says. "The time is ripe to reconsider the ways in which government best provides services to communities." 

The report makes no recommendations, "rather, it is intended to serve as foundational material for a much more in-depth examination of the many facets of enhancing local government efficiency and effectiveness over coming years and a delineation of options to achieve these goals." 

The study authors say their goal is to provide "a roadmap of essential questions to consider in assessing and reviewing current local government structures and their role in providing effective and accountable services to the citizens of West Virginia. In doing so, we offer some ideas and observations for a more sustained and rigorous discussion about governmental modernization." 

The report briefly discusses some current practices, then moves to offer some other processes for consideration, including: 
  • Functional Consolidation, described as “merging specific service areas but leaving the political bodies independent." 
  • Annexation, "the incorporation of unincorporated portions of the county into a municipality." 
  • Dissolution, "a type of consolidation when the former municipality becomes an unincorporated part of the county." 
Additionally, the report discusses the "extreme" step of state management of local services. This could be of interest "in rural areas of the state that have experienced population loss and where the cost of providing services is becoming unsustainable." 

"It is apparent that many different interests and perspectives are converging on a common desire to improve the coordination and delivery of essential services in our state and to create regional and cooperative platforms to develop plans and strategies that help West Virginia move forward," the paper concludes, offering itself as a "first step" in that discussion. 

The paper's authors are: 
  • Eric Bowen, research assistant professor, Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
  • Christiadi, research associate, BBER.
  • John Deskins, director, BBER, associate professor of economics, College of Business and Economics.
  • Brian Lego, research assistant professor, BBER.
  • Christopher Plein, professor, Department of Public Administration.
  • Jesse Richardson, associate professor, College of Law.
  • Katherine Garvey, director, Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic.
  • Susan Waldie, research assistant, College of Law.
The Roadmap will be now be distributed to several groups in the state, including the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, West Virginia Association of Counties, West Virginia Municipal League, legislators, state officials and similar groups, for them to reference in discussions as they grapple with the issues involved.