Educational sessions at Congress

APWA has the finest educational program in the public works community. What follows are brief summaries of just a few of the 150-plus educational sessions and workshops at our recent Congress in San Diego.

How Bakersfield, CA Erased Its Graffiti Problem
Presented by Brad Underwood, Public Works Operations Manager; Steve Hollingsworth, General Services Superintendent; Jeff Paglia, Police Officer; and Sean Cacal, Public Relations Specialist, City of Bakersfield, California

The City of Bakersfield's Anti-Graffiti program is multi-faceted with a grassroots beginning. In 1990 the City's Economic and Community Development Department began a "Looking Good Neighborhood" campaign to assist low income areas improve their neighborhoods. The campaign solicited residents' ideas and resulted in the installation of additional streetlighting, construction of cul-de-sacs to reduce traffic, landscaping, providing paint for residents' homes, and eventually the removal of graffiti. The General Services Division of Public Works initially assisted the Economic and Community Development Department in the distribution of paint to residents. However, an all-out effort to remove graffiti from the City has been the goal since the removal efforts initiated by City crews in 1991. The program has evolved over the years. The entire program was absorbed by the General Services Division in 1996 to create continuity and consolidate priorities and supervision.

Removal has evolved from the beginning method of chipping samples from walls to take to the local paint store for matching, then returning to the location at a later date to paint over the graffiti. This initially was done with a pickup truck, paint rollers and an airless paint sprayer. Now the graffiti removal team consists of five full-time employees who remove graffiti with the aid of two in-truck paint matching systems, airless paint sprayers and pressure washers. To keep up with the graffiti removal, special innovative programs have been developed such as the "Graffiti Blitz" and Main Corridor Patrols which involve additional employees. Additionally, office staff receive calls on the hotline "32-ERASE," track work orders, and coordinate with other agencies, companies and volunteers.

The educational program has become a big part of the City's battle against graffiti. Each year presentations are made to 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders throughout the various school districts. The presentation focuses on the poor neighborhood image that results from tagging, what the students can do to help fight graffiti, and the consequences of getting caught tagging. The presentations are followed by a poster and essay contest and a very successful awards assembly for all the school winners. Most of the cost of this program is funded by monetary and in-kind donations from local businesses. These staff members also maintain a high profile in the City by attending many community events to improve public relations and awareness.

The City Police Department has put in place a concerted effort to enforce violations of anti-graffiti laws. A police officer is dedicated to investigate all graffiti-related crimes, enforce local graffiti ordinances, and assist in education and public relations efforts. The officers' efforts complete the City's all-out assault on the crime of graffiti.

The Flood One Year Later: Czech and Slovak Flood Solutions
Presented by Helena K. Allison, Engineer, City of Davis, California

The "Flood One Year Later" presentation provided a summary of the devastating effects of last year's 500-year flood on cities and property in Europe. The focus of Ms. Allison's presentation was on the effects of the flooding on the city of Prague, its people, and infrastructure. Of primary interest was the effect on the transportation systems in Prague, including analysis of the primary causes of water penetrating the underground metro system, and the role its design and construction played in the system flooding.

The presentation also examined some of the measures utilized to contain the flooding and reduce the impacts on the city and people of Prague. Lessons learned in the aftermath of the floods were shared. Present steps taken since to maximize the safety of the citizens, property and infrastructure along the Vltava River include the use of an innovative system of temporary lightweight aluminum panels used to construct barrier walls that proved to be vital in decreasing the devastation to life and property. These walls are used in Germany, Austria and Slovakia. Ms. Allison pointed out that our cities and counties could also benefit from their use and design. Even if your 100-year event needs to hold back flow 6' high, this system will do it for you.

For more information on the flood in Prague, see the International Idea Exchange column in the May 2003 APWA Reporter, page 10.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: Enhancing the Streetscape
Presented by Steve Elliott, Lieutenant, Appleton Police Department; and Trevor Frank, Facilities Program Manager, OMNNI Associates, Inc., Appleton, Wisconsin

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED (pronounced "sep-ted") is a crime prevention planning tool that focuses on the proper design and use of the built environment. CPTED can help reduce the incidence and fear of crime, and improve overall quality of life and safety.

