An Interesting Idea on Dealing with Deficits–Let the Public Choose

Here’s an interesting idea. From the San Jose Mercury News:

San Jose officials Saturday printed up a bunch of money, handed it to a roomful of neighborhood leaders and asked them to sort out the city’s budget mess.

Alas, the money wasn’t real. But city leaders and residents alike found the exercise worthwhile in setting priorities as the city confronts a 10th straight year of red ink — $110 million in the next budget year.

The choices before them were bleak. Want to keep current branch library hours? That’ll cost a cool $2 million. Want Christmas in the Park and the Holiday Parade to continue? Pony up another $400,000. Don’t have the dough? There’s $1.2 million to spend elsewhere if you ground the police chopper.

“When you’re making really difficult decisions, it’s helpful to know where the community is on the issues,” said Mayor Chuck Reed, who joined senior city officials and other council members observing the event.

Richard McCoy, vice president of the Hathaway Park Neighborhood Association, felt the session was “extremely educational” and made him feel like he has a real say over how the city downsizes.

“The citizens can have an impact on the government, and not everything is done in backroom deals,” McCoy said. “I think that’s great.”

Read the rest here.

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