Every once in a while there is a news story so obvious, that even elected officials can’t avoid admitting the truth. The Seattle blog Crosscut carried such a story today on how it seems that every big project that the city launches always seems to go way over-budget.
Crosscut looked at four specific projects – the seawall restoration along Elliott Avenue, a new computer system at City Light, a new North Precinct police station and the Denny substation – tallied some $200 million in cost overruns. And this was the analysis:
“And with every one of them came the same reaction on the second floor of City Hall, where the Seattle City Council resides: Surprise. That’s not exactly the reaction you want from elected officials. And they agree. ‘As one of the new councilmembers, I was surprised that we lack the tools to effectively govern,’ says Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson.”
Of course, “effectively govern” is not the standard mantra at City Hall. “Pandering to special interests” or “getting in front of TV cameras” seem to be more popular among the clown show that is Seattle city officials.
Crosscut does point out that the inability of Seattle officials to budget adequately should not be a big surprise, writing “Revelations around cost overruns have the feeling of coming out of nowhere, as if one morning the seawall ran into a $70 million mistake. But the reality is these overruns percolate, either through error…or expanded scope (see the new North Precinct station’s proposed yoga studio, not part of the original plans).
But at least one of the city politicians isn’t going to use a favorite excuse – it’s somebody else’s fault. “On this issue, Councilmember Tim Burgess says, ‘I’m not going to point fingers at anybody, except maybe ourselves…While we try to do a good job doing oversight of capital projects, we don’t do enough,’ says Burgess.”
Perhaps voters will insist that their elected officials get better at paying attention to the bottom line, when some (like Mayor Ed Murray) are on the ballot next year.