Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Manifestations: Reflections and Lessons Learned from the Southern Freedom Movement and Leadership

Burns (1978) tells the cynical story of a Frenchman sitting in a cafĂ© who hears a disturbance, runs to the window, and cries: “There goes the mob. I am their leader. I must follow them!” (Cited in Van Wart, 2008, p. 16). This is exactly the way I felt about leadership before attending the class on administrative leadership. But if anyone were to ask me today if leaders do make a difference, I will answer with an affirmative YES! Before this class, I was generally cynical about leadership and often view theory of leaderships as too prescriptive and less descriptive. I used to think that leadership cannot be taught or learned. At the end of the class, I come away with a deep understanding of leadership that makes a difference, my study of the Southern Freedom Movement made a deep impact on me emotionally and philosophically.

First of all I learnt that leaders must not only have goals, but must be willing to revisit their goals to ensure that those goals meet their aspirations and the aspirations of their followers. The Southern Freedom Movement leaderships from the very beginning knew what they want: freedom from Jim Crows laws, and they pursued that goal with an unparalleled zeal and commitment. They revisit their goals very often, identify those who support their goals and work with them. Invite those who oppose them to see those goals as not selfish goals but an aspiration common to all men. They couched these goals and speak of it in constitutional and religious terms that all men could relate to. In his letter from Birmingham jail, Dr. King states: “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights” (Dinar, n.d.). The leaders of the movement make this goal clearly discernible in terms and language everyone could understand. Here is how Dr. King portrays these goals in his speech at the Mall:
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." (

In contrast the local southern leaders appealed to their tradition and culture which is not totally inclusive. Millions of white Southerners found champions in politicians such as Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, who both cultivated and exploited for political gain a deep anti-civil-rights sentiment. In his 1963 inaugural address, Wallace declared: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” (Sokol, 2008). These leaders never gave a clear and succinct picture of why the south should continue this tradition. As a result when whites were asked questions and prompted to defend segregation, they could not precisely say why segregation should prevail. They fell back on tradition, conservative values, and twisted constitutional logic and legalisms. A good example of this befuddlement occurred when students of Northview High School were asked directly about desegregation in February 1959 in one of the documentary we watched. When asked why he did not want black students at Northview, one of these students could only say “I don’t know why, I just don’t” (PBS, Eye on the Prize documentary). This I believe is the leadership deficit that plunged the Southern United States into turmoil and instability during the civil rights years.

The second important lesson we talked about in class is the crucial need for a definite process that will lead to the goals. The Southern Freedom Movement settled on Nonviolence, the white local leader chose force and brutality. One of the most interesting “recent perspectives on the struggle for civil rights in the South is David L. Chappell’s, “A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow” (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) which stresses black prophetic religion as the decisive force in what was, in effect, a cultural battle. He points out that black southern leader were driven by a deep sense of realism, indeed a form of conservativism” (cited in Will Thomas, online blog, 2008). The Southern Freedom Movement also learned a lot from other movement before them, particularly from Mahtma Gandhi’s struggle for India’s independence from Great Britain. Between these two rich sources, the leaders of the Southern Freedom Movement picked up Nonviolence and the use of religious symbols, songs and imageries. In one of the Hope interviews we watched, Bernice Johnson Reagon, spoke of the impromptu nature of the songs. They sing deep from their hearts and the passion they would have used to react in violence against segregation they concentrated in songs, marches, bus boycotts all non violent. Dr. King eloquently expressed the importance of process to the struggle in these words:

“I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate
neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the
black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent
protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church,
the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this
philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am
convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white
brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who
employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent
efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace
and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would
inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare” (Dinar, n.d., ¶ 22)
Another crucial lesson I learned from the Southern Freedom Movement is the unity of purpose between the leaders and the followers. Those who follow Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy et al. do so because they deeply believe in their convictions and genuineness of purpose. In contrast, the local southern white elected leaders were being led by the mobs. They are like the Frenchman in the cynical story I referred to in paragraph one. They are in it, because of the perquisite of the office. They ran for office on the platform of segregation not because they genuinely believe that blacks were inferior, (at least not all of them), but because that was the only message they thought would win the election for them. As Jason Sokol (2008) suggests “Many whites denounced the “Civil Wrongs Bill,” holding that such federal laws imperiled their own rights. They clung to the notion that rights were finite, and that as blacks gained freedom, whites must suffer a loss of their own liberties. On the precarious seesaw of Southern race relations, whites thought they would plummet if blacks ascended”

Another discovery I made with the Southern Freedom Movement is the level of planning and strategies required for a successful movement. Protests do not just happen by accidents. We watched in the documentaries weeks and months of planning before the event took place. Dr. King painted a picture on the planning that goes into a non violent movement demonstration as follows: “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community… On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation... Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community... As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us…We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the byproduct of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change…Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day” (Dinar, n.d.).

The march on Washington was also meticulously planned in detail: “Operating out of a tiny office in Harlem, Rustin and his staff had only two months to plan a massive mobilization. Money was raised by the sale of buttons for the march at 25 cents apiece, and thousands of people sent in small cash contributions. The staff tackled the difficult logistics of transportation, publicity, and the marchers' health and safety. Attention to detail was crucial, for the planners believed that anything other than a peaceful, well-organized demonstration would damage the cause for which they would march” (CORE, n.d. ¶ 5). The only time the southern local leaders planned and have strategies that march the freedom movement, the protest and marches failed. The irony here is that the strategy was not force or brutality, it was non violent. As police chief of Albany, Georgia, Laurie Pritchett, nonviolent response to demonstrations, including the mass arrests of protesters and the jailing of Martin Luther King, Jr., was seen as an effective strategy in bringing the campaign to an end before the movement could secure any concrete gains. Pritchett’s nonviolent approach left an indelible imprint on King, who later wrote of his indignation at Pritchett’s use of ‘‘the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral ends of racial injustice’’ (King, 1964, p. 99).

The lessons I learned from this class is a need to have a core of value that transcends our self interest (Loeb, 2010). The class on administrative leadership have upended my long held notions of leadership and set me straight on transformative leadership. As public administrators, I ceased to look at my work as someone carrying out orders, from above. As Van Warts noted, “one of the enormous challenges of great leadership is the seamless blending of the more operational-managerial dimensions with the visionary leadership functions” (2008, p. 22). This is where I found myself at the end of class, ready to take up the challenge of leadership with purpose, vigor and passion. My work as a public defender is forever transformed by this experience.

The Evolution of the City of Spokane’s Complete Street Policy Agenda Setting: An Examination of Players, Institutions and Structural Impact on Policy

The Evolution of the City of Spokane’s Complete Street Policy Agenda Setting: An Examination of Players, Institutions and Structural Impact on Policy Formation

Humans and democratic governments are often problem solvers. Many of the social and technological advances made throughout history are solutions to problems: food and drug administration policies were meant to be a solution to incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs. At the same time, there remain many social problems that people believe should be “solved” or, made better. These social problems require government action be taken because services required to alleviate public problems become “public goods” that can only be provided by government actors (Birkland, 2005, p. 125).

Description of Policy Problem

Occasionally, the solution established in one arena, over time may create problems in another sphere which in turn require unique solutions. One of such instance is the complete street policy. Current streets policies are geared primarily to cater for automobiles; this creates concerns for pedestrians, and cyclists with problems such as traffic safety, traffic congestion, and public’s accessibility to services, and businesses. The confluence of businesses, citizens, and institutions, gave voice to the problem of automobile-centric streets policies and led to the agitation for complete streets.

While no singular definition exists, the most popular elements of complete streets include: sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, modified medians, transit stop improvements, pedestrian signals, and curb extensions (National Complete Streets Coalition, 2009). On April 5, 2010 Spokane City Council passed a resolution (City of Spokane Ordinance # 2010-0018), expressing support for the complete street concept and requesting that a complete street ordinance be drafted as component for the street standards (Appendix A). The ordinance formally sets complete streets on the City’s institutional agenda. This paper analyzed the evolution of the policy process, by identifying the players, institutions and structures that made significant impact on the policy formulation, formation, and agenda setting.

Theoretical Foundation

Myriads of literature provide a wide variety of theories for understanding how communities and societies formulate their public policies (Luton, 1996). Each theory provides unique insight into aspects of the complex dynamics involved in policy formulation and development, but none provides a perfect and complete explanation of those dynamics. Since no theory can be identified as perfect, it is incumbent that I review major theories I used with the hope of highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and to provide a rationale for the theoretical foundation I chose.
The primary theoretical foundation for this paper is the pluralistic model. Pluralism is defined as a “concept referring to a society as composed of diverse interests and groups which compete to achieve their social and political objectives and share in the exercise of political power” (Luton, 1996, p. 41). Truman (1971) defines the term “interest group “as a shared-attitude group that makes certain claims upon other groups in the society” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed. 1995, p.41).

Both group theory (propounded by Truman) and Robert Dahl’s (1967) pluralism explains public policy by focusing on the manner in which interest groups drive its formulation and substance (In Theodolou & Cahn ed. 1995). Competition among interest groups results in some kind of compromise, accommodation, or victorious coalition. This is clearly evident in the many groups that coalesced to push for the passage of the complete street ordinance. Diverse groups such as downtown business interest, Northwest cycling league, Spokane realtors association all came together to push for the passage of the ordinance (Appendix B). As self explanatory and descriptive as pluralism may appear, it does have some limitations.

