Friday, June 16, 2006

Guv'ment Propinquity

See, I'm away from my computer all day and I miss all the important news; like this. Voici:

The Rendell administration wants to sell a high-rise state government office building in downtown Philadelphia -- and possibly one in Pittsburgh -- to save money by moving the operations into leased space.

Unloading the 18-story Philadelphia State Office Building could save the state about $52 million over the next two decades, said General Services Secretary James Creedon...
OK, "important news" is a relative term.

But, I'd like you to consider, for a moment if you would, how much space the City of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Local Government and related authorities take up. Off the top of my head, there's the City-County Building, the County Office Building, the Morgue, the Old County Jail, the New County Jail (and courts), the Health Department Building(s), 414 Smithfield Street, 611 2nd Avenue, 100 Ross Street, 200 Ross Street, 240 4th Avenue, and space in the Old Alcoa Building (or the "Regional Enterprise Tower," for you neophytes). Now, there are other service buildings that I'm not counting and I'm sure there's several that I'm forgetting, but the principle is the same: the City and County governments take up a lot of space.

So, here's an idea: put all the city and the county bureaucrats under one roof.

Now, while, I realize that this will make us all a convenient target for domestic terrorists, I think that it provides a couple of significant benefits.

First: it'll cut down on property that the City and County owns. Granted, I doubt that the Morgue, the City-County Building, the County Office Building, the Old Jail, or the New Jail (and courts) could be eliminated, but that still leaves a whole hell of a lot of office space that could be reallocated more efficiently and previously tax exempt property could be added back to the roles. It would also eliminate, or at least create marginal efficiencies for, maintenance, utilities, and overhead. Still, this is not the primary reason to undertake such an endeavor.

Secondly, from a customer/public service standpoint, it would be easier to centralize a whole bunch of services in one place than to constantly shuffle the public from building to building. The current situation is like a marathon DMV.

Third, and most importantly, it is easier for bureaucrats to talk to each other when they are in continual contact with one another. It's called the Law of Propinquity or Propinquity Effect. In essence, you are more likely to talk to people that you see every day than those that you don't. Ergo, there's a better chance that good ideas will be passed to people during the course of casual conversation AND that the lower rung bureaucrats will talk to each other about what they're doing, hopefully resulting in new insights and ideas.

This, by the way, was part of the logic behind putting an ass load of non-profits in the Old Alcoa Building. [Not a joke, 'cept for the "ass load" comment.]

Anyway, I think this would be an interesting idea... although I have no desire to see people from the City's Forestry Division every day, let alone TALK to them.

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