Thursday, September 8, 2011

Through comments and bean counting, fairgoers weigh-in on city services and funding

Over the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair approximately 10,000 fairgoers visited the Cities Matter exhibit booth, sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities. The Cities Matter booth offered interactive activities to help fairgoers understand more about city services, as well as to provide them with an opportunity to voice their thoughts about how best to provide those services.

As part of the “Idea Avenue” activity, fairgoers were asked for their thoughts about what city leaders should focus on when making decisions about city services and funding. Those with ideas had an opportunity to write them down on note cards and place them on the Idea Board display. The League will combine those ideas and comments with others collected during a series of Community Conversations held in 12 cities over the past summer.

A second activity provided booth visitors an opportunity to be a “city bean counter.” Each person was given a six-bean budget with a goal of deciding how to “spend” their beans among eight different city services. They were permitted to allocate all of their beans to a single service, or to divide them any way they wished. Through playing the game, visitors quickly got a better understanding of the tough budgeting decisions that city officials are required to make. More than 7,000 people participated in the city bean counter activity, and this is how they spent their beans:

Police: 7,243
Clean Water: 6,872
Fire: 5,608
Libraries: 5,316
Parks & Recreation: 4,969
Senior Services: 4,306
Streets & Sidewalks: 4,213
Sewers & Garbage: 4,004

Visit the League of Minnesota Cities Facebook page to see images from the Cities Matter booth at the State Fair.