National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Conversations with America
1998 April/May Report

"Conversations with America" Continues to Get Results!

Wow, time really does fly by! As you probably know, the federal government has been making an extra special effort to engage in two-way dialogues with U.S. citizens, its partners, for a year. While we've come a long way, we know we still have far to go. What you must remember is that each and everyday we are working tenaciously to improve government services based on conversations we are having with you. As we said before, we value your opinions and believe that by working together we can "change government forever". Here are a few new examples of ways we're using information gathered from U.S. citizens to help make this happen:

In response to a request from a well-known Los Angeles Hispanic community health advocate, Rosario Vior, an FDA public affairs specialist conducted an hour-long Spanish language radio call-in program featuring information on food labels and other associated food issues of concern to the Hispanic community.

The FDA is undertaking an educational effort to help manufacturers and entrepreneurs in Tennessee meet food safety and labeling requirements. The courses will include topics such as starting a food business and appropriate handling of low-acid and acidified foods. These courses were developed in response to requests from small, start-up food manufacturers and entrepreneurs in Tennessee.

The Aquaculture Partnership (TAP) was formed in response to feedback the FDA received from a May 1998 grass roots meeting in Jackson, Mississippi. TAP serves to enhance the communication between the FDA and industry, as well as to coordinate efforts to ensure the wholesomeness and safety of farm-raised seafood. Several TAP members were speakers at the 1999 World Aquaculture Society meeting in March.

From October 1998 through March 1999, the Philadelphia Health and Human Services regional director sponsored seven meetings with local health and human service providers to request their input for a design of a more coordinated system of health and related social services for Philadelphia's families. The director learned from these meetings that health representatives wanted HHS to build a coalition of partners committed to improving the health status and quality of life of Philadelphia residents. Due to this feedback, a core group of partners has been assembled to work on several goals of prime interest to HHS and the city. This initiative will serve as a laboratory for field testing and guiding the Administration's national policy in several key areas.

In 1998, the Department of Education sponsored three chat rooms for community college state directors nationwide. Each chat room activity involved approximately 70 directors and their staffs. The chat rooms enabled these college representatives to converse with Department of Education officials on public policy initiatives affecting two year colleges. Such conversations assisted officials with improving information that is directly shared with states while improving their policy development activities.

The EPA used input from a December 1998 Region 4 meeting with secretaries of state from 8 southeastern states to revise operating procedures and strengthen the state-EPA regulatory partnership.

In January and February, the EPA held conferences on "Protecting Public Health and the Environment Through Innovative Approaches toward Compliance". The agency used stakeholder discussions at the conferences to identify key issues requiring additional public feedback. Based on this feedback, the EPA published a March 2 Federal Register Notice soliciting comments on a series of questions about the direction of EPA's enforcement and compliance assurance efforts.

The EPA held a workshop in Guam on Clean Water Action Plan implementation in February. This meeting provided the agency an opportunity to receive feedback on the implementation status and problems. In turn, the EPA used this feedback to further promote the Clean Water Action Plan implementation and target specific areas with technical assistance.

The Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain Project (YMP), in Nevada, hosted informational meetings in 1999, in three counties, to discuss the Viability Assessment for the Characterization Project, and the its Environmental Impact Statement. These meetings were announced via local newspapers, mailings and public service announcements. They were held to ensure that project information is shared with the public and to give attendees a voice in the project's process. At two of the three meetings over 100 people participated. To ensure an on-going two-way dialogue on the Yucca Mountain Project, YMP maintains a user-friendly web site to collect feedback, and offers over 400 interactive tours a year of its facility. By encouraging public interaction and public opinion on projects such as YMP, DOE is working to ensure that its projects receive the public support necessary for efficient and safe operation.

Lets take a look at who has said they are listening to you in April and May.

  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Treasury
Independent Agencies
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Defense Logistics Agency
  • Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Archives and Records Service
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
  • Railroad Retirement Board
While two-way conversations can take place in many forms, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government has categorized Conversations with America into four areas. They are as follows.
  • Face-to-Face Conversations
  • Electronic Conversations
  • Written Conversations
  • Telephone Conversations
Here's a sampling of current and future conversations that are happening all across America. Keep in mind that once you've perused the following information, you can find more detailed facts, dates, locations and contacts on specific conversations by visiting our website at Once there, click on Conversations with America, then click on the agencies that are of interest to you.

Face to Face Conversations

In April, the Secretary of Transportation and other senior department officials will visit 16 cities between Massena, New York and Brownsville, Texas. They will meet with the traveling public, transportation industry officials, DOT regional staff, state and local officials and others interested in transportation issues. The goals of these visits are to promote the exchange of information and ideas; to improve transportation services and operations to all Americans regardless of where they live or work.

