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Council Gets Citizen Guide For Budget Community Partners Report Packs No Big Surprises, But Seeks ‘Trust’

Spokane residents say they want elected officials to eliminate sacred cows, streamline services and provide a leadership spark sorely needed in the city.

They want streets paved and protected, their tax dollars stretched and their voices heard.

A report from Community Partners much touted as the citizens’ budgeting guide made its debut before City Council members Monday.

Its 76 pages are filled with results of surveys and town hall meetings aimed at finding what services residents most want and those they could live without.

The highly anticipated report “is a step…in rebuilding the public’s trust in a process that cries out for citizen involvement,” said Chris Marr, the group’s co-chairman.

Council members applauded the group’s tackling of such a “monumental task,” and promised to meet with them Oct. 19 to discuss the recommendations.

“Our responsibility is to take this into consideration during our budgeting,” said Councilman Joel Crosby.

The council paid Cary Bozeman, a Seattle consultant, $45,000 to lead the Community Partners discussions. Council members directed the 29-member group to help set spending priorities in the midst of the city’s money woes.

Early projections show the city needs $6.5 million it doesn’t have to provide the same services next year it does now.

Residents gave standard responses for their priorities: police, fire and street repair. But, they urged, just because something is a high priority “does not preclude” it from cuts, the report says.

Even the DARE program made the hit list as an area the city should consider privatizing. At $600,000 a year, a private group could offer the “anti-drug program as effectively and at a much lower cost.”

The report urges the council to:

Adopt a budget philosophy that requires every dollar spent be justified.

Focus on long-term goals as opposed to short-term fixes.

Adopt a street utility fee for just streets and bridges, costing residents $2 a month and employers $1 per month for every worker.

Revise the city’s Civil Service system - described as a “major barrier” to trim services. That move would require a charter change.

During a focus group discussion sponsored by the group, people were asked the most important problem facing the city.

The report said most people were worried about “a sense of drift, a lack of leadership or vision.” Without strong leadership, residents fear even bigger problems ahead.

While the focus group only had 10 people, other surveys and discussions showed residents are “frustrated by a lack of vision, a lack of emphasis on planning for the future,” Marr said.

, DataTimes


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