Bankrupt California City To Let Voters Make Budget Decisions
A California city that recently emerged from bankruptcy is taking a new approach to budgeting — this time, by asking voters how it should spend the taxpayers’ money.
The question is being put to residents in Vallejo, Calif., a blue-collar port city of 116,000 people.
Under a pilot program, Vallejo is using what is known as “participatory budgeting” to figure out where to spend a $3.2 million portion of Measure B, a city tax initiative approved last year. At public assemblies throughout the next few weeks, involved residents are brainstorming ideas — from youth centers to after school programs, from new playgrounds to music festivals. Any civic project or service will be considered, so long as it fits the financial constraints, and benefits the community.
“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.