ON-Lion Letter
"The American political system -- with its system of checks and balances and unique division of responsibilities among federal, state and local authorities -- has created the conditions for an unprecedented expansion of personal wealth and political freedoms," begins Stephen Goldsmith in a newly released paper for the Refocus Wisconsin project.  "However, the recent growth of government’s size, scope and impact on both the private sector and the political process threatens to weaken, and even reverse, these remarkable gains.

"Despite our successful form of government," he continues in "The State Crisis and a Need for a New Charter," "our prosperity is increasingly endangered by a public sector that has grown overly expensive, decreasingly effective, less responsive to the interests of citizens and excessively controlled by special interests.  Government bureaucracies have become ossified and resistant even to marginal improvement.  The types of disruptive innovation in the private sector that deliver increasingly better products at better prices have become effectively outlawed in most of the public sector."

Goldsmith is the deputy mayor of New York City for operations and author of The Power of Social Innovation:  How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good.  He is a former mayor of Indianapolis.

He wrote the paper with Jayson White and Ryan Streeter.  White manages the Urban Policy Advisory Group at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.  Streeter is a non-resident senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research in Indianapolis.

State and local governments, including in Wisconsin, "can learn from the concept of a charter in the educational arena and consider establishing newly chartered governments that better align the interests of public services with the consumers of those services," they propose.  "'Chartered' government involves situating citizen decision-making and oversight at the heart of government operations -- a more robust notion than more familiar ideas about 'citizen engagement' or 'citizen-centric government.'  It also involves reforming governing practices so that public employees are freed up to innovate and be held accountable for results rather than whether they followed the established rules.  And it naturally involves greater levels of transparency and accountability and an improved process of legislative oversight."
Goldsmith and his co-authors suggest that "chartered" government in Wisconsin can build on the state's successes and legacies as a leader in both the charter-school movement and in welfare reform.

Refocus Wisconsin hopes to open more people's eyes to the real issues facing the state, so that together, its citizens can envision some genuine solutions.  Sponsored by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, among others, the project is an in-depth, multifaceted study of long-term economic, education, and quality-of-life trends in the state.  The Bradley Foundation also supports the Sagamore Institute.
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