Thursday, February 17, 2005
Windley and HB109

Windley and Fletcher have been discussing HB109, the bill that would consolidate Utah's IT workers into a single department. Even Fulling got into the mix with a lively discussion with Devin Calcut.

Meanwhile the rumors are flying that Windley is somehow behind all this, or at least set to profit by it. I've even heard that he'll be the new CIO. I don't know how much of that's true. I know Windley had several meetings in Salt Lake last Thursday--I saw him. This is certainly his plan. The bill puts in place a structure that follows. almost exactly, things I heard Windley say when he was CIO. I know he's close to several legislators, so maybe he had some influence or maybe not. One thing is for sure, if Windley came back there would be a lot of people spitting mad.

It would be a mistake for the Governor to appoint Windley because of the divisiveness that would cause. The new CIO has broad powers for hiring new people and that means old people leave. With his history of hiring friends, any hire he did would be tainted. That would make the transition to the new department that much more difficult. No doubt he'd bring Fulling with him--those two are like Click and Clack. It would be like Ground Hog day, but this time, the fur would fly. In any event, I think that's just rumor.

What I do know is that there's lots of very nervous people around here. The bill doesn't transfer people into the new department wholesale. Rather, the new department is created and then the new CIO hires people from the old departments. People with merit status who are transfered retain merit status; but there's not guarantee that you'll be transfered. One rumor has it that Huntsman wants Stewart Nelson to be the new CIO and that he's inclined to let ITS go away with most of its employees still working there. That is, not transfer them and let them all go. That would be the biggest layoff in State history. I don't believe that. I think most of ITS's functions would be transfered with the people in place. The most likely changes will happen in the managerial ranks, not the worker bees.

I've had a few talks with members of Huntsman's IT transition team (led by Nelson) and I get the impression that this bill is out ahead of them. They're still studying things this bill would set in stone. Its not clear to me how much this bill is being driven by Huntsman and how much of it is being driven by others. I've heard from some reliable sources that this bill is completely greased and now that its out of committee, it will likely pass with very few amendments.

I, for one, welcome the changes. For one thing, it keeps life interesting. For another, I'm not worried about my job. If I lose it, I'll just go find another one. I've kept my skills up and know that they're marketable.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
My Friend is Dead and I'm Angry

I sent in a essay entitled My Friend is Dead and I'm Angry to UtahPolitics.org if you're interested in taking a look.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Oveson in FCW

Utah CIO Val Oveson was at Federal Computer Week's Government CIO Summit in Amelia Island, Fla last week and got himself quoted. In a discussion about the relationship between CIOs and CFOs, Val said:

Val Oveson, Utah's CIO, took the debate one step further, saying a department's chief executive officer should be the CIO. The CEO has the best grasp on an organization's business and vision, he said.

I think Val's on to something. Blending the CEO and CIO roles makes more sense than blending the CIO and CFO roles in my opinion. That certainly would be a big change here in Utah where most department executive directors are uninvolved and uninterested in IT.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Richard North: King of IT in Utah

I'd been given to believe that Val Oveson was the CIO and Dave Fletcher was the acting director of ITS, but some strange goings-on that I've been witness to in the Legislative Staff's office have dissuaded me of that notion. In fact, Richard North, legislative staffer, has been having secret meetings with certain IT Directors from various agencies without the CIO present as well as holding some meetings with ITS managers without ITS leadership present.

Now, you might chalk this up to legislative oversight, but I've got my doubts. For one thing, I doubt any member of the legislature asked North to do this. All indications are that he's doing it on his own. North's been trying to run IT in Utah for years. I was around when North tried to appoint himself "Executive Director" of the IT Commission, back when we had an IT Commission. Senator Dave Steel, then the head of the IT Commission had to gently tell him that he wasn't the Executive Director, he was just a staffer.

Poor Richard, always looking for more authority to mold IT in his visage. Thankfully for the citizens of Utah, he doesn't always get his way--the result would be a mishmash of ill-conceived ideas like the data center in Richfield that he masterminded. A waste of taxpayer dollars if ever there was one. I know my agency will avoid using it if we can and most other IT directors feel the same way. Utah could have bought sufficient data center services on the interest payments we make on that gold-plated albatros in the middle of no where. No glory in that, however.

You may be wondering why Val Oveson doesn't stand up to him and tell him that he's the CIO. Val's too smart for that. He's a political survivor and he saw what happened to his predecessor, Phil Windley. Windley wouldn't let North have his way with IT in Utah and he paid for it. Anyone who'd been in state government for more than a few years during that "scandal" recognized North's guiding hand in the whole thing. North's a wicked adversary and you oppose him at your peril. So, Val, cagey politician that he is, works quietly in the background. Anthony and Fletcher, if they know what's good for them will do the same.

Know anymore Richard North stories? I'd love to hear them. Email me at the link on the right.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Is the ACLU Just Biased?

