Public Engagement and Budget Reform in Manhattan Beach – Embrace It!
The demise of California Redevelopment Agencies and the resulting loss of revenue for local governments should serve as the ultimate wake-up reality call to expect continued state take-aways and diminished funding from the state for core municipal services.
Consequently, the survival of local government will increasingly rely on public support for increased revenues. To meet this challenge, local governments across California are turning to public engagement in budgeting – i.e., efforts to help residents better understand public sector financing so that they are better equipped to make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.
Approaches to public engagement in local budgeting include education and outreach, advisory committees, workshops, and public forums. Numerous proven benefits throughout California include helping set priorities, identifying cost savings, maintaining civility, creating a continuing dialogue, and limiting the amount of special interest lobbying at the final city council budget meetings.
The Manhattan Beach City Council has failed to initiate public engagement in budgeting because it fears public input, access to information, and empowering residents to make effective recommendations. Public engagement requires public ownership and ownership occurs when public deliberation results in jointly prioritized or agreed upon ideas and recommendations. It should be a key element of much needed budget reforms in our city to ensure financial accountability.
Public engagement in budgeting is the new reality and the new challenge for the survival of local government. Embrace it.
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. Manhattan Beach