We did learn one new thing from today’s speech: Haslam would measure his performance as governor on the economy, education and public safety, etc., and report to the public every year. He promised to have a "data dashboard" with little dials showing how the state's coming along. It's the cute name he said they give so-called metrics-based management at Pilot corporate headquarters. His campaign even made a picture of this dashboard, and Haslam flashed it on the screen behind the podium at the Wildhorse.
"Every morning if I'm governor, I'm going to wake up and look at that dashboard," he said as at least one reporter rolled his eyes.
What goals would he set? How would he measure progress? He couldn’t say.
And that was that. Otherwise, he only managed to repeat his single solid policy proposal, such as it is. He would create little regional economic development offices around the state. The current state ECD commissioner, Matt Kisber, happened to be in attendance at the Wildhorse, and he told reporters the state already has eight of these regional offices. So maybe Haslam will start a few more of them. Big whoop.
To the media afterward, Haslam denied his campaign is shallow and claimed he’s actually offering substantial proposals. Maybe if he holds his breath until his face turns blue, that’ll be true. Here are excerpts from the Q&A, plus video:
Reporter: Democrats are criticizing you for failing to offer any specific proposals. You had a lot of opportunity today to offer specifics. You talked about cutting the budget but didn’t say how. You talked about using data to measure performance but wouldn’t say what data.
Haslam: No, that’s not true. I actually gave a lot of examples of actual ideas that we would do. What I can’t do right now is say exactly what those goals will be but the point is we’re willing to measure ourselves on these five key areas and here’s some of the things we’ll measure. I can’t say exactly what our statistic is going to be because I think that needs to be developed in conjunction with whoever the commissioner and their team is.
Reporter: You keep talking about the need to cut major amounts of money here. Where do you get that money? Can’t you give us some sort of idea of where you would get that? Would you cut teachers? Would you cut the BEP funding formula?
Haslam: No, I’ve actually said. In terms of protecting the current BEP funding formula, the K-12 is the thing that I would prioritize in the cuts.
Reporter: In measuring performance, how are you going to hold folks accountable if they can’t stack up?
Haslam: That’s a great question. Ultimately, that’s what I’m hiring commissioners to do. So if you’re economic development, we’re going to agree on what your measurements are going to be, and if you want to stay as commissioner of economic development, we’re going to be reaching those. The hard part in government is it takes a long time to move the needle. Changing the rate of violent crime is going to take a little while. Changing our health factors and health culture in Tennessee is going to take a little while. But I want everyone to know here’s how we’re grading ourselves.
Reporter: But you can’t say what data you would use?
Haslam: No, because if you were going to be responsible for something you want to be part of the team that came up with what the measurement statistic is going to be.
Reporter: But you’re the guy who’s running for governor. Shouldn’t you tell people beforehand what you’re going to do?
Haslam: I am. That’s not true at all. I’m telling people, here’s what’s important to me as governor. I’m running to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for jobs. Here’s the things we’re going to measure. Here are some of the key things that are going to be indicators in there. What I’m not ready to tell you right now is X percent is going to be an acceptable target because the team that develops that has to be a part of buying into that goal. What I’ve seen forever in leadership, it’s one thing to set a goal, it’s another thing to have the team buy into that goal. And the team that buys into that goal works a lot harder and owns it a lot more.
Reporter: For instance, you’re saying Tennessee ranks 41st in education. But a lot of that is just a simple mathematical thing of how much the state spends per capita on education. So what exactly are you looking for? Do you want to move it up to 40 or 39 or what? What standards should we hold you responsible for prior to your being elected?
Haslam: I think it’s reasonable to make the commitment that we’re not going to be in the 40s in education. I don’t have a number. Do we want to be 30th or 29th? I think it’s too early to say. But it is fair to say, did he as governor move the needle on that? By the way, I disagree with what you say that it’s just a question of how much money we spend too. I think most studies have shown it’s not just a cause-and-effect of the more money you throw out, the better results you get. It is about higher standards and more expectations.
Reporter: Let’s get back to the original question. Why isn’t it a fair criticism by Democrats that you’re not giving any specifics?
Haslam: Well, first of all, I think I’ve given more specifics in this race than anyone else has. You tell me what specifics they’ve proposed that I haven’t. Second, I am saying here’s what we’re going to focus on, these five specific things. We have a very detailed jobs plan out there and I’ve just said we want to be measured on these certain indicator. I think that’s more specificity than anybody else has put out in this race.
Reporter: Did your campaign make a conscious decision not to offer any specific proposals because you’re ahead in the polls?
Haslam: No, you keep saying that. Who has offered more specific proposals than we have?
Reporter: That’s not really the question, is it?
Haslam: Yeah, it is.
Reporter: You’re the one who is going to be the governor. You should be telling us what you’re going to do.
Haslam: And I am. Here’s the five things we’re going to focus on. Here’s things we think it’s fair to measure us on and here’s some very specific items within those five things we’re welcoming accountability on. You tell me what we’re not being specific about?
Reporter: Well, we don’t know exactly what you’re going to do in terms of education in order to move things forward there.
Reporter: We don’t know how you’re going to cut the budget. We don’t know which sentences you’re going to tighten. We don’t know what data you’re going to use to judge yourself.
Reporter: You haven’t offered a single specific proposal on anything.
Haslam: That’s not true at all.
Haslam aide: We’ve gotta go.