No ReformWelfare reform, as conceived by the governor and...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 20, 1994

No Reform

Welfare reform, as conceived by the governor and strongly advocated -- surprisingly -- by the secretary of human resources, has been laid to rest at least temporarily.

The proposal put forth by Gov. William Donald Schaefer would have denied additional payments to mothers who conceived and gave birth to children while receiving aid to families with dependent children. Many view this as punitive, since children would be the ones adversely affected.

Secretary Carolyn Colvin would be better advised to lend her efforts to helping these women receive family planning in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Even so, according to data published earlier, only about 6 percent of AFDC mothers have additional children. And in all likelihood this proportion would be much lower had these women received family planning help.

True, the legislature enacted a doomed-to-failure bill establishing a pilot program that would cancel assistance to recipients failing to find employment or perform community service (whatever that is) after 18 months on aid.

As Kalman Hettleman, a knowledgeable former administrator in the public assistance field, pointed out in The Sun's Opinion * Commentary page of March 22, such endeavors have been tried in the past with a singular lack of success.

Even though hundreds of clients finished job training, employment was not available. Nor does this proposal take into consideration the many teen-age mothers who are left floundering with a responsibility that they are ill-equipped to meet.

A more constructive and certainly much more positive approach to welfare reform was espoused in Sara Engram's March 24 column: Upon application a family's situation would be thoroughly explored. It would be given counseling about family planning and a realistic course of action for getting off welfare.

Specialists in the field have in the past made similar recommendations, but these have never gotten off the launching pad.

Funding officials have little enthusiasm for such proposals, being wary of initial outlays for the costs of reduced case loads, skilled social workers and additional resources. Better to stick the thumb in a porous dike than to make permanent repairs.

Abner Kaplan

Baltimore

Benchmarking

The column by Neil Peirce, April 11, on the benchmarking of government describes the Oregon system as benchmarking borrowed from the corporate world. In fact what Oregon is doing is quite different in principle and probable outcome.

Corporate benchmarking (developed by Xerox) is finding the best practices anywhere and adopting their methods and quantitative achievements as your benchmark. Your new goals. This approach has produced unprecedented improvements in operations and customer satisfaction.

The Oregon so-called benchmark approach is goal-setting by the internal organization. The only thing new about it, as Mr. Peirce describes, is that the government agencies are focusing on outcomes instead of inputs. The state has enacted into law the goals established.

It sounds like progress, but I believe many will be disappointed. Internally set goals will not match those set by the corporate approach.

The main reason is that organizations have no sound basis for setting improvement goals when they don't know how they will achieve them.

True benchmarking bypasses this limitation. The very process of finding another organization that performs similar functions more effectively demonstrates that it can be done better and by how much.

This overcomes resistance to change. How can you argue with the facts? I see Oregon cultivating another bureaucratic morass. Corporate America has been shifting from this management by objectives approach because it doesn't work.

Thomas J. Cartin

Annapolis

Regional Business

In his April 2 column, "No Guts, No Regional Glory," Patrick Ercolano really missed a key opportunity to accurately reflect the facts about one of this region's most ambitious and worthwhile programs, the Greater Baltimore Alliance, the new economic development initiative founded by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

The facts are these. The alliance, founded only eight months ago, is the most successful regional economic development program Baltimore has known.

It is a unique partnership of the public, private and non-profit sectors, which have come together to promote the riches and resources of the metropolitan area. Its members are keenly aware that each jurisdiction's gain is the region's victory.

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