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Seattle councilmember wants more oversight on mega project spending

Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold submitted legislation that would add an additional layer of oversight to mega projects in the city. Herbold says the legislation would create a watchlist to allow for review, before authorizing any future spending on certain projects.

Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold wants to give elected leaders more oversight over major projects, in the wake of several high profile overruns.

“We're basically creating a new financial policy for the city,” Herbold said in an interview about the new language she included into the city’s budget deliberations.

Herbold has been a strong critic of Seattle’s handling of transportation projects, ranging from the seawall, to bikeshare, to the Center City Connector.

“Because the council found out about these cost overruns so late in the game, the council has decided we need a new approach for the oversight of capital, large capital projects,” said Herbold.

Also see | Seattle streetcar project more than $100 million over original budget

Herbold’s legislation would allow Seattle City Council to review projects, making sure they’ve hit certain intervals before allowing new spending.

The councilmember believes it would force the projects in the city’s Capital Improvement Program to stay on track and on budget.

“Things are falling through the cracks,” Herbold acknowledged, noting in particular, the millions committed to the streetcar and seawall projects.

Also see | Seattle to spend $1 million on aging, deteoriating seawall

Herbold says the council, or mayor, would be allowed to have a watchlist with annual or quarterly reviews, and “money won’t be released until (the projects) hit certain thresholds.”

Herbold’s filing also specifically cites “two pilot projects for capital project oversight by stage, the Ship Canal Water Quality Project and Delridge Multimodal Corridor,” noting “both projects contain provisos that establish a Council reporting requirement before moving to the next stage of the project.”

Council President Bruce Harrell and Council member Rob Johnson have also backed Herbold’s proposal.

The budget process runs through November.

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