Even though I don't always (usually?) agree with the positions that the ACLU takes, I usually rtespect them for what they do. I realize that back-pressure is a useful thing in politics to keep the majority from running roughshod over the minority. Outcomes like the one handed down yesterday by the US District court make it seem like they're just going after the Mormon church because of spite. This lawsuit wasn't even close. The courts basically shut them down, refusing to buy any significant argument that they made.

Friday, April 30, 2004
ROI In Utah State eGovernment

Baseline Magazine has a nice article featuring Val Oveson, Utah's CIO. In the article Val talks about Utah's use of, and problems with, simple ROI measurements. Dave Fletcher talked about better performance measures earlier this week. I'm confident that Val's the right person to pull this off given his strong backgrounds in both technology and accounting. He seems perfectly situated to bring Utah's technology planning out of the dark ages. I'm looking forward to hearing his ideas.

Monday, April 19, 2004
Andy Sullivan Had a Blog, Ee, Ai, Ee, Ai, Oh

Seems like the State of Utah's witch hunt against blogs continues. Andy Sullivan, who works part time for the CIO's office had a blog at licyeus.net, but its gone now. He must have said something that people didn't like, so they shut him down. You can see a cached copy of his blog on Google. Maybe its that state employees, in their free time are not allowed to swear? Oh no, that can't be it. I've heard plenty of them swear. Interesting that as a condition of employment in the CIO's office Andy had to agree not to write his blog. So much for free speech. Sometimes, this isn't a very enlightened place to work.

Change the Merit System and You Change Government

The laws and rules that explain how State of Utah workers are hired, promoted, paid, fired, and retired goes by the Orwellian name "State Merit System" even though hiring, pay, and promotion in the State have precious little to do with "merit." I've heard numerous candidates for Governor this year talk about how they're going to change government when they get into office, but no one talks about the Merit System. I read something Fred Lampropolous said the other day and I wanted to write and tell him "be careful what you wish for." He sincerely believes, as do many other candidates that they'll be able to take the reins of government and really effect positive change. Well, I think they're bound to be severely disappointed and the Merit System is what's going to trip them up.

The Merit System with its many rules and regulations creates a culture among State employees the disincents innovation and personal responsibility. I've worked with hundreds of State employees over the years and contrary to some popular opinion, they are, for the most part, willing to work and quite smart. However, they're in a system that beats them down. The best State employees are equal to the best people I've worked with in the private sector, but the worst are much worse because they cannot be incented and they cannot be fired. Any talk of removing the deadwood is met with stiff resistance, even by the top performers because the culture has taught them that removing people who don't perform is "bad" and could affect them next.

Another favorite topic among gubernatorial candidates is lowering taxes. Of course, none of them actually run through the actual figures and get to the bottom line. If you subtract out of the State budget all the money that is Federal pass through, goes to education, goes to prisons and public safety or is controlled by mandates, you'll find that there's very little left. Most of that is employee costs. The only way to save money in State government is to cut employees. Believe me, the Merit System will stand in your way and make cutting employees very painful since you'll have to cut without regard to merit. Ironic, isn't it?

Of course, any candidate would be a fool to talk of changing the State Merit System during the campaign since they would incur the wrath of the UPEA, the State employee's union. UPEA has the ear of the press and no grounding in reality. The interest of the citizens is not the UPEA's prime directive.

My advice to any gubernatorial candidate who wants to change government: talk in generalities now, but realize that as soon as you get into office, you have to go after the Merit System. Overhaul the Merit System and everything else you want to accomplish in State government will suddenly become possible. Fail to change the Merit System and you will spend some very frustrating years in office. Its that simple: overhauling the State Merit System is the key to changing government and lowering taxes.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
Thank Heaven for Tennessee!

Its nice to know that no matter how stupid the Utah legislature might be at times, we can always count on Tennessee to kick us out of the limelight.

Friday, March 05, 2004
Kerry Still Flippin and Floppin

Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit, rites a blog at MSNBC. He's got a great piece there now on Kerry's schizophrenia based on things he's said just in the last week.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
God Hates Shrimp

Why stop at gays? The bible cautions us against eating shrimp and lobster too!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Utah.gov Wins Best of Breed

Reading Fletcher's blog, I notice that the Utah.gov portal won the Center for Digital Government's "Best of Breed" award. According to press release from NIC.

Named the nation's top state government Web site in the 2003 Best of the Web competition, Utah.gov epitomizes the best in its breed by combining innovative technology with first-rate customer service. Revamped and redesigned last year, Utah.gov uses XML, the standard language for displaying data on the Web, to effectively manage content on its home page. Utah's portal is also the first state in the nation to offer around-the-clock support by phone, e-mail, or live chat. Additionally, Utah.gov uses Web services for many of its interactive applications. Web services are individual functions that, when stitched together, can create enterprise-level applications, such as Utah.gov's OneStop Business Registration, which combines federal, state, and local processes into a single, easy-to-use online service.

At the close of 2003, Utah.gov boasted more than 100 interactive applications, hosted 76,000 unique page visits a day, and processed an average of 183,000 online transactions a month.

"We went for broke last year," said Utah CIO Val Oveson. "Former governor Mike Leavitt and I wanted a portal that would transform the way the state interacts with its citizens. We wanted a portal that was 24/7, high tech, and now. Utah.gov delivered."

