Everett spending revisited

We heard you.

On Aug. 11 we posted a database containing information from roughly 21,000 checks that the city of Everett cut last year. More than 5,000 businesses and people received payment.

We figured making that inform

ation searchable would encourage some readers to examine how Snohomish County’s largest city government has been conducting public business.

Unfortunately, our effort landed with a thud.

It was the execution, not the information, readers told us. This feedback, from Tom Thuerk, a certified public accountant who lives in the county’s unincorporated area, was pretty representative of what we heard:

“This Sunday’s challenge, most intriguing,” he wrote. “So, as a professional auditor (government, public and private), I went to the search engine you provided. I tried it a couple of times and my first thought was it is difficult to imagine a more inefficient way to examine a database with at least 5,000 plus recipients and 20,500 entries.”

The interface we provided for the data was a window that allowed readers to type in names to search, or to query the data for display using preset ranges.

That approach didn’t lend itself to examining spending with sufficient scope, readers said. Thuerk wrote that he was tempted to try to download the data himself, query by query, but abandoned the idea after considering the return on investment.

Need to Know remains an experiment. One of our goals is to provide relatively raw, unfiltered information, then to get out of the way.

We’ve taken another run at presenting Everett’s spending data, this time offering the entire list for download, as an Excel workbook or as PDF list, enabling you to browse all 5,000 payees, old school. The links for those files are at the top of this story under Related Items.

Meanwhile, some of you contacted us after you examined the data earlier and found enough there to pique curiosity.

One reader was surprised to read that Everett had cut a check using his somewhat unique name. We asked the city what that was for — a $200 rebate — and got back to the reader.

Turns out there is somebody else in town who shares his name, and who also is the proud owner of two new water-conserving toilets.

Somebody else contacted us with questions about the cost of operating particular ball parks. City staff say they are pulling together the numbers.

Everett officials have been nothing but helpful, following not only the letter but also the spirit of state records laws.

Still, we’ve heard rumblings from some in the community who can’t see value in knowing which construction companies do the most business with Everett, or how much particular law firms get paid for legal advice, or random details, like billings that demonstrate how the city from time to time buys goat milk to feed critters at the petting zoo.

We hope you’ll spend some time with the data in its new form and get back to us with questions worth exploring. Leave your comments and suggestions in the comments below. And here’s the search tool we originally posted, as a supplement to the full list linked at the top of this story.


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