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February 9-10 Infrastructure Workshop: Renewing American Infrastructure

On February 9 and 10, Common Good, Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and Stanford’s Global Projects Center will co-host a workshop titled “Renewing American Infrastructure” at Stanford. 

Issues:

New investment in American infrastructure has become a centerpiece of the new Trump administration, and was one issue on which both candidates agreed during the election. As the administration prepares to roll out its initiative on this issue, there are a number of large, unanswered questions. How will resources for new infrastructure be generated, and at what scale? What will the role of the private sector be? How can we streamline and reduce the regulatory burden faced by infrastructure projects, so that they can be completed in a timely and cost-effective fashion? How do we de-politicize the resource allocation process, and ensure fair access to funding? What is the correct balance between the federal government and the states in overseeing projects? And finally, how do we make sure that projects incorporate new technologies, both for the sake of sustainability, and to integrate complex infrastructure environments?

Agenda:

Thursday, February 9

1:30 to 4:30 PM

Panel 1: Financing a New Federal Infrastructure Initiative

  • Mary Peters, former US Secretary of Transportation
  • David Hayes, Stanford Law School
  • Daniel Flanagan, Infrastructure Investment Services
  • Ross Israel, QIC
  • Bob Hellman, American Infrastructure Partners
  • Moderator: Philip K. Howard, Common Good

Friday, February 10

9:00 AM to 12:30 PM

Panel 2: Streamlining the Regulatory Burden

  • Keith Hennessey, Bechtel
  • John Porcari, former US Deputy Secretary of Transportation
  • Ed Krapels, Anbaric
  • Philip K. Howard, Common Good
  • Moderator: Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University

Panel 3: Ensuring Fairness in Resource Allocation

  • Patrick Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Dan Carol, Georgetown University
  • David Spector, Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise
  • Moderator: Ray Levitt, Stanford University

1:30 to 4:30 PM

Panel 4: Incentivizing Innovation and Sustainability 

  • Scott Zuchorski, Fitch Ratings
  • Anthony Ferrari, Crimson Infrastructure
  • Stephen Beatty, KPMG
  • Moderator: Michael Bennon, Stanford University

Panel 5: Policy Recommendations

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CIVIL SERVICE SYSTEM, IN ITS CURRENT FORM, DEPRIVES PRESIDENT OF EXECUTIVE POWER

Press release (pdf)

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Wall Street Journal: The President’s Right to Say ‘You’re Fired’

Read the essay here.

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Philip Howard in the WSJ, American Interest: Current Civil Service System Is Unconstitutional

Both sides of the aisle recognize that the civil service system is terminally ossified and needs to be rebuilt. But how do we get rid of the current, bloated bureaucratic mess in the face of union power and public indifference?



In today's Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard argues that the civil service system, as currently structured, is unconstitutional and could be rebuilt by an executive order that honors principles of neutral hiring and fosters a culture of excellence and accountability. The full essay in the American Interest, with compelling constitutional history on the importance of executive authority, is here.

From the Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The President’s Right to Say ‘You’re Fired’":

President Trump wants to overhaul the civil service. Even ardent liberals agree it needs to be rebuilt, but past efforts at reform have withered in Congress under union power and public indifference. There’s a more direct path: Mr. Trump can repudiate civil service in its current form as a violation of the Constitution’s mandate that ‘the executive power shall be vested in a President.’… Because of civil-service laws passed by Congress many years ago, the president has direct authority over a mere 2% of the federal workforce. The question is whether those laws are constitutional. Does Congress have the power to tell the president that he cannot terminate inept or insubordinate employees? The answer, I believe, is self-evident. A determined president could replace the civil-service system on his own, by executive order. The move would doubtless be challenged in court, but it would likely be upheld, especially if the new framework advances legitimate goals, honors principles of neutral hiring and is designed to foster a culture of excellence.

Read the full op-ed here.

From the American Interest essay, “Civil Service Reform: Reassert the President’s Constitutional Authority”:

In 2014 the Partnership for Public Service issued a report describing civil service as ‘a relic of a bygone era,’ and called for ‘a new civil service framework,’ including ending the presumption of lifetime careers. Like other good government reports, however, it treated accountability with kid gloves. But once the power of accountability is restored, designing a new civil service system requires no genius. The basic elements are: 1) neutral hiring, without the endless red tape of the current system; 2) a safety net to treat public employees fairly if they are let go; and 3) a neutral body (perhaps the current Merit System Protection Board) with responsibility to guard against unfairness.

Read the full essay here.

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American Interest: Civil Service Reform: Reassert the President’s Constitutional Authority

Read the essay here.

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Trump Administration and Senate Democrats Endorse Need to Streamline Infrastructure Approvals

Yesterday the Trump administration embraced elements of Common Good's infrastructure plan, in an executive order aimed at streamlining approvals. The order echoes our earlier proposal to give the chair of the CEQ the responsibility to speed up important projects by designating certain projects “high priority” based on “consideration of the project's importance to the general welfare, value to the Nation, [and] environmental benefits[.]”

The White House press release describing the executive order referred to the findings of our “Two Years, Not Ten Years” report, stating that “[a]ccording to one study, our antiquated power [grid] wastes the equivalent of 200 coal-fired power plants, water pipes leak trillions of gallons of water, and gridlock on roads and railroads wastes hundreds of billions annually.”