Congratulations to Oveson for his leadership and his team for an outstanding effort. If anyone questioned Leavitt's decision to make him CIO, this has to make them stop and think twice. Under his leadership, Utah has risen to digital prominence.

Monday, February 23, 2004
Nader a Spoiler?

A lot of liberal cry babies are complaining the with Nader in the race, Kerry loses votes. Of course, you could extend that logic and complain that with Bush in the race, Kerry loses votes. I guess they're concerned that Kerry can't compete---"just put him in a one man contest and he'll bring in the votes!" Maybe if the Democrats would nominate who someone real people could vote for without feeling like they'd just turned the country over to Jane Fonda and Ted Kennedy, they wouldn't have to worry about other candidates stealing the votes from them. I know this will come as a shock to lots of people who live close to the coasts, but elections are about choices and Nader has just given people a choice they didn't have before.

Good Marketing Kills Bad Products

A number of people have asked what I thought about Howard Dean's meteoric fall from front runner to has-been. The implication being that somehow this kills the theory that the Internet represents a new way for politicians to connect. On the contrary, I believe in the axiom that nothing kills a bad product faster than good marketing. Dean looked good to a lot of folks until they got to know him. The Internet was probably helpful in that regard.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
Just When I Thought I'd Seen It All

Harvard is now in the porn business. The Crimson reports that the College has approved a student run magazine where students will pose nude. It even has a faculty advisor. Just as long as they don't talk about religion. That might offend someone.

Friday, February 13, 2004
Gulker on Abortion

San Jose techno-writer Chris Gulker ought to stick to technology. In his blog he says:

Justice Department is demanding that hospitals turn over records of women who have had abortions. I think this is going way too far to push a religious agenda using the U.S. Government's resources...

Since when is being against killing something a purely religious issue? Why is it that folks like Gulker would scream bloody murder (no pun intended) if the Justice department failed to investigate charges of racial profiling, but want the same department to turn a blind eye toward violations of laws they don't happen to agree with. There's a law on the books, let the Justice department prosecute, let the courts rule, let freedom ring! That's the American way.

Friday, February 06, 2004
Howard Dean is Pets.com

A marvelous article at AlwaysOn on how Howard Dean is just like pets.com. You should read it. Here's a piece:

And like Pets.com, which was able to attract money from some of the most famous investors, even at its peak, the Howard Dean for President campaign was able to attract an endorsement from Al Gore precisely at its peak. According to the Iowa Electronic Markets, Gore bought Dean (IOWA: DEAN) on December 9 at 36—and as of Feb 3, Dean was trading at only 5—meaning DEAN lost 86% of its value in less than two months. Can you say dot-bomb?

In a way, I'm sorry to see him go. Dean would have been interesting, even if he'd won, I would have enjoyed watching him. Kerry is boring and Bush is going to crush him. Hasn't the Democratic Party learned that the country doesn't want a president from Massachusetts, unless maybe its Mitt?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
I Like the Look of Kerry

I have to admit, I like John Kerry. Oh, its not that I want him to be our next President, on the contrary, I want George W. Bush to be our next President. I want Kerry to be the Democratic nominee. Why? Because he looks just like Dukakis and Mondale. He's going to be slaughtered by middle America. He'll do more poorly than Gore in the red counties. All in all, a great choice for the Democratic nominee, if you ask me.

To see how the press messed this up and had not clue, see this NY Post editorial.

Friday, January 23, 2004
Democracy at Risk

Its not often that I agree with Paul Krugman of the New York Times. In fact, I may have never agreed with him before, but today's the day. Krugman has written an Op-Ed piece that discusses electronic voting. He starts off painting a picture:

[I]magine this: in November the candidate trailing in the polls wins an upset victory — but all of the districts where he does much better than expected use touch-screen voting machines. Meanwhile, leaked internal e-mail from the companies that make these machines suggests widespread error, and possibly fraud. What would this do to the nation? Unfortunately, this story is completely plausible. (In fact, you can tell a similar story about some of the results in the 2002 midterm elections, especially in Georgia.) Fortune magazine rightly declared paperless voting the worst technology of 2003, but it's not just a bad technology — it's a threat to the republic.

If you spend a little time on the Internet studying the controversy surrounding electronic voting, you'll see what's got Krugman and a lot of people I respect more than Krugman worried. These machines aren't infallible and as currently designed, provide little assurance to people that their vote was properly recorded.

The answer is making sure that eVoting machines produce what is called a "voter verified paper trail." This allows for auditing of the election after the fact. I don't know how anyone could be opposed to such a common sense idea.

Friday, January 09, 2004
Clinton Was Convinced that Iraq Had WMD

This story from Yahoo! indicates that Clinton was convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction right up until the Iraq war.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said "When Clinton was here recently he told me he was absolutely convinced, given his years in the White House and the access to privileged information which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction until the end of the Saddam regime."

This clearly blows the theories of the "Bush lied" crowd and shows that the intelligence led different people, with different political views to the same conclusion.

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