California city Vallejo allowing voters to make budget decisions

Should the government seek your input before it spends a dime? Well, one California city, after it emerged from bankruptcy, is now putting the question to voters: should we ask you before we spend your money?

More than 100,000 residents in Vallejo, California would take part in “participatory budgeting” and order how the city would spend $3.2 million, a portion from the Measure B, a city tax initiative approved in 2011.  Over the course of the next few weeks, the general public will put forward their ideas, such as spending the funds on new playgrounds, after-school programs and music festivals.

The best options will be put on a city-wide ballot in May.  Of course, though, city council will have the final say and approve what the $3.2 million will be spent on.

It’s an interesting concept that was first developed in Brazil in 1989 and since then it has been adopted by different parts of New York and Chicago, but on a very limited basis.

What I don’t like is that it’s still someone else deciding how to spend someone else’s money.  Remember what Friedman said?  Economic Collapse News reported on it Monday:

“When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you.”

Here are excerpts from the Fox News article:

“”I’d like to see the money concentrated on parks,” said one man at the meeting.

“I’d like more to go to the youth centers,” said another.

“Those suggestions joined a growing list of possibilities posted on the wall. Many residents say more street lights are needed given the high crime rate in a city just now emerging from federal bankruptcy.

“Vallejo was among the first big American cities to file for federal protection after the financial crisis in 2008.

“But, given that backdrop, the head of the city has serious concerns.

“”I have no problems with creativity, but now is not the time to be creative,” said Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis. He argues that in a community struggling to get back on its feet, tax dollars should pay for critical city services — that’s it.

“”If you talk to the public, they say we want public safety, we want our streets fixed, we want buildings and grounds, we want service — and we’re not doing that,” Davis said.

“Others are more optimistic.

“”The experience of coming out of hardship and coming out of the challenge of bankruptcy, is really also an opportunity to innovate and to try new and creative ways to address community problems,” said Ginny Browne, a community engagement coordinator with Vallejo Participatory Budgeting.

“The best, most cost-effective ideas will be put on a city-wide ballot, and in May, Vallejo residents will pick their favorites. The City Council will also weigh in and have final approval on how the $3.2 million is spent.

“Participatory budgeting draws its inspiration from Brazil, which began the practice in 1989. In recent years, the concept has been tried on a limited basis in parts of Chicago and New York City.

“But Vallejo, once the capital of California, is taking a historic step — this is the first time participatory budgeting has been used city-wide.

“Supporters say the winning projects may well include some of the mayor’s priorities.

“When you give people a chance to meaningfully participate and actually solve problems, they really step up, and they really make great decisions,” Browne said.”

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