Government and results, in the same sentence

Posted by Ralph Schwartz on September 11, 2013 

I have some posts to write, most likely on Thursday, about climate change. I'm loaded with information on the topic, having attended the Metcalf Institute's climate change seminar for journalists last week.

For now let me get back on the blogging track with this about state government:

* * * * *

I don't think this is going to work.

Gov. Jay Inslee has unveiled "Results Washington," a way to measure how well the state government is meeting certain goals laid out by, well, the government.

This item on Washington State Wire nicely summarizes the program and offers a critique.

Here's an excerpt from the "Wire" story that gets to the nut of it:

"Basically, the whole thing is about measurements. Results Washington establishes five goals for state government, and all of them have sort of a motherhood-and-apple-pie sound. A world-class education system, a prosperous economy, sustainable energy and a clean environment, healthy and safe communities, and effective, efficient and accountable government. Odds are no one would quibble with any of them.

"But what the strategic planning process does is to establish benchmarks by which the state might measure its progress. The goals are broken down into subcategories. Then out come the measuring sticks. Under transparency and accountability in government, for example, one goal is to increase the percentage of agencies and higher education institutions posting contract data on the Web from zero percent to 100 percent by 2015. And so on."

The project, as the report says, aims "to bring business principles to the public’s business." This old saw I once heard a lot more from Republicans, but it has become politically neutered and equally accessible to the GOP and Democrats, from Inslee to Barack Obama. (The president even used an analogy so familiar to me from listening to the speeches of conservative politicians. From the January 2011 State of the Union speech: “Every day families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.”

Sure, I suppose some good can come from state agencies achieving certain well-intentioned goals. But I have seen nothing about such a micro-level tracking of the state Legislature's results. Why not give a legislator negative points for saying he'll reach across the aisle when the next thing he does is a calculated move to serve his caucus' interest? How about giving points for voting for a bill that has elements one doesn't approve of, rather than standing stubbornly on an airy principle? (In case we have forgotten, there's a word for that: compromise.)

Those of you on Twitter (or those who can get on that social medium between now and tomorrow morning) can participate directly in the governor's "Results" effort. The governor and his team are holding a "Twitter town hall" 10 to 11 a.m., where residents can make suggestions and ask questions. Follow along or chime in at @GovInslee or #ResultsWA.

The gov's office sent out a press release today about the town hall:


Gov. Inslee, Results Washington team to host Twitter town hall

Governor seeks citizen input on state’s new performance management system

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Inslee and his new performance management team at Results Washington will host an hourlong #ResultsWA Twitter Town Hall to give citizens a unique opportunity to talk about ways to improve state government.

The Twitter town hall will be conducted Thursday, Sept. 12, from 10-11 a.m. People are invited to tweet their questions and ideas to @GovInslee and the Results Washington team.

"I’ve said from day one of my administration that I was committed to launching an innovative approach to make government more efficient, more effective and more transparent. Results Washington will do just that," said Inslee. "This is an effort driven by the priorities of Washingtonians. I’m looking forward to chatting with people online and learning about everyone’s ideas on how we can better serve those who live and do business in our state."

The governor and Results Washington team will be on hand to answer questions about the launch of Results Washington, Inslee’s performance management system for making state government more efficient, effective and accountable across five areas, including education and the economy.

The online town hall represents one of many opportunities people will have to participate and provide feedback on how Results Washington measures progress in the areas that Washingtonians care about. Questions that demand more than 140 characters will be more fully answered on the website early next week.

Watch or participate in the #ResultsWA event by following @GovInslee. Questions should be tweeted with the hashtag #ResultsWA.

Visit for detailed information about Inslee’s proposed goals and performance measures.


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