NSFG - Not Safe for Government

NSFG is about applied innovation in state, city, and county government. It focuses on things that may appear to be not safe for government but really only sound dangerous - and can put the good back into public good. Bureaucracies resist the new, different, and disruptive. But the intractable problems and tired old processes of government need them. And citizens expect them. NSFG's origins can be traced back to the GovTech Social podcast, which focused on the community of Govies - that is, social media practitioners in state and local government - with tips and tricks for going social in public regarding platforms, policy and practices.
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NSFG - Not Safe for Government



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Nov 16, 2017

Guest: Matt Madlock, Entrepreneur, Activist

That genius at the Apple store may be the one to help solve intractable problems in your community. That is the trajectory our next-generation guest is on in Nashville, TN. Matt Madlock started fixing smartphones and other consumer electronics while in high school, a business that he ran and grew through college. He graduated Magna Cum Laude earlier this year with a dual degree in Marketing and Business Analytics. In addition to the job with Apple, he is a business consultant at The Small Business Development Center at Tennessee State University. It all belies a backstory for a young man who was born on a sidewalk in San Diego, adopted, placed in foster care and moved 20 times before entering college. The budding entrepreneur is a technology enthusiast and education advocate who is committed to community and political activism on behalf of disadvantaged youth to help them get access to the resources they need to succeed.


Nov 16, 2017

Guest: Kristen Cox, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, State of Utah

Start-ups learn to let limitations guide them to creative solutions and recognize there is never enough to go around – time, money or talent. Instead of trying to remove them, the good ones embrace constraints and use them to your advantage. When you talk about fiscal affairs in the state of Utah, the story is the same one. In a state known for its prudent financial management, Utah OMB Executive Director Kristen Cox and her keep-it-simple approach to government have made a lasting impact. She’s schooled dozens of agency leaders in the Theory of Constraints management method, which is designed to root out bottlenecks in agency operations. On the revenue side, Kristen also learned from the 2008 fiscal crisis, adapting scenarios from the Federal Reserve’s stress testing of banks to the state’s own budget.


Nov 16, 2017
 Guest: Kevyn D. Orr, Partner-in-Charge, Jones Day / Former Emergency Manager, City of Detroit, MI

“The ability in this country to have progress is infinite, but we have challenges to get there.” That’s according to Kevyn Orr, who rose to prominence during his tenure as emergency manager for the City of Detroit, MI and advisor to Chrysler through its bankruptcy and the subsequent renewal of its “reputation as a bold and innovative automaker.” These and other experiences shaped his view of strategic planning, innovation, cultural transition and developing a new generation of leadership in government. He has also witnessed social progress during his own lifetime. Now a partner-in-charge of the Washington, DC office of Jones Day, Kevyn challenges civil servants to use candor, logic and courage in confronting racism and other social inequities.


Nov 16, 2017

Guest: The Honorable Greg Fischer, Mayor, City of Louisville, KY 

Compassion. A decade ago, the word did not appear in cities’ strategic plans. That’s changing. Thanks to the pioneering work of Louisville, KY, compassion is becoming something of a civic, secular religion in a growing number of cities. In Louisville, compassion has become synonymous with a civic culture that values lifelong learning, the physical and mental health of city residents and is invested in nurturing a culture where residents are cared for and given a sense of hope. Our guest is the city’s 50th mayor and is the architect of the compassion agenda. He also had a hand in promoting the city’s unique form of hospitality – “Bourbonism” – but that is probably a conversation better had at the bar.

Nov 4, 2017

An off year election creates the opportunity to take stock of the state of our civics.  Election day coincides with the release of new analysis on voter turnout in local elections.  Portland State University's Who Votes For Mayor? project details a disturbing downward trend across the 30 largest cities in the United States.

"Democracy is in more danger now than at any time in my lifetime for a very simple reason," says Phil Keilsing, director of the PSU Center of Public Service, "it is because so many people are exiting the arena."  


Enter a pair of civic startups, each focused at opposite ends of the balloting process.  Ballot Readyprovides a single, independent, online source of candidate information down to the voting track level.

If Ballot Ready is voter facing, another startup is candidate facing.  As its name suggest, allows prospective candiates to find out opportunities to run among 116,242 elected offices simply entering their street address.

Oct 6, 2017

The ABCs of NASCIO 2017 - analytics, blockchain, and cybersecurity - dominated the conversation against a backdrop of change and speculation.  Is there enough momentum for state CIOs to finish strong before the next election cycle and what does it mean that the National Governors Association (NGA) is taking a direct hand in analyzing the future of technology in state government.

