The Super Seven
Vice President Al Gore honored seven public service programs, including four programs involving federal agencies, for their contributions to the American public at a special "Breakfast of Champions" in Washington on Monday.
The awards were sponsored by Public Employees Roundtable, a coalition of 37 associations of government managers and professionals in conjunction with Public Service Recognition Week.
Gore said people who think the government is incompetent and uncaring should take a look at the people who won the awards.
"What you'll see are some of the best and brightest that this country has to offer. People deeply committed to serving their communities and making them better places to live, people who entered the civil service to perform public service. That is our government," Gore said. "These seven programs are outstanding examples of what government can do, and what it should do."
Public Service Excellence Awards were given to:
- The Defense Finance and Accounting Center in Columbus, Ohio, for a mentorship program in partnership with Ohio Dominican College and the Columbus Public Schools. Employees at the center became one-on-one mentors for middle schoolers who live in an inner-city neighborhood. Fifty volunteers help at-risk kids do their homework, develop work skills and do community service projects. The program is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.
- The Internal Revenue Service for its TeleFile program allowing millions of taxpayers to file their returns over the phone. For people who normally file a 1040EZ tax form, TeleFile makes income tax filing "as easy as ordering a pizza," IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson says. As of mid-April, the system had been used by 4.7 million people. TeleFile even allows people to have their refunds directly deposited into their bank accounts.
- The National Park Service PARTNERS program, aimed at giving schoolchildren in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia schools living lessons in history and science. Four national parks, six county school systems in three states and a state-funded college teamed up to bring students into the parks for hands-on experiments and historical reenactments. The four participating parks are Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields, C & O Canal National Historical Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
- Overseas Citizens Services (OCS), Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, for protecting Americans abroad. OCS issues travel warnings, information sheets and public announcements, as well as coordinating assistance during crises and disasters abroad. OCS's "emergency fly-away teams" have helped during the evacuations of Liberia and the Central African Republic and after the American Airlines crash in Cali, Colombia.
- The Texas Performance Review Program, which evaluates programs to see if they should be kept or modified, saving the Texas government $8 billion since 1991.
- Los Angeles and Riverside counties, Calif., for their Greater Avenues for Independence program, a welfare-to-work program aimed at getting people jobs first, then getting them training.
- Grand Prairie, Texas, for its service excellence program, which empowered employees and made the city government more efficient.