In April, ACF's Region V and the Menominee Tribe participated in a joint meeting to discuss the Menominee Tribe Child Support Enforcement proposal to operate their own child support program.

The EPA's Region 8 senior management team will meet with the heads of regional state health and environment agencies and their staffs in April, to engage in conversations about progress, problem-solving and partnership building surrounding very specific environmental issues.

Sponsored jointly by the American Association of Health Plans, AHCPR, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Fifth Annual building Bridges Conference, " The Health Care Puzzle: Using Research to Bridge the Gap Between Perception and Reality", will be held in April in Chicago. This conference will give attendees an opportunity to dialogue with leaders in health services research, academia, government, and managed-care organizations on issues surrounding the making of health care policy in America.

The FDA will host grassroots meetings in April to discuss and receive feedback on changes in FDA medical device regulations. FDA wants to hear the views of medical device manufacturers on changes that are aimed at streamlining the collection of registration and listing data, improving the accuracy and quality of the data in the system, and decreasing the time it takes manufacturers to register and list their devices.

In April, the EPA will host a public meeting with the EPA Task Force on Innovative Approaches and external stakeholders. EPA will use feedback from this meeting to develop draft recommendations for reinvention activities designed to support the efforts of the regulated communities to achieve baseline compliance with environmental regulations and the fostering of environmental stewardship.

The FAA Northwest Regional Administrator and Airports Division Manager will meet with approximately 350 attendees at the FAA Northwest Mountain Regional Airports Conference in April. FAA will encourage feedback from its customers through a dialogue of questions and answers.

On April 10, in the lobby of the JFK Building in Boston, MA, Diane LeBlanc, NARA's Northeast Regional Administrator, and Kim Ainsworth, the Executive Director of the Greater Boston Federal Executive Boar, greeted members of the general public and addressed a variety of government services, including those offered by NARA.

In April, the customers and users of AHCPPR's research findings and products will discuss how to work together in the area of outcomes research. This meeting is a component of the AHCPR's strategic planning process. This is one of several meetings of its kind slated for April and May.

The NARA's Office of the Federal Register staff will entertain questions and comments following a free workshop in April entitled, "The Federal Register: What and How to Use it."

The PBGC will host a meeting in April with retirees who were covered by the Diecast Corporation, UAW AFL-CIO Retirement Income Plan to discuss the plan's approximately $6.3 shortfall, and what happens when PBGC takes over. PBGC will use feedback from this meeting to improve their customer services.

In April, the EPA will host the Aspen Institute Mexico-United States Border Dialogue to establish a two-way conversation to call attention to and resolve the environmental and socio-economic issues along the Mexico-US border.

Throughout April and May, HCFA staff will conduct focus groups with special needs populations (including but not limited to African- Americans, Hispanics, Vision Impaired, Rural Low- Education, and the Dually Eligible). The purpose of these groups is to determine the best ways in which to present and distribute Medicare information to specific population groups.

In April, the new Saint Lawrence Seaway Administrator will host an interactive meeting with leaders of the Great Lakes/Seaway maritime industry to address the Seaway shipping concerns of the industry leaders, and to discuss trade development initiatives and suggestions to preclude Y2K problems in the industry.

EPA's Region III administrator meets annually with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry's environmental committee, an important EPA stakeholder group. The next meeting will be in April to discuss air quality standards and planning, environmental legislation in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C, sustainability and related land use issues, and automobile emission standards.

As part of an on-going effort, the EPA holds Ships/Ports Public Consultative process meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to collect input on emission reduction strategies and related issues associated with the marine vessel sector operating off the coast of the greater Los Angeles area. The next meeting is scheduled for late April or early May.

DOT senior officials, in partnership with the EPA, will sponsor the Transportation Modeling Improvement Program Annual meeting in April. This outreach effort is designed as an opportunity to dialogue with metropolitan planners and transportation engineers on freight projects, freight database issues and other related issues.

The Director of the NIH Office of Community Liaison will meet in April with the community Liaison Council, a group of 25 representatives of community associations, to discuss NIH master plan activities and to receive a briefing on the NIH power plant expansions. The purpose of this meeting to ensure that NIH's building program and environmental management is acceptable to the community and consistent with the NIH Master Plan, developed in association with the community.

The 1999 FAA Central Region Airports Conference will host its annual meeting in April with an expected attendance of 400 persons. Each year, the conference has grown in popularity because of the excellent dialogue and exchange of information. Ample time is allotted for questions and answers during the sessions. HHhhh

In May, several high ranking EPA officials will participate in a working group on Sound Management of Chemicals (SMOC). The SMOC working group meets with stakeholders in industry, non-governmental organizations and state/local government annually to exchange information on CEC initiatives and development of Regional Action Plans. The working group will meet in public sessions to update stakeholders, and hosts discussions on the activities of the workgroups, including the Mercury Implementation Task Force, DDT Implementation Task Force, Cholordane Implementation Task Force, and the PCB Implementation Task force.

