Maslow & Municipal Services

I was fascinated with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs back in college. I won’t use this space to try to fully explain his theory, but I strongly encourage you to explore on your own. It didn’t occur to me then how I would later apply it later in my career and personal life. Before long I had no trouble applying the hierarchy to municipal services and even at other levels of government.



Most of us live in good cities measured in several different ways. We can best understand just how good we have life by taking away the first line of government, counties, schools and cities. We generally know we are going to have water brought to us and wastewater taken away from us before we can even build a house. And cleaned before and after. Just those two services allow us to move into a community, but it has to be continued to keep us there. Else we end up like Flint, Michigan. In case we were to get lax or just fussy about spending money for receiving and returning clean water, we have federal, state and local standards. And levels of necessary bureaucracy to enforce those standards.

Actually, it doesn’t matter what the cost is. If you are having to pump water from a lake 100 miles from you, and the lake was built in the recent decade rather than in the 1950s, then it is going to be very expensive. If the water is of a quality that requires above normal amounts of treatment (look up the word “brine” or “brackish), then it is going to cost more. If you move to a city that has charm promoted in the form of “beautiful hills” and terrain, don’t be surprised if your sewer bill is higher due to the dozens of lift stations as opposed to a city where wastewater gets to the treatment plant through gravity flow. Big difference.

My municipal career started right after the Clean Water Act of 1972 was created. The sewer bill was a flat $2.00 a month, as I recall. Up until then the usual phrase was “the solution to pollution is dilution,” but you had to say it with a heavy emphasis on “di” in dilution to sound Texan. Treatment plant were actually by-passed during heavy rains with massive amounts of rainwater inflow and infiltration from aging or shoddy lines going straight into the streams. So, yes, my friend Maslow was correct, there are basic physiological needs that have to be met before we can have a viable community.


Let’s face it. If we have to live every day worrying about getting killed or someone stealing our property, we have no focus other than staying home with a gun in our hands. It is easy for jokes to come forth on this one, but this is not a Redneck issue for most of us. Yet it is always on our mind or at least we get frightening reminders when we hear of a home-invasion crime that has occurred close to us. As you get older, this concern increases. So, you are not going to have a good life or a good community if you don’t feel safe. And to know that if you need help, the response is only a few minutes away. But it does cost money. In fact, a response time of 30 minutes for a serious crime call instead of 5 minutes might save tax dollars. Which do you want?

And the same response time for a fire or rescue emergency is hardly a choice. Those minutes mean you either go to the hospital or to the morgue. I find it interesting that many of my peers want to retire and move way out into the country. At an age when they may need medical assistance the most. Not me. I want to live in a safe community with doctors and hospitals close and emergency workers who can get me to the care centers quickly. The bottom line is that fire and police workers are expensive and are always going to get priority in budgets. Besides, do the math. There are 8,760 hours in a year. For every worker you need 24×7, it takes 4.2 people to cover – and that is if they didn’t take a single day of vacation, holiday or sick leave. The real number is well over 5 people for every one employee needed for full coverage. Then add the logical team/squad requirement since you don’t send a firetruck with just one person on it.

The Others.

Each of the top three are as important as the first two in my mind if we want to live in communities and enjoy the benefits while also increasing our own personal growth. Linda and I don’t need a huge stadium full of friends, and prefer being homebodies to a full calendar of social events we lived as younger people. But we do need friends. We are more “waving” neighbors than social butterflies, but we like having good neighbors. We like to live where medians are well groomed with a sprinkling of color beds. It is nice to have city (and HOA) people who will enforce codes that keep weeds from becoming a problem. We are grateful for animal control who comes when we call about those obnoxious dogs behind us. We like a community full of churches.

We love going to the nicely groomed, well-lighted sports fields and recreation centers where we live and go watch our grandkids play. I cannot express the joy we feel being around young families and their kids. We get energy from their youthfulness. Our favorite thing to do is to see live entertainment – plays, musicals, dramatic readings, idea forums (like TedTalk) I mentioned recently. We get the benefit of enjoying not just McKinney but also the surrounding cities, Frisco, Fairview, Allen, Plano. We probably go to venues in Dallas every week or two. Our jaunts to Fort Worth and several cities in between have introduced us to some great venues.

I have attended college courses at the local community college and gone to enlightening, though provoking events held for vocational and personal growth. The first thing we did when we moved to McKinney is get our water turned on. The second thing we did is get library cards. The most wonderful sight when we go to the library is seeing a mom walking in or out with three kids, each holding books. That’s community!


The most vibrant communities nourish the citizen and let them thrive to reach every level of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. Our children and grandchildren can flourish in these kinds of communities. Jobs are available here or nearby. Every need we have is met. We can partake as little or as much as we want. We can give, and we can take.

The real test is whether we can also be a good player in our larger region from which we can give and take? And that is my topic for tomorrow. LFM

One thought on “Maslow & Municipal Services

  1. Good stuff. Can you do Herzberg’s Satisfier/Dissatisfier theory next? One of my personal favorites and also relevant to our industry.

    As to Flint, I just learned within the last couple of weeks that the issue had to do with changing a water supply source without understanding the chemical composition. Something that could have been easily avoided. May want to confirm, but it’s certainly a whole separate lesson.

    BTW – like the “Boss” countdown widget. :0)


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