Is Ebola Outbreak a Rouse for Discriminatory Laws?

By Winnie Eke

The recent call by politicians to ban entry of West African citizens to the United States is reminiscent of other actions against minorities, especially African-Americans, in the hyper polarized environment.

There is no doubt Ebola is a serious contagious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have been on the forefront t fighting this disease. I am surprised that law makers who claim, “they are not scientist” on environmental issues are now experts on Ebola.

According to Napolitano, the call for a ban is unnecessary and counter productive, just like it was in 2009 for H1N1. The H1NI killed an estimated 284,000 people worldwide and there was no congressional hearing.

Why is this different?

Or has Ebola become an excuse to discriminate and cause panic at an election time?

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Voter ID and Homeland Security

By Craig Donovan

Thirty states are now requiring voter IDs in order for people to vote. Estimates show that as many as 21 million citizens do not have a government issued photo ID and are subject to being found ineligible to exercise this fundamental right. According to the U.S. Census, there are 207 million citizens in this country. The result of these new voter ID laws will be that over 10 percent of all citizens are at risk of being blocked from voting today. This is clearly a matter of security for our homeland. If ISIS, al-Qaida or any external power interfered with our democratic process and were able to keep 1 in 10 Americans from going to the polls, we would take swift and decisive action.

Donovan 10.16This issue affects not just local or state election outcomes, but also our federal elections and the management of our government through state redistricting. The federal government should and must step in. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, can and should immediately send out mobile units to register any eligible citizens to vote and issue federal voter ID cards to U.S. citizens who need them. As President Carter said, a free and fair election requires both ballot security and the fullest access to voting. These efforts could begin in those states that have expressed the greatest interest in ballot security and enacted specific voter identification requirements.  Federal voter ID cards would not take the place of other government issued identification, such as driver’s licenses and passports. However, they would fill the gap for those citizens who otherwise lack access to such government identification. Anyone convicted of fraudulently trying to obtain such a card, including those trying to discredit or test or game the process, would be guilty of a felony.

With a defense budget of over $700 billion and a Homeland Security budget of $38 billion, we have already secured sufficient monies to provide for the common defense and to promote the general welfare. The right of the people to vote and have their say in their government is our most central tenet. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That being said, the Republican Party came into existence during the middle of the 19th century, in part, to ensure in the words of Lincoln that ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people, should not perish from the earth.’

Ballot security is important, but no more or less so than ballot access. We must work to see that both are present for all Americans. Those who would seek to block voter security or voter access are working not for America interests, but against them. It is hard to imagine who would support a speaker arguing that America should be blocked from developing, adapting and adopting the latest upgrades and improvements to military technology, from whatever their source. We must lead the world in this regard. Thus should we support those who would block us from developing, adapting and adopting the latest processes and technologies that upgrade and improve our citizens’ rights and their access to vote?

Just as other democracies around the globe have done, America has the ability to upgrade and lead the free world in citizen participation in democracy. Weekend voting works, we can do it here. Same day registration works, we have already done it here. State and national/federal photo identification works and we can and should do it here. America cannot claim to be the leader of the free and democratic world without also serving as the leader of the democratic process, the heart of which is enabling, encouraging and supporting every citizen to vote, everywhere, every time.

There are politicians who have been caught arguing and voting for laws to suppress voters and their votes just to keep themselves or their supporters in office. When this happens overseas, we call them dictators and fascists and the enemies of democracy. Anyone from any party who acts to keep any American from the polls is all that and more. Nowhere in the world should elected officials get to choose who gets to choose elected officials.

We are long overdue in reforming our election processes. Each election that takes place under the current restrictive conditions weakens our nation, weakens our belief in our country and our leaders and strengthens our enemies at home and abroad. We can start today by having the president roll out the first mobile ID units and preserve the voting rights of as many Americans as we possibly can.

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What Makes a Successful Nonprofit Organization?

By Shirmel Hayden

Hayden Oct 14I don’t know-how many recipes there are for a successful nonprofit organization, but I am sure there are plenty. Working in the nonprofit sector, I have seen organizations raise millions of dollars and have also seen them slowly lose those millions in funding support for many reasons which I cannot say are unknown.

