Obama - 05
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11.16.2008... Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure, and "Bottoms-Up".

Get a GAO analysis ASAP of what needs fixing: bridges, tunnels, highways, dams, locks, water supplies, electrical and gas networks and pipelines and on and on. Set goals to begin repair and rebuilding, not a "we have to fix it all this week kind of thing, in order, again, to set everyone's expectations.

Next, and this is the part nobody in the country seems to be capable of... make sure the estimates include all of the life cycle costs of the elements! That means, the costs of buying the land for the infrastructure, preparing it, building it, and extremely important, maintaining it and eventually replacing it! Bridges and roads wear out. They all have finite lifetimes and money must be accrued to finance their repair and replacement. To do this will be a record-breaking new process and idea, but you can go down in history in a good way as the first President to advocate and implement it.

Then, report at least monthly on progress and impediments to progress on all fronts. You can use the Internet and your .gov web sites to do this, as you've discovered how much they can help you already.

Here's a short story to make the next part [actual delivery] happen faster: At a division of Hewlett-Packard I once worked at, getting managers to provide "up-to-date" performance evaluations, or "reviews" of their subordinates was a major challenge, until the Division Manager instituted a new policy. At every monthly meeting of "the troops," a list would be posted for everyone to see [open government, right?] which listed all of the Division's managers and how many performance evaluations they were "behind". And the guy or gal who was furthest behind in completing their subordinates' evaluations was the one to stand up in front of everyone and present the list to everyone in the division.

Within about one year, just about every manager was "suddenly" up-to-date with their personnel evaluations. And the last person to stand up in front of everyone and make that embarrassing presentation was the division manager, himself! He had not completed the p.e. for one of his subordinates: his admin assistant ["secretary," as we called them back then.]

The next month the list had gone to zero and stayed there.

Now, what if some variation of that were applied to the various organizations in your Administration? Which one hadn't done their budget yet? Which one was late on critical reports. Let them make their own presentations on the Web, to be carried to all news networks and blog sites in a matter of minutes. Things really would change in a hurry.

Give it some thought.

Finally, and this may be the most important part: The "Bottoms-Up" concept... Now that you've got the total cost of implementation and long-term maintenance and replacement, the biggest question is, "how do we pay for it"?

While you should take a good look at my Thirty-Fourth Law, the real issue is: should the costs for all of these infrastructure events be related to the use of the elements or just be spread across everyone's tax burden? The Libertarian side of me says that, when possible, at least part should be based on "user fees," and thus related to "consumption" of the infrastructure "resource."

Bridge and highway tolls are one nice way of reminding folks that those things need to be maintained and replaced as long as they're being "used up."

I noticed this lack of "bottoms-up" costing when we had our last drought here in Raleigh. People were asked to use less water because our supply, Falls Lake, was being drawn down to near-empty levels.

At the same time, the water supply company happened to notice that, with the conservation, their revenues were down!! Mirabile Dictu!! Utter shock and dismay occurred.

So, why didn't these otherwise "bright" people use bottoms-up costing to price their "product or service"??

They know what their costs are and have been for all of the infrastructure: distribution pipe installation and maintenance, electricity costs for pumps, salary, overhead, vehicles, and on and on. Why not charge monthly "connect rates" to cover all of the fixed costs they can determine and then add a "consumption charge" based on the quantity of water delivered???

And why wouldn't the same thing work for electric, gas, and other energy "utilities"??

If the cost of the "material supplied," be it electricity, gas, water, etc., changes, that could and, I believe, should be built into the monthly bill and changed at least every few months. The infrastructure and maintenance and delivery costs don't change as quickly, on average, and could be adjusted yearly or so. This would change the sales model to one where the user could forecast their overall charges, both long-term, based on inflation, and short-term, based on their own usage.

Sort of how people adjust[ed] to changes in the price of gasoline. If the price spiked, driving styles and distances changed and types of vehicles purchased changed. If prices were relatively constant, everyone knew, roughly, how much their car cost for daily use and for replacement, and could budget [or not] accordingly.

Maybe a more extensive use of these concepts might help us all.

Please give that some thought. Thanks!