The Troubled Tale of the Black Brilliance Report on Participatory Budgeting


Two main initiatives emerged from Seattle’s summer of protests over police and racism. One was the effort to sharply curtail the personnel in the Police Department, shifting services to other agencies and community services. That issue is mired in controversy, both in Seattle and at the Legislature, and it is likely to resurface in the fall city elections.

The other main issue was a proposal to shift to community-based budgeting for portions of the city budget, empowering Black organizations and voters to shape more extensively a slice of the city budget. This important and far-reaching initiative has not been covered very much in the media, owing to some secretiveness by the parties and the delicacy of the racial issues involved. Post Alley therefore recommends you read this extensive and meticulous account by Kevin Schofield, a Post Alley colleague and founder of the city hall news and analysis website,

The various organizations overseeing the project and doing research on “participatory budgeting” have completed some work called the Black Brilliance Research Project and reported some of its findings to the city council. The whole effort has sparked friction and recriminations and prompted a review by the state Auditor. As Schofield observes in a summary paragraph:

“In the final days of the $3 million Black Brilliance Research Project, the wheels came off the wagon. King County Equity Now, the organization that fought for and spearheaded the project, found itself on the outside looking in, and despite making allegations that its fiscal sponsor had committed financial improprieties and contract violations, it was unable to convince the City Council to intervene before the clock ran out.”

To read the full and fascinating story, here's the link again. 

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. New organizations, new people, few requirements by the City for process transparency, millions of dollars, “oversight” by City Councilmember Tammy “How dare you question me” Morales: what could possibly go wrong? Next up: handing over another $30 million to gather opinions on the City budget??

    Meanwhile, the City of Seattle is $34 million short to repair critically important bridges. (


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