Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor's Leadership Conference
September 20, 2001
Good morning. I’m especially glad to be with you this morning in light of everything that’s going on in the country and here in our state.
Since the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., ten days ago, we have experienced disbelief, shock and the deepest sadness. We have mourned for the thousands of victims and their families. We have shared the grief of a nation. And we have come together, coast to coast -- knowing that things will never be the same. But also knowing that we can face this, learn from this, rebuild from this, restore confidence in our future, and get on with life.
As people have watched the incredible rescue and recovery efforts a continent away -- in lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in Congress -- they have a greater appreciation of government.
I am more proud of the employees of Washington state government, because as public servants, leaders of state government, managers of state services and the people who deliver them, I have a keener sense of the jobs that people like you are doing in New York: responding to a horrifying tragedy and leading the recovery.
What if we were attacked? Yes, I have asked myself: What if it had happened here? If our state had been targeted? There is no doubt in my mind that our state government has the courage, the skill and the resolve to answer the call of any emergency -- to meet any challenge that comes our way.
Be it disaster or the work to make our state government better, I know you can do it. And I am so proud of all of you. As state leaders, it is our responsibility to keep leading our state forward.
We must stay on track, never give up, never lose sight of our goals, and never let fear or weariness -- in the face of adversity --diminish our high ideals.
We will never forget what has happened to our country. But we owe it to ourselves, our families and our citizens to get on with the jobs we do in state government – serving our citizens!
So, now I’m going to follow my own advice and get on with the purpose of this conference!
I am pleased to participate in a program that features David Osborne
, one of our country’s most innovative thinkers and a leader who brings an entrepreneurial approach to the public sector.
The fact is: Our citizens increasingly want government to be as responsive as other modern organizations and businesses. And we have to strive -- as much as possible -- to match the competence and efficiency of commercial enterprises. That’s where this state government is headed!
In the months ahead, the aftershocks of the terrorist attacks will play out around the globe, across America and in our state as well.
The Boeing Company
layoffs -- the result of mounting financial problems in the airline industry -- will further test our resolve. We will have to rejuvenate our retraining programs so Boeing workers who lose their jobs can land on their feet. And we will face further budget constraints as the economic impacts of terrorism take a toll on our state’s economy and state revenue.
It will not be easy, but that’s another reason why I’m so proud of you, because you are the very best in state government -- who are in the vanguard of the changes we have to make -- developing and implementing public-sector strategies that work. Appreciating that one size does not fit all -- because different agencies have different missions. And recognizing that today’s approach may not fit tomorrow’s realities.
As state government’s managers, you are succeeding in creating the innovative, entrepreneurial culture that best serves our customers --the citizens of Washington state. You’re reshaping state government to meet expanding public expectations for service and efficiency.
Today, I again challenge you to pursue innovations and ideas that allow state government to keep pace with our rapidly evolving society.
There are five important things to pursue in our efforts to keep pace.
1. Setting an agenda for accomplishment.
2. Sticking with good ideas, despite resistance.
3. Taking risks to achieve our goals.
4. Empowering our frontline employees.
5. And shaking up the bureaucracy to get the job done.
Let me talk a minute about my top priorities.
You know education is my top priority. I won’t stop until we have the best schools in the nation. We are going to make our K-12 schools accountable for results and we’ll make greater use of technology to provide more distance-education opportunities.
Everyone needs it, but the costs continue to skyrocket. We need to ensure that healthcare systems that serve the general public remain available, affordable and reliable. And at the state level, we must bring medical costs under control.
Without long-term improvements, our economy will suffer -- and opportunities for our workers and their children will diminish. Transportation improvements are key in ensuring we have a healthy business climate in Washington state.
But I also have created the Washington Competitiveness Council
to recommend ways Washington can keep its competitive edge in the world economy. We’ve done a lot already – cutting business taxes by more than $1 billion, promoting exports, advancing workforce training, and investing in rural economic development. But in our rapidly changing world and economy, we’ve got to do more to ensure we stay ahead of other states.
I recognize the best ideas often meet the most roadblocks. But don’t give up -- because I’m depending on you to make this government change, and succeed.
There’s a story about a college student who had what he thought was a great entrepreneurial idea. But when he detailed his vision in his senior economics paper, all he got for his efforts was a ‘C’ grade.
This innovator, Fred Smith, pursued his vision -- an air express delivery service modeled on the same hub-and-spoke system employed by phone companies. In building Federal Express
, Fred Smith never gave up on his idea. But more than founding what is now a hugely successful company, he did something else that America needed. He challenged -- and shook up -- one of the world’s biggest bureaucracies – the U.S. Postal Service
In Washington state government, we are all about delivery of services. And we are making progress in improving them -- thanks to you and your employees.
When I spoke to you at this leadership conference last year, I asked you to speed up your efforts to bring our agencies closer to the people we serve. I asked you to find more ways to save time, and save people’s hard-earned tax dollars.
Internet Tab Renewal
Today, Washington citizens can now sit at their home computers and renew their license plate tabs. Thanks to the hard work at the Department of Licensing
, a credit card and a few clicks of the mouse is all it takes. This Internet tab service is taking off! The number of tabs renewed online in June doubled in July and the department expects that in the first year of operation, 150,000 license tabs will be renewed online!