On the season premiere of Not Safe For Government, we have a full retrospective on NASCIO 2017 - the technologies, the prospects, the problems and the politics.  Hosts Dustin Haisler and Paul Taylor are joined by Government Technology editors Noelle Knell and Lauren Harrison along with Research VP "Joe Knows" Morris and Teri Takai, Director of the Center for Digital Government, who has a long history with NASCIO and a keen sense of the mood in the public sector IT community.

May 25, 2017

In a keynote address to Governing’s Government Performance and Innovation Summit, Kevyn Orr - the onetime emergency manager in Detroit, MI - cautioned that the covenant that we have made to provide services is being challenged. Cities must look at the issues coming over the hill. Orr also praised a recent speech by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on race, segregation and the removal of confederate monuments.

Mar 27, 2017

Odelia Bergh from the Peachtree City Police Department (@PTCfirepolice) says sarcasm is helpful in connecting with an audience (and making a point) on social media. Her team uses it a lot and, perhaps not coincidently, team members have each other’s backs if things go wrong. As for humor, Bergh tells Paul they have a hard and fast rule: “Never post while still laughing. Ever.”

Chelsea Stevens from Georgia Interactive (@GeorgiaGovTeam) told Dustin about the state’s efforts to refine its voice — “informative, fun, and friendly” when engaging the public on social media while keeping it all business for internal audiences.

Angela Thompson described for Anil a five year serial journey through the City of Milton (@cityofmiltonga) to the City of Canton (@CityofCantonGA) that included internal resistance to social media and refashioning the two cities’ messaging.

Mar 20, 2017

In a preview of the next three episodes of NSFG, we learn the bottom line in using humor in social media, get pointers on mutual aid among members within your social media team, an advance look at a special episode about “The Town without Uber,” the microwave as surveillance device, and the triumphant return of Boaty McBoatface.

Mar 13, 2017

The Governing crew compares notes on the Mayor's Summit at SXSW one last time as they make its way to the airport. We hear from a couple of mayors en route.  And David reminds us that, when emergency hits at home, a mayor is duty bound to leave the fun of SXSW and return home.

Mar 13, 2017

The rise of Ridealong and becoming your own Mark Cuban.  Mayors, with a little help from AOL co-founder Steve Case, played Shark to a group of GovTech Startups during their final official day at SXSW - but remained in the long shadow of Mark Cuban.

Mar 12, 2017

Our coverage of the Civic I/O Mayors Summit at SXSW continues with a hard day's conversations about how cities are coming terms with race and immigration.  Plus the Governing crew have a few thoughts about all that took place around the policy discussion.

Mar 11, 2017

In this second NSFG Extra from the Civic I/O mayors summit at SXSW, J.B. Wogan speaks with long serving US Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran, who sketches out a through line from civic innovation to civil rights and back.  The governing crew - J.B., David Kidd, and Dustin Haisler - also take to the patio to compare notes on what we learned during day one of the mayor's summit.

Mar 10, 2017

Two early arriving mayors, Louisville's Greg Fischer and Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento talk about their expectations of the annual technology, music and policy festival in Austin.  Fischer wants to talk with the 23 mayors gathered for the Civic I/O Summit at SXSW about the challenges faced by blue cities in red starts during the Trump era.  For his part, Cabaldon thinks that public engagement as currently practiced by cities is doing more harm than good.

Mar 4, 2017

Recorded before a live audience at Laserfiche's Empower 2017 in Long Beach, CA, NSFG cohost Dustin Haisler talks with leading innovators from state and local government on how process improvements are leading to new ways to deliver service and help the community. Major themes from this episode: 

• How to undertake civic innovation with limited resources 
• What is on the horizon for new government service models 
• Success stories and lessons learned in innovating citizen-centric processes


Bryan Sastokas – CIO and Head of Innovation, Long Beach, California

Tim Nolan, Senior Applications Manager, Collin County, Texas

Ed Yonker, Application Software Manager, County of Franklin, Pennsylvania

Mar 4, 2017

The never before posted piloted episode featuring Opportunity Space, a GovTech startup that sought to become the Zillow of government-owned property. Originally produced in August 2015.

Mar 3, 2017

The GovTech Social podcast is becoming NSFG - a podcast about applied innovation in state and local government. The name is a play on the warnings you see about content on the Internet being not safe for work - or NSFW. To be clear, NSFG is cubicle-friendly and job critical - there is no sonic nudity to worry about.

But the name was deliberate on our part because we want to have a conversation about where government is going and how it is going to get there. We have been thinking and talking to really smart people about exponential technologies, government’s relationship to data (both open and big) and the citizens’ experience with government. More to the point, the citizens’ experience with you.

Social media is certainly part of the mix. You and this community of govies are, after all, who brought us to the dance. We are in your debt - and look forward to having you with us on this ride into government’s future.

