By editorial board • 

If you seek public input, you commit to heeding it

Here at the News-Register, we used to stage an annual You Be the Editor exercise for current and future civic leaders. The core element was asking them to play editor for a day by making up a front page based on a budget of stories and photos we provided.

Actually facing the decisions we face on a regular basis seemed to give participants a much greater appreciation for the complexity and ambiguity of the process. It demands difficult tradeoffs, balancing acts and judgment calls they were not always well prepared for.

The city is now staging a somewhat similar venture it’s dubbing Dollars and $ense. Cutting through the clever marketing lingo, it’s essentially a You Be the Budgeteer exercise, using a digital tool the city is calling the Balancing Act.

But the city is staging it on a grander scale than ours. It is reaching out through the internet to involve every willing and able resident of the city it can between now and the Oct. 1 start of the 2023-24 budgeting process.

Want to get your pixels in? Visit and have at it.

The task you will find yourself facing is divvying up the old city fire levy of $1.50 per thousand, now that the firefighting function has been handed off to a new special purpose district with $2 per thousand of its own funding.

The city is proposing to retain and reallocate the old fire money, be it in full or in part, all at once or in phases.

That’s a decision city councilors agonized over in public last year, made in public back in January and owned up to forthrightly throughout the successful fire district campaign. So it should come as no surprise, even though it has clearly not won full public acceptance.

The city is offering the chance to choose five options from a menu of 10 and rank them in order of preference.

The list includes: public safety; housing; maintenance and repair; culture, parks and recreation; rainy day reserve fund; long-term investment savings; vehicles, equipment and technology; roads, sidewalks and paths; economic development and growth management; and an unlisted suggestion of your choosing. And the rainy day fund, long-term savings and suggestion of choice elements provide avenues for hold-the-line advocates to also be heard.

Drop-down menus offer additional detail, but the categories remain rather broad. You can leave comments to clarify and quantify your input, or take advantage of focus group sessions, public hearings, arts and entertainment events, written submissions or a Sept. 27 Ideas Fair.

We commend the city for launching such an innovative, collaborative and extensive campaign of public involvement. That stands to serve as a check to any temptation it might feel to overplay its hand.

In its online explanation of its levy retention decision, the city argues “growing budget constraints have limited our ability to provide … services at the level and quality our residents desire and deserve.”

Clearly, it considers retention well-justified, adequately vetted and already decided. And it can, with some justification, cite the magnitude of the yes vote on the May fire district measure as vindication.

However, a strong current of opposition remains, fed in part by the city’s contemporaneous creation and retention of a contentious utility service charge.

In light of that, care and caution would be wise watchwords. If this train is leaving the station, let’s make sure it’s been hitched to the engine, not the caboose.



Does anybody actually think that the mayor or council will listen and act on the will of the people? Anyone outside of the NR editorial board that is? This is nothing but a PR campaign to help people forget and gloss over the fact that this tax should be going away not falling back into the slush fund. Every time there is a dime to squeeze out of the taxpayers they say it will go towards parks, or police, or needed maintenance that never seems to happen. No one is buying it. The NR is running an article right now about another fee from the city, they cannot live within their means and the mayor and anyone else that votes for this on the council needs to be thrown out at the next election. The people in this town need to wake the hell up.

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