Miliband (1969) suggests what is wrong with pluralist-democratic theory is not its insistence on the fact of competition but its claim that none of the major organized “interest”, is able to achieve a decisive and permanent advantage in the process of competition” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 59). As Schattschneider (1960) famously put it, “the flaw in pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 417). Luton argued that the pluralist position that government acts as a neutral referee is dubious, “government takes sides through its structures, its rules and laws, and through a systematic consensus about what does or does not legitimately fall within its purview” (1996, p. 44). My observation of the complete street policy ordinance process highlighted the forceful influence of public institutional players like Spokane Transit Authority (STA), Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), City Engineering Services Department (CESD). Some, if not all of these institutions organized symposia, seminars, and lectures favorable to the policy. They also stand to gain from the adoption of the policy in terms of budgetary increase and visibility. In one of the seminar hosted by STA & SRHD at YMCA, it was clear to all attendees whose side the government was on. Presentations by public administrators were all pro-complete streets. As Salisbury points out, “the relationship between interests and government institutions is dynamic and protean. As interests gain or lose clout, the institutions through which they seek to wield their influence change in structure and mission” (quoted in Luton, 1996, p. 44). When the relationship between institutions and interest groups become so intertwined that they become codependent, the subgovernment process theorists call it the “Iron Triangle” (Birkland, 2005, p. 61). In the complete street policy process, it will be foolhardy for anyone to imagine that Northwest Cycling League has the same influence as the Spokane Realtors Association.

However, faulty the logic of pluralism may appear, its main problem is not lack of structure or descriptive references within the policy cycle, its “political problem result from its defense of the existence of true democracy as distinct from pure democracy” (Luton, 1996, p. 45). As a panacea to this particular pluralist limitation, Heclo, (1978) came up with issue network theory. He argued that it is not so much that the notions of “iron triangles” and “subgovernments” were wrong but that they are “disastrously incomplete” (in Theodolou & Cahn, p. 47). He said, “Looking for a few who are powerful, we tend to overlook the many whose webs of influence provoke and guide the exercise of power” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 47, see also note*1). Pluralism may not have addressed all the objections of the elite theory, but the fact that its theories are fluid and open represent advancement from the conspiratorial approach of the elitist theory and this is why I choose it as the theoretical foundation for this paper.
Political systems theory has the potential to incorporate insights from all of the theories discussed above.

David Easton defines political system as all those activities and institutions involved in the formulation and execution of social policies that are binding upon society-the authoritative allocations of values (cited in Luton, 1996, p. 47). This is why the model depicted in Appendix B, includes both the micro-community public institutional players as well as micro-community private players. Political system theory like the other theories of public policy making has its problems. One of its problems is also its main strength: Linearity. It often “innately” depicts a conservatively static set of interrelationships in a way that appears to freeze them into a particular configuration (Theodolou, In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 4). Appendix B shows that my model is diametrically different and distinct from Easton’s system model principally because I seek to describe a local rather than a national political system. These changes are not significant departures, because as Luton (1996) explained “all systems are constructs of the mind and the tests of a system construct are whether it coheres and whether it assists understanding” (p. 49). Another advantage of my theoretical foundation is that it is easier to follow the complex web of interactions reflected in Appendix B. Neither the pluralistic model I adopted nor its local application to the peculiar Spokane system leaves the political system as some kind of black box containing unnamed authorities that make binding allocation of values in conspiracy and secrecy.

As part of the theoretical foundation of this paper, I deployed a version of abstract process theory as Luton (1996) did, particularly the version that focus on a more microscopic level of policy making called “Incrementalism”. Luton described incrementalism as “decision making involving minor adjustments of the status quo that arise from the application of rational thinking limited by the human capacity for rational thinking, time and cost constraints, and the need for compromise, bargaining, and adjustments among a diverse set of participants” (1996, p. 37). Unlike the wholesale approach adopted by the city of Tacoma, Washington (National Complete Street Coalition), the city of Spokane opted for an incremental adoption of the complete street policy. This is due to the unique Western and Moralistic political culture evident in Eastern Washington. By Western, I meant the distinctive regional political culture that has evolved in the American West. Populist and progressive traditions have shaped this culture.

In Spokane, the public sector is viewed both as a marketplace (individualistic) and as a commonwealth (moralistic). It is expected to both respond efficiently to demands and take positive action to improve the community. Citizens of Eastern Washington abhor taxes and excessive government spending and yet they want good streets and first class developmental projects. This conundrum often forces elected officials and public administrators to an uncomfortable compromise where most developmental project is done through incrementalism. Beginning from the late twentieth century onwards, Spokane’s local government structure shows signs of a moralistic political culture, reflected in the professional management of government and non-partisan leadership for city government (Luton, 1996). As I made manifest in this paper, the adoption of the ordinance to develop the complete street policy was minimalistic and gradual in approach largely because of this unique political culture. In short, the process fits perfectly into Lindblom's (1959) "science of muddling through" (in Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 113). Concerns over cost split the city council into two camps, and at the end two of the council members voted against the resolution setting the policy on institutional agenda, even though the ordinance is merely symbolic (Snyder I, 2010).

Murray Edelman (1964) views policy as being either material or symbolic. “Symbolic policies can be used to either divert public attention or to satisfy public demand when no substantive benefits are being provided” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 7). One could argue that the complete street ordinance in Appendix A is merely symbolic and that it is meant to satisfy public demand evidenced by the community of private, public, and institutional players itemized in Appendix B. This could also be explained in terms of the unique moralistic culture of the West.

General Survey of the Players and Their Roles

Appendix B contains micro-community public institutional players who played key roles in putting the city of Spokane complete street public policy on the institutional agenda. The local government institutions of greatest importance are the Spokane City Council and the City of Spokane Mayoral office. Unlike the times when Luton wrote his book on the politics of garbage, the city government now operates a strong mayor form of government, but the city council still wields considerable influence over policy decisions. This may be due to the fact that the current mayor rose from their rank to the mayor’s office. She often defers to the city council than any of her predecessors ever did. Prior to Mayor Mary Verner’s election, the city is often known for the bitter rivalry between the city council and the mayor’s office. The second strong mayor, late Jim West, brought a lot of hubris and persona to the office that almost dwarfed the influence of the city council. He was replaced in a recall election following a personal scandal; and the then city council chairman stepped in as interim mayor for two years before the election of Mary Verner.
As Birkland (2005) argues, the actors in the policy process can and must interact with each other to advance policy proposals. This explains the dynamic relations between the City Council, and the Mayor’s office on the one hand, as well as the public advocacy groups, community activist, and other stakeholders before the passage of the ordinance. To understand how these interactions work, an understanding of a policy domain and policy community is important (Birkland, 2005). In this case, Spokane City Council is of course the primary actor, but there were no obvious consensus among the members of the city council, as the council voted 5-2 to pass the ordinance. Spokane citizens played a key role and will continue to play a key role in the next phase, and implementation stages of the process, chiefly through attendance at community workshops, and making comment at city council meetings. During the city council discussion on the policy, the two council members who voted against the policy requested seven different amendments to the resolution (Snyder I, 2010, ¶ 1).

The policy community involved in the passage of this ordinance consists principally of mutually reinforcing relationships between related interests (Birkland, p.97). These includes “institutional actors” (Cahn, In Theodolou & Cahn, 1995, p. 201), such as the City Council, and Mayor’s office; agencies i.e. Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC), Spokane Transit Authority (STA), City of Spokane Engineering Services Department (CSESD); and private interest groups such as, the YMCA, AARP, and consultants- Futurewise (a nonprofit planning and environmental public policy interest group). They all came together to develop the initiative (Snyder II, 2010). All of these players made deft use of old and new media to move the complete street issue from the systemic agenda to the institutional agenda.

The influence of Mark Fenton in rallying all the disparate groups together during his visit to Spokane in the fall of 2009 helped focus the issue in the community, attendees left the talk energized and ready to make a difference. Two micro-community players- Jon Snyder- he ran for his council seat on the platform of better and complete streets, and John Prosser, Spokane’s plan commissioner, played key roles. Snyder introduced the bill at the council meeting and John Prosser's membership of the SRTC ensures that the issue of complete street was brought up in every board meeting. The important contribution of Kitty Klitz, an online campaigner and supporter of complete streets was crucial; she was also instrumental in rallying youth votes that brought Snyder into office (Spokane Complete Streets on Facebook, n.d.).

Key Players and Influences: Their Relations and Impacts

A thorough understanding of key player’s relations, influences, and impacts on the Spokane complete street policy should start with an appreciation of the importance of agenda setting to the policy process. John W. Kingdon (1984) asked two important questions: “Why do some subjects rise on the agendas, while others are neglected? Why do some alternatives receive more attention than others?” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., 1995, p. 105). The answer to this as it relates to the complete streets policy lies in a deep understanding of “agenda setting” and what Birkland (2005) calls “window of opportunity’ (p. 116). The reason being that an agenda is a collection of problems, understandings of causes, symbols, solutions, and other elements of public problems that comes to the attention of members of the public and their governmental officials (Birkland, p. 110). Issues usually move from the largest level of the agenda called “the agenda universe” to the systemic agenda which consists of all issues that are commonly perceived by members of the political community as meriting public attention and as involving matters within the legitimate jurisdiction of existing governmental authority (Luton, 1996). And from there to the institutional agenda, which contains the “list of items explicitly up for the active and serious consideration of authoritative decision makers” (Birkland, p. 111).