The Regional Director of NIH, Regional Health Administrator, members of their staff and representatives from the U.S. Department of Education will host a day of presentations and dialogues with representatives from community based organizations, health departments and other interested parties that work with youth. This initiative known as "Teen Power: Building Healthy Communities Through Strong Youth" will offer an opportunity to share information, establish partnerships and explore ways to help youth deal with problems of teen pregnancy, alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse, suicide and sexually transmitted diseases.

FDA will host three public forums entitled, "Public Input on Public Health, FDA Listens to You, a Town Hall Meeting" in May. The goals of these forums are to listen to concerns, questions, and advice from consumers, and provide and opportunity for them to engage in an open dialogues with senior FDA policy makers on specific health care concerns. Forums will be held on May 12 in Oakland, California; May 14 in Los Angeles, California and May 17 in Portland, Oregon. Participants may pre-register if desired, and are encouraged to submit topics in advance to ensure that appropriate resource people are on hand to hear concerns and respond to questions.

The EPA will host a forum with 19 Pueblo Governors to discuss environmental challenges facing Indian country in the state of New Mexico in May. This forum provides an opportunity to discuss environmental challenges and priorities facing tribal governments. The dialogue creates a better understanding from a local perspective of impact and barriers to implement federal environmental programs in Indian country.

Electronic Conversations

Secretary of Education Richard Riley will host his monthly Satellite Town Meeting on April 20 and May 18. These are live interactive teleconferences concentrating on community efforts to improve education programs. The April broadcast will focus on the policies and practices needed to assure that a well-qualified teacher leads every classroom. The May Town Meeting will feature a panel of guests, including educators, scientists, community leaders and parents who will discuss ways to encourage schools to teach challenging mathematics and science subjects using hands-on project-based and theme-based approaches, such as space studies. A satellite town meeting is held monthly as a means of engaging concerned educators, parents, business, religious, and community leaders across the country in a dialogue with the Secretary of Education and his guest to improve teaching and learning throughout the country.

On a continuous basis, EPA collects comments from users of the EPA web site on a variety of environmental issues. Topics are extremely varied, and range, for example, from questions about term paper topics to regulatory issues; ideas to improve the environment, how to find information on the web site, and how to improve the site itself.

In April, ACF will sponsor Head Start 2002, a dialogue broadcast with the Region IV Hub Director and guest audiences, which include Head Start Directors and staff, state child care and health providers. The dialogue will focus on innovative strategies to increase health insurance coverage for the eligible, yet uncovered children in the southeast.

In April, FDA Commissioner Dr. Jane Henney will host a national interactive television program with consumers, health providers and industry representatives to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by FDA's modernization. This discussion will include broad, agency-wide issues, such as the Commissioner's priorities for the 21st century, strengthening FDA's science base, progress in implementing the FDA Modernization Act (FDAMA), and improving processes for communicating risk-based information.

April 13 through May 5, the Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) Office of Pipeline Safety is holding an Internet discussion forum in connection with a rulemaking on Natural Gas Gathering Lines. Public input will assist RSPA in evaluating the risk these lines may pose, and decide whether and how to modify the regulations that manage the risk. Anyone with internet is welcome to participate in the dialogues.

In an on-going effort, the NARA welcomes the public to send electronically to their education e-mail box their thoughts about NARA educational materials, workshops, or services. The e-mail address is or

America Reads is sponsoring a free National Satellite Teleconference presented by the Department of Education and the University of Vermont. The broadcast will include different tutoring models and dynamic panelists. The teleconference will bring together reaching professionals from colleges and universities, community-based organizations and schools from across the country. Viewers will be able to interact with national experts and organizational leadership to design more effective tutoring programs.

Written Conversations

Comment cards are available in all NARA's public use areas of their facilities, which can be used to submit written comments, complaints, suggestions, and compliments regarding NARA services, service delivery, and products. If a customer requests a written response, then one is furnished.

Telephone Conversations

NARA welcomes anyone with complaints of fraud, waste, or abuse in NARA programs and operation including mismanagement or violations of law, rules or regulations. NARA employees or contractors may contact the Office of the Inspector General hotline and report such abuses.

The National School-to-Work Office (NTSWO) will conduct two follow-up conference calls with team leaders who attended the National School-to-Work Institute on career majors. The purpose of these calls is to solicit input on the plan of action the NSTWO proposes to take based on the information gained from the initial first call.

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