Posted on

Newman’s Own Land Use

I’ve noticed my grocery shopping habits have tended toward a brand with a reputation for ethical business practices and high quality products. I’m spending the grocery money anyway – what’s not to like.

While explaining the shift of preferences to a friend in Colorado, I quipped that I wished that Newman was running land use in Oregon. Or had a competing program. What would the customers do? Would they shift to a provider known for careful operational and product quality?

I pay a bit more for Newman’s Own Lite Raspberry and Walnut salad dressing compared to other bottles on the shelf. While I’m willing to bet that cities would gladly pay more for reliable quality and timely completion I’m also willing to bet that they won’t have to pay more. Quite the opposite.

If Newman’s Own Land Use reduced by even a modest percentage the costs of lost productivity, legal wrangling and delay, it would be a winner on the shelf. Even out-of-pocket costs could decline if less could be spent on consultants who know how to navigate a whimsical state product offering.

Sound tasty to you?

Posted on

The Secret Sauce: Ownership

Thomas Friedman, writing in the NYTimes about education, politics and global competition observes “We’re going through a huge technological transformation in the middle of a recession. It requires a systemic response.”

He reports that the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, found that the most successful students are those who feel real “ownership” of their education. “The highest performing PISA schools all have “ownership” cultures — a high degree of professional autonomy for teachers in the classrooms, where teachers get to participate in shaping standards and curriculum and have ample time for continuous professional development.”

It made me reflect on the culture of dependency and lack of autonomy Oregon’s land use program fosters in our stressed out cities and rural counties. There are a few local governments who know they are empowered but most spend their limited resources hoping to comply with the whimsical review and appeal process.

In such a circumstance they can’t be held accountable for the outcomes or lack thereof. And it is only getting worse. Will the state guarantee these communities will thrive? Of course not. Will it let locals experiment? Not much.

Will the secret sauce – owning the outcome – remain a form of unobtanium?