The issue of complete street has always been on agenda universe of Spokane city council every time the street department comes up for consideration. What elevates the complete streets issue from agenda universe to the systemic agenda was the visit to Spokane by Mark Fenton, a street activist, pedestrian advocate and PBS host in September 2009 to promote pedestrian walking in Spokane (Outthere, 2009). In an interview with “Outthere” monthly for the event, Mark challenged his listeners to “be a change agent in the community. And that would mean step up and ask city council, policy makers, county commission, neighborhood organization to continue to build our walkways and bikeways. That may be the shove the planning commission needs” (Outthere, 2009, p.10). After the event, the staff, volunteers and listeners of Spokane public radio who had thronged the event, resolved to organize a well publicized bike to walk the same month. Public radio in Spokane is well known for their public advocacy and progressive approach to community issues. Their alliance with the publisher of Outthere monthly, Jon Snyder, galvanized the issue from agenda universe to the systemic agenda. The election of Jon Snyder on the platform of complete streets with unanimous support of cyclist association, private citizens and business community provided the fillip for this elevation.

The shocking death of Stephen W. Shockley on December 18, 2009 on the corner of Elm/Cannon and Francis Avenue in North Spokane however brought the issue onto the institutional agenda. Shockley was walking his dog around 6:15 pm that fateful evening when he was struck by an automobile on notorious Francis Avenue. His death, according to the Spokesman review newspaper, was the seventh fatal automobile-pedestrian crash in Spokane that year. “A year when traffic deaths in Washington State reached a 50 year low except in Spokane County” (, 2009).

Kingdon’s (1984) streams metaphor of agenda change listed three ways in which groups pursue strategies to gain attention for issues when “windows of opportunity” opens (Birkland, p. 116). The first is through electoral change which can lead to reform movements. The 2008 national elections that brought Barak Obama to the white house in the United States unleashed an unprecedented progressive to Spokane City Council. Complete streets issues is a progressive ideas pursued mainly by Democratic leaning interest group. Snyder says “I feel that that progressive wave has always been there in the city [but] it hasn’t always been represented by the folks on City Council. (Appendix D).

Kingdon’s second stream is what he calls “changes in our perception of problems” (Birkland, 2005, p. 116). In his analysis, there is a difference between a condition and a problem. “We put up with all kinds of condition every day and conditions do not rise to prominent places on policy agendas” (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., p. 106). Citizens of Spokane had a different view of automobile accidents following the television report about the untimely death of Stephen Shockley. The old media which consists mainly of local televisions stations and newspapers such as the Inlanders Newspapers, a democratic and progressive leaning free newspaper, particularly highlighted the statistic on the automobile deaths (Excerpts in Appendix D). Edelman (1988) argues, “The spectacle constituted by news reporting continuously constructs and reconstructs social problems, crises, enemies, and leaders and so creates a succession of threats and reassurances” (in Thedolou & Cahn ed., p. 382). This also confirms Iyengar & Kinder (1987) experiments that the position of a story in a television broadcast affects agenda-setting (In Theodolou & Cahn ed., p. 297). All the local television news broadcast started their lead story with another angle on the death of Mr. Shockley. The reinforcing impact of perception on agenda is also highlighted by the fact that micro-institutional players like SRTC, simply regurgitated the news stories on their website. SRTC is a federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. MPOs provide coordination in planning between the public, cities, the county, the state, and transit providers (SRTCblog, 2009).

Perhaps, the most significant impact is the influence of new media through the use of blogs, Facebooks, Myspace. A citizen, by the name Kitty Klitz, created most of these sites and used them to maximum effect. An online Google search today yields a total of 26,400 hits, all of which were created either by her or citizens acting on her leads ( results, 2010). She is also the brain behind the involvement of Futurewise, an environmental public interest group based in Seattle. She convinced them to open offices in Spokane and got involved. The news of Shockley’s death went viral online moments after the accident. Photographs of Francis streets with billboards obstructing traffic went up on every interest group website including, On most of these websites the death of Shockley was not only attributed to automobile accident but incomplete street. The National Complete Street Coalition (NCSC) included it in its compilation titled “The Consequences of Incomplete streets: death” series (NCSC, 2009). These documents were in turn forwarded to macro-community players like congresswoman Cathy Rodger McMorris, who represents Eastern Washington in Congress as well as Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

The third stream in Kingdon metaphor refers to changes in the policy stream that can influence the opening of window. The election of Jon Snyder to Spokane city council by a coalition of outdoor enthusiasts, conservationist and upscale South Hill residents represented by listeners of Spokane public radio fits this stream. Prior to his election, Jon Snyder was the editor and publisher of Outthere monthly, an outdoor publication that co-sponsored the visit of Mark Fenton to Spokane in September, 2009. After his election he publicly made complete street his primary reform agenda (Appendix C). One of his campaign fliers has since been included in all promo fliers used by complete street advocates even after his election (Appendix D). He started a blog during his campaign which he has maintained to this day. He posted information on the voting process by the city council on his website during council consideration of the matter.
Perhaps, the most important micro-community private player with considerable influence is the citizens of the city of Spokane. Many of them participated in public workshops, speaking out at meetings, city council hearings, Facebooks comments, providing spoken and/or written comments on the scope and extent of complete streets. The diversity of comments on the financial involvement of the city explained the decision to opt for incremental implementation of the policy. Spiegel (1968) contends that “no other issue is as vital to the success of solving America’s urban crisis than the viable participation of urban residents in planning the neighborhoods and cities in which they live and the social programs which directly affect them” (cited in Luton, 1996, p.193-4). Luton suggest three model typology of citizen participation: a “co-opted participation” model where citizens, administrators and public officials maintain good relations and support each other to work for the agenda of officials, “prudent participation” where citizens and government officials maintain good relations but are willing to conflict openly when circumstances warrant it; and “confrontational participation” where none of the parties expect good relations on a definite substantive agenda (Luton, 1996, p. 195). Citizens’ involvement before the passage of the ordinance generally fell under the co-opted participation typology.
The Micro-community public institutional players like SRTC and SRHD depicted in Appendix B, were willing to accommodate citizens input. They work with YMCA and other micro-community private players to organize workshops and seminars where complete streets policy and fiscal implications were thoroughly explained to attendees. Selznick (1949) identified formal cooptation as a common strategy used by public administrators to ensure that citizen participation supported administrative goals. Camilla Stivers (1990) believes that citizens are improved through meaningful participation and that public administrators have an obligation to society to encourage that improvement. As Luton (1996) argued, “no matter which flag is flown, a common element emphasizes serving the customer- and, in the context of government, to a significant degree that means the citizens” (p. 200). Scholars however suggested that citizens regard themselves as owners of government and not customers (a useful summary appears in Luton, 1996).

Conclusion: Who or What Determines the Complete Streets Policy

The study of agenda setting is a fruitful way to begin to understand how groups, power, and agenda interact to set the boundaries of political policy debate (Birkland, 2005). This paper shows that agenda setting, like all other stages of the policy process, does not occur in a vacuum. What the complete street process shows is that citizen’s opinions do count, especially in an era of new media where mass mobilization of population is “a click away” through the internet (Notes*2).

Most of the actors agreed that citizens led initiatives like the complete streets experiment are where the future of public policy agenda setting lies. My examination of citizen participation suggests that public officials and administrators often underestimate their impact at their own perils. If the coopted, prudent, confrontive models of citizens’ participation have any relationship to practical reality then government officials would be wise to identify which participants fit which model and relate to each differently. The benefits gained by meaningful citizen participation may come at some cost in efficiency and community cohesiveness where a confrontive model prevails. Overall however, communities almost certainly will benefit from the energies, and skills enlightened citizen participants contribute in informing and advising government officials.

In sum, Councilman Jon Snyder may have contributed more than any other elected officials given his readiness to follow through with the implementations of the policy even before substantive ordinance is enacted by the council. He has since required CSED and streets departments to provide evidence of compliance with elements of complete streets before passage of their departmental budget (Brunt, 2010). In the end, what determines the passage of the ordinance is the “window of opportunity” created by the death of Mr. Shockley and the attendant media attention, as well as the democratic and moralistic culture prevailing at the time. Looking back now, the policy may not have passed if tabled today given the current budgetary woes the city is facing. Additionally the fact that both the citizens’ agitators and institutional actors are willing to considerably scale back their expectation and its fiscal impact helped the easy passage of the complete street ordinance.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nigeria's Politics of Garbage: Efficiency vs Virtue and Grandstanding

"We have reached a moment in time when the national condition seems neither
lifeless nor deathless. It’s like the barren but sensuous serenity of the
natural world in late autumn, before Thanksgiving, containing the promise of
rebirth and the potential for resurrection." - Anon

I woke up this morning, sad but lifted. Saddened by the events going on in Nigeria but lifted and comforted by the promise of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria that currently only exist in my dreams. But dreams are good. For out of dreams come the seeds of liberation and progress. The news out of Nigeria is constantly filled with "stuffs" that is engineered to make you angry, despodents and give up on her. I have been there, but today I chose to believe in her and my dream for her.

Who could have "thunk" as one of my malaproprism proned friends quibbed that the same week Ekiti state received good news about their electoral freedom, Amos Adamu will get nabbed for bribery and corruption? It even get better, Adamu's defense according to the BBC is that he is innocent as he is merely asking for the money so he could build FIFA standard facility in Nigeria. Apparently he forgot that he had received more than the sum of money he was demanding from the fake US officials from Nigeria's coffer to build the charade of a stadium at Abuja for the commonwealth games.

