Fedline

Federal Times Blogs

When is a wedding plan so awesome the Coast Guard gets involved?

Bookmark and Share

FireworksYou know your wedding day will be memorable when it triggers a series of environmental reviews and a proposed rule from the federal government.

That is definitely the case for a lucky person named “Ellie,’ whose planned wedding fireworks display on June 27 about 1.5 miles into the Long Island Sound near Greenwich, Conn., had to be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Because the fireworks will be launched from a barge in navigable waterways, the Coast Guard had to perform an environmental impact review and formally establish a temporary safety zone.

This temporary rule proposes to establish a safety zone for the Ellie’s Wedding fireworks display. This proposed regulated area includes all waters of Long Island Sound within a 600 foot radius of the fireworks barge located approximate 1.5 miles south of Greenwich Point Park in Greenwich, CT,” according to the proposed rule.

Of course, since it’s a proposed rule, you can still comment officially on it until May 15. I will be sending them my best wishes for a long-lasting relationship.

All the details and procedures were published on Regulations.gov as part of the rulemaking process, but as far as wedding announcements go, its very formal.

So congratulations Ellie on your wedding day. I hear your fireworks are going to be great.

Tags: , , ,

How many people get arrested at Burning Man? The answer will surprise you.

Bookmark and Share
A woman dances with fire during the final day of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada early 03 September 2000. The festival is a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during the week long event.  AFP PHOTO (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) Hector MATA

A woman dances with fire during the final day of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada early 03 September 2000. The festival is a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during the week long event. AFP PHOTO (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) Hector MATA

Every year at the end of August nearly 70,000 people descend on Black Rock Desert in Pershing County, Nevada to take part in the celebration of radical self expression known as Burning Man.

And for many people it’s synonymous with drug use and burning a giant wooden man in the middle of the desert. But according to the Bureau of Land Management — which has jurisdiction over government land and the Burning Man festival grounds in particular — the number of people cited or arrested is quite low for its size and duration.

In 2013 only 6 people out of 69,613 were arrested and 433 more were cited by law enforcement, according to statistics from BLM provided to the Government Attic. (Note: Government attic is a great resource for FOIAs and government info alike.) That covers the five days leading up to Burning Man, the event itself and five days afterward.

The size of the gathering would make it the 5th largest city in Nevada and in comparison crime at Burning is pretty low, according to Gene Seidlitz, manager for the Winnemucca district of the BLM.

Year Burning Man Pop. BLM officers Drug citations Total citations Arrests
2010 51,515 51 158 293 9
2011 53,735 51 218 376 8
2012 52,385 70 253 365 14
2013 69,613 70 309 433 6

He said while in its early days there were deaths and more arrests the event has evolved into a well-organized festival complete with proper permits and safety guidelines — especially for the fire events.

“Although there are arrests and injuries and in the past deaths I think this is a very safe event and managed well with good oversight by the BLM,” Seidlitz said.

The key to keeping the event organized and safe is the extensive communication between event organizers and the BLM, according to Eric Boik, state chief ranger for the BLM for Utah, which oversees the law enforcement activities of the event.

“It’s because we all get to the table and communicate frequently and the planning for this starts for 2014 in December so we are already working hot and heavy,” Boik said.

He added the event encourages self-reliance and all the festival participants clean up everything they bring with them as part of a “leave no trace” culture.

“Everything is cleaned up as if the event never occurred,” he said.

Burning Man continues to grow — from a few hundred people 30 years ago to 51,515 in 2010 and up to 69,613 in 2013. The 2014 festival has a permit for 70,000 people and that is probably the maximum the event can host, according to the BLM.

A man dances near a fire at Black Rock City's Burning Man festival in Nevada 05 September 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA

A man dances near a fire at Black Rock City’s Burning Man festival in Nevada 05 September 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA

The agency worked on an environmental impact statement that put the maximum number of festival-goers — no including law enforcement or festival organizers — at 70,000, according to Seidlitz.

