The Seattle City Council is fervently “woke,” but disappointingly lax in bringing a critical eye and basic competence to the job of governing our town.

The latest evidence of this comes from a state Auditor’s report that says council members employed “only the bare minimum of accountability and transparency” when they awarded a $3 million no-bid contract to conduct research aimed at identifying public safety spending priorities. This was in 2020 when the council was giving serious thought to defunding the police.

The council bent over backwards to give the contract to a particular activist group that had lobbied them for the job and overrode a veto from Mayor Jenny Durkan who believed, probably rightly, that the work could have been done for much less money. What the public got for this extravagant expenditure of their tax dollars was a fat report — 1,300 pages! — that was thin on new insights and heavily padded with 1,100 pages of reprints, older publications and subcontractors’ reports.

It is one thing to pursue progressive goals, such as police reform or resolution of the homelessness crisis, and quite another to frantically throw money at any activist group that lobbies the council or packs a public meeting to loudly present a list of demands. It furthers no good cause if scarce funding gets directed at sincere people — or charlatans — that cannot do the job, especially if the council is incapable of performing basic oversight. 

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