Any way, Adamu was not the focus of my optimism on Nigeria and neither the people's democratic party stalwarts in southwest, Nigeria who had gathered at Ogun State government house to discuss how they lost Ekiti. In what seems like a macabre news story straight out of PDP mad as hell handling of everything Nigeria, PDP officials whines to Governor Daniels about how the erstwhile governor of Ekiti state had reached out to President Jonathan to help influence the outcome of the judicial decision out of Ilorin appellate court. Can you believe a public official discussing this watonly and openly before a crowd of journalist! It is apparent that PDP officials had no shame left with them anymore. So what do they expected the president to have done, call the presiding judge and offer to fly him and the members free of charge to Dubai for shopping? Kai! Na wah o! Again the story got murkier, the ex-governor of Ekiti state was quoted by Daniel to have wondered why President Jonathan would congratulate the new governor few minutes after the announcement of the appellate court decision. Is he president of Nigeria or president of PDP?

Any way, we digress again, that is not the source of my optimism, my hope this morning lies in the fact that I firmly believe Nigeria could be fixed. I have been working on a book on Nigeria political culture and the impact on the efficiency of our public administration. As I strongly subscribed to Wildavsky's theory that the political institutions that people construct are shaped in conformity with their political culture.

Where we are now as a nation is where the United States of America was before the progressive era reforms between 1893 to 1920. Before then corruption, nepotism, "spoils" system was rampant in the United States during this era. But what the progressive reformers did was not just to appeal to the emotional basic instinct in man and blame everything on corruption as we are doing in Nigeria presently trying to fix things through politicized anti-corruption hearings. The progressive reformers fuse the arguments regarding "the immorality of governments with arguments regarding its potential effectiveness by emphasising the doctrine of efficiency" to quote Larry Luton's book of the similar title.

In 1894, Theodore Roosevelt told the First National Conference for Good City Government: "There are two gospels I always want to preach to reformers.... The first is the gospel of morality; the next is the gospel of efficiency." I challenged any of the readers to look around our public administration landscape and tell me if they could find three efficient public organization. And yet, when you look at some administrations widely celebrated in Nigeria for good performance, the thing that sets them apart is efficiency. Be it, General Murtala Mohammed regime, Lateef Kayode Jakande (as governor of Lagos state), Mohammed Marwa, Donald Duke, and lately Governor Fashola.

They all won because they focused on politics of garbage: clean streets, paved roads, orderliness, efficient service, it is only after they accomplished this that they simultaneously focused on the anti-corruption issue. In the last few years, we have had presidents whose sole focus of his administration is anti-corruption even whilst his appointees are inept in delivery of demoractic dividends. Today most urban residents in the United States take for granted that some garbage collection and disposal service will be available, they may actually forgot the rapacious wait in the chaos of Ojuelegba for an accident-waiting-to happen molue, but that has not always been the case. Jakande focused on the provisio of affordable housing and created an housing revolution in Lagos. Marwa focused on clearing the streets of debris during the Abacha regime widely known for its rapacious stealing of public money and yet Lagos state citizens adore him till date. Before him, Lagos residents wallowed in filth and garbage under the regime of Olagunsoye Oyinlola who could not find bitumen to tarred the road to the governor's office at Alausa!

Here is where it gets interesting, Oyinlola is from the southwest, Marwa is from Adamawa. Marwa focused on efficiency without care to ethnicity, and performed in the midst of the most corrupt government Africa had ever known. Oyinlola despite it's lack of performance was rewarded by Osun state PDP with the mandate to govern Osun state. This is the politics of garbage that I am talking about. You can look at it and get optimistic or you can look at the negatives and get depressed. The battle ahead of Nigeria will be fought in the arena of garbage: between those who are trying to clean it up and those who are profiting from the filth. There is a need to make a scientific argument for efficiency in the governance of Nigeria and no one is doing that now.

Furious Frank

Friday, September 10, 2010

Columnist as an Embarrassment: Can someone tell Abati to stick to “Comedies” or is it “Commentary” on Nigerian Politics only

A little while ago, I stopped pointing out the many fabricated facts and outright falsehoods, passed off as political commentary by the Nigerian pundits. Most of these write ups are often laden with conjectures and suppositions, all in a bid to fit their parochial subjects, which sadly often turned out to be the latest Nigerian governmental officials who have refused to play ball with them. That was a while ago; the subject of this write up however writes for a newspaper popularly called “the flagship of Nigerian journalism.” This newspaper and her many avid readers expect that its journalist and columnist set the standards for others to follow. In actual fact, the Nigerian Guardian newspaper did a lot during the military years to set those standards, thanks to the efforts of Olatunji Dare, Aman Ogan et. al. It was therefore an embarrassment to read a piece by that paper opinion columnist: Reuben Abati titled “Terry Jones don’t burn the Quaran.”

First of all let me state that the issue he commented on should concerned Nigeria and Nigerian. Every opportunity I have had here in America to address this issue, I have had to remind Americans that when Terry Jones burn the Quaran, the primary concern should not just be about an envisaged attack on Americans soldiers but the Christian churches that will be burnt, the many Muslims and Christians that will be killed, burned and maimed by fanatical religious fanatics in northern Nigeria and other places.
What drew my umbrage with respect to Abati’s piece has to do with his lack of understanding of the issue he chose to comment on and the many factual inaccuracies inherent therein. Abati writes:

There have been rather curious attempts to argue that this is all about free
speech and human rights. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg says for example that
the action may be wrongheaded but Jones and his supporters are protected by the
First Amendment. “He has a right to do it”, Bloomberg said. It is the same
freedom to do it that Imam Feisal Rauf, the leader of the group planning
the Cordoba Centre in New York is flaunting; in his own case, he wants to build
a mosque close to the site of the 9/11 incident at Park 51, and call it “Ground
Zero Mosque”.

To set the record straight, Mayor Bloomberg never said that Imam Feisal Rauf was “flaunting” the freedom to build the Cordoba center, Abati probably made that up. A little “goggle” by Abati would have revealed to him that Bloomberg actually supports building that “mosque”. Secondly, the coalition never intended to name it “Ground Zero Mosque”, it was not meant to be mosque in the first place. Again a little Google would have revealed that it was meant to be a cultural/community center operated by moderate Muslims where the many virtues of tolerance will be enhanced. Thirdly the cultural center is not any near the site of the 9/11 center than the many other businesses and pornographic center, some of which are closer to that hallowed ground. Finally, here in America, you don’t pick and choose when to abide with the first amendment. All you can do is appeal to the “better angel” of Terry Jones as President Obama did. It is commentaries like Abati that many gulags and dictators seized upon in Africa to sealed off news media offices or ban importation of newsprints. Abati should have known better.

Most importantly, comparing the Quaran burning to the fabled ground zero mosque, as Abati did in his piece smacks of ignorance and may I say “copy and paste” journalism which is very common with Nigerian columnist who lift news commentary from blogs and other foreign news media. Those who make this comparison in America are most often from religious rights political activist, who argued that the “two ideas are both constitutionally protected bad ideas.” The truth is they are completely unrelated and non-equivalent. Perhaps, the only similarities they share are that they are constitutionally protected! In fact, how can anyone even compare Muslims building a community center in their neighborhood on one hand, to a deliberate attempt to insult a religion that is dear to about 1.5 billion souls around the globe! There is absolutely no link whatsoever between the Park51 cultural and community center plan and the Quaran burning stunt by Terri Jones. I wonder what Abati is thinking when he wrote this piece. But there is more, he wrote:

Both Jones and Rauf are sick clerics; their proposals smack
of insensitivity, intolerance, and outright recklessness. This of course is
the dilemma of democracy and liberty. Democracy is said to be illiberal if it
places direct checks on the expression of rights, it is described as liberal
when it carries the banner of almost limitless rights. But no one should
have the right to endanger society or humankind.

Calling Imam Rauf a “sick cleric” is like calling Pope Benedict sick for planning to build a Catholic community center for tolerance and understanding near the site where Christians killed Muslims in a reprisal attack in Jos, recently. It is totally uncalled for and smack of insensitivity and ignorance on Abati’s part. And by the way, can someone tell Abati, that there is a distinct line between constitutionalism and democracy. Don’t throw around words you don’t understand. And every constitutional democracy has checks and balances. Your right to swing your arm stops at my nose, but that does not makes it “illiberal.” Words like liberal democracy is now well defined that you don’t expect journalist of Abati’s standard to compare it to limitless rights.

Here is a lesson Nigerians and particularly people like Reuben Abati can learn from Americans handling of the Terri Jones saga. Pastor Jones had a total of 30 members in his church, he expressed his intent to burn the Quaran to the press. The press did not censored him, the government did not send “Nigerian police force” to conduct an “extra judicial killing” on him, “Boko Haram style.” He received a phone call from the Secretary of Defense-equivalent of our defense minister in Nigeria- and appeals from Hillary Clinton-secretary of state, and President Obama not to carry out his stunt. The imam of a nearby mosque in Florida met with him and they jointly addressed a press conference! That is what you get when you operated under constitutional democracy. If you killed Terri Jones, like we did to the head of Boko Haram, “extra judicial style”, you simply make a martyr of him and help him get more followers, who will continue the mindless stunt. These and many others are the lessons Nigerians and Reuben Abati should learn from this incident and not a call excoriating democracy and liberalism. I hope Abati’s newspaper will give this piece the same coverage they gave to him every day, but I am not banking on that!
Francis Adewale

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Between Theory and Practice: An Examination of Public Private Partnerships Implementations in Sub-Saharan Africa

Competition, Risk Sharing and Transparency:

Public-private partnership advocates regard market-driven competition, shared risk, and transparency as essential prerequisite for successful PPP that achieve their intended purposes and protect the public from excessive risk (Schaeffer & Loveridge, 2002). An examination of the very nature of PPP as currently practiced in African will prove that these public protections often proved elusive in project implementations.

