Monday, April 5, 2010

"Challenges for Change" and the VT Fish and Wildlife Dept

This morning I attended a meeting of Lamoille County Legislators including Speaker of the House, Chap Smith. The focus was on the "Challenges for Change" report that is being hotly debated in the Legislature. As Chap explained it, they are looking to reduce the state general fund budget by 30 million this year through structural improvements while improving outcomes now and in the future. Vt Fish and Wildlife has been tapped to be a first wave charter unit. See below copied from the report for what that means:

We have identified seven “first wave” charter units:
• Tax Department
• Department of Information and Innovation
• Fish and Wildlife Department
• Department of Liquor Control
• Department of Labor
• Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation
• Buildings and General Services

Each Charter Unit offers Vermonters the benefits of a “better deal.” These along with the
individual legislation requirements of each charter unit are listed below. More charter
units may be added prior to the next quarterly report; these will not be dependent on new

The Secretary of Administration will grant appropriate administrative flexibility to each
charter unit to allow that unit to more effectively achieve its goals. These flexibilities
may include but are not limited to relief from bulletin 3.5 (contracting procedures),
flexibility in part time and seasonal hires, exceptions from requirements to use certain
BGS services, and latitude in website and marketing material development. Where
flexibilities prove effective, they may be extended to other units; where appropriate,
flexibility can also be withdrawn.

Some of the General Fund relief from charter units will actually come from an increase in
entrepreneurial revenue; examples are more paid visits to state campsites and better
collection of taxes owed.

Department of Fish and Wildlife
Vermonters will get:
• Additional revenues into the state’s economy based on increased outdoor
opportunities for families and people of all ages, as measured by license sales
and the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated
• Improved public safety as measured by the number of shooting-related deaths
and injuries.
• Improved shooting and hunter education as measured by number of graduates
from hunter education and conservation camp programs.
• Improved access to and safety of public and private shooting facilities as
measured by the number of publicly accessible shooting ranges in the state.
• Better licensing, registration, and permitting services, as measured by reduced
turnaround times and applicant satisfaction as measured by surveys.

The primary initiatives the Agency will undertake:
• Develop a more effective, streamlined process for selling Department licenses
and permits
• Generate additional revenues by promoting the sale of Department
merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, hats, books, posters, patches and stamps
• Reduce fee-for-space costs
• If feasible, collaborate with VT Lottery Commission to develop new mutually
beneficial products

Legislation required:
• Allow permanent licenses to be sold by Point of Sale license agents [Title 10,
Chapter 105, Section 4255 ( c )]
• Change the amount a Point of Sale license agent can charge for a lost license
to $1.50 [Title 10, Chapter 105, Section 4261 (a) and (b)]

My take is this looks pretty good - if they can pull it off. Unfortunately the Department does not have a great record of listening to it's people in the field. Many are burnt out form endless committees and planning efforts that don't get implemented. I suggested to Speaker Smith that key house committee chairs pull in a select group of lower level workers and 1st line supervisors and work with them on recommendations for improvements. That way the ideas get to the decision makers before they are filtered and watered down. Still give the upper management a chance to comment. The premise is the closer to the work you are the better you know what works and what doesn't work.
The 2011/12 budget deficit is a crisis. The Chinese symbols for crisis are danger and opportunity. Let's hope the opportunity to improve our fish, wildlife, and habitat is realized and the danger is dodged.


  1. This from Tom Evslin, the chief technology officer and the architect of the Challenges for Change project for the Douglas administration. He distributed this introduction to the Challenges and a summary of the proposal through his blog “Fractals of Change.”

    If you want to weigh in on these ideas, this is the time. The legislature plans to be in session for about another month and committees of jurisdiction are already holding hearings on the various ideas. Many do require legislation. The Vermont legislature is very open so you can be heard there. You can also talk to your local legislators, of course. Just want to email a comment? Whatever is sent to will get the attention of both legislators and the executive branch.

    There will also be a joint (executive and legislative branches) public hearing on the Challenges on Tuesday, April 6, in the state house in Montpelier; that’s our chance to listen and another chance for you to talk. Speakers will be limited to two minutes to give everyone a chance to be heard. Written comments (which can be longer) are acceptable as well.

  2. You can also check out for their outdoor recreation and sports products.