1997 Finalist
City of Oxnard, California
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

The city of Oxnard, California experienced several shocks that negatively affected the tax revenue base during the 1990s. For years, the city's economy had relied on U.S. military spending. In the midst of federal reductions in defense spending and facing ballot initiatives, the city's tax base found itself severely strained. At the same time, Oxnard was experiencing an influx of upper class families. Although this was a long sought and much desired arrival, it left the city under strong demand for enhanced public services. Oxnard city officials needed to do more with less.

The city wanted to fundamentally realign the way it used its resources. Previously, the city had acted as a typical bureaucracy: slow to respond, limited by its rules and procedures, and always short of funds to satisfy demand. In 1992, Oxnard embarked on a six-year effort to streamline and consolidate city services. A primary element was to extend authority and responsibility for government performance to employee teams, freeing them from bureaucratic rules but holding them to measurable results. Oxnard created an organization that emphasized and expected individual initiative and team cooperation to implement and fulfill the city's goals.

Departments were reorganized into multiple programs charged with delivering services in the most effective, cost-efficient way. Each program's mission was defined by the employees accountable for its results. These approaches were culled from the best of private, public and nonprofit sector performance examples.

The ninety team-based programs have all cited quantifiable achievements. Through customer participation surveys and direct involvement, as well as benchmarking to monitor outcomes, Oxnard has reported positive results. To date, Oxnard has not only capped spending but also reduced its annual budget by $2 million, from $66 million to $64 million in three years, while maintaining high standards of performance and citizen satisfaction.

In addition, the reduction of Oxnard's police force had been a central catalyst for the city's self-reform. After seven years, the employment level of Oxnard's bureaucrats steadily decreased. This means that the police force has received the resources to not only resume its former levels, but also exceed them by 7 percent.