While I sit at my desk thinking about how to grant write over $500,000 in the course of less than a year, I wonder if anyone saw the signs. The signs I speak of are the budgets that should be created to track not only the monetary, but also the in-kind donations given to the organization. The infrastructure of the program to determine whether or whether not the proposed program is working. Looking to see if a program shift in direction may need to occur for the sake of accomplishing the indicators and outcomes, which often is tied to funding. Understanding if staff have the capacity to understand and carry out the task at hand. Meeting with community members to see what the expectations are and how they would be involved. Taking time to get to know politicians to see if there is opportunity to work together, and if so, what would that partnership detail. The reason I include politicians is simply because politics is very different from a community-based nonprofit organization. From my experience, working together doesn’t seem to always have the same interest or direction.

In her article, “Tips for Running a Successful Nonprofit Organization,” Jennifer Mizrahi offers the following advice: have a clear vision, mission statement, theory of change and performance matrix, say ‘no’ to every good idea, perfection is the enemy of ‘good enough’, work backward from the finish line, remember to K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid), lead from the front, there is no “I” in team, under promise and consistently over deliver, don’t forget to take a vacation and smile. While I agree with most of these, I am not sure they are the tips to successful nonprofit organization. While the ideas tell you what to do, this doesn’t capture the essence of how.

Working on my doctorate in Public Policy and Administration sprinkled with lots of work experience, I believe that this format makes a successful nonprofit organization:

  1. Pre-planning/Brainstorming.
  2. Planning/Budgeting.
  3. Organizational Management and Structure.
  4. Funding and Fundraising.
  5. Implementation.
  6. Program and Organizational Assessment.
  7. Quality Assurance.
  8. Expansion.

From my experience, it is the practice of excellent management and leadership that makes a successful nonprofit organization. THE SUCCESS LIES IN THE PEOPLE knowing that their roles and responsibilities are important. In addition to understanding how each part plays an important dynamic in the overall success of the organization. For far too long I have seen organizations practice missions, visions and outcomes without understanding how to successfully manage the finances. For nonprofit organization success, I think it is time to look a bit deeper.

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Everyone’s an Expert; No One Knows Anything

By Tom Miller

A few weeks ago, just after my cousin passed a kidney stone, she went to the doctor with an inflamed elbow. The doctor was convinced she had an infection, but I had Googled “gout” because her brother had a kidney stone years before and gout in his elbow. While we waited for the swelling to subside and before the physician could draw blood, I assured her the doctor was wrong, that she had gout which all of my research confirmed, and we plotted her new low-protein diet.

Not only had Google made me an instant medical authority, it had meaningfully diminished my trust in my cousin’s doctor. I was not about to accept his diagnosis since the last information he had on gout probably came from his text books a few years back and not from the wired knowledge that I scored days before.

Miller OctI am not alone. Doctors are not the only experts being Googlesmacked by curious Webizens. Across the country, access to vast amounts of knowledge on every topic has made overnight Nobel laureates of high school drop outs. Or so it seems.

Before someone calls a broker, she could check out the right ways to pick stocks. You can learn about pedagogy before choosing a teacher for your toddler; study therapy before going to a shrink; diagnose yourself before submitting to a doctor. Tools and training exist to turn garden-variety citizens into lawyers, survey researchers, landscape architects or encyclopedia authors. If you went to years of university for one of these professions, there’s an app or website as you.

If you used to think that only experts had the answers that mattered to your life, you now have been taught that you ARE the expert. You are the travel agent, relator, mechanic, cosmetologist, critic or, if it’s your predilection, the terrorist. Yes, people also can learn to manage so that when they confront the city or county manager for the first time, they won’t be intimidated by anyone who got her MPA from some fancy university. By the time the gavel comes down to discuss transportation alternatives, citizen activists will have become transportation planners; similarly, expertise travels for bond elections, water rights and energy extraction.

Civic engagement, the current watchword of local government, will come with modern challenges, thanks to residents’ access to information and data. City and county managers need not take the new found expert advice of residents as personal attacks or salvos unique to local government management. Instead, managers should appreciate the new world order that the democratic access to information creates. Residents, already inclined to be contrary when passionately opposed to government actions, may now be a bit smug even about the day-to-day operations of jurisdiction management, having taught themselves what city or county managers should do to discipline sworn officers, hire staff or borrow money. On the occasions when a manager can surprise the lay audience with stellar displays of managerial knowledge, there will be two kinds of learning that take place among residents – learning smart management practices and learning about the training it takes to be a good manager. The second may inspire humility.

