Mocking Public Service

National Public Service Award

Just in time for the national Public Service Recognition Week, Saturday Night Live aired a biting satire:  “The 2010 Public Employee of the Year Award.” In the skit, several finalists for the award strut their stuff.  For example, a fictitious Markeesha Odom says she helped lead her DMV team to ensure no one received a drivers license over the course of a full day!  And the fictitious ceremony was held in a filled hall in Harrah’s in Las Vegas (which Sen. Harry Reid would approve!).

An ongoing dialogue on GovLoop swings between bemusement and outrage over the skit, but the skit reached a national audience.  Meanwhile, two weeks ago, the National Public Service Award was presented to five distinguished public servants.  The presentation was made in San Jose at a small luncheon during the conference of the American Society for Public Administration.  However, distinguished participants in the ceremony included both former Comptroller General David Walker and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.  Recipients include:

  • the current head of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry;
  • veteran city manager Ted Gaebler;
  • GAO veteran Sallyanne Harper;
  • a scientist at NIH, Kenneth Kraemer; and
  • Bernard Melekian, a former police chief and current head of the Justice Department’s community policing program.

The award has been given since 1983 as a way of recognizing the heroes in public service.  But it hasn’t received much media attention.

Nevertheless, the effort to recognize public service, however, is making progress.  President Obama talks about “making public service cool again.”  The Partnership for Public Service annually presents its Service to America Medals at a grand celebration each Fall in Washington to recognize accomplishments.  And more recently, Senator Ted Kaufman has been recognizing “Great Feds” weekly in the Congressional Record, and the Washington Post has been weekly recognizing federal employees in its “Federal Players” column.

In addition, the IBM Center’s weekly radio show has showcased a different federal executive every week, for the past decade.  So I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.  But the timing of the SNL skit may have been a bit much for me!

Implementing Health Care Reform

Implementing the Recovery Act has been a major challenge.  But it pales in comparison to the complexity facing those implementing the health care reform bill.  Office of Personnel Management director John Berry says implementing this new law will be equivalent to being “the moon shot of our generation.”  Last week, Senator Mark Warner reinforced Berry’s observation, calling it “the mother of all implementation challenges.”

The Obama Administration is gearing up to meet the many deadlines in the bill.  In fact, it’s created a separate website to provide information on this: HealthReform.Gov.

However, there is also a major public management challenge involved as well.  As a result, the IBM Center is sponsoring a separate, new blog (with an optimistic title) – Implementing Health Care Reform — to provide insights into the implementation of this effort.  It is being co-authored by Professor Don Kettl, one of the preeminent academics in the field of public administration, and dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy; and Jack Meyer, who holds a joint appointment in both the School of Public Policy and the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.

Be sure to visit the site, and book mark it!