“Over-Stimulating” Former CIO of Missouri Speaks Out

Guest Blog on http://www.brightsidegovernment.com
By Bill Bott

It’s everywhere today – every news cast, every politico, every talking head in front of a radio mic, and yep…every blog – talk of the stimulus package. The pros, the cons, the “transparency in government” – it’s enough to throw a kid into seizures worse than that Mario Brothers all-nighter back in the day when violence in video games was jumping on mushrooms. It’s almost “over-stimulating”.

For a guy who lives government, believes in government, and holds fast to the notion that most public servants really do try to make the best choices they can given the information they have, I am willing to sit back and hope for the best. Whether I agree with the spending of our tax investment this way or not, I am a stockholder in this company and watch with baited breath for some return on my annual April 15th “stock purchases.”

But none of us can simply sit and wait. There is too much information and the “over-stimulus” is just too daunting. Like quick flashes on the TV screen and addictive music, every headline just begs you to see what the next level holds. I was never a great video game player, but I did love finding those secret rooms that offered riches untold. I have enjoyed three secret levels in the “over-stimulus” in particular and I thought I would share them here.

The 1st secret level is the most entertaining subplots of the stimulus package – the rare glimpse the private sector is getting into government work, or specifically, how government works. No where is it pointed out clearer than in Ken Miller’s article. (Disclaimer: I have been working with Ken for years and recently joined his company full time, but this isn’t a company plug.) This is an insight into something most news channels, even fair and balanced ones, aren’t focused on – where companies can take a lesson from government work particularly in the surprising area of “accountability” – more on that in level 3.

The 2nd level is a link I would like to share from Governing and their webinars on the stimulus package. This is a hidden level on how states are hoping the stimulus will be like the tobacco settlements on steroids. One of the speakers, Scott Pattison, once sat across from me at a dinner and I remember thinking he was a bright guy… listening to him here adds an exclamation point.

WARNING – from a guy who was a Deputy CIO for four years, and CIO for four days – technology is rarely, if ever, a one time cost. Stimulus money, like the tobacco settlements, will most likely be temporary – treat them as such, or risk having to find funds in the next year or two to support your IT fix.

Finally, we reach the 3rd level – how everyone is promising to be transparent with this spending. If there is one thing I’ve learned in twenty years working with federal and state governments, it is that transparency in government is almost always 20/20. So using the old adage and the Pythagorean theory, it must also be hindsight. I love that billions have gone out and everyone is talking about how we will be transparent. It’s like we got tired of the word “accountability” so we just substitute in “transparency” now.

Certainly, I am a supporter of transparency in government. While working in Missouri our IT shop architected the first real time tracking system for all state spending. What I am not much a supporter of is saying we’re going to be transparent before we know we can be, or how we might be. Shoot first, aim second – or in this case, what my good friend Dan Ross coined as “Policy by Press Release.” It sounds great as a sound bite, looks good as a headline, but announcing it doesn’t make it real – and with something so “over-stimulating”, over-stating doesn’t make it any more real. This level may be the one we spend the most time in, but for now it’s as hard to get to as that Mario theme is to get out of your head!

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