6.12.2008

A SINGLE POINT OF ACCOUNTABILITY

You know the proverb. “It takes a village to raise a child.” Unfortunately, when it comes to publicly delivered services to children here in Philadelphia, that village isn’t very well coordinated. At least that’s one of the findings of a recent report by my alma mater: ”Delivering Youth Services in Philadelphia: The Integrated Youth Services Project.” [warning: large pdf file] Contrast that to the single point of accountability that Mayor Bloomberg set up to deal with the issue of homelessness in New York City: ”Ending Chronic Homelessness: A Conversation with Commissioner Robert Hess.”

Providing social services is a daunting, complex, and multi-layered task, necessarily involving numerous agencies and programs. But the public begs for a single point of accountability, and each participating entity can do its work together if it knows it’s feeding into one place that will help make sense of everything. Such is the dirty little secret about that dirty word, bureaucracy: if organized right, it’s actually a good thing when it comes to delivering services.

Mayor Nutter has done a good job of this, the chief example being vesting Andy Altman’s position with authority over both planning and economic development, so that the two sets of functions actually talk with one another and get coordinated in a way that maximizes public benefit. Less talked about, but just as important, is what he’s put under Don Schwarz’s office: human services AND behavioral health AND supportive housing AND recreation AND Fairmount Park AND the libraries; it’s a village, and hopefully, under his leadership, it’ll be a somewhat coordinated one.
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