As for the wooden man that is burned every year?

“It’s quite a site,” Seidlitz said.

Tags: , , , , ,

Report shows where CFC pledges go

Bookmark and Share

By all accounts, pledges to the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign are going to be down by tens of millions of dollars in comparison with the 2012 CFC. This is, of course, money that mostly goes to charities. But which charities benefit from federal employee giving (and could thus see a falloff in contributions)?

The Office of Personnel Management does not collect that information. Instead, the Workplace Giving Alliance, a Massachusetts-based coalition of CFC federations, decided to do the job on its own, compiling pledge information for the last three years from most local campaigns and then extrapolating to fill in the gaps.

In a report released a few months ago, here’s what the group found: Among national and international charities, the biggest CFC beneficiary in the 2012 season was the American Red Cross, which received more than $7 million in pledges. Runner-up was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which got about $6.7 million, following by the Wounded Warrior Project, with about $5 million. In general, health, religious, veterans, education and animal-related charities did well; you can read the full report here.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Obama administration renewing focus on IT acquisition

Bookmark and Share

For anyone familiar with last fall’s disastrous rollout of the healthcare.gov website (and that presumably includes most of the adult population of the United States), it will come as no surprise to hear that the Obama administration is again working to get smarter delivery of information technology services.

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount from the challenges the administration’s recently faced and have worked  diligently to address this past year,” Beth Cobert, a senior Office of Management and Budget official, said at a recent Association of Government Accountants gathering. “But we know that information technology is important to how the government works today and will be more important to the government going forward.”

As a result, the administration has “a focused effort under way to look at this,” said Cobert, who became OMB’s deputy director for management in October. That includes “many, many conversations” with government employees, contractors and IT firms that do no government business to gather ideas and to think about potential improvements.

There will be more to come on the subject in the months ahead, Cobert said, “but it’s clearly an area that I’m focused on and my team is focused on.”

 

Tags: , ,

Washington, D.C. federal offices open under two-hour delay Friday

Bookmark and Share

After getting a snow day Thursday, federal employees in the D.C. region can arrive up to two hours late at  their offices Friday, and also have the option of unscheduled leave or telework, the Office of Personnel Management has just announced.

With Monday a federal holiday, some feds may have been hoping for a five-day weekend. That’s still an option, but for tomorrow, it will have to be on their own time.

Washington, D.C-area feds getting a snow day

Bookmark and Share

Federal offices in the Washington, D.C. area will be closed Thursday, the Office of Personnel Management has announced. The early call came Wednesday evening as snow is already accumulating.

As usual, emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agencies’ policies. But for those who have the chance to sleep a little later tomorrow morning, enjoy it. And stay safe.

Tags: ,

So what’s up with agency attrition rates?

Bookmark and Share

Every year, tens of thousands of federal employees retire or otherwise leave their jobs. But some agencies have much higher turnover rates than others. That data nugget is buried in a recent Government Accountability Office report examining government workforce trends. From fiscal 2004 through 2012, the average annual government retirement rate was 3.5 percent, the average resignation rate, 2.4 percent, for a combined “separation rate” of 5.9 percent, according to the report.

But when GAO reviewers looked at 24 individual agencies, they found a pretty big spread around that average. During that 2004-12 period, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency had an average yearly separation rate of 4.3 percent, less than half the figure for the Office of Personnel Management. Here is a ranking of the agencies culled from the GAO numbers. While workforce age would clearly be one factor in explaining the variations, are there others that come to mind?

