I’ve already pointed out a few issues with the federal recovery.gov site and our state’s stimulus tracking site in an earlier post, but now a national group has come out with a report ranking every state’s stimulus Web site.
The results are not encouraging. Oklahoma’s main stimulus site manages a score of just 20 out of 100 possible points, according to the rankings by Good Jobs First. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s stimulus site fares a little better, at 33 out of 100.
“Given the Recovery Act’s high profile, we expected better results, but most state ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] sites simply do not measure up,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “The challenge is not insurmountable. States such as Maryland, Colorado and Washington are doing a very good job in conveying vital information about stimulus spending and are leading the way in establishing best practices for state ARRA disclosure.”
Good Jobs First does say Oklahoma’s site includes good information on the broad allocation of stimulus funds. But it faulted Oklahoma for not including information about jobs saved and/or created and for failing to provide stimulus funds by geography.
If there is a silver lining in the report, it’s that most other states scored close to Oklahoma. The average score in the Good Jobs First report was 28. Just six states scored 50 or better for their main stimulus site: Maryland, Colorado, Washington, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania.
Good Jobs First had several recommendations for state stimulus Web sites:
1. Put a summary of key information about ARRA spending at the top of the home page of the site. A clear bar graph, pie chart or table showing the main spending flows goes a long way in helping the user begin to see what the Recovery Act is all about. There should be clear links to pages with more details about the various programs.
2. Provide a map or a table showing how overall ARRA spending and the amounts in key categories are being distributed geographically around the state.
3. Along with information on spending streams, report on individual projects being funded by those programs. Where possible, display the location of the projects on maps. Interactive displays that allow one to drill down for more details are better than static PDF maps. [emphasis mine]
4. For projects carried out by private contractors, be open about the contract award process and the identity of the companies that win bidding competitions. Post the bids and the details, including the full text of the contract awarded to the winner.
5. While the federal government’s Council of Economic Advisers is responsible for estimating the overall employment impacts of ARRA and the Recovery.gov website will report jobs data on some (but not all) individual projects, state ARRA sites should also make an effort to include employment data in their project reporting.
6. ARRA sites should provide readily accessible information about the ways that individuals, organizations and businesses can apply for stimulus grants and contracts.
I’m sympathetic to a point about some of the Oklahoma Web site’s shortcomings. After all, the stimulus money continues to trickle out of Washington to the states. And we’re all new at finding the quickest and most effective ways of keeping track of it.
The folks at OK.gov, who administer the state’s stimulus site on behalf of the ARRA Coordinating Council, put me in touch with the Webmaster for the stimulus site. I’ve also got a call into the governor’s office. I’ll update when I hear back from them.
UPDATE: Behind the scenes, budget officials, agency coordinators and Web programmers are working to get additional information on the state’s stimulus site by the federal deadline in October. Among the possibilities are map mashups and raw data feeds and downloads.
Meanwhile, Paul Sund, Gov. Brad Henry’s spokesman, said the state ARRA Coordinating Council will meet again, but no definitive date has been set. The council last met in March.
Written by Paul Monies