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Breathtaking incompetence

The depth of incompetence in the development of Cover Oregon is breathtaking. We know that because of a Sunday investigative article in The Oregonian. Its headline "Plenty of warnings, none heeded" nailed the culture of amateurism that has plagued state government in its development of an online health insurance site.

This is not inside baseball. At stake is the health of Oregonians and especially the low income.

It is also not a fluke. The Cover Oregon debacle is only the latest phenomenally expensive computer technology bungling in state government.

Even though he was warned, Gov. John Kitzhaber appears to have been clueless as Cover Oregon's website lumbered toward oblivion.

Ironically, it was state Rep. Dennis Richardson who warned Kitzhaber that the Cover Oregon project "is now in jeopardy of becoming the next state IT fiasco." Richardson is Kitzhaber's only announced opponent for re-election to a fourth term.

The Oregonian's report noted that the Cover Oregon board, appointed by Kitzhaber "has no IT or project management experience."

For those of us who are not state bureaucrats or dependent on the political favor of John Kitzhaber, Sunday's alarming report carries at least three warnings.

  • The Oregon Legislature is implicitly culpable. A measure of redemption will come if Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek ask the operative question: "Isn't it time for Oregon to become professional in computer technology?
  • If the Democratic legislative leadership won't hold the governor responsible, the Republican leadership should ask the question: What did Kitzhaber know and when did he know it? (Hint: Kitzhaber would not be interviewed for The Oregonian's investigative report.)
  • How can Kitzhaber hold himself out as a candidate for another term with a cow pie like this in his pocket? Isn't health care reform Kitzhaber's signature value? What are we electing? Four more years of administrative neglect?
  • How can the Legislature approve the Columbia River Crossing in the wake of this revelation? How can lawmakers trust the governor's information? Shall we supplement one deeply flawed money pit with another? The very idea gives new meaning to that old warning: "If you believe that, I've got a bridge for sale."