Access Washington / Ask George
You made state government more accessible to the people through Access Washington
, the state’s award-winning web site. Access Washington puts tons of information about state services at the fingertips of our citizens. But the Department of Information Services
did even more. It built “Ask George
” -- a search engine that can find what people need with just a key word or two and a click of the mouse.
The Department of Social and Health Services now provides the Online Community Services Office
. It’s an Internet site that offers Washington residents unprecedented access to information on DSHS services and programs --and the nation’s first online application route for public assistance, food stamps, medical assistance and childcare benefits.
Master Business License
Thanks to the departments of Labor and Industries
, Employment Security
, new businesses can use the Internet to apply and pay for a Master Business License any time of the day or night, seven days a week!
Year after year, Washington state has been recognized as the leader in digital government. However, not every good move we make is over the Internet.
Working together, the departments of Corrections
and General Administration
came up with a solution that will save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in years to come. Working with the 3M Corporation
, they developed a way to repair – instead of replace – expensive security glass in our prisons that gets damaged over time.
In the pilot project alone, we saved $45,000 by repairing, rather than replacing, 50 windows -- using inmate labor. Not only are costs reduced in one of the fastest-growing areas of state government, but we also are training inmates in a marketable job skill.
The explosive growth of illegal meth labs -- and their detection by law enforcement -- easily could have overwhelmed the Department of Ecology
, which is responsible for cleaning up meth labs around the state.
Instead, the department made itself more efficient. It improved in-house training and relied less on paid contractors. Now, Ecology is able to meet the demand for meth lab cleanups. In fact, it saved nearly $2 million last year.
These are all great examples of creating a government that works better and costs less.
Earlier this year, we faced some events and circumstances that were instructive on what we have already done and what we need to continue to do make our state government more adaptive, more flexible and more responsive.
We dealt with a drought
, an energy crisis
and an earthquake
We are not out of the woods on any of these issues. But the decisive action we took -- using the authority granted us by state law -- reduced the consequences of a serious drought.
Responding to the impacts of the energy crisis in California
, we stabilized our state energy system. We took action -- and it made a difference.
Sometimes, our agencies are not forthright about what they need to do.
We’re often overcautious. Decision-making is distracted by concerns about controversy or preoccupation with other matters before the Legislature
when they’re in session.
I want you to stay out of that box.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. The people of this state expect us to do the job of running state government, delivering services. Inaction in the Legislature cannot keep us from moving forward. As managers of this state’s agencies, I want you to be confident about your authority to address issues that need to be dealt with. I will stand behind you.
Don’t let your agencies go into hibernation during legislative sessions. Directors need not spend so much time on the hill. As you set your agendas for getting things done, I want you to consider whether some items on your legislative agenda can be accomplished administratively where you already have the authority to move forward.
The earthquake provided a great illustration for the next point I’d like to make.
We need to make state government an empowering workplace for our employees. A place where we rely on our people in the front lines --not only to report the problems -- but to bring us the solutions.
After the Nisqually earthquake struck, most of us thought only about our homes. But for Marsha Tadano-Long
and scores of her employees, there was something else to worry about -- the condition of state buildings and more than 10,000 displaced state workers.
Marsha and her staff assembled teams to assess damage, prioritize repairs and do it all under the glare of media attention and an impatient Legislature.
Marsha and her people worked around-the-clock in a building off the Capitol Campus. They depended on each other. And they depended on quick, innovative thinking. It was clear that no one person, no one team, could do the work without the help of others.
You all know the rest of the story. We hardly lost a beat. Electricity, gas, and water systems worked. Computers blinked back on. Checks and payments went out on time.
GA’s world was shaken up -- literally -- but its employees embraced the challenge by thinking and acting with courage, innovation and leadership. Not just from the top, but from the bottom up.
Crises tend to bring out the best in people. That’s never been more clear than in the past week. But we in state government cannot afford to stand by until the next crisis spurs us into action.
We need to be proactive, identifying how we can make this government work better. Seeking solutions, setting goals and achieving them. By listening to employees, giving them the flint to spark genuine bottom-up action and change and encouraging them to persevere -- even if they fail at first.
In short: Hire good people and then get out of their way.
Shake Up the Bureaucracy
You’ve heard me encourage you to shake up the state bureaucracy.
As governor, I’ve been amazed how fast my first term flew by. So, I’m in an even bigger hurry in this second term. I want action, not more planning or process. I want results.
Now, I’ve been around state government for some time. So, I know how complex government decision-making can be. And I know there are often very good reasons for cautiousness, deliberations and crosschecks.
But remember that the citizens we serve see everything else in their world speeding up. And they become increasingly dissatisfied if it takes government months to decide or respond to something that any other organization can handle in days or even hours.
Cut Red Tape
So, cut the red tape wherever you can. Streamline permit processing by eliminating fragmented, time-consuming systems. Network with stakeholders.
I am very proud of the work you do. I challenged you to make our state government work better -- and you have.
Still, there is much more to do.
But when I look around this room, I know we have the dedication, hard work, pride and talent to make this state government the pride of our citizens and a leader in our nation.
- Governing for Results