Crickets. That’s what we heard last night at our first public budget priorities meeting. No one showed. (Well, one gentleman stopped in to share his feedback about route #3, but he wasn’t there for the meeting and wasn’t interested in staying.)
Low attendance is a challenge faced by a lot of public entities when they are trying to engage the public on an issue. Recently I chatted about that very topic on the blog, and about the SNAPPatx project that is gathering community input and dialogue on transportation topics via social media. As a community, we’re developing different models and strategies for effectively getting public participation, but there are pros and cons to each strategy, and community meetings will continue to be the foundation of the outreach for a while yet. For a topic as complex as a ~$200 million operating and capital budget, the community meeting model is necessary to really delve into the details in an understandable way.
Last night was a downer because we have been working for a few months with our board to develop a more interactive, more proactive, and more inclusive public outreach process for creating Capital Metro’s budget for next year, FY2011 (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30).
Some of the ways this approach is new for Capital Metro: