The Restoration of Community: Fiscal Sustainability and Community Engagement

Again I had 2 classes today. The first one dealt with Fiscal Sustainability. This is a huge topic and when I hear some of my colleagues from around the country talk about their struggles. I almost feel guilty about how good we have it in Rochester. Fiscal Sustainability is something that I often speak about.

Sustainability is not an environmental concept, but rather a statement of developing a community that can support its people without external inputs. It is about sustainable businesses, food, taxations, mobility, education, and healthcare. The presenter, Derek Okubo, of the National Civic League defined Fiscal sustainability as:

“Models of governance incorporating a “results/outcome approach” to the policy and program framework emphasizing the triple bottom line of equity, the environment and efficiency through effective public engagement processes that generate mutual trust and community-owned accountability”

This is a mouthful, but it makes sense. If you ignore equity (tax fairness), environment (our future), or efficiency (waste avoidance), you really did screw up. Further we need to engage the public and make them accept that for better or worse we are a reflection of the community and our fate is theirs as well.

The National Civic League actually did research on communities that were less adversely impacted by the current economy and came up with some finding. The found that the communities doing better had these features (my evaluation in parenthesis):

  • Less denial (A-, we do get it)
  • Kept Frugal Practices from previous downturns (B+, pretty good here, we