Feb 26, 2017

On this episode, completing a swapcast with ELGL founders Kirsten and Kent Wyatt, a check-in with Kristy Dalton on #GSMCON2017 and details on the Atlanta GovTech Social Unconference.

Jan 31, 2017

Kansas City Communications Manager Chris Hernandez guests, and a discussion of government social media in the age of alternative facts.

Jan 8, 2017

Making news by making history - and preserving a slice of a presidential

The Twitter handle @POTUS is getting freed up for the next White House accupant and the
incumbent becomes @POTUS44 on Twitter. On January 5, the White House stood up a digital
archive containing a quarter million digital records from the Obama years. That's a
historic first.

As a companion to Eyragon Eidam's story, New Archive Offers 'Unprecedented Access' to Obama's Social Media Presence, he talks with Anil Chawla about the how it all came together.

Dec 19, 2016

Louisville is a city of 377 neighborhoods and now, thanks to a partnership with Nextdoor, essentially 377 neighborhood social hubs for neighbors to privately socialize and offer advice to one another, browse events, business recommendations and classifieds, and use the app that many use as a neighborhood watch tool.  The added dimension in Louisville is that, under a formal agreement with the hyper local social network, Nextdoor has configured itself around the city's maps of its neighborhood.  It gives the power and flexibility to target messaging to the exact neighborhoods that need to know.

In this special episode of GovTech Social, a wide ranging discussion of strategy, operations, and the key elements of an effective partnership with:

  • Theresa Reno-Weber, the outgoing Chief of Performance & Technology for Louisville Metro Government
  • Chris Poynter, Communications Director for the Mayor's office for Louisville Metro Government
  • Robbie Turner, Senior City Strategist, Nextdoor
Nov 13, 2016


Social media gives public agencies the opportunity to go where the people are - at times and on platforms of their choosing.  Most government agencies have established a presence on the major platforms and experiment with others.  In Dallas, the city is combining the reach of social media with the security of single sign-on to welcome online residents home to suite of services that "know" them and increase the likelihood that the resulting service offerings will be relevant and convenient - and easy to use.

The synergies between social and synergy then provide a city-controlled platform for serving - and marketing to - residents.  It bypasses the need to be everywhere on social media to reach every subgroup. Instead, it produces mass customization - a marketer's dream

Justin Snasel (@JSnasel) is just such a marketer.  Recruited from the private sector, Snasel serves as the  PIO and Manager of Communication Strategy for the City of Dallas

In this episode, Snasel discusses what the city has been able to do on that platform. He is unapologetic about the reality of marketing as the core of social media in government, as it is elsewhere.  Plus we unmask Eco-man, an alter ego created while in Arlington, TX on a shoestring and who went viral.

Plus reflections on the the peaceful transition of @POTUS.



Oct 18, 2016

Delegates to the GovTech Social Unconference in Denver pitched and selected a wide ranging conversation about platforms - how Facebook Live video is being used to break news, how Nextdoor is deepening ties to the community for law enforcement,
and how public agencies are Snapchatting their way into the hearts and minds of 13-24 year olds, and how the occasional autocorrect error can endear you to your followers.

The City of Roanoke's Timothy Martin and Capt. Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View, CA, Police Department talk all about it all on this episode of GovTech Social.

Sep 25, 2016

Brian Purchia, co-founder of CivicMakers, was present at creation when the City of San Francisco began its pioneering work with social media. A long time media and public policy strategist whose career in public service began with the election of Gavin Newsom as mayor.  

Credited for a groundbreaking new media strategy at the time,Brian joins regulars Dustin Haisler, Anil Chawla, and Paul Taylor to reflect on how city governments can and should use social media in case of police-involved shootings that spark public protests.

Our interview with Brian as a new new data tool designed to bring consistent transparency in police of force debuted in California (See a related article in the Wall Street Journal.)


Brian also takes stock of the legacy of his work in developing the nation’s first open data law, open source software policy, and API for government. 

(Eyragon Eidam is on assignment.)

Aug 16, 2016

Chris Weidel, New Media Manager in the Nashville Mayor's Office, keeps a sticky note on her desk with a list of former haters who have come around to the city's side. Chris joins regulars Dustin, Anil, Paul, and Eyragon to talk about an authentic social media voice is for a city, how it works, and why it matters.  

Chris and panel also provide some (unsolicited) practical advice and encouragement for Chippewa County, WI, as it contemplates taking the plunge into social media.

Elsewhere in the episode:

  • Pokémon Go boosts City of Las Vegas engagement efforts;
  • A More Ephemeral Instagram complicates archiving for public agencies;
  • With only months left in the Obama administration, meet the POTUS Messenger Bot.
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