The three main components of CPTED are:

  • Natural Surveillance
  • Access Control
  • Territoriality

Natural Surveillance can be defined as the organization of physical features, activities and people in such a way as to maximize visibility (lighting, landscape/streetscape, integrated design).

Access Control can be defined as the physical guidance of people coming to and going from a space by the judicial placement of entrances, exits, signs, fencing, landscaping and lighting.

Territoriality is the use of physical attributes that express ownership, such as fences, pavement treatments, art, signage and landscaping. Planning for and developing spaces with territorial reinforcement in mind can heighten the conspicuousness of illegitimate users.

Most importantly, environments incorporating CPTED design principles need to take maintenance into consideration. Although the physical dimensions of CPTED are important, no effort is sustained unless it is properly maintained and operated. Regular landscape maintenance, well-trained rental property management and prompt repair of lighting sources are examples of this principle. Whether a single-family residence, an apartment complex, a school campus or a downtown's main street, a space must be maintained for its designated purpose or it can get caught in the cycle of deterioration and become victim to undesirable activities and conditions.

Getting to Know You! Telling the Public Works Story
Presented by Michele J. Lovenduski, Senior Management Analyst, Public Works Department, City of Irvine, California

This session shared an award-winning program of community awareness designed to:

  • Educate the community about the services you provide.
  • Bring you deserved recognition.
  • Boost employee morale.
  • Demonstrate that public works can be fun, entertaining, and creative.
  • Minimize cost by maximizing existing resources.
  • Provide opportunities to communicate with the public you serve.

During the session Ms. Lovenduski reviewed a formal, written plan for community outreach/awareness and the many components that make up that plan. Those components include an Open House, Council presentations in honor of National Public Works Week, using Council meetings to proclaim your accomplishments, connecting with the community through schools, taking advantage of existing publications and partnerships to get your message out, and creatively approaching the work you do to engage the community in positive ways.

She also discussed the internal mechanisms to improve employee morale. She stressed that your employees will ultimately make a difference as to how the community perceives you. This session addressed many of the steps you can institute to ensure that everyone is an ambassador for public works.

In an era of "community governance" and connecting with the people you serve, all members need to make sure they remain in touch with their constituents. This session demonstrated the value and importance of having a plan versus a hit-or-miss approach. It offered the chance to see what an award-winning, comprehensive program looks like. It also provided the opportunity for participants to share their efforts and what has been successful.

Competing with the Best: Managing the Business of Public Works
Presented by Paul Barnett, Public Works Manager, City of Akron, Ohio, and Judith Cascio, Principal Consultant, EMA, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota

Managing the business of public service can be successfully achieved with tangible savings as experienced by the City of Akron, Ohio, which during the first year of its transformation saved $1.5 million, $3.5 million the second year, and in year three a staggering $6 million.

The City of Akron's Department of Public Service established a goal of becoming a world-class organization in the delivery of all services. Through a four-phase process—Assess, Design, Implement, Optimize—the City increased productivity and customer confidence; decreased costs; increased productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness; increased revenues; and improved service levels. How did they do this? After assessing their organization, it was apparent that changes were needed in how they managed. Akron's organization functioned like a monopoly. The supervisor to employee ratio was 6:1, there was little communication, minimal delegation, many divisions were siloed, employees had "attitudes" about the culture, there was minimal use of technology, and instead of being proactive they were very reactionary. They switched gears and became a team-based organization that managed the business of public works. There was a major shift in thinking and in how work was done by the organization, such as:

  • Manage the business of public works by moving from directing to leading
  • Change the foundation for decision-making, i.e., going from policy- and procedure-based decisions to mission- and goal-based decisions
  • Move from single-skilled employee with narrow job description to multi-skilled employee with generic job description
  • Solicit routine customer feedback and make necessary changes
  • Reduce management layers to become more responsive and empower employees
  • Improve results by basing metrics on performance rather than regulations
  • Focus on the outcome or on the work, not on the output and function
  • Get the job done with team-based relationships and communications
  • Address work with innovative solutions
  • Accomplish more by partnering versus negotiating

Leadership is a key factor in initiating and managing change. However, leadership alone cannot establish a competitive position. Leadership shows the way, but the hard work of transforming public service operations and demonstrating the ability to deliver quality service at competitive prices rests with management.

