Last year Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the conservative Washington Policy Center, submitted an expansive public document request for documents and communications from Seattle officials related to the development of the city’s income tax ordinance. He’s been kind enough to share and discuss the resulting information-dumps with me, and the results are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the City Council operates.
I should state up-front: Jason and I disagree on the merits of an income tax (I’m for it), but we have a shared interest in government transparency and accountability, independent of government officials’ political leanings. The income tax legislative effort was a big, complex knot of relationships: lobbyists, legislators, attorneys, activists, and city staff — largely hidden from view. I was surprised by the extended efforts to keep communications secret, as well as who did the work and who got paid for it.