I was in Las Vegas yesterday and spent a few minutes with Tad McDowell, Director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Tad has a lot of experience having come from the University of Nebraska.
He was telling me about draconian budget cuts brought on by the recession and the fact that he no longer really had a “transportation” department since his bus operation was cut out last year. He didn’t feel too badly about the cuts, because he felt his department was doing well providing parking services for the campus on a shoestring. He would like to do more, but he noted that there was always plenty of parking, and as a resource for the university, it was well tended.
I got to thinking that maybe all levels of government, and non-government organizations might use a good dose of budget cuts. When times are flush, we have a tendency to believe we need larger offices, more staff, and fancy tools to do our mission. Then a phenomena knows, particularly in the military, as “mission creep” often sets in.
Let’s say an organization was originally set up to build widgets, but before we know it it is running the national widget association, traveling world wide promoting widget manufacturers in other countries, joining widget review boards, setting up training programs for widget manufacturers, setting standards for widgets, and the list goes on. Suddenly, we decide that widgets must be made available to people in rural areas (who never wanted any in the first place), that special trucks need to be designed to carry widgets when its hot (or cold) even though widgets, it seems, don’t care about the climate. In the end, do we really make any better widgets by getting involved in all these programs? More often than not, the answer is ‘no’.
Tad didn’t really put it this way, but I got the impression that he was comfortable with his reduced program. His eight employees are using technology to do their jobs more efficiently. They are providing jobs for students to handle most interfaces with other students (office, enforcement, etc). He was building a new garage, just finishing another, and noted proudly that even with the reduced revenue, he had a sizable seven figure reserve.
He was working on programs that didn’t require a lot of resources. They are in contact with local transportation organizations to start setting up a program for reduced student rates on local buses, a new transportation center is going in where the buses will drop off their fares, he is in constant coordination with the Thomas Mack center, a large arena on campus to provide parking for events. He doesn’t have to oversee the parking, just rent the spaces and ensure they are available, particularly if the Runnin Rebels are doing well.