Innovations Awards Finalists Deliver Pitches at Forum

May 25, 2006
Dan Crane

Representatives from several of the nation’s most cutting edge civic and government programs told their stories Thursday before the National Selection Committee of the 2006 Innovations in American Government Awards. The awards, which recognize and promote excellence and creativity in the public sector, are administered by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School of Government in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

Committee members, including Chairman David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership, listened intently as each of the 18 finalists delivered oral presentations at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Presenters included Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, Washington D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Jonathan B. Perlin, Undersecretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Perlin spoke eloquently about the VA’s new Health Information Technology program, which integrates an electronic health records system, improving both safety and efficiency. “In America today, one out of every seven hospitalizations occurs because patients don’t have access to previous records. One out of every six-and-a-half hospitalizations is complicated by a medication error,” he said. “One out of every five lab tests are needlessly repeated because previous studies are not accessible. But thanks to a rigorous system of performance measurement and improvement supported by VHA’s electronic health records technology, veterans cared for by VHA now receive, when referred to us, the best care anywhere.”

Ramsey discussed how the D.C. Police Department’s gay and lesbian liaison unit has addressed a serious problem in Washington.

“In the District of Columbia, the majority of our hate crimes are [related to] sexual orientation,” he said. “In dealing with these various groups in the District of Columbia – the gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender groups – I found that there was indeed a great deal of hostility between that community and the police department.” Ramsey reported that the liaison unit has made significant headway in both identifying and aiding victims and increasing sensitivity to the rights of the gay, lesbian and transgender communities. Sergeant Brett A. Parson, also presenting, stated that the D.C. Police have also made substantial progress in designing outreach programs targeted to at-risk youth.

Other nominees for the 2006 Innovations in American Government Awards are: Charter Schools Initiative, city of Indianapolis, Indiana; the Supportive Housing Pilots Initiative, state of Connecticut; Green Tier, state of Wisconsin; Teaming, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; New Alliance Task Force, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Five-Year Affordable Housing Production, city of San Jose, California; Grass Roots Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; HomeBase, city of New York, New York; Generations of Hope, state of Illinois; Dirigo Health Reform, state of Maine; America’s Army Game, U.S. Army, Department of Defense; Land Bank, Genesee County, Michigan; eCityGov Alliance, city of Mercer Island, Washington; Municipal Automated Vehicle Sharing Program, city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Promising Practices Network, state of Missouri.

Seven award winners will be selected later this month, and will be announced July 10 at a dinner ceremony in Washington, D.C., during the 2006 Excellence in Government Conference.

Photos by Doug Gavel

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Charles Ramsey and Brett Parson image

Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MDPC) Charles Ramsey speaks before the selection committee with Sergeant Brett Parson, commanding officer of the MDPC's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.