City government in-plants have to be fast, flexible and politically savvy.
By Mike Llewellyn
IT WASN'T too long ago that brush fires were gorging themselves on Southern California scrub and turning the nation's attention to the seemingly endless struggle firefighters had set before them.
As the nightly news broadcast eerie aerial shots of glowing fire lines snaking their way across mountainsides, in downtown San Diego, uncomfortably near the blazes, Mayor Dick Murphy put in a call to the city manager's office. If the mayor and other city leaders were to decide how to address the wildfires, they had to work from the same report. And the city manager had to get that report fast.
That's where the city's in-plant came in.
"The report on the fires was a relatively small job, but we had to rush it out the door," recalls Liam McGuigan, director of Printing and Graphic Services for the city of San Diego. "Around here, run lengths don't dictate priorities."
When the city manager called the in-plant that day, the job got a first-priority stamp, and it pushed its way to the front of the 37-employee print shop's queue. It's that flexibility that McGuigan says sets city in-plants apart.
"How we're different has a lot to do with the priorities of an organization," he explains. "There's no corporate focus here on 'Who's our biggest client?' It has a lot more to do with politics."
Politics. Gritty, hard-nosed and at times chaotic, the machinery of power in cities affects every level of government, right down to the in-plants. Sometimes the effect of that power frustrates the smooth operation of a print shop. But when it comes to wildfires, it's good to know the mayor has the sway to get things done. And it's good to know there's an in-plant nimble enough to keep up.