1. Environmental Protection Agency

Retirement: 2.5%

Resignation: 1.8%

Total: 4.3%

2. Justice Department

Retirement: 2.2%

Resignation: 2.3%

Total: 4.5%

3. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Retirement: 3.1%

Resignation: 1.7%

Total: 4.8%

4. Transportation Department

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 0.9%

Total: 5.1%

5.  Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Retirement: 3.2%

Resignation: 2.2%

Total: 5.4%

6. Department of Health and Human Services

Retirement: 2.5%

Resignation: 3.0%

Total: 5.5%

7. Social Security Administration

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 1.5%

Total: 5.7%

8. Department of Veterans Affairs

Retirement: 3%

Resignation: 3.1%

Total: 6.1%

9. Housing and Urban Development Department

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 2.0%

Total: 6.2%

10. Department of Homeland Security

Retirement: 1.6%

Resignation: 5.0%

Total: 6.6%

11. General Services Administration

Retirement: 3.7%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 6.6%

12. Agriculture Department

Retirement: 3.9%

Resignation: 2.8%

Total: 6.7%

13. Interior Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 3.1%

Total: 6.7%

14. Energy Department

Retirement: 4.3%

Resignation: 2.6%.

Total: 6.9%

15. State Department

Retirement: 2.7%

Resignation: 4.2%

Total: 6.9%

16,  Labor Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 3.4%

Total: 7.0%

18. U.S. Agency for International Development

Retirement: 4.1%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 7.0%

19. Defense Department

Retirement: 3.5%

Resignation: 3.6%

Total: 7.1%

20. National Science Foundation

Retirement: 3.2%

Resignation: 3.9%

Total: 7.1%

21. Treasury Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 4.0%

Total: 7.6%

22.  Education Department

Retirement: 4.3%

Resignation: 3.7%

Total: 8.0%

23. Small Business Administration

Retirement: 5.4%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 8.3%

24. Office of Personnel Management

Retirement: 3.7%

Resignation: 7.2%

Total: 10.9%

 

Tags: , ,

Postal Service announcing 1Q financials tomorrow

Bookmark and Share

Just a heads-up that the U.S. Postal Service will be announcing its first-quarter fiscal 2014 financial results on Friday morning. Because of the holiday shipping season, the first quarter is typically the Postal Service’ s strongest, so it will be interesting to see whether the steady (albeit relative) improvement in USPS finances continued in the three-month period from October through December.

The numbers typically are released at a Board of Governors meeting. In this case, however, the Postal Service plans to announce them via a news release, followed by posting of the full quarterly report. Federal Times will have the story.

Tags:

Washington, D.C.-area federal offices are open Wednesday

Bookmark and Share

The icy rain pelting the D.C. region notwithstanding, federal agencies are open today, the Office of Personnel Management says,  but employees have the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Click here for the advisory posted on OPM’s website. Stay safe!

Tags: , ,

GSA “Billionaire” parody creator files copyright, lawmaker wants it back

Bookmark and Share

On April 2, 2012 a General Services Administration Inspector General report detailed wasteful practices at an $823,000, 2010 regional conference in Las Vegas, leading to the ouster of GSA’s top leadership and reforming government conference spending.

A music-video parody of Travie McCoy’s music video for ‘Billionaire‘ featuring Bruno Mars by then GSA employee Hank Terlaje titled “The Commissioner Project” and shown at the conference quickly became one of the most famous – or infamous – parts of the ongoing scandal.

It’s also quite catchy. (Full disclosure: Terlaje says in the song that every time he closes his eyes he sees his name on Federal Times.)

YouTube Preview Image

But recently Terlaje received a copyright for the work and one key lawmaker is saying it is ineligible.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini Feb. 4 and said the video was created using government resources – including employees and facilities – for a government event and is there ineligible for a copyright.

“As the video appears to have been filmed at federal government facilities, with GSA personnel, and for the express purpose of use at an official event, the committee is concerned that securing a private copyright on such work is inappropriate. Any such copyright would appear to rightfully belong to the federal government,” Issa said in the letter.

Issa is requesting all agency documents and communications regarding the production and creation of the work and any and all communications regarding Terlaje and the video.

The video shows Terlaje in a cubicle and other office spaces as well as on the beach and in parks.

I have reached out to Terlaje for comment and will update if I receive any response. Or if he reads it here he can always email me at amedici@federaltimes.com.