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Our E-zine Salutes the Winners of the
1999 Public Service Excellence Award

So here we are, an online magazine dedicated to telling the stories of electronic government. Believe it or not, in the stories below, you wonít find a word about a web site or a computer or information technology or telecommunications. We hope you won't mind a momentary diversion from our theme.

Below are stories about peopleñgovernment workers whose programs and activities won the seven 1999 Public Service Excellence Awards given by the Public Employees Roundtable. These winners are giving good service and they are giving public service a good name. We are proud to salute them during Public Service Recognition Week, May 3-9, 1999.


Tacomaís Talkiní Trash Take Top Honors (city program)

Air Forceís Reinmakers Reach Out to the Community (community service)

INS Problem Solvers Earn Respect (federal program)

Speeding Up Adoption in Los Angeles (intergovernmental)

Oklahoma Invests in Inmate Training and Saves Money (state program)

Virginia Offers a Way Out of the Dead End (intergovernmental)

Safety Awareness for Seniors (county program)

About the Public Employees Roundtable


Tacomaís Talkiní Trash Take Top Honors

Who would have guessed you could get a first place national award for "Talkiní Trash"? Well, thatís exactly what the singing garbage men from Tacoma, Washington, have done, winning the 1999 Public Service Excellence Award for cities from the Public Employees Roundtable.

In 1998, The City of Tacoma, Washington, was facing changing just about everything in the way its 51,000 residential customers dealt with solid waste. All residents would have to select what size recycling and trash container they wanted, 80 percent would switch their pick up day and all would need to learn to recycle a new way. But how could the city get the word out?

The cityís Community Relations Office rose to the challenge with an answer that took lots of time, talent and teamwork. They made trash collection and recycling fun while they were at it.

After putting together an extensive marketing plan, they asked, "Who knows garbage and recycling better than garbage men?" So, they surveyed all the solid waste utility workers, from the garbage truck drivers to the landfill operators to the route supervisor and secretaries, to see what talents they had. Several said they could sing, and auditions held in a bowling alley near the landfill resulted in selection of five to sing about the changes to citizens. The five garbage men became "The Collectors."

The entire campaign was centered around these real garbage men and their number one song, "Talkiní Trash." Not only did "Tacomaís singing garbage men" sing about the service changes in radio ads and at public appearances, their images appeared in the newspaper ads, on transit bus signs, on garbage truck signs and in mailers. The Collectors became a major media sensation.

Tacomaís Talkiní Trash marketing campaign has won the hearts of the people of Tacoma ó recycling has increased between 300 to 400 percent, depending on the neighborhoodó but also three national first place marketing awards, and raves from communication and marketing experts.

Gail Greenwood, the cityís community relations specialist, said, "Although weíre proud of the statistical results and measures of effectiveness, perhaps the most important measures are the ways in which the City of Tacomaís Talkiní Trash campaign made the city proud, boosted the morale at the solid waste utility during a very difficult time of transition, and changed the lives of the five men who became The Collectors.


Air Forceís Reinmakers Reach Out to the Community

"Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In all You Do"- the Air Force core values epitomize the men and women of the 838th Engineering Installation Squadron (EIS) at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Better known as the Reinmakers, this remarkable group of individuals won the Public Employees Roundtable 1999 Public Service Excellence Award for community service. Chosen from nominations from across the nation, this program stood out as the best.

The members of the 838th EIS participate in the Southwest Independent School District Mentorship program to help "at risk" children. These are students with indications of low self-esteem, academic deficiencies, poor social development, or an unstable home environment -- often all of them. The mentors spend an average of one hour each week increasing a studentís self-esteem and literacy, and being a positive role model. Reinmakers also give an annual Christmas party for under-privileged children.

The 838th EIS members donít stop there. They also: do a quarterly clean up of a two-mile stretch as part of the Texas Adopt-A-Highway program; paint the homes of physically and or financially challenged residents of San Antonio; help build houses with the Habitat for Humanity; and deliver meals-on-wheels to the homebound.

The Reinmakers are great ambassadors for the US Air Force, for which community service is an integral part of military service. For San Antonio, the Reinmakers are always there to lend a helping hand.


INS Problem Solvers Earn Respect

"Thank you for making motherís dream come true! She is so proud and blessed to be a U.S. citizen," wrote Marganita Ishow to assistant director Wendt of the Omaha, NE, district office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) at the end of August last year. Just months before, the INS relations with the public were so bad that it launched a special nation-wide effort to improve services and benefits to the public.

Its Omaha, NE, District Office took the mandate seriously, got creative, earned the publicís respect, and won a national award. The Public Employees Roundtable awarded them the 1999 Public Service Excellence Award for a federal program.

