APWA Standards of Professional Conduct: Tenet Nos. 3 & 7

Gary D. Strack, P.E.
Director of Structural Engineering
Shafer Kline & Warren, Inc.
Overland Park, Kansas
Member, APWA Leadership and Management Committee

The complete APWA Standards of Professional Conduct are available on the APWA website. These two tenets are related through "the use of resources" to provide infrastructure for our citizens. When I accepted the task of writing this article, I thought I had selected two tenets which would be easy to write about and use together. I was wrong! These are broad topics and easily cover all aspects of APWA work areas. I will limit my comments to just a couple of issues for each tenet.

Tenet No. 3: "I will encourage sustainability through wise use of resources; whether they are natural resources, financial resources or human resources."

Sustainability is the ability to continue to provide services or activities through time no matter what events occur. For instance, Hurricane Katrina severely impacted public works professionals' ability to do their job of providing services to residents in Mississippi and Louisiana. However, we know they are continuing their efforts to rebuild the infrastructure to provide for the future.

How do we describe the future of public works so that we know what and how to sustain our infrastructure? If you ask John Ostrowski (Leadership and Management Committee member) he will say, "What is our vision of the future of public works?" Many of us will say something like "It will be the same as now—no money, poor infrastructure conditions, and a lot of need for 'new development.'" Is this a vision you want to strive for? Not me! We need a positive vision of the future. Let's make a concerted effort to paint a positive vision of the future to our staff, our political office holders, and most importantly to the public. Remember, the news media believes the public wants to hear the "bad" news instead of the "good" news. Encourage the news media to present a positive vision of our "future" infrastructure. The Leadership and Management Committee discussed what this "vision of the future infrastructure" should be and will present potential aspects of this vision in upcoming articles.

The public has become more aware and sensitive to being respectful of the environment and preserving our resources. This can mean more "green" space in a development, beautification of a bridge, restoration of a historic structure, or development of a downtown streetscape. The public and the news media are watching our "wise" use of resources in all we do. It is up to us to present a positive vision of our future which will support our wise use of resources in reaching this goal.

Tenet No. 7: "I will strive to plan, design, build, maintain and operate public infrastructure in a manner that respects the environment and the ability of government to adequately preserve these assets for succeeding generations."

Preserving the assets our agencies construct with capital improvement funds is a continual challenge for public works professionals. It seems to be a continual education process to teach our customers (the public) and elected officials the importance of having sufficient funding to support the operation and maintenance of our facilities. It is easy for them to support new facilities, because we all enjoy having "new toys" to show off and play with, right? We need to employ new communication techniques and strategies to continually stress the importance of the operating and maintenance funding. The use of photos, graphs, and illustrations is vitally important to a successful communication program. Pick an example which your audience understands and one where they can easily follow the steps. For example, a photo of a bright shiny new truck or car compared to one which has not been maintained, followed by a photo of your latest capital improvement and how it might look without sufficient funding for operation and maintenance. Be creative! As many have said, "If it were easy, anyone could do it" and "Keep it simple stupid" (KISS).

Constructing our assets can also present a challenge as we deal with attempting to ensure we are getting the most for our dollar. Political pressure to accept substandard construction can be daunting. Do you have to resist this pressure alone? According to Harry Price of Springfield, Missouri Public Works, "Standing on your principles can make you feel alone, but often you are admired from a distance by others." Also remember you have fellow APWA members who understand and/or have been through similar situations who will support you. The infoNOW Communities are an excellent resource for answers to questions as well as moral support. The infoNOW Communities are available on the APWA website and are free to all APWA members; just sign up.

"A people that values its privileges above its principles, soon loses both." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Many state laws are written such that communities have to take the "low bid" for equipment and construction contracts. Harry Price suggests, "When specifying items for bid, try to word them to allow the 'best bid' for acceptance which allows you to get the ultimate best value for what you can afford." This wording takes more effort to create and a skillful review to make sure it is enforceable. By doing this, you will establish a position for your agency to be able to select the bid which provides the most value to the community.

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." - Warren Buffett

"It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activity or methods. It must always relate directly to how life is better for everyone... The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in the system. The aim must include plans for the future. The aim is a value judgment." - Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Gary D. Strack, P.E., can be reached at (913) 888-7800 or strack@skw-inc.com.