In City on the Line, former Baltimore budget director Andrew Kleine asks why the way government does its most important job – deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars – hasn’t changed in one hundred, maybe one thousand, years. Part memoir, manifesto and manual, this book tells the story of Baltimore’s radical departure from traditional budgeting to direct dollars to outcomes like better schools, safer streets, and stronger neighborhoods during one of the most tumultuous decades in the city’s history.
Andrew Kleine is a nationally recognized leader in municipal finance and performance management. He served as Baltimore’s budget director from 2008 to 2018, after nearly 15 years of federal government service that included budget and policy positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation, White House Office of Management and Budget, and Corporation for National and Community Service.
For my money, Baltimore’s most innovative agency head is its parking director, Pete Little. When I met him at parking authority headquarters for our interview, I found out that he had turned his spacious office into a break area for staff and taken a small desk in the corner of a back room, alongside employees far below him on the org chart.
Ever fastidious (he organizes his sock drawer by type of sock), Pete says of the move, “The larger your office, the more crap you collect. Having a smaller space has forced me to simplify.” One thing he will never get rid of is a picture he keeps at his desk of a young boy using crates to make his away across a big puddle. It reminds him that “if you are creative and persistent, there is always a way to get to where you want to be.”
I’m sure it also reminds him of all he has done to turn a corrupt, incompetent parking operation into a customer friendly cash cow for the city. His story, including his use of the Innovation Fund, might change the minds of those who don’t think government can operate efficiently and with integrity.