Market-Driven Competition: In theory, a substantial fraction of the benefits from private provision comes from marshalling the pro-efficiency forces of competition. The paramount importance of such competition to successful PPP in developed countries has long been understood and documented by Donahue (1989), Kettl (1993) and others. In Africa however, two major impediments to robust competition stands out: deregulation and project related barriers.

Most PPPs in sub-Saharan Africa often requires special waivers of competitive procurement laws. Advocates of PPP insist that government procurement and financing rules that allegedly impede government capacity to operate as efficiently as private sector should be waived for PPP (Williams, 2003). The consequence can be ironic indeed: Contracts hailed as models of market discipline are then awarded to well-connected companies on a sole source basis, unencumbered by market forces (Bloomfield, p. 401, 2006). This exact scenario is what happened in Nigeria in 2003, when the Obasanjo regime signed a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contract with Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), for the construction of the second terminal at Murtala Mohammed Airport (MM2). The new airport terminal was opened in 2007, with a directive to all airlines to move their operational basis from the publicly operated First terminal to the second terminal in accordance with the PPP contract signed with Bi-Courtney (Usim, 2009). The exemption from competitive procurement rules paved the way for the private developer team to invent their own billing rates and rules with little or no regard to the user of services at the airport. It is interesting to note that when confronted with the monopolistic tendencies of concession contracts in Africa, advocates of PPP often echoes the sentiments expressed below by executives of Bi-Courtney:

“Bi-Courtney has always wondered why in construing ‘concession’ in Nigeria
public private partnership scheme, the word ‘exclusivity’ has always been
interpreted to mean private monopoly,” he said. “Monopoly must be distinguished
from exclusivity.”He argued that a concession contract is for a business
operated under a contract or license associated with a degree of exclusivity in
business within a certain geographical area. “This is to say that exclusivity is
a feature of any concession contract and not private monopoly. Exclusivity is
one of the safeguard to ensure returns for the concessionaire. This is more so
because concession contract do not endure in perpetuity,” he said (Nnodim,
online ¶ 13, 2009)

Of course, this is at best a distinction without forms or the difference between six and half a dozen; given the fact that “airlines who currently patronize Bi-Courtney’s MM2 are allegedly complaining of prohibitive charges which stem from the monopoly the BOT agreement confers on Bi-Courtney Aviation. The exclusivity clause in the BOT Agreement forbids even the Federal Government of Nigeria from improving or expanding the old terminal (MM1) at the Murtala Muhammed Airport. It also states that all scheduled domestic flights in and out of airports in Lagos State “shall during the Concession Period operate from MM2 and that no new domestic terminal shall be built in Lagos State” (Osa-Okunbor, 2010).

Additionally it is also instructive to point out that theoretically the envisaged competition inherent in PPPs often took place ex-ante, i.e. during the bidding stage, since the ultimate provider of any services will almost certainly become a monopolist. Consequently, if there are not enough competent bidders or bidding consortia to make the process competitive, there is less of a guarantee that Africans will get value for money (Bettignies & Ross). Others argued that there is still a social gain to the communities where the services are provided efficiently and competently. In his analysis of two water supply PPPs in Point Noire and Congo-Brazzaville, Tati, submits that even though the foreign company was widely touted as superior in skills and manpower with an imposing head office in Italy, the local private provider actually outperformed the foreign company and outlasted them in delivery of portable water (Tati, 2005).

With regards to project-related barriers to competition, one needs to note that some public-private partnerships are undertaken under conditions that render meaningful competition difficult or impossible to achieve. For instance, when the conditions of the project is such that requires provision of substantial up-front financing as well as construction services, the pool of eligible contractors can be significantly reduced; as such only the largest companies with access to massive private capital usually apply. The high cost of developing proposals for long-term complex contracts can also be a deterrent. Under these circumstances, a competitive proposal process may not generate meaningful competition. For instance, the Nigerian Natural Gas Escravos contracts required bidders to invest substantial funds in investments in the local communities and investigating the existing problems. The only bidder at the time is Chevron, an incumbent multinational corporation who has long standing contractual relationship with Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation; they also happened to be the corporation that created the problem they were asked to clean up before making a new bid!

Risk Sharing and Risk Shifting: PPP are often described as innovative and collaborative undertakings in which the public and private sectors share the risks, responsibilities, and rewards (Savas 2000). Performance contracts that commit the private partner to specific results are held to be the key to successful risk allocation in public-private partnership contracts.

However, implementing and enforcing effective performance guarantees can be problematic for unstable African governments and as such those benefits are not always capture (Forrer, Kee, & Zhang, 2002, 47). Typically, an ideal PPP in Africa, often involve very fat profits, no risk, government subsidies and monopoly control (Farlam). The well known “currency and political risk” often occasioned by change of policies due to unstable government are often insured by World Bank, IFC, IMF and other multilateral institutions or by the Western countries Export/Import banks. Demand risks are also covered by subsidies by African governments, even when they know going in that the majority of the people that will be serviced might not be able to afford the cost that will be charged by the private managers. In short, virtually all the attendant risk were often passed on to African tax payers and users, whether in user fees or in country’s debt repayment.

Even though countries like South Africa has PPP manual, setting out the steps for risk-adjusted model, with detailed risk identification, impact, mitigation, matrix and test affordability, most PPP contracts risk are still heavily weighted against African government, due largely to the unequal financial positions of the parties. The contract warranty terms have often been found to be weaker than those typically found in conventional construction contract in western countries (Bloomfield, 2006). This is a problem that has more to do with each party’s financial capability, and expertise.

Transparency: As stakeholders, African citizens deserve accurate information regarding the contractual obligation incurred on their behalf. In theory, long term public-private partnerships concession contracts promote accountability through transparent procurement procedures and written contracts to which the public has full access (Domberger,
However, some have argued that the information citizens receive regarding the budgetary implications of major PPP projects is often inadequate, inaccurate, or misleading (Altshuler & Luberoff, 2003, 32-35). Most of the concession agreements are often signed sealed and delivered in foreign financial capital like New York, London and Tokyo, far away from African capitals with little or no scrutiny by African press. For instance, there is an ongoing controversy in Nigeria on the true status of agreement signed between Bi-Courtney and the Nigerian government to manage the airport terminal. Bi-Courtney insists that it has 36 years to run the airport terminal while the Nigerian government claims, it has 12 years to manage the terminal (Osa-Okunbor, 2010).This will not have happened if the agreement is subjected to public scrutiny as it is done in most western nations before the commencement of the contract. There are no public disclosure legislations in most African countries, and even where there are, routine contracts are tagged “top secrets” and thus rendered unreachable to journalist and activist who seeks to unravel their contents.
What is more, most of the terms of the long term contracts and concession arrangements are not even made enforceable in African courts; they are mostly subjected to arbitration and mediation abroad. It took members of the Ogoni communities in Nigeria, more than 23 years before they could obtain redress in US Federal Court against Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company for the environmental degradation and pollution of Ogoni fishing villages while executing a PPP contract in Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta (Ogunbayo, ¶ 2, 2009).

Most African government rule over their people with little or no regards to legitimacy, and accountability. Elections and the polls therefore count for nothing. Very often, African government enter into PPP arrangement without having to obtain voter approval, comply with statutory debt limitations or report PPP lease obligation as debt (Wallison, 1996).
Thus even though the ability to bypass the public appropriation process through innovative financing methods is often regarded as major advantage of PPP, it should be noted that avoiding restrictions on debt is not the same as avoiding debt (Bloomfield) . As Donahue argued public ignorance resulting from deliberate deception on the part of public officials and others is “engineered ignorance” (1989, p. 32). In this case, there is no doubt that there are powerful incentives and considerable opportunities for politicians, private developers, and public servants to mislead Africans.

A particularly egregious case of abuse of PPP is typified in the Kenya road corruption case earlier referenced. There the government in power secretly used PPP as a vehicle for obtaining cash loans in form of concession fees paid directly to the politician account at the onset of the contract. The private contractor then adds these as user fees spread over the life of the contract (Farlam).
Historically, corruption has been an enormous problem affecting public procurement in Africa. PPP deals are often susceptible to corruption because the deals are far more complex and thus choice of companies cannot be reduced to the single variable of price, and as such it offers greater latitude for manipulations by foreign or local firms or government officials that are hard for the public and anti-corruption systems to spot. For instance twelve multinational companies (MNCs) were found to have bribed the former head of Lesotho Highlands Water Project and, according to the Lesotho prosecuting authorities, these MNCs were the prime movers in initiating the bribes. One of these companies, Acres international, was debarred by the World Bank from its contracts for three years in July 2004 (Farlam).

