News report draws inaccurate picture
In the recently released MSNBC news story, reported on p. 17 of February 2008 American City & County, New Mexico is shown as being fourth worst when bridges are listed 24 months past inspection in the main story. The [misunderstood] fact is that New Mexico has more than 1,200 culverts that are on a 48-month inspection cycle. The 48-month bridge inspection cycle was worked out with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on culvert structures that are deemed low-risk and very slow to change. Culverts that support traffic for 20 feet or more are defined as bridges per FHWA definition.
[For culverts,] 24 months does not mean late! In the MSNBC back-up charts, New Mexico was 0.7 percent late on bridge inspections in 2005 and 2006. Late is not the same as “past 24 months.” The 17.6 percent number really has little meaning, as NMDOT realizes that more than 600 culverts are always going to be past 24 months. [The statistic] 0.7 percent late with bridge inspections is the real story in New Mexico. New Mexico didn’t deserve the bad rap it received from MSNBC in this instance.
— Jimmy Camp, Engineering Support Division Director, NMDOT
Ethical behavior must start at the top
Your March 2008 Issues & Trends article “Study shows lack of ethics programs,” suggests that such programs could solve the ethical issues in agencies. I would suggest that the problem is larger and more pervasive. First, I am reminded of the comment by John Maxwell, the well-known author and leadership expert, when asked by the president of a major U.S. company “How do we institute a business ethics program?” His answer was, “There are no ‘business ethics,’ there is just ‘ethics.’”
As I look around the country for examples of ethical lapses, they are far too easy to come by at all levels, and too common at the top. And, if ethics are not understood and practiced at the top, why would anyone expect those below to follow some magical ethics code?
We seem to have moved away from morals and ethics in the public, press and politics to the view of “right and wrong is relative.” Why should we expect ethics from employees when far too many leaders seem to be challenged by demonstrating any?
— Al King, retired professional engineer
Reader tactfully corrects word choice
I always enjoy your comments in American City & County, including “Hard wired to waste,” March 2008 Editor’s Viewpoint. I thought the strength in that article was that you let the events speak for themselves, allowing the reader to start to form their own opinion about how the two events tied together. Your opinion on what you drew from these events was succinct, strong and positive.
As I thoroughly read your articles, I was wondering if you agree that the word “tact” in the third paragraph perhaps should be “tack?” One definition of “tack” in the dictionary is “a course of action meant to minimize opposition to the attainment of a goal,” and “an approach, [especially] one of a series of changing approaches.”
— Patricia Jonk, Administrative Assistant, Orange County, Calif., Sanitation District Environmental Laboratory
Editor’s note: Good catch. Of course, I used the wrong word in the first place, but three other editors look at it, and it’s rare (thank goodness) when one gets by them.
— Bill Wolpin
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