August 23, 2013 By Wayne Hanson
The San Mateo Daily Journal today ran an article about an initiative in nearby San Carlos, Calif., to pay for team clothes for city employees. The idea, proposed by Councilman Matt Grocott, would cost the city a maximum of $25,000 startup cost and $4,200 annually for new hires.
San Carlos, you may remember, was the city that emerged from the recession in pretty good shape by doing some very innovative things like outsourcing its police department to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, folding its fire department into a regional fire service and outsourcing parks maintenance to a private company. The city saved a lot of money and maintained service levels according to then-Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.
Buying team clothes to build city employee morale sounds like a good idea, but the idea is half baked. First, make the clothes cool, and sell them to residents and city employees as well, like Raiders or 49ers apparel. (Actually, the Raiders' leather-helmet wearing guy with an eye patch is just lame, but that's the opinion of a 49ers fan.)
The San Carlos team jacket looks kind of wimpy. Tan with a round San Carlos logo. Instead, think San Jose Sharks logo -- A great white shark crushing a hockey stick was huge, and now parents in Finland are buying them for their kids.
And the city motto: "City of Good Living"? Come on, you can do better than that, especially for a team motto. Something catchy and hard edged that the kids might like. Something like "San Carlos Dangerous," or "The San Jose Sharks are our Neighbors."
Like most half-baked ideas, San Carlos team clothes needs more time in the oven. Hold a logo contest for artists, hold a motto contest for would-be song lyricists, get some local fashion designers to come up with something cool and get the public to vote for the best. Crowdsource this team apparel thing and make it an economic development platform -- only don't call it that! And for Saint Carlos' sake, don't make the residents pay for an assisted care uniform.
Wayne Hanson is editorial director of Digital Communities. His interest is in the future of communities and the elements necessary to create those places in which we would most want to live and work. What makes an ideal community, and how can civic leaders help their cities, counties and regions evolve to better meet old necessities and new opportunities?
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.