The hill for all previously revered experts has gotten steeper. As for me, I’ll recognize the new challenges without relinquishing my day job as a trained survey research expert. I’m not about to purvey survey gizmobots. And I’m not going to become a physician’s assistant, either.

The blood work came back. My cousin had an infection.

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Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears Toward the Black Community

By Wiha Powell

Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome. ―Rosa Parks

wiha oct 7The death of yet another young unarmed black man, Michael Brown, by the hands of a white police officer has once again sparked racial debates about police brutality in the black community and black-on-black crime. It is a known fact, that there are black-on-black crimes within the black community, as there are white-on-white crimes within the white community. However, the problems that black communities are experiencing are rooted in a long history of systematic racism by America’s institutions.  For decades, systematic racism has plagued black communities. This can be seen in:

  • Underfunded public schools.
  • High unemployment rates.
  • Vast majority of black families living below the poverty threshold.
  • Lack of equal housing opportunities.
  • Social and economic isolation from the rest of the society.
  • Police brutality.
  • Disparities in the criminal justice system.

Too often, young black men are labeled as dangerous thugs because of the community where they reside. As a result, many are easily convicted by and enter into the criminal justice system because society sees them as threats. As Michael Brown’s mother stated in her grief,

“Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many, because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. They’re going to try to take me out anyway.”

It is evident that the majority of society, especially critics of black America, ignores the fact that racism still exists in our institutions. Furthermore, a blind eye is being turned to the devastating effect it has on black communities. The people who should be listening to these debates turn a deaf ear because they fear looking their countrymen in the eye. Instead, they point fingers at gang members.

Being that the root of the problem is systematic racism and given the long standing history of America’s policy of white supremacy, young black men and their communities will always be considered second-class citizens. But how can America tackle this problem if the system and half its people do not recognize it as a problem to begin with?

Until America can admit that racism still exists, the killing of unarmed young black men by the hands of a white police officer will continue. This will result in many more racial debates that will basically fall on deaf ears.

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Public Service and the Keepers of Accountability

By Jason Bowns

Bathed in a paradox of criticism and hope, the Inspector General (IG) concept dominates current news headlines. The IG is on America’s mind.

Bowns 5
IG reports may satisfy or verify. Then they become targets of ire at other times when critics claim that the IG has not gone far enough – that it has even failed in its duty.

That duty’s wellspring is the IG Act of 1978, as amended. This enabling legislation created separate Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) within federal departments and agencies, with a shared purpose being “to create independent and objective units” while requiring that IG heads “…shall be appointed by the president, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability…”

OIG duties include “to conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations,” as well as “to provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies…to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness…[and] to prevent and detect fraud and abuse.” There’s also a reporting requirement to keep the establishment head and Congress “fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies…”

By design, OIGs cannot act upon recommendations, which ensures greater independence and objectivity. The power to act is vested with Congress and executive branch leadership.

Frequently, these recommendations remain words on a page. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) scandal attests to that. Despite recent public outcry, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) OIG consistently reported severe appointment scheduling deficiencies for years.

In its July 8, 2005, report – published nearly a decade ago – the OIG found that schedulers did not follow established procedures; medical facilities did not have effective electronic waiting list procedures; and there was no effective training program for schedulers. Recommendations included that the VHA “ensure medical facilities prohibit the use of informal waiting lists.”

Two years later, the VA OIG conducted yet another audit. Its 2007 report concluded, “Schedulers were still not following established procedures for making and recording medical appointments,” adding that “the accuracy of VHA’s reported waiting times could not be relied on and the electronic waiting lists at those medical facilities were not complete.” Five of eight recommendations to address scheduling irregularities were still not fully implemented.

The VA OIG published a report May 18, 2008, focusing on VHA health care facilities in New York and New Jersey. There, the OIG determined that wait times were still inaccurate and misstated, scheduling procedures were not followed, schedulers still maintained informal waiting lists, and lower wait times were linked to VHA management bonuses.

Five of eight recommendations from the 2005 report remained unimplemented and all four recommendations for corrective action relayed by the 2007 report remained unimplemented. The VA undersecretary’s reply was that “holding VISN 3 accountable was counterproductive” because it examined “policy solutions that VHA is already addressing.”

