Gopherland CIP Game—Introduction
Welcome to the Gopherland Capital Improvements Planning Game. In this game, you will play the role of the city administrator as you and your staff help the Council determine how they will allocate their funds for the coming year.
You will want to keep a journal as you play through the game. Make a notation of each decision that you are asked to make, the reasons for your choice, and the effect of your choice on the progress of the game. You will find a spreadsheet template here that you might want to use to play “what if” games with the various choices that are presented to you. You can keep the spreadsheet window and the game window open at the same time.
Welcome to a meeting of the Gopherland City Council. The main item on the agenda for this meeting is adopting the city’s Capital Improvement Plan for the coming year. A budget is a statement of how you set the priorities among the many demands for the use of your available resources. Like any city council, you are divided into factions based on the areas of the city from which you have been elected and whose point of view you represent in the council. In addition, there are others who are attending this meeting—the City Administrator and some of the department heads, some concerned residents and business owners, and representatives of the media.
Gopherland is a river town. The eastern side of the river (Wards I, II, & III) are in the flood plain while the western side (Wards IV, V & VI) are either on the bluffs or on top of the bluffs above the flood plain. The original settlement of the city was in Ward I and IV. Ward VI has the best views of river valley while Wards I & II have the most problems with flooding. Each of the six wards is represented by one council person. In addition, there is a mayor who is elected at-large (by the entire city). Each ward has unique socio-economic and physical characteristics which can be described as follows:
Ward I: The old deteriorated downtown and residential slum. The downtown, or “Central Business District” (CBD for short) is in bad shape needing new investment in the form of loans for new businesses and improvements of infrastructure. The people who live around the CBD occupy old apartments and single family homes converted into rooming houses. The residents are primarily elderly and low-income families. The majority of the public housing units in the city are in Ward I. The people in Ward I have also been seeing an increase in crimes like vandalism and burglary. Obviously, there is a need for housing rehabilitation, better schools and services, and playgrounds.
Ward II: “Blue Collar” (working class) neighborhood that includes the major factory in the city. The factory is a real stinker that pollutes the air in Ward II and causes constant noise. The housing in the ward is single family detached but is old and deteriorated. Ward II has a large number of public housing units, second only to Ward I. The streets in Ward II are falling apart from all the truck traffic that rumbles over them. There are inadequate schools, parks, and the streets need repair. The councilperson from this ward is considering a run for State Senate in the coming years, but needs to score big for the Ward this year to gain the necessary votes down the road.
Ward III: Incumbent Upgrader neighborhood with a mixture of middle class and working people. “Incumbent upgraders” are people who have always lived in the neighborhood and are trying to keep it up. They are very proud of their housing and have spent large amounts to fix them up. Most of the housing is single family and was built after World War II. Their main concern is "keeping the neighborhood" nice and improving a neighborhood commercial district.
Ward IV: Gentrification Neighborhood. These are young professionals (upper-middle class, or “gentry”) who have moved back to the city and are fixing up old historic homes. They have put a lot of time and energy (not to mention dollars) in preserving the city's only historic district and they want to protect their investment. They are clamoring for the city to upgrade the outdated “infrastructure”—the streets, as well as the water, sewer and utility lines that are buried under them
Ward V: Upper Middle Class Neighborhood consisting of businessmen. This ward has new homes (built in 1980's and 1990's) with large, well maintained yards. The schools are very good and most of the city parks are in this area.
Ward VI: Upper Class Neighborhood. Inhabitants are doctors, lawyers and bankers with big bucks! The homes are all over one acre and are very luxurious. There is a neighborhood group in Ward VI which plans on running a challenger to their city councilperson if taxes are not lowered in this budget. At the same time, they are very interested in a major park improvement, to construct and staff a public year-round ice rink.
Mayor: The mayor is elected by the entire city (“at-large”), and is “first among equals” on the Council. The mayor has no special powers, other than to set the agenda and chair the meetings of the council. The mayor is also the “official face” of the city and represents the city at public functions. The mayor’s primary interest is to help the Council work together, and to minimize conflict as much as possible.
Other Interested Parties
City Administrator: The Administrator is the chief executive officer of the city. The Administrator is appointed by the Council, and is responsible for all of the operations of the city. The Council sets the policies, and it is the Administrator’s job to figure out how to accomplish them. While the Council appoints all the city employees, all the employees report to and are managed by the Administrator. The Administrator has three key department heads:
· Finance Director: The Finance Director monitors the budget—tracks expenditures, forecasts revenues—and is the final authority on whether expenditures or revenue can be shifted from one category to another.
· Public Works Director: The Public Works Director is in charge of the streets department (construction, maintenance & snowplowing), water & sewer department, and any major construction projects built by the city government.
· Parks Director: The Parks Director is responsible for the construction and maintenance of all city parks and the shelters and community centers in the parks, for programming activities (including rental of sports fields) and programs in the parks, and for planting and maintaining public landscaping (street trees, flower planters downtown, etc.)
· Public Safety Director: The Public Safety Director is responsible for managing the police and the fire department, both the staff and the physical equipment (squad cars, fire trucks, police and fire stations, etc.)
· Community Development Director: The Community Development Director is responsible for drafting the land use plan for the community and enforcing the regulations in that plan. The CD Director is also responsible for the Housing and the Transportation plans for the city, and works with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations for the growth of business opportunities in the city.
Interested Resident: The residents who are attending this meeting are concerned that their services need to be increased, or at least not cut. They are particularly concerned about the condition of street maintenance, the need to expand summer programs in the parks, and the protection of the streets and their homes from criminal activity.
Interested Business Owner: The business owners who are attending this meeting are concerned that their taxes (especially property taxes and business fees) are already too high. They argue that they need lower taxes if their business is to stay competitive—and stay in the community to supply jobs for the people who live here.
Media: Media reporters have two key concerns: to accurately and fairly present the news, and to present it in a way that is interesting and entertaining. This means that, all things being equal, they look for stories that have some element of dramatic conflict (everyone sitting around holding hands and singing camp songs does not lead on the nightly news).
So, now go to this site to play the game: http://krypton.mnsu.edu/~jp5985fj/Gopherland/ This will open an index page. Select “Gopherland Beta(1).zip” This is a zipped file that contains the program to run the simulation as well as the game itself. Load this zip file onto your computer, unzip it, and play the game. Note that the game has 4 sections to it, each separated by a period of black screen. If you want to view a U-Tube on unzipping files, there is one at http://www.screencast.com/t/ZSRBeNqo
Once you have prepared the third budget requested by the mayor, you have completed the game.
The assignment for this project is to write a reflection essay, analyzing the effects of the decisions you made and highlighting the lessons that you learned from playing this game. If your own spreadsheet analysis suggested a better solution than the ones offered you in the game, you should include the spreadsheet (and your analysis of it) in your reflection essay.
The reflection essay should have two parts:
Assessment of the Game: As you began the game, you brought certain assumptions about the best solution and the most likely way the game would proceed.
Analysis of the Game:
© 2013 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 16 September 2013