Dealing with the bureaucracy of government is frustrating for citizens and employees. What should be a simple task often takes months and involves multiple departments. Many government officials just accept backlogs and delays as the way things are done while others push for ways to improve how government operates.

The Phoenix Arizona City Council recently adopted a bold policy which strives to issue a building permit within 24 hours. In the past it was not uncommon for obtaining a building permit to take four to six months. In order to make a 24 hour building permit possible, Phoenix has implemented the following changes:

– Architects and engineers who complete a city training program and who will be subject to random audits will be allowed to self certify plans for a variety of residential and commercial construction projects (exceptions include high-rises, steep slope development and hazardous land uses) and be able to walk out with a permit, on the same visit. More than 100 professionals have completed the necessary training.

– Businesses that call for a city inspection of a job site by 10:00 p.m., will have an inspector show up the next day in an effort to move the building process along without delays.

– Private contractors will be allowed to conduct inspections for non-life-safety items, such as landscaping and the green building code.

The city of Chicago has also implemented a self-certification program for certain building permits, which reduced the time for some permits from several months to two weeks. In 2010, obtaining a liquor license in New York State could take up to nine months. After a program was implemented allowing lawyers to self certify certain parts of the application subject to criminal penalties and random audits, the length of time to obtain a license was reduced to one to three months.

I recently wrote about the complicated process that the City of Buffalo, NY requires for obtaining a permit to hang a street banner for a community event. Phoenix has taken their permit process to a whole other level making it possible to obtain a permit within 24 hours. However Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio who led the charge to reform the permit process is already looking forward to next year when “…permits will be online, so they will be able to push a button and submit plans electronically. Today’s 24-hour process will get even faster”.

What do you think about using self-certifications as a way to speed up the issuance of government permits?

www.reinventinggov.org

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