How easy is it to find online information about the City of Seattle’s spending? WashPIRG, the public interest research group, released a report card on the 30 largest U.S. cities today and gave Seattle a C+ grade.
The city did well in having detailed, checkbook-level financial information available online, said Micaela Preskill, a WashPIRG advocate. But she said the city didn’t make that information downloadable for data analyses and didn’t provide information about tax subsidies to business, or information about contracting.
The report examined how effectively cities allow the public to track financial information including budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for services such as garbage collection or burned-out streetlights. Preskill said that the more transparent government spending is, the more the public can evaluate priorities and hold elected officials accountable.
New York City, Chicago and San Francisco received A grades. New York City, for example, has a mobile app that allows residents to request and track city services, she said.
A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said that the city budget office was not briefed on the WashPIRG findings. But he noted that the city received a national award last year on budget transparency given by the Government Finance Officers Association.
Seattle’s financial data is available at www.data.seattle.gov.