Senate Democrats also endorsed the need to streamline approvals in their blueprint, released yesterday, to spend $1T on infrastructure.

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Right of Way Magazine Reprints “Billions for Red Tape”

For the cover story of their January/February 2017 issue, Right of Way magazine reprinted the majority of Common Good’s May 2016 report “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project.”

“Billions for Red Tape” shows that improved permitting for Gateway—a $24 billion infrastructure plan to alleviate a critical bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor—would save taxpayers billions and avoid significant environmental harm. It proposes approval mechanisms to reduce the cost and enhance the environmental benefits of the project.

Click here to access the Right of Way cover story; click here to access the full report; and click here to access the accompanying press release.

The report supplements an earlier Common Good report released in September 2015: “Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals.”

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Philip Howard in the Washington Post: How President Trump Could Successfully Cut Red Tape

Here's Philip Howard's lead op-ed in the Washington Post on what's needed to finally tame the red tape monster.



Click the picture below to watch an animated video Common Good created to accompany Howard’s op-ed:

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Fortune Magazine Cover Story on Red Tape Features Philip Howard, Common Good

The cover story of this week’s Fortune magazine—“The Red Tape Conundrum” by Brian O'Keefe—highlights the work of Philip Howard and Common Good. The article’s sub-heading reflects the substantive connection to Common Good: How the wrong kind of regulation is strangling business—and what to do about it.

“It may well be the biggest bogeyman in business—bigger, perhaps, than even taxes: We’re talking, of course, about red tape,” the article begins. “The idea that burdensome and overly complicated government regulation is strangling growth is almost as old as commerce itself. But right now the hue and cry from the business community is louder than at just about any time in recent memory… In a recent survey by Deloitte, North American chief financial officers named new, burdensome regulation as the No. 2 threat to their business, behind only the possibility of a recession.”

The article then explores key questions: How can we be sure that our regulatory framework promotes innovation and fosters growth while at the same time protecting workers and consumers? Can we fix the current system or do we need to start over? How much is business at fault for the very excesses that companies themselves bemoan? And, finally, is there anything anybody can do to stop it?

“The rulemaking machinery—just like the law-making system—is geared toward pushing out new regulations, not removing them,” continues the article. “‘I kind of think of the regulatory issue as people basically saying in their own varying ways, Who’s in charge here?’ says (Michael) Mandel (chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute).”

“Philip K. Howard has spent more than two decades waging a campaign against red tape,” the article continues. “… he has written four books assailing over-legalization and founded a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization called Common Good to advocate reform—enlisting in his projects retired politicians from both the left and the right, including former senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels… Howard’s belief is that our laws have gotten too precise for such a complex world and that our attempts to dictate every aspect of human behavior through rulemaking are only bogging us down. The system, he argues, is unadaptable. Similar to Mandel, Howard believes that too many different authorities means that nobody is in charge… In Howard’s mind, it’s time to go to a clean sheet of paper and rethink our entire approach… ‘You can’t reform this system,’ says Howard. ‘You have to rewrite it. That’s the lesson of history.’”

“(Matt) Harris (managing director at Bain Capital Ventures) echoes Philip K. Howard in suggesting that we may need a more radical approach. The best way to respond to our increasingly complex world is to make our rules simpler, he suggests, not more detailed. Regulations are now written in an attempt to legislate every imaginable action by individuals on every imaginable subject—an impossible task. ‘I think the whole thing needs to be rethought and boiled back to more of a principles-based set of detailed prescriptions on how everything can work,’ says Harris.”

From beginning to end, the cover story reverberates with Common Good’s philosophy about and solutions to this critical issue and underscores the necessity of our new campaign, joined by Sen. Bradley and Gov. Daniels among others, to overhaul government.

Click here to read the full Fortune piece.

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Common Good to Help Illinois Slash Red Tape

UPDATE: The News-Gazette has written an editorial in support of Illinois’ red tape initiative. An excerpt:

To demonstrate the seriousness of his commitment, Gov. Rauner brought lawyer and author Philip Howard to the news conference announcing this initiative. Since writing the book "The Death of Common Sense" in the early 1990s, Howard has been a consistent crusader for common sense regulation, which ought not be confused with little or no regulation.

In his original book and since then, Howard presented a persuasive case demonstrating how harmful and suffocating ill-conceived regulations can be to the common good. To the extent this is a problem in Illinois, it must be addressed.

In that context, it's good Gov. Rauner has taken this step. It'll be even better if it's successful.

Click here to read the full editorial.

ORIGINAL POST:

On October 17, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced an initiative to cut red tape across Illinois' regulatory agencies, quoting Common Good Chair Philip Howard on the urgent necessity. His administration has asked Common Good to act as informal adviser to this effort. The Governor seeks to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade and save taxpayers and business owners at least four million pages in paperwork. The initial report is due next May.

Click here to read a press release on the initiative from the Office of the Governor.

Click here to read Governor Rauner's executive order creating the Illinois Competitiveness Council.

Click here to read a Chicago Daily Herald article about the initiative.

And click the image below to watch Philip Howard’s remarks at the launch event:

 

 

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