Harris (2003), argues that the private sector generally has more incentive to minimize costs and reduce leakages from corruption than the public sector ( p.33). But the possibility of lucrative companies taken over by cronies or relatives of those in government is highlighted by the incident in Tanzania where a power purchasing agreement (PPA) signed between the government and an independent power producer in 1995 was described as “public-private partnership at its worst”(Farlam, p.39).

Long Term Savings Estimate: Among the alleged benefits of PPP, at least in the West, is the promise of significant cost savings to the public. In an era of limited public resources and expanding public needs, citizens are rightly supportive of governmental initiatives aimed at delivering public services more cost effectively (Collin, 1998). The credibility of cost saving estimates depends, of course, on the data, methodology and assumptions used to calculate savings (Bloomfield, 2006, p.405). Lacking access to these details, African citizens must rely on their government willingness and ability to develop accurate and reliable financial forecasts before committing public resources to long-term contracts. In the absence of hard evidence, Africans are asked to stay cheerful and trust the good intentions of others (Blowfield, 2004).

When the cost saving estimates disseminated to the public are based on flawed calculations, unrealistic assumptions or outright falsehood as in the following examples transparency is diminished. In South Africa for example, the requirement for empowerment of black entrepreneurs have been affected by a system called “fronting,” where companies appoint nominal black directors or shareholders to win contracts but are in fact managed, and owned by foreign firms (Farlam, p.48). Similar reports abound in Tanzania where a 10 year lease agreement at the container terminal at Daresalaam port requiring 50% reduction of expatriate was circumvented by creative accounting “gymnastics” (Farlam, p.39). The extent of the disillusionment with PPPs implementation in water, sanitation and electricity in sub-Saharan Africa are such that an associate at an international legal firm described PPPs as a failure in Africa (Ogunbiyi, 2004).

It may be that these cases are the exceptions to the rule. It is to be hoped that the cost saving claims for PPP are based on reasonable, realistic calculations and assumptions. But these troubling examples underscore the public’s vulnerability to erroneous, biased cost-savings claims that appear to be aimed at selling PPP to African governments rather than informing the public of the full financial implications of long term contracts and obligations. The complex and sophisticated financial and contractual arrangement offered by PPP has been turned essentially into a veritable avenue for corrupt government official to siphon money from the national coffer using this public service project as an unlimited credit card to line their pocket.

Between Rhetoric and Realities of PPPs in sub-Saharan Africa Countries

Many of the governments in developing countries are looking to public-private partnerships (PPP) to radically improve infrastructure networks and service delivery to their people. They hope that the model where the state shares risk and responsibility with private firms but ultimately retains control of assets will not only improve services but also reduce unemployment, higher prices and corruption (Farlam, 2005). This paper will show that in theory, PPPs may have the potential to solve sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructural problems but in practice, PPPs suffer many of the same ills that afflict privatization and public tendering before it (Figure 1).

The paper will draw on plethora of literature on PPPs to show that theoretically, these innovative contracts may offer substantial public benefits, including improved service quality, risk sharing with the private sector, and cost savings (Grimsey & Lewis 2004). The paper will also draw on specific illustrative case studies dealing with ongoing or abandoned PPP contract to show that PPP is not a magic formula that will fix a country’s problem and may actually create more problems due to its complexities (Bull & McNeill, 2007). Attempt will be made to explore some peculiarly African, “practical impediments” to achieving the market-driven, risk sharing and transparent competition envisaged by disciples of PPP (Farlam).

This review of PPP will also suggest that African government must fundamentally improve their systems for dealing with the private sector to realize the efficiency and effectiveness gains that these partnerships promise. The paper will concludes with an examination of the panacea that may bring the benefits of PPP to sub-Saharan Africa through investment in specialized expertise, effective contract management, and strong governance structures. Above all, it will recommend that a sustainable infrastructural and service delivery mechanism must necessarily include a mixed method that combines the benefits of market to the rising middle class in Africa, with the benefits of public delivery to the rural poor (Warner & Hefetz, 2008). The commitments of all stakeholders to the actualizations of any of these arrangements cannot therefore be overemphasized.


The term public-private partnership is used in slightly different ways with the result that a concise definition to which all will agree is elusive (Bettignies & Ross, 2004). Wettenhall argues that “there is often little precision in how ‘partnership’ is used, and belief that what it refers to is ‘a good thing’ seems much more a matter of faith than of science” (2003, p.80).
South Africa has the greatest cumulative experience of public-private partnership in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 50 such partnerships in development or implementation since 1994 (Farlam, 2005). I will therefore seek to adopt the definition proffers by the South African National Treasury:

a contract between a public sector institution and a private party, in which the
private party assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in
the design, financing, building and operation of a project (PPP manual, 2004,

It is imperative to point out however, that PPP is not a creation of Africans or that of the sub-Saharan Africa’s government; in fact the public-private partnership concept draws its main momentum from the entrepreneurial government movement in the West, with its emphasis on capturing the benefits of private sector techniques such as market-driven competition and performance contracting in the 1980s (Yergin & Stanislaw, 1998).

The 1990s saw a revolution as governments in developing countries urged on by multilateral institutions, like World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) adopted the new paradigm of private provision of infrastructure services. The boom grew rapidly, reaching a peak in 1997 (Harris, 2003). By 2001 however, annual investment flows began to decline in the wake of the East Asian financial crisis (Figure 4). The optimism of the mid-1990s as highlighted in the documentary movie “Commanding Heights” has now been replaced by a widespread pessimism (Figure 2). Annual investment flows to private infrastructure projects in developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa are down (Figure 4). Projects have been renegotiated and some have been re-nationalized or cancelled. Investor interest in private infrastructure projects in developing countries is also subdued, while there are signs of popular discontent (Harris, 2003).

Despite this decline, anyone reading contemporary theorist of PPP will think it is a magic wand that can fix all infrastructure and service delivery problems of Sub-Saharan Africa. The primary reason for this is that most of the literatures on PPP are generated by advocacy groups, think tanks, and private consultants who has successfully reinforced the message of the long term benefits of PPP by an avalanche of favorable publicity, enhanced by the megaphone of such respected financial and multilateral institutions such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the United Nations. The impact of such pseudo intellectual blitzkrieg on the potential benefits of PPP are so pervasive, that one writer described it as something that “can make theorist swoon” (Klitgaard & Treverton, 2003, p.16).

In practice, however, the challenges and complexities posed by PPP arrangements have “brought many African governments to its knees in debt”, with attendant streets protest, riots and outright overthrow of regimes found sympathetic to it (Harris, p.7, 2003). As we will show shortly, many PPP projects that were reported and promoted as low-risk, cost saving initiatives has saddled many African countries with high-risk, costly obligations for decades to come (Tati, 2005). We will examine several independents studies with similar findings on plethora of projects all over sub-Saharan African continent.

It is important to emphasize that some successful cases have been reported as well. For instance, in 1996, the government of South Africa (SA) and Mozambique (MZ) signed a 30 year concession for a private consortium, Trans African Concessions (TRAC) to build and operate toll road from Witbank, SA to Maputo, MZ. The road has been judged by many as huge success, and now touted all over Africa to show the viability of PPP where users are willing and able to pay. It has also reduced overloading on heavy vehicles and boost growth of tourism in MZ.

Critics however argued that high transportation costs along the toll road mean that “small-scale traders and informal businesses, and hawkers lose out to large-scale and organized traders and businesses” (Soderbaum, 2004). Others argued that for every single successful PPP project, there exist a litany of other abandoned projects by multinational corporations and financiers in Africa (Tati). For instance following, the success of the SA-MZ experiment, the Kenyan government attempt to build a similar toll road at its northern corridor is now moribund following accusations of “attempted corruption” (Farlam, 2005, pp. 11-12).

In general, however, the dearth of comprehensive, reliable data from African government on the performance of PPP projects requires that researchers had to rely largely on anecdotal cases reported by industry groups and other advocacy organizations (Moore, 2000, p. 25). The cases that will be discussed in this paper are therefore offered as a reality check on the largely uncritical publicity that PPP have garnered. I also hope to draw on my extensive knowledge as a public infrastructure lawyer in Africa, prior to my emigration to the United States.
Some argued that the main benefits of public-private sector partnering are the flexibility to accommodate change when operating in an uncertain environment, improve communication, transparency and better dispute resolution (Domberger, Farago, & Fernandez, 1997). Other posits that partnerships by its very definition require a fiduciary relationship with a mutual goal and that, the private party in PPP goal is set up to make maximum profit for its share holders (Grimsey & Lewis 2004). For most government in Africa, PPP are convenient arrangement to avoid public sector labor unions or to deflect blame on non delivery of democratic dividends (Bettignies & Ross).

Drawing on illustrative cases, this paper will now proceed to explore some of the practical impediments to putting theory of PPP into practice in sub-Saharan Africa and offer observations aimed at strengthening African government management and governance in this high-risk area of government contracting.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nigeria Pathetic Exist from the World Cup

I am still fuming, and I hope no one tries to explain this early exit away on the ground of lack of money. Nigeria spend more money on world cup preparation than Ghana. We paid twice for hotel for crying out loud and one of the hotel we did not even get to spend one night in it.

The disgraceful performance of the present crop of players wearing Nigeria national colors is only matched in mediocrity by the maladministration of Nigeria football federation, which unfortunately since the demise of Ikhazobo continued to redefined "ineptedness".

Meanwhile, Ghana's Black Stars grit and determination continues to surprise all other African countries. Even though we had one of the easiest group pairings at this world cup Nigeria pathetic displays often defied any abysmal low standards we had set for ourselves since the glorious days of Super Eagles of Africa in circa 1994-98.

