Norma C. Cardona: Don’t take residents out of the budgeting process

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Though funding for Merced County’s District 1 will no longer be available after a 3-2 vote to dissolve discretionary funding, funding for District 2 will continue for the 2017-18 budget year. The Steering Committee will continue to develop procedures to engage the community in a transparent and open process.
The Steering Committee identified four goals for this budgeting process:
▪ Increase transparency in government spending,
▪  Impact community needs,
▪ Cultivate new civic leaders,
▪ Build bridges among residents.
The Steering Committee will continue developing a process to give residents an opportunity to brainstorm for community improvements, develop proposals then vote for the projects that will be receiving funding.
Participatory budgeting would allow residents to work “with” the county to allocate resources to projects having a real impact on their neighborhoods.
Some supervisors called the discretionary fund a “slush” fund, but through participatory budgeting, the use of discretionary funds stops being illicit, opaque and questionable. Instead, the community gets a transparent, accountable and democratic process.
If Supervisors can vote to get rid of discretionary funds, they can vote to reinstate them. I propose they not only reinstate discretionary funds but require the participatory budgeting process be the rule for use of all discretionary funds for all supervisorial districts. Call your supervisor to support an accountable, transparent and democratic process.
Read it on the Sun-Star: