Home » Deil S. Wright Symposium » 2015 Deil Wright Symposium: Friday, March 6

2015 Deil Wright Symposium: Friday, March 6

                        Sponsored by the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management
          Field Room, Hyatt Regency Chicago, March 6, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. 
1:00-2:30 Teaching and Research Panel  
Moderator: Carl Stenberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Richard L. Cole, University of Texas at Arlington, and John Kincaid, Lafayette College, “Is the Teaching of Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations Dead or Alive in American Public Administration Programs?”
Bruce J. Perlman, Sara Shoemate, and Nicholas Edwardson, University of New Mexico, and Michael J. Scicchitano, University of Florida, “Taking the High Road: Local Government Managers’ Perceptions on Implementing Local Option Recreational Marijuana in Colorado”
Jered B. Carr, University of Illinois at Chicago, Christopher Hawkins, University of Central Florida, and Drew Westberg, University of Missouri-Kansas City, “Collaboration Risk in Joint Ventures among Governments: Understanding the Risk Perceptions of Economic Development Officials”
Benjamin H. Deitchman, Rochester Institute of Technology, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Energy Efficiency and Growth through State and Local Implementation.”
Heidi Koenig, Northern Illinois University, “The Status of Home Rule in Illinois”
2:30-3:30 Roundtable I: NAPA Perspectives on New Paradigms for Developing a National Infrastructure Agenda
Moderator: Paul Posner, George Mason University
            Mark Pisano, University of Southern California
            Peter J. Basso, Parsons Brinckerhoff
3:30-4:45 Roundtable II: New Approaches to the Study of Contemporary Intergovernmental Relationships
Moderator: David Hamilton, Texas Tech University
Robert A. Agranoff, Indiana University
Beryl A. Radin, Georgetown University
Ann O’M. Bowman, Texas A & M University
Michael Pagano, University of Illinois at Chicago
4:45 Concluding Comments
                        David C. Wright

                        Richard C. Feiock, Florida State University

Roundtable I information: “This is the charter of a special working group on Infrastructure that the Board of NAPA has established. The purpose of the working group is to use the resources of NAPA to provide guidance to Congress and the Administration, on a subject chosen by the board.  I chair the working group and was the scribe of several sessions of the working group that developed the charter for our group, which is reflected in the paper.  We are currently developing the resources to flesh out the paper to be available later this year.” — Mark Pisano, Chair.

Developing a National Infrastructure Agenda


The national consensus for building and regenerating existing infrastructure is broken.  Witness the debate on the transportation reauthorization: the highway, transit interest groups, automobile clubs and trucking associations-the users, business and labor organizations all unsuccessfully asked Congress to raise taxes to continue the program; the Corps of Engineers authorization by several orders of magnitude dwarfs the appropriation each year; FEMA insurance premiums where recently established to reflect actuarial costs were put in abeyance because of user pushback; users (voters) feel that they have already paid for expenditures; etc.. These actions reflect the changing priorities of the country, which focuses on personal issues of people, their health care, pensions and education.  All the while the looming debate over the national deficit clouds the issue, leaving the country adrift to deal with the issue at the state and local level, who are also facing long term budget stress.

A new approach, you might say a new paradigm is needed, to enable infrastructure to be built and regenerated and still deal with these contemporary realities.  Infrastructure enables growth and wealth creation to prosper.  Infrastructure creates many benefits that can be captured and generates a return on investment for those who invest in its development.  The nation has liquidity that that is seeking long-term returns. Jobs can be created for many who have been displaced and have the skills to perform them.  Infrastructure jobs are our best strategy to deal with our structural unemployment crisis.  If the nations has the money and we have unused people resources and we have a desperate need to regenerate and build our infrastructure, then we need to organize ourselves to so we can solve this dilemma.  

President Clinton at his Global Initiative Conference in Los Angeles, noted, “we are organized for the past and not to solve the issues of the future. The issue is not money, we have under utilized liquidity here and abroad, but how we organize ourselves and use our resources to build our future.” The issue is designing the rules of the game so that we deplore our resources, money and people to solve the infrastructure problem.

Purpose and Performance

Infrastructure of all types, are systems and serve multiple purposes and roles. The benefits of these systems are mostly experienced locally and regionally but have significant national implications.  Witness the current grain crisis of not being able to get the plentiful crop out of the nations breadbasket because of railroad logjams.  Goods movement blockages due to deficit infrastructure investments prevent the Interstate Commerce clause of our constitution from operating, and will put American businesses and consumers at risk from effectively participating in the global market place.  The same can be said about not developing energy transport, particularly renewable access to the urban market places and water systems that traverses multiple states.

Clarity of purpose for our infrastructure investments is the starting point of the new paradigm. How do we capture the regional and local benefits, using existing tools of benefit assessment and beneficial use arrangements and fees while capturing national benefits and responsibilities? While investments and benefits will be regional focused, the results will be advancing national goals; requiring a different set of intergovernmental financing arrangements that focuses on outcomes and results, so the purpose and benefits can be understood and transparent. If this is accomplished, then governmental and organizational assignments can be established and resources will follow.

A broader conception of public infrastructure that encompasses not only the built environment, but changes in the natural environment will lead to changes in how we approach our built environment, e.g., severe weather conditions, rising sea level, persistent increase in temperature, will require us to work with nature instead of fighting nature. Using natural systems may in fact be the only resolution to many of our current infrastructure challenges.
This regeneration of the existing built environment will enable us to rebuild cost effectively and deal with our extensive deferred maintenance.  

Focusing on Performance of investments- their outcomes/results and the lifecycle cost and the source of revenues -will enable the nation to rationalize the over $2 trillion infrastructure backlog estimate of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which if addressed would require a multifold level of increased of investment that runs into the changing priorities of the nation.

Strategies that focus on performance as opposed to programs would encourage investments that generate multiple outcomes and benefits that create multiple revenue streams that can be captured to increase funding sources from the beneficiaries.  Connecting beneficiaries to expenditures will enable the public to understand the purpose of these investments and the costs of the infrastructure challenge facing the country.  For the most part the current paradigm separates collections of revenues from their expenditures and diminishes the public understanding of the reasons and purposes for the investments.


Getting the purpose clear, focusing on performance and structuring revenues by linking them to benefits so that our national liquidity can be put to work is an institutional challenge. Institutions and the rules of the game, so that we can organize ourselves for the future, is the key to the infrastructure dilemma facing the country. How do we get the purposes clear so that there is greater understanding of the reasons for the investments? How do we make decisions that focus on performance and link our beneficial revenue streams to the life-cycle expenditures and costs of the investment? How do we enable trillions of dollars of liquidity to find investments in infrastructure that will be paid back from beneficial use streams?  How do we enable the national government to participate in these investments?  How do we deal with market risk of revenue projections without creating a moral hazard for government? How do we jumpstart infrastructure without adding to the fiscal stress of the intergovernmental system?  

NAPA’s Response

The National Academy of Public Administration has undertaken development of a 21st Century Infrastructure Blueprint for the Nation. NAPA was chartered by Congress to provide advice and recommendations on addressing the nations governance problems. A working panel of NAPA Fellows that have experience at all levels of government, business and Universities has been assembled. The panel builds upon NAPA reports to Congress on the Corps of Engineers post Katrina experience, the Reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act, improvements of the Presidio Trust for the National Park Service, a recent “Memo to National Leaders: Partnerships as Fiscal Strategy.” The outcomes of the Blueprint are:

  • The first outcome will be to collect the best practices and catalog what is working in the country, which could be used as building blocks for this emerging way of building the nation’s infrastructure. The historical pathway to developing governance innovations has been to start with experiments undertaken in the states and regions of the country. Twenty-eight states have enacted laws providing for tolls or fees to fund transportation and even more have laws that fund utilities; but now many states are also returning to directly capturing the economic benefits that infrastructure creates and capturing the revenue streams from people and property to fund these investments.  The working group members have participated in many of these experiments in states including: Virginia, Maryland, Texas and California.  Virginia used assessment financing to complement federal funding on the Metro Silverline. Maryland is doing the same on transit in the district. California has enacted legislation SB628 “Enhance Infrastructure Districts” that uses these principles.  The effort will encourage all states and regions to develop a legislative structure for financing infrastructure using the lessons and practices learned.

  • The next outcome will be to develop policy options that Congress could enact that flesh out the national role in this framework and accelerate mobilization of this new national capacity to fund critically needed national infrastructure. Creating the federal role in linking benefits with revenues could accelerate the experiments in the country. Some of these options are identified in the “Memo to National Leaders:” developing risk assessment and mitigation capacity assistance for fiscal, environmental, institutional and technical issues that will be encountered in this approach.  Included in this work is the intergovernmental regulatory overlay that is frustrating and hindering the capacity of state and regions in making investment decisions, particularly in the natural environment. The working group is also exploring a national loan program that integrates many existing federal loan programs into a de-facto infrastructure bank loan program.  By bringing multiple loans together a diversified portfolio is created and the risks lowered.  The combination of combination of loan programs also creates a significant portfolio without increasing further federal financial exposure.

  • The working group is exploring is new approaches for benefit payment approaches such as distance based charges for transportation, the bundling of fee and revenue sources used by states and regions so that nexus can be improved, and planning approaches that bring better nexus information to the decision making table.  Most importantly this beneficial use approach to funding creates the capacity to capture increasing amounts of private capital that is seeking longer term returns in our nations public goods where the risks are mitigated and shared  


The approach and work described above is aimed to provide recommendations to Congress: on the next re-authorization of the transportation program; approaches that can assist in resolving the dilemma of the COE authorization and appropriation mismatch; guidance to FEMA on the fiscal structure for natural hazard response and numerous other programs where a redefinition of the rules of the game – institutional change- will enable the country to bring private capital into a partnership with public organizations in addressing our pressing infrastructure crisis.

Roundtable II information: The focus of the second Roundtable will be an article by Robert Agranoff and Beryl Radin. Thank you.

Agranoff, R., & Radin, B. A. (2014). Deil Wright’s Overlapping Model of Intergovernmental Relations: The Basis for Contemporary Intergovernmental Relationships. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, pju036.

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