We are now at a point in our soccer life as a nation where we need to reevaluate our sports administrations. Given the immense investments we have put in sports in the last 2 decades, what with the hosting of age group competition: U 17, U 21, Chogm, All Africa games, Nations cup et al. Questions need to be asked if we are truly cheating ourselves when we used grown ups for age group competitions. We do not currently have a world class player in the current world cup, compare to the 1990s when you could count at least 7 Nigerian players with world class qualities.

The sadness of Nigeria early exit was further compounded for me by the sad exit of Team USA, my adopted country. I had pinned so much hope on this US team given their impressive display at the Confederation cup. The good thing about the team though is that US soccer is growing in leaps and bounds and sky is the limit for soccer in the US. I have confident in the next crop of players that will eventually take over from the likes of Landon Donovan and others.

I hope lessons of this world cup will be learnt by all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Review of National Performance Review: From Red Tape to Result Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less

On September 7, 1993, with officials and media present on the White House lawn, President Clinton and Vice President Gore stood against a backdrop of forklift trucks loaded with volumes of federal rules, procurement rules, and personnel rules to speak of a vision of government, cleared of bureaucracy and freed of red tape and senseless rules, as follows “We intend to redesign, to reinvent, to reinvigorate the entire national government” (Arnold p. 407, 1995). Seventeen years after that momentous occasion, it is sad to note that the rhetoric of reform and political reality of the National Performance Review (NPR) is like all the other promised reforms before it, an attempt to mask the complexities of the administrative state and separation of power doctrine in populist accent without any gain to the public.

The article detailed four key principles that will tackle the “government problem”: (1) Cutting red tape, (2) Putting customers first, (3) Empowering employees to get results, (4) Cutting back to Basics: Producing better government for less. One common thread in all this is that they are all recycled ideas from private sector. First of all, as Luton (2007) argued it is difficult to measure red tape with any “objective reality” (p.533). What is more, citizens are not customers, and cutting to basics meant a reality check that will admit that employees did not make the policies that is preventing government from producing better government for less.

It was Dwight Waldo (1981) who states that in the United States, “nearly all contemporary public problems can be framed in terms of relating the political to the administrative” (p.73). Despite repeated attacks on its assumptions, the politics-administration dichotomy is alive and kicking in modern public administration. It has even been argued that cotemporary public administration theory as a prescription for administrative system is torn by separation of powers and partisan politics (Arnold 1995). It is from this paradigm one is best situated to view the Clinton/Gore NPR reforms of the administrative state.

In the rhetoric before and after NPR, the regime perceived government as provider of services whose performance can be improved through techniques and concepts borrowed from the recent history of corporate restructuring and reinvention. As novel as this may sound to the regime, this rhetoric resembles the Progressives apolitical approach to municipal services (Carroll 1995). NPR primary focus, which is to “make our government work for the people, learn to do more with less, and treat tax payers like customers” (Shafritz, p.552, 2007) is eerily similar to progressive demand to remove political considerations and other extraneous factors from service provision.

NPR spoke to and validated a widespread, public distaste for big government and the regime took advantage of this to cut government expense and jobs, whilst creating revenue that pays for his new initiatives. Sadly however, the promise of projected savings was more appearance than reality as the Congressional Budget Office reported that NPR had systematically inflated the savings projections attached to its recommendations (Arnold, p.415, 1995). Thus at the end of Clinton’s tenure the federal government ended up adding more layers of “red tape” than it met when it assumed office.

Historically, beginning from 1905, governmental and administrative reforms had always been premised on scientific and technical necessity, which enabled the justification of expanding presidential power. The progressives expanded governmental activity, and administrative capacity, foresaw a positive, administrative state (Arnold, 1995). This perception of reforms changed, beginning with President Carter, Reagan, and Clinton who all pose reorganization as “a weapon against government” (Arnold, p.412). The shifts from technical efforts to improve administration, to frontal public assaults on the “bureaucracy problem” (p.304) makes NPR produces winners and losers.

The Clinton administration however overestimated its ability to implement some of the recommendations of NPR, for instance, of the 117 "action" items in the main body of the report, at least 60 require explicit action by Congress. Many others, if implemented without close consultation with Congress, might provoke congressional efforts to overcome them. This has led many scholars to conclude that NPR is merely an attempt to consolidate presidential powers at the expense of the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution. It “advances a strong if not radical Hamiltonian approach to administration” (Carroll, p. 307). Some of the red tape the NPR would eliminate defines the extent and jurisdiction of administrative power and procedures.

In conclusion, one could argue that to the extent that NPR seeks to apply private sector reorganization to public governance, it ignores the reality expressed in The Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and American history. The primary purpose of the federal government is to establish and maintain a legitimate framework for reconciling differences among citizens and groups in pursuit of national values to create a more perfect union and not to sell products and services to customers. The result of the NPR exercise is a narrow and distorted view of government and public administration.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finding a Better Carrot for Public Employee Optimal Performance

Finding a Better Carrot for Public Employee Optimal Performance: Understanding Public Service Motivation, Perception and Emotional Intelligence

Paul Tribly, the main character of James Hynes' novel, Kings of Infinite Space, works in a fictional bureaucracy called, Texas Department of General Service. He soon came to the realization that there are zombies lurking around his office. He also found the corpse of a homeless man next to his cubicle who keeps saying “Are we not men?” (Crabtree, 2004). For many public employees, this feeling might be familiar. Employees are motivated to work in public service for many reasons. Motivation is defined as “the drive or energy that compels people to act with energy and persistence toward some goal” (Berman, Bowman, West & Van Wart, p. 195, 2010). The story of Paul Tribly and its queer public service motivation comes to readily come to ming this week as I read the following informed journal which I tried to summarize below:

A. The Impact of Public Service Motivation on Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intentions

Leonard Bright (2007) in his article titled “Does Public Service Motivation really make a difference on the Job satisfaction and Turnover Intentions of Public Employees” seeks to answer the question of the degree of impact of public service motivation (PSM) on job satisfaction and turnover intentions of public employees. He defined PSM as “altruistic intentions that motivate individuals to serve the public interest” (p.151). The subjects of his study are two hundred and five (205) public employees selected from public health care agency located in the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Oregon. The study finds that PSM is significantly and positively related to Person-Organization (P-O) fit; and P-O fit was found to be significantly related to job satisfaction. P-O fit was also found to be related to turnover intentions of the respondents. Most importantly however, when P-O fit was taken into account, public service motivation had no significant relationship to job satisfaction, and turnover intentions.

What I took out of this study, is that PSM, might be a good recruitment tool, but may not be the best retention tool for human resource managers, when P-O fit is an issue. It is imperative that managers need to constantly ensure that employees are in the right job, the fact that an employee expresses a desire for public service is not a reason to put him/her in a job he is ill-suited for. One needs to note however that the subjects of the study are mostly public health care employees, a group well known for high rate of burnouts and turnover due to the nature of their task (Branin & Griemel, 1997).

B. Between Motivation, Worker Attitudes and the Perception of Effective Public Service

The second article I read this week on the similar topic is by the dynamic duo of Boardman & Sundquist (2008). They derived their data from the National Administrative Studies Project II, which surveyed managers in information management at state-level health and human service agencies. The authors were motivated for this study by the notion that perceived public service efficacy (PPSE) and its conceptual precursors could motivate public servants, based on the assumptions that workers care about providing useful public services and as such that care ultimately affect the levels of their motivation-related variables.
The study finds that PPSE is related to organizational commitment and job satisfaction, and negatively related to role ambiguity. They found that its impact is substantial, even edging out those of well-established variables-organizational commitment, and role ambiguity in their basic model. They however, admitted a fundamental flaw common with all survey research: the risk of “Common source bias” (p. 531). They hoped that future research will use multiple source data sources rather than a single survey.

C. Who are the Public Employees with High Levels of PSM?

This is the question Leonard Bright (2005) again seeks to answer in his article titled “Public Employees with High Levels of Public Service Motivation: Who are they, where are they, and what do they want?” The article builds on theoretical framework of PSM proposed more than a decade earlier by Perry and Wise (1990). The article goal was to describe public employees with high levels of PSM in terms of their personal characteristics, management level and monetary preferences. The data for the research was obtained by job survey mailed to randomly selected public employees of a large county government in the State of Oregon.

The results of the research revealed that employees with high levels of PSM were significantly more likely to be female, managers, and likely to have greater levels of education than were public employees with lower levels of PSM; but the author admitted that the study may have undersampled men. The latter may explain the obvious disparity with the author’s finding in 2007 referenced above. I agreed with the author’s view that public service managers need to identify workers who are interested in tangible rewards and those who are motivated by altruistic PSM related motives.

D. Impact of Emotional Intelligence and Organizational Politics on Public Employees

Vigoda-Gadot & Meisler (2010), in their article titled “Emotions in Management and the Management of Emotions: The impact of emotional intelligence and organizational politics on public sector employees” used data obtained from two municipalities in Israel to argue that emotional intelligence (EI) has a moderating role in the relationship between organizational politics (OP), and emotional commitment (EC). One of the most salient findings of this study was the direct relationship established between EI, and job satisfaction and the opportunity it gives to personnel managers as a tool for performance indicator. The result however finds negative relationship between EI, and burnout, exit intentions, and negligent behaviors.

