Goo-goo alert: More kudos for Idaho Legislature’s performance auditors

In the name of good government, the Idaho Legislature’s tiny Office of Performance Evaluations continues to get notice for its work.

OPE Director Rakesh Mohan’s essay on how to make complex reports interesting and readable was published this month by BetterEvaluation, an international group aimed at improving evaluation practice and theory.

In the two decades since its founding,  OPE has received more than two dozen awards, most notably the 2011 Gunnar Myrdal Award from the American Evaluation Association.

In his April 11 piece, Mohan describes using charts, interactive web-based tools and quotations from survey respondents on recent reports regarding Department of Health & Welfare money management, business tax policy, state employee compensation and policy, workforce issues affecting K-12 teachers and equity in higher education funding.

In February 2013, I wrote about how the report on teachers prompted criticism in the Legislature from legislative advocates of the “Students Come First” reforms repealed by voters in November 2012.

Mohan was defended by legislative leaders including House Speaker Scott Bedke and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maxine Bell. In his essay, he explains the use of teacher interviews:

“We believed that our report would not be seen as credible work if we did not include stakeholder perspectives in our report, so we surveyed teachers, principals and school district superintendents to get their perspectives on workforce issues affecting them. As expected, our report was widely read and used primarily because of the stakeholder perspectives brought to light by the survey. However, we also had to face some unexpected consequences as reflected in this media story which was front page of the Idaho Statesman.”

Now, a lesson on “goo-goos.”

Before the 1912 invention of the Goo Goo Cluster and the 1986 formation of the Goo Goo Dolls there were “goo-goos” in New York City — good government advocates who fought the corruption of Tammany Hall. The reform movement spread, improving lives in urban America and bettering the business environment.

The term was coined as a slur by the corrupt establishment and is still used derisively in some quarters. I find the pejorative use a head-scratcher. Who doesn’t want effective and efficient government?


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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