In a 2012 report, the VA OIG found that scheduling data measures were inaccurate and unreliable, performance numbers were overstated, noncompliance with mandatory 14-day scheduling time frames was rampant and schedulers did not consistently follow procedures.

Thus, the VA OIG reported serious and systemic appointment wait time deficiencies for years, sharing its recommendations with the VA secretary and Congress, which hold the power to act.

That fact alone may evoke the words of 19th century British philosopher and parliament member Jon Stuart Mill, “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”

Recent news headlines have accused the VA OIG of “softening” its latest fact-finding report into VHA appointment scheduling deficiencies. During hearings in both the House and Senate earlier this month, committee members questioned the VA OIG’s independence, in part because its latest report did not conclusively state that long wait times caused veterans’ deaths.

Bowns 6
In reply, acting VA IG Richard Griffin noted, “The OIG has no authority or responsibility to make determinations as to whether acts or omissions by VA constitute medical negligence under laws of any state…” The IG Act empowers VA OIG to review “programs and operations,” as it did by reporting systemic wait time issues for years. By defending the factual findings and resisting political pressure to exceed its statutory authority, VA OIG exhibits independence.

VA OIG findings also concluded that many schedulers failed to follow published policies. This reinforces how policies on paper, like society’s laws, lack meaning unless individuals choose to heed them. Even when no one else is watching, we’re accountable to ourselves, to our ideals, our principles and our values. Within is where the anti-corruption fight begins – and how it wins.

On July 15, 1944, a wise teenager named Anne Frank wrote that, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right path, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

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Seven Seriously Succinct Pointers to Avoid Holding a Bad Meeting.

By Robyn-Jay Bage

Bage sept.25A very good friend of mine hates administrators. I mean HATES. As you might imagine (based on my bio), over the years this has made for some very intense (and often intensely funny) conversations.

“Meetings” crown the top of a list of our most frequent discussions. In her esteemed opinion, meetings are usually a considerable waste of time and serve only as opportunities for managers to pretend they actually work for a living. (Remember, I said she hates managers.)

I wouldn’t go that far. However, if I am completely honest with myself I have to admit I’ve attended more than a few meetings—big and small—that should have been better, shorter or never have happened at all.

Fortunately, the Internet is filled with resources offering valuable information about how to hold a good meeting. I offer you an alternative view:

Robyn’s Seven Seriously Succinct Pointers to Avoid Holding a Bad Meeting.

#7 It’s not all about them. Try not to let your meeting get hijacked by one or a few people who seem to think the meeting is just for them. I recall one meeting where the facilitator became so caught up in conversations with two participants that she had her back to the rest of the attendees through most of the meeting.

#6 Time after time. If the meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that means 2 p.m. for everyone. Don’t waste the time of those who bothered to show up when asked. Start as scheduled and don’t revisit what you’ve already covered. Make appointments for another time to catch up with any latecomers.

#5 Flying “by the seat of your pants” is a recipe for airsickness. Come into your meeting with a specific agenda. Few things make a team more restless than watching you fly around trying to improvise. If you’re not fully prepared, cancel.

#4 Food, glorious food. If you anticipate your meeting to be longer than 90 minutes, provide light refreshments. Adult learners (and children, too) get hungry, thirsty and fidgety when expected to sit and pay attention for long periods. If your meeting is being held during a typical breakfast, lunch or dinner hour, have something more substantial than punch and cookies available even if you can’t provide a meal. For instance, yogurt, granola bars and fruit seem to keep people happy.

#3 Simon says what? Make sure the room’s setup ensures everyone can hear the speaker or meeting facilitator. I attended a meeting recently where half of the attendees could not hear the person speaking. They left after 20 minutes.

#2 Put your left leg in and take your left leg out… A business meeting is no place for the hokey pokey—at least under most circumstances. Make sure there is room, including chairs and table space, for everyone you’ve invited or required to attend.

And finally, the #1 way to avoid holding a bad meeting

If it works in a memo, write one. No one appreciates being “talked at.” If your agenda involves largely one-way communication, you can probably put it in a memo, post it to your portal or send around a companywide email. If there are actual tasks to be done, or decisions to be made, a meeting is the perfect venue.

What went wrong at the worst meeting you’ve ever attended? Curious minds (and aspiring Great Meeting Facilitators) want to know!

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