Saturday, June 19, 2010

LETTER: Citizen Input to Redmond's "Budget By Priorities" is a failed process

Howard Frazier has left a new comment on your post "Redmond's BP budget process - not a 'catastrophe',...":

LETTER   If the budget process has ‘citizen input’ as a core principle, then all evidence indicates that it is a failed process. If there was substantial notification of reasonable opportunities for input from citizens, then there would be substantial input offered.

I think that the persons responsible for collecting input did not use contemporary tools and methods to notify citizens of the opportunity and/or the methods available for input were not acceptable.

Several years ago, I received a form in the mail from the city which asked me to indicate my interest in various services so budget priorities could reflect citizen opinion. I filled in the form and returned it because I am interested in providing my input on the use of the revenue collected by the city.

What is the current method that the city uses to communicate with the citizens? How successful is it? I get regular e-mail from my HOA and from King County about how to participate in the decision making process.

I looked at the city web site about the budget process and the information published there is outdated and frankly embarrassingly sparse for such an important issue.
 If I was a skeptic, I might assume that they don’t really want to hear from a majority of citizens, but rather they only want to hear from policy wonks who like to address a forum of like-minded people. There is no method for input except to attend one of the two meetings in person at city hall and address the crowd. Does this sound like a genuine outreach for citizen input? The announcement of the meetings on the web-site merely instructs citizens to; “Come and tell City staff what services, programs and projects you want to see in the 2011/2012 budget.” Missing is the invitation to tell them what programs and projects you DON’T want to see in the 2011/2012 budget. Part of prioritization is identifying the less important programs and services so that we know where to cut when the revenue won’t support everything. Adding more revenue isn’t the only way to handle that problem.

Compare this method to how the city collected input on changes to the Ed Hill/North Redmond area a few years ago. In this case there were numerous community meetings in the area to describe the proposed changes, at least two open houses on a Saturday, multiple presentations by the mayor and other city staff to describe alternatives. This activity provided an opportunity to learn about the projects prior to providing input.

If the budget process requires input from citizens to be successful then a reasonable goal should be set for such input. For example; “Input must be received from 10% of the households and businesses.” The budgeting process is very expensive; what percentage of that cost is spent collecting citizen input? The answer to that question may provide insight into how important citizen input is to the process.

Comment Posted by Howard Frazier to Redmond Neighborhood Blog at June 19, 2010.
Re-Posted as a LETTER by Yoder


Bob Yoder said...

Readers of this blog are encouraged to write LETTERS to the Editor -me- by: 1) posting a comment under a post with your name and place of residence or 2) emailing directly to me at: If your comment is appropriate for a LETTER - whether pro or con --I may post it on a Page, with your permission. Write on! It's fun and rewarding!

Bob Yoder said...

I attended one of two community meetings for BP in 2010. I learned from Marta Gronlund, COR Communications from a Public Record Request that only 12 citizens signed into the second meeting. If you were watching the meeting on RCTV you would never know because the chambers were stacked up with staff. Probably 5-6 staff for every citizen. Only one group of citizens showed up to "lobby" for funding put in a good face. They constituted half of the citizens (6). The Mayor uses the TV cameras and staff to create a "presence of participation" that doesn't exist. Public gets P.R.'ed.