The Omaha District Office did this with its problem solvers approach in the section responsible for naturalization -- the process whereby a foreign national becomes a citizen of the United States. The old rule, "First in, first out, no exceptions," gave way to empowering front line employees to make decisions. The results were contagious.

In the past, naturalization often involved a two to four year process, in which files were lost, fees were lost because of catch 22 time limits, applicants were confused, and there was little communication from start to finish. Many just fell by the wayside, and never became citizens. INS called for improvement and set a national goal of under twelve months.

The Omaha office met the goal by re-thinking the way it does things. Office hours were changed to keep applicants from standing in the cold. Ceremonies were moved out of court rooms and into the community. Information sessions were held in convenient locations, and community groups were informed and came to the officeís assistance. Tasks were prioritized, so that applications would not expire, and employees took personal responsibility for hunting down missing files.

As a result, processing time was reduced and the number of people becoming citizens increased by 13.6%. Even response time to Congressional inquiries improved dramatically. Businesses employing the immigrants were motivated to get involved. They began giving paid time off for the ceremony and a money reward for achieving citizenship.

The Omaha office began getting requests from applicants in other offices to help them, and worked with the other offices to expedite the applications.

Instead of complaints and critical media coverage, the Omaha office now gets thank you notes and laudatory editorials.

"Our people are pleased with themselves and proud of their positions as government employees," said Jerry Heinauer, District Director,"They have become problem solvers in the true sense, and I am deeply grateful to them."


Speeding Up Adoption in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles court system, with over 50,000 children in foster care, and a backlog of 300 children ready for adoption, has found a way to speed up the adoption process and eliminate the backlog.

The Sara Berman Adoption Saturdays Program was responsible, and has earned a Public Service Excellence Award for Intergovernmental programs from the Public Employees Roundtable. Adoption Saturdays bring together Superior Court judges, court staff, attorneys, prospective parents, and Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services employees, all of whom volunteer their Saturday to"finalize" the adoption of a child who had previously been in foster care.

This last step in the process, the approval of the adoption by the judge, and is preceded by "a paperwork day," during which the many documents are obtained and reviewed. The three Adoption Saturdays that have been held were highly successful. On April 25, 1998, 130 children were adopted; on August 15, 1998, 275 children were adopted; and on December 12,1998, 375 children were adopted.

The three Adoption Saturdays are believed to be the largest adoption hearings ever recorded.

All of the participants in the Dependency Court system agree that a permanent, stable family is the greatest gift that can be given a child, and that delays in achieving permanence can have a lasting and damaging effect on children.

The process of legal finalization of an adoption can be fraught with red tape and bureaucratic delays. Birth certificates must be verified. Considerable paperwork must be prepared and filed by adoptive parents and attorneys. Although the ties to the birth Los Angeles Adoption parents may have been legally severed, children may remain n foster care for months or years while awaiting the finalization of a permanent home.

Judge Michael Nash, Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, had the idea of requesting private attorneys to volunteer to assist prospective parents. A partnership evolved between the Dependency Judicial Officers, the Department of Children and Family Services, Court staff, the Alliance for Childrenís Rights, the Public Counsel Law Center, the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher and scores of volunteer attorneys and others.

The Adoption Saturdays Program is named in memory of Sara Berman, director of the Department of Children and Family Services Adoptions Division, who worked tirelessly to place Los Angeles County at the forefront of adoption reform and helped create the vision for Adoptions Saturdays.


Oklahoma Invests in Inmate Training and Saves Money

Every day, inmates in Oklahomaís Assessment and Reception Center are learning a trade that will help them avoid criminal activity in the future. They are also saving the center a lot of construction and repair money. Those involved in this innovative undertaking won the recognition of their peers with the 1999 Public Service Excellence Award for a state program by the Public Employees Roundtable.

The goals of the Centerís program are twofold. First is for inmates to pass state examinations for licensing as apprentices, journeymen or contractors in the electrical, heating and air Conditioning, plumbing and other trades. An inmate is paired with a member of the Corrections Department staff, who is licensed in one of these fields, and prepared by the staff member to take a state licensing examination. They learn the trade through construction and maintenance work at the center.

The second goal is to leverage construction and repair funds, to get new buildings and better maintenance than would be possible without the licensed staff and apprentice inmates. With their work, the center saved $45,000 on a new wellness center, $16,000 on a new education building 26,800 on a new canteen building, $20, 000 on a new population management building, and more.

The centerís investment in training has also paid off for the inmates. So far, two have obtained contractor licenses, two have obtained journeyman licenses, and six are active apprentices.