Best People Practices as Competitive Advantage in Fleet Management
Presented by Mike Corbett, Fleet Management Consultant and Publisher, Spectrum Consultants, California Fleet News, San Diego, California

Citing that "fleet operations are one of the only government agencies that track the minute-by-minute productivity of their workers," Mike Corbett described a whole host of "best people practices" for fleet managers to better recruit, hire, train, motivate and improve the accountability of fleet maintenance technicians and personnel.

The session also described and received audience feedback on a whole host of best people practices in managing in political environments ("good management is good politics") achieving "quality" as well as organizing and communicating with customer departments and senior management.

The West Coast consultant and publisher, who also presented at Congress in 1991, 2000 and 2001, said that implementing "best people practices" was the difference in achieving 20-40% cost reductions in the dozen or so fleet maintenance managed competitions which his firm assisted employee groups in "winning."

He described ten "best people practices" for fleet managers including stronger roles in not just managing change, but leading it, and the necessity and emergence of responsibility for solid ethical leadership. He stated that "ethics is not only a personal responsibility but a duty of the organization's leadership."

Other best practices focused on transforming the work environment as the key to competitive fleet programs that emphasize cost, quality and service. Corbett said fleet managers should focus on "building an attractive, modern, physical, communicative, technology-driven and process-smart environment for employees to excel. He stated that environment—how people tackle problems, work together and think about their organizations—makes a great fleet organization. With the wrong environment, competitive programs just do not happen.

Other "best people practices" included identifying key positions in the organization, techniques to "hire right," the necessity to set national standards and training for fleet technicians in a technology-driven field and provide monetary incentives to keep the workforce trained in latest automotive technologies and achieve smarter, performance-based fleet operations in the government sector.

Finally, he discussed creation of a new culture for fleet and governmental employees with four tenets—innovation as routine and the norm, professional growth as expected, empowerment as natural and performance as purposeful.

Managing in the Multi-Cultural Workplace
Presented by Russell A. Moore, P.E., Vice President, Harris & Associates, Concord, California

Russell A. Moore spoke to the audience about the cultural makeup of his work group. Of the 22 workers in his group, 15 are American born and 7 are foreign born; 13 are male and 9 are female; and they range in age from 19 to 62 years old. They have employees from the Philippines, Germany, Poland, Romania, Brazil, China, and several countries in Africa. These are people with various backgrounds and life experiences, but all share some common goals—they want to make a living, develop their careers, and perform a quality job for their customers.

Moore mentioned that, technically, civil engineering projects and, therefore, technical experience are very similar around the globe. Probably the biggest difference is in how people communicate in order to benefit from this experience.

Moore went on to discuss a variety of issues important in the workplace, including:

  • Understanding people and getting to know your coworkers. Knowing your coworkers is important in order to get the most out of them—you've got to know what makes them tick.

  • Communication. Understanding how people best receive instructions is critical to managers. Get to know your coworkers so you can help them perform at the highest potential.

  • Celebrating diversity. In Moore's office they learn about other cultures by sharing food at company parties and potlucks, by celebrating national holidays, or at sporting events. They had fun together cheering on their various countries during the 2002 World Cup of Soccer tournament.

  • An open, productive and fun work environment equals a better place to work and a more productive group.

  • Support from above is critical. Whether you are in a public agency or a private company, the top of the organization must buy in for success to occur. Moore used the examples of Microsoft and Southwest Airlines, and how diversity is very important to those organizations.