Again, it is imperative that generalizing this study without any regard to context may be an overreach; whilst EI may be a relevant consideration in job performance and efficiency of law enforcement and other security agencies workers (Turner, 2009) it may not make any difference for example, to an information analyst with the City of Spokane.


I found all the above reading informative and enlightening. They gave me an opportunity for introspection as a public servant. I have had to ask myself all week, if I am truly motivated by altruistic motives in my work as public defender. The joy and satisfaction I found in my work are often when a ninety year old lady accost me at a gas station, thanking me for saving her grandson from a life of drug after I talked to him in court.

But very often, I look at my job, like Paul Tribly, haunted by the ghost of those I could have helped and make a difference in their lives as public servant. At the same time, there have been occasions when I do wish that I am in private practice making money to secure my family’s future. The lesson I found here for human resource managers in public service is to be a little more cautious with monetary incentives and other tangible rewards, if we manage solely by stick and carrot, we will only get a part of the energy and talent that people have to offer. The fact that an employee has a high PSM is not a reason to assign him just any task or job he is ill suited to do.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

God Help Nigeria? Running a Country on Prayers, Club Rules, Bow and Go without any Accountability

“You have our prayers; we also hope that when you get there as you represent us, you represent us well. There are traditions that we follow, and if you belong to this club, you must also obey the rules and regulations of this club. You can take a bow and go.”
–Senate President David Mark

I was stunned when I read the above quote made by Nigeria senate president David Mark during the ministerial screening of Senator Sanusi Daggash. Much of what we have in Nigeria as governance is often a smokescreen for “old boys club.” There is no transparency in the governance of the country. Decisions are made perfunctorily; administrators and politicians are often reactive instead of proactive. Little or no attempt is made to engage in forward-looking, rational decision making. Accountability counts for nothing, it is all about membership in an exclusive governing class called PDP!

Public policies in Nigeria are not grounded in sound decision making. Someone once said that public policy is a type of decision, a decision not about what is, but about what ought to be and what ought to be done to get us there. When analytical thought process are not involved in public policy decision making, the result is the current “mess” the whole country has found itself. Lewis Irwin defined public policy analysis as “the systematic consideration and selection of logical alternatives in light of carefully applied evaluative criteria.”

In Nigeria, the acting president nominated ministers to serve in the federal cabinet, one of whom had accused the National Assembly of financial mismanagement, specifically he alleged that some senators “inflated budgets for personal gains.” Before the hearing the senators had threatened to grill Senator Daggash. He in turn simply deflated their over bloated ego by throwing down an olive branch, saying he was misled in making such accusations. He then appealed to the senators’ sense of camaraderie. Following which they all kissed up and make up, all is forgiven, all is well. Nothing was said about the initial allegations other than the claim that he was misled. No attempt was made to get to the root of the allegation. And this is happening in a government avowed to root out corruption and mismanagement.

Larry Luton defined policy analysis as “an attempt to bring into policy making, good reasons, better information, thoughtful consideration, conscientious framing of the problem, informative/persuasive evidence, plausible consequences.” No one forced this regime and their political party, Peoples Democratic Party, to make anti-corruption and energy generation, the fundamental plank of their party platform and public policy. But having adopted that platform, the citizens of Nigeria at least do deserve that they put serious thought to tackling the hydra headed problem of corruption and energy generation in Nigeria.

The acting president also re-nominated Architect Nuhu Somo Way, former Minister of State for Power. The Yar’Adua regime abysmally failed to meet the 6,000 MW set by the government. You would expect the senate to take the re-nominated minister to task for this monumental failure, here is what the minister said at the screening, “I met a program of 6000 megawatts project and we were assigned to pursue this program to ensure that it is executed. By the grace of God, we were able to improve the power situation in the country to a level which is not commensurable to the mandate.” This is an admission of failure, but what did the senate do, they reward the minister with another mandate. The question is to go do what?

Here is the minister excuse for failure “We were faced with a challenge of what we could not control, that is the source of fuel and this source of fuel is gas. I am not trying to put a blame to anybody, I am just trying to say that we did rehabilitate our plants and got up to 5200 available generation capacity as at the end of December, last year. But we had stranded facility of 1500 megawatts due to inadequacy of gas. This inadequacy of gas cannot be blamed on a single source. We know the challenges we went through, they are challenges of security, vandalism, challenges of inadequate funding contributed to some of the issues that militated against our achievement of 6000 megawatts.”

My beef with the minister’s explanation is this, “how in the world can you claim with a bold face that you did not know that you will face the challenges of security, vandalism and funding when you rolled out the energy policy?” Where is the requisite policy analysis expected from such an exalted office of the minister of federal republic of Nigeria? We are not talking of “force majeur” or an act of God for crying out loud! Before the announcement of the policy, everyone in Nigeria knew about the problem of vandalism, inadequacy of gas and security except the minister!
This to me is the real problem with Nigeria, the problem of values-based directionality! Ideas are bandied around, public policy are announced with fanfare, with no one putting any thought to a serious analysis of the public policy just announced. Our journalists are often “participe criminis” in this enterprise. No one called out anyone? As long as palms are greased, things go on. Like the National Assembly, it is all bow and go!

The most disgusting part of the charade is watching this government officials put everything down to prayer. Sometimes I feel like screaming at my television, pray for what? God gave you brain and intelligence for a reason. God had already performed his part by blessing Nigeria with unlimited resources in minerals and some of the best brains out of Africa! Just put to use what you have! Analyse your policy and look at all alternatives, think before you roll out the next drum and for crying out loud, sack ministers who failed and stop rewarding them with new appointment!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Understanding Focus Group Emotional Roller Coaster

On July 20, 2009, John Berry, Director of the Federal Office of Personnel Management decried the way government workers have been "denigrated and disparaged" in recent decades, and was delighted that President Obama understands the value of service and will not be throwing around 'bureaucrat' as a slur towards our workers." (, July, 2009 ¶1).

Few days after his laudatory statement, Mr. Obama was quoted as follows: “If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need." In an instant retort, Mr. Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, deplore the use of the word bureaucrats for the federal workforce, because it is derogatory. He cited a 2004 study, which found that the term “federal government workers” receives a favorable response from 71 percent of those surveyed, but the term “federal government bureaucrats” receives only 20 percent -- a drop of 51 percent with one word (, August, 2009).

This is the news story that came to mind as I finished the required reading for this week. In the first study, Garrett, Thuber, Fritschler & Rosenbloom (2006), explores how senior federal managers like John Berry above, perceive campaign bureaucracy bashing using focus group data conducted by them. They found that senior government managers “do internalize negative messages about themselves and their agencies” and that this environment hampers recruitment, retention, training and important working relationships with political appointees that may end up affecting effective program management and policy implementation (p.237).
They used qualitative research methodology to explore the impact of bureaucracy bashing on relationship between senior managers and political appointees. The flexibility of focus group methodology enables them to ask open-ended questions (Creswell, 2009); compare to quantitative methods such as surveys and questionnaires which would have restrict them to asking participants identical close-ended questions. However, qualitative methodology is only as useful and as strong as its link to the underlying research questions and the rigor with which it is applied (p.201). As we found in the news story cited earlier, focus group research is a poor choice for predicting future action in settings yet to emerge since focus group discussants will articulate their views in terms of their own present experiences, e.g John Berry view of Obama. Participants are also often emotional in answering open-ended qualitative focus group questions and thus bring their value judgment to bear on the questions.

In the second reading, Robin Jarrett (1994) used a focus group, qualitative research to corroborate existing ethnographic studies of the impact of structural and cultural dynamic among never married African-American women. She underscores the importance of qualitative and ethnographic data, over quantitative census and survey data, for understanding family processes and dynamics (p.45). She suggested 3 directions for future research on the same topic and concluded that focus group data not only expand the structural explanation of poverty, but also highlight the humanity of the people who are too starkly described by statistical profiles and policy regulations (p.46). This writer tends to agree with this conclusion given my on personal experience.

In early 2001, a national poll conducted by National Public Radio (NPR), the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University's Kennedy School asked nearly 2,000 Americans 18 or older, "Which is the bigger cause of poverty today: that people are not doing enough to help themselves out of poverty, or that circumstances beyond their control cause them to be poor?" Respondents were roughly equally divided between "people not doing enough" (48 percent) and "circumstances" (45 percent). About 50 percent of the more affluent people polled believed that the poor were not doing enough to help themselves, but so did about 39 percent of the poor. The poor were more likely to blame "circumstances" than themselves for their financial hardship (, 2001). The Study by NPR is a quantitative study with generic close-ended questions; one could only wish that they had asked the poor themselves open-ended questions like Jarret did in her study. They would have found answers like that of Lois: “I got three kids and not married, that don’t mean I’m running the streets all the time. I’m at home helping my children” (Jarrett, 1994, p.44)

The advantages of qualitative focus group research should not however close our eyes to its obvious limitations. Focus groups are generally a poor choice when quantitative information is desired. The small size of focus groups makes any estimates of quantitative proportions unreliable, even if the members of the focus group are representative of the target population (Neuman, 2007). By the same token, focus group research is a poor choice for multivariate research, where one again needs the stability of large random samples to disaggregate the effects of explanatory variables through statistical techniques (Lichter & Crowley, 2002).

In conclusion, it is evident that the primary reason mixed methodological research approach is gaining wide acceptance in recent years (Creswell, 2009 p.203) is because of the strengths and limitations of both quantitative and qualitative research approaches.