An article in AZcentral.com highlights innovative efforts undertaken by local governments in Arizona:

– The city of Mesa eliminated some departments and challenged the rest to rethink how they operate. One of the earliest results was a proposal from the Fire Department to stop sending large engines and four-person crews to every medical call. The department developed “transitional response vehicles,” or TRVs, which are smaller and carry two people. They answer calls that dispatchers determine do not involve life-and-death emergencies. The TRVs are less expensive than fire engines, save fuel and eliminate wear and tear on the more costly equipment. Sending two people on a call instead of four helps stretch the department’s staff.

– The Maricopa County Manager’s Office appointed an innovation manager who last year helped launch Idea Factory, an internal social network that allows its approximately 13,000 employees to submit ideas to increase efficiency or to save costs. The system allows crowdsourcing of ideas, and employees can both pitch ideas and vote on them. Employees whose ideas get implemented receive a monetary reward.

– Phoenix faced a $277 million general-fund budget deficit in 2010, Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos created the Innovation and Efficiency Task Force and asked members to find $10 million in savings for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years. The group, made up of department heads and members of the public, has found more than $40 million in savings so far through outsourcing, reorganizing city departments, increasing fees and new innovations.

– Now that the Phoenix innovation task force has been working for two years, the city is looking to institutionalize its money-saving practices and keep the momentum going. Phoenix is in the middle of a national search for a “chief innovation executive.” The new position, which would pay anywhere from $93,080 to $146,598 annually, would be in charge of coming up with creative ideas that would save the city money or provide better services to residents at no additional cost.

“Innovation and efficiency has to be a cultural attitude, not a solution to a problem, If it’s a solution to a problem, once the problem goes away, people don’t think about it anymore.” said Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos.

We need more local government leaders like David Cavazos to encourage a culture of innovation in government.

www.reinventinggov.org