Friday, September 11, 2009

State Fair bean counters choose city funding priorities
On Friday of last week at the Minnesota State Fair, the Cities Matter campaign (a project of the League of Minnesota Cities) invited fairgoers to choose up to six of eight city service funding priorities by casting votes with six beans at the Cities Matter display table. More than 1,000 people accepted the invitation. Here is what they selected:

Police-- 1,163
Clean Water-- 1,021
Fire-- 781
Park and Rec-- 762
Libraries-- 741
Streets & Sidewalks-- 710
Senior Services-- 626
Sewer-- 586

The goal of this bean-poll was not to demonstrate that any one service is decisively more important than another. Rather, it gave participants a simulated opportunity to take part in the same kind of decision-making process that elected and appointed officials face every year at budgeting times--allocating scarce dollars among a variety of important services. In light of recent state aid cuts to cities, budget balancing becomes even more challenging. Participants commented that the bean-poll exercise was "difficult" and "thought-provoking." It also illustrated that--when it comes to budget-cutting--there are no good choices. Any choice made has consequences for the quality of life among city residents.