The budget meetings will be broadcast on the city cable channel for those who missed the meetings.
Last week was heavy on democracy and citizen action in Madison. For us, it began with Mayor Soglin's budget hearing in our neighborhood on Monday. The focus was on major facilities and parks: Libraries, Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, the Overture Center and the parks, including golf courses and Olbrich Botanical Gardens. We decided to attend that session since we put libraries and Olbrich at the top of our list of things that make Madison a great city.
Library staff were on hand to answer citizen questions.
This process is new this year and while not perfect, is well-worth attending. You can make your voice heard in the process and during the Q&A period. According to Mayor Soglin, this citizen participation process is likely to be repeated for the next budget period, so it also makes sense to show up so you can see what it's like and be able to comment on the design of the process itself.
I give Soglin a lot of credit for opening up the budget process to citizens at the beginning rather than just letting us comment at the end. And he's framed this citizen input in a very thoughtful manner. "This year, as you think about the upcoming city budget," says Soglin on the city's budget website, "please go deeper than individual line items — consider what values are important for our city and how these values should be expressed in the services that the city provides for individuals, neighborhoods and the city as a whole."
The session we attended was the fourth in a series of five gatherings to let citizens have a say in the budget process. You can read all about it here. The final session is:
Wed, Aug. 31, 7-9pm
Topic: Public Safety
Warner Park Recreation Center
1625 Northport Dr.
And if you can't make it to a meeting in person, you can still make your voice heard by filling out an on-line survey.
You can see the diversity of rankings from these two charts.
We found the evening to be informative, not only in seeing how other folks responded to the issues, but learning about the budget in ways that citizens don't usually have a chance to do. It also lasted under two hours! We got to ask questions of city staff and the mayor. And Soglin, as always, was his quirky self, standing on the sidelines watching everything unfold. Then at the end he stepped in to answer some tough questions with the thoughtfulness, sense of history and social justice that have always characterized him.