Kate Brown: Defender of the status quo

An article in the East Oregonian recently explained Kate Brown is seeking a review of ODOT's management. The first two sentence of the article tell you everything you need to know about how ineffective this course of action is going to be.

Gov. Kate Brown wants the Oregon Department of Transportation to hire a consultant to review the agency’s management practices. he review is supposed to reassure lawmakers the agency is doing everything it can to operate efficiently, as the Legislature gears up to pass a transportation funding package in 2017.

1. Opportunity for corruption

ODOT gets to pick the consultant that will review ODOT's management practices. That doesn't necessarily mean they will try to pick one that favors preservation of the status quo, but it does create massive opportunity for just that. It's not acceptable to create this opportunity. The Governor's Office, the Legislature, and state agencies should strive to be above reproach. We shouldn't have to just hope they won't do something wrong.

2. A request to do nothing

Reviewing ODOT's management practices is a fancy way of saying they will move a few dollars around and then say that everything is fine. This won't result in reform, it will result in minor revisions to the status quo.

3. Avoiding responsibility

Gov. Brown wants an outside consultant to do the work. In political circles, this is a popular way to create non-partisan recommendations. In reality, it's a good way to shift responsibility and waste money.Brown could easily leverage the power of the Governor's office and get help form the Secretary of State's audit division to assist ODOT in actually being more efficient instead of wasting money try to convince legislators that ODOT already is efficient. Brown may be concerned that her administration might be viewed as not being hard enough on ODOT. That's a fair assessment, but instead of passing the buck she should just direct her office to scrutinize ODOT more than usual. That's the way you convince Republicans and the public that you care about leading reform.

4. Creating political cover

The whole purpose of this requested review is not to reform the agency, but to assure the legislature that ODOT is efficient. This review is not intended to change the agency, it's intended to change the legislature's opinion of the agency. This gives political cover to those in favor of shoveling more money into ODOT,and makes those who are opposed look unfair. It's not about efficiency, it's about avoiding a confrontation of systemic issues inside the agency.

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