The Controlling Board is a bicameral, bipartisan legislative committee of the General Assembly.  By statute, the chair of the board is the director of the Office of Budget & Management or his/her designee.  The purpose of the Board is to review and approve various state contracts, examine and approve or deny applications to waive competitive bidding in government contracts, and make modifications to the appropriations in the State budget.  It’s supposed to be a watchdog type entity that does not approve contracts that seem dubious or questionable.

And yet, here’s today’s headline in the Columbus Dispatch:

imageFor an hour, the bipartisan members of the Controlling Board grilled the Kasich Administration on one seemingly simply question: how does the Administration plan on evaluating JobsOhio’s performance as to whether it is working or not?

The Administration’s answer?  We don’t know.  We haven’t thought of that yet:

“We do not yet have those goals solidified,” said Ohio Department of Development Director Christiane Schmenk. “We just started to review that with them.”

Schmenk said she expects to see a draft of the JobsOhio strategic plan by March 1.

Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, questioned how taxpayers are supposed to know whether they are getting a good deal if JobsOhio will not disclose the criteria it is using to determine a positive return on investment.

The Administration’s answer, as it has been for a year, is that it’s methodology on how it determines a deal like the $400 million offered it offered Sears is a “trade secret” that it cannot disclose, which, if disclosed,  would permit independent, objective verification of its evaluation of its own deals, but might also let other States know the metrics Ohio examines to determine whether to offer a package to a company.

What’s worse than this self-grading that the Administration hasn’t figured out in the past year since Jobs Ohio Pt. I (HB 1) became law? 

JobsOhio will report to legislators on its activities once a year.

“We know that transparency is going to be very, very important to the success of this new model,” [Ohio Department of Development Director Christiane] Schmenk said.

Yes, that’s right.  The Administration is only going to grade Jobs Ohio once a year, and they think that alone makes JobsOhio transparent.  If transparency is “very, very important” to the success of this new model, then why not public evaluations, at least, on a fiscal quarter basis?  Why not allow more of what JobsOhio does to be subject to public meeting and records laws?  There are better ways to balance a prospective deal’s need for immediate confidentiality during negotiations and the public’s right to know that what HB 1 created.

Drywall is more transparent than JobsOhio.

For the record, here’s a copy of the contract between JobsOhio’s subsidiary company and the State of Ohio dealing with its liquor profits.  We can get it now because it had to be attached to the Controlling Board application.  If we request any other documents related to JobsOhio and this liquor money in the future even documents in the possession of the State that are public records, under this contract, such a public records request (under this contract) is delayed until JobsOhio is notified about it and can potentially seek an injunction to block the production of any such public records that exists that are requested.

The question nobody seemed to bother to ask yesterday is: how can we trust Kasich’s political appointees in the Ohio Department of Development to objectively evaluate Kasich’s political appointees in JobsOhio, his pet project?

Seriously, when has any economic development model self-evaluated itself a failure?  For that matter, when has anyone period?  But what’s even worse is that they won’t even tell you how they’re grading JobsOhio.  Look, I’m proud if my kid gets an A+ on a test.  But not if the test only asked him “What’s your name?” versus explain the tenants of string theory in quantum physics.  For all I know, the Ohio Department of Development is going to test JobsOhio on its name.

Imagine you’re buying a car, and the salesman tells you it’s got a “five star” rating for safety.  After some serious questioning, you find out that the five-star rating comes from the car manufacturer, so you have some doubts about its objectivity.  So you ask the now flop sweat drenched salesman how the manufacturer evaluates cars to come up with a five-star rating and what it means, and then he tells you he can’t tell you because it’s a trade secret. 

For all you know, "5 stars" is what Michael Bay gave the explosion it makes in tests.

Who’s buying the car? 

Well, you, the Ohio taxpayer, just did thanks to the Ohio Controlling Board.  The Controlling Board approved a 25-year contract that gives billions in state revenues over to JobsOhio.  And it was approved despite a complete inability by the Administration to explain how it will self-grade JobsOhio except to say that it will only happen once a year and its method will be “a trade secret” that is exempt from disclosure so that independent parties can attempt to verify the data the State uses in evaluating, essentially, itself, you are now in the car Johnny Kasich just sold us.

Clayton R. LuckieOnly State Representative Clayton Luckie (D-Dayton) voted no.  Everyone else, including State Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) voted yes.

We still nearly a month away from Jobs Ohio II legislation (which was promised a year ago would be introduced by August) from even being introduced.  We’re apparently several months away before the Kasich appointees in JobsOhio and the Ohio Department of Development will release how they plan to evaluate JobsOhio’s performance… which we won’t actually see in action until, what, 2013?

Yep, the State of the Ohio is now driving down the economic highway hoping that we didn’t just buy a sloppily built Ford Pinto that is one bad deal from blowing up the State from our backside.