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An Exceptional Excel Worksheet

If you didn’t catch Secretary of State Mary Herrera’s column on Heath’s blog, take a moment to read it. It is an attempt by Ms. Herrera to explain how inadequately funded her technical needs are. For example:

Thanks to Sen. Dede Feldman, who reinstated her capital outlay money from prior years, we received a $70,000 appropriation. We used that to create an Excel spread sheet and update the forms for that year for candidates to file their campaign reports. This amount only allowed us to do minor enhancements.

Wow! It took $70,000 to update an Excel spreadsheet, and a couple of forms. I’m really trying to get my head around that one. That must have been one heck of a spreadsheet. I’m kind of thinking that sounds like a pretty nice job for a programmer. A $70,000 salary and you get to focus on updating a few forms and building a spreadsheet. If I had that job, I’m pretty sure my golf score would be much, much lower.

Of course, it gets better. That $70,000 was only the beginning:

The following fiscal year we were appropriated $176,500 for additional enhancements. Rather than spending any more funds on a 14-year-old system that is outdated and that FileOne (the company that makes the software) has advised us they will be doing away with in the next two years, we went to the Legislature to ask for a change in the language that would allow us to use these funds to pursue another option.

The Legislature allowed us to do that effective July 1 of this year.

We are now moving forward on utilizing these funds to purchase the Washington State system. Due to the funds available, we will have an improved system, but not a new system.

Ok, let’s see. That puts us at just under a quarter of a million dollars for a “14-year old system” that still doesn’t work right. But, like a Ginsu knife commercial, wait, there’s more.

You might remember that the previous Secretary of State also spent hundreds of thousands on the broken campaign reporting system. I was so troubled by this ongoing process at the time that I went ahead and built a site that allowed for instant reporting and searchability of campaign contributions and expenses. The total cost: $200 and twenty hours of work.

Unfortunately, I only had two takers, so I’ve long since taken down the website, which had garnered some attention at the time. What’s the point of all this? Well, it’s to make a simple point. The current Secretary of State, like her predecessor, has absolutely no good reason for not having a functional website. Saying that she isn’t spending as much as other states is a cop out too. Just because other states have overpaid for their campaign reporting websites, doesn’t mean that we have to as well.

Heck, the federal government spent over $27 million to redesign a website. For those of you who have no idea whether that’s money well spent. Let me say unequivocally that is the Web 2.0 equivalent to hammers and toilet seats that cost hundreds of dollars. But, maybe Ms. Hererra, would like to use that benchmark to explain away her failures.