'Government Efficiency' Doesn't have to be an Oxymoron

Tom Cilmi – Senior Executive Consultant
April 21, 2022

The inefficiency of government: we’ve all heard about it…many of us have experienced it…some of us have sadly come to expect and accept it. Whether caused by antiquated systems, red tape, untrained or mismanaged labor or lack of commitment to continuous improvement from the top down, there are many examples of how government malfunction impacts our lives.

The homeowner who’s building a deck awaiting a permit, the electrician awaiting licensure, the not-for-profit agency awaiting contract renewal, the construction company waiting to get paid…all of these examples come with financial consequences, economic consequences, human consequences. We should not accept this as an unavoidable reality. It doesn’t have to be, and there are government leaders across the nation and locally who are changing the paradigm.

Consider the work being done by Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin. As receiver of taxes, he instituted a variety of reforms, including physical infrastructure and technological improvements, to make the property tax payment process more consumer-friendly.

When Clavin became town supervisor in 2020, he immediately focused his attention on the Building Department where inefficiency meant that residential building permits, even for the simplest of projects, would take weeks to make their way through the system, and where more complicated commercial or industrial applications could take months if not years to cook.
When a residential application is delayed, it means frustrated homeowners. Often, it also means frustrated contractors, typically small business owners, who must juggle labor, job scheduling and materials issues, not to mention cash flow concerns.

When a larger commercial or industrial project is meandering its way through the inherently tedious processes that characterize building on Long Island, delays can add hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, to project costs. Fluctuations in materials and labor costs alone can turn a profitable proposal into a loser.

Supervisor Clavin recognizes that, to residential property owners, who also happen to be voters, and to commercial/industrial property owners, who contribute substantially to the town’s tax base, time is money. He sees the value in reform.

A close look at the Building Department’s processes and procedures revealed opportunities to not only speed up approval times, but to make the application status more transparent. By migrating paper application components to online digital files, and allowing applicants to submit a variety of applications, plans and revisions with the click of a button, Hempstead was able to drastically reduce start-to-finish time for Building Department applications. Reforms like these take commitment and time; they often take professional advice and product/service support from private sector partners which, of course costs money. But the results are worth the investment, and government efficiency doesn’t have to be so elusive after all.


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