The warden and upper administrationís commitment in allowing the inmates to be tested, and the hiring of staff, who hold contractor licenses, have been paramount to the success of the program. Currently, the center is working on a plan that would increase inmate access to state testing by allowing the offenders to be tested at the center.

Oklahomans value hard work, and believe that being able to work in the construction industry will help the inmates avoid returning to prison.


Virginia Offers a Way Out of the Dead End

"They teach you how to work as a team, that youíre not the only person," said Ronald White , 18 year old ChalleNGe cadet, "Youíve got to watch out for other people, too, and respect people too."

The "they" is the staff of Virginiaís Commonwealth ChalleNGe program ( the capital NG is for the National Guard, which runs the program). Twice a year, 100 high school drop-outs enter this military style training at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. They must be drug free, unemployed, 16 to 18 years old, healthy and not charged with or convicted of a felony.

The program is largely funded by the federal government, and has been selected to receive the 1999 Public Service Excellence Award for an intergovernmental program by the Public Employees Roundtable.

The 42 members of the staff are former military personnel, and, since 1994, they have run a physical fitness and education program for the resident teenagers. The cadets wear uniforms, live in barracks, eat in a military style dining hall, and receive a $5.00 per week living allowance. The program, from 5:30 am reveille to 10:00 p.m. lights out, is the same for males (who are 80% of the cadets)and females (20%).

The Director is a retired Colonel in the Virginia National Guard, holds a doctorate in education and over 30 years of public education experience. Cadets also undergo a rigorous academic program to prepare them for passing the GED test. The morning is spent in academic studies, while afternoons are devoted to physical or health classes, and in leadership training or teamwork activities.

Eighty two percent of the graduates have earned the GED diploma, contrasted with the 58% rate for the stateís adult education programs. Upon their graduation in five months, the cadets return to their homes, are assigned mentors, who to follow their progress and guide them for another 12 months, and the students receive a $400 stipend for this phase.

The state considers the program a success, and has continued to contribute its share of the cost. The $10,996 annual cost per enrolled cadet is far less than the cost of alternative programs or incarceration.

""If it wasnít for your program, I would still be living a dead-end life," wrote graduate Adam Barter, summing up the reaction of students and parents alike.


Safety Awareness for Seniors

"Whenever I go out walking and stop in a neighborhood store, I always engage the proprietor in a conversation thatís beyond a mere business transaction," says Cuyahoga county senior Frances Mckinnon. Ms. Mckinnon, who travels with her guide dog, Khaki, is legally blind. " I make

Sure that people in my neighborhood know me, as well as where I travel.

So, in case something happens, God forbid, someone will say, ëI know her!í"

Like many other seniors, both sighted and non-sighted, Ms. Mckinnion has picked up some valuable personal safety information from Cuyahoga Countyís Safety and Crime Awareness (SCAT) program, winner of the

1999 Public Excellence Awards in the County category from the Public Employees Roundtable. The SCAT program was developed by the countyí Department of Senior and Adult Services.

In collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Witness Victim Services, KeyCorp Bank, area police departments, and other senior services providers, the Department conducts at least twenty SCAT workshops annually to help seniors learn how to protect themselves against criminal activities targeted toward the elderly.

The SCAT program is an interactive, multi-media training program designed to enhance the safety of older persons. It combines the expertise of law enforcement, adult protective services, and medical, business and community leaders to produce a 2-hour education program. The program demonstrates simple, practical skill seniors develop and use to prevent their becoming victims of assaults, financial crimes and abuse.

To date, more than 2000 northeast Ohio seniors have participated in the Safety and Crime Awareness Program, which since its inception in 1996, has utilized talented senior volunteers as well as professionals in its presentations. Subjects touched upon are personal safety, banking and home repair scams, even Y2K scams in which the criminal tries to convince the victim to withdraw money from the bank because impending computer glitches will wipe out personal accounts.

Because of the SCAT program, 2000 seniors know how to protect themselves. Prior to SCAT training, 60% of seniors surveyed had an unrealistic attitude about their personal safety. After SCAT, there was a 24% increase in the level of safety awareness demonstrated by this group. Improvement was shown in both perception of safety, and the understanding of vulnerability.

SCAT serves seniors with a meager $17,182 annual budget, because of the senior volunteers and the wide range of experts who donate their time. At under $9 per person, it is a remarkable value, and effectively delivers the message that helps seniors in real life situations.


About the Public Employees Roundtable

The Public Employees Roundtable is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of organizations representing more than one million public employees. The coalition works together to educate the public about the quality of government employees and the value of the services they provide.

For more information about PER, Public Service Recognition Week, or Public Service Excellence Awards, contact Adam Bratton or Grace Williams at (202) 401-4352 or fax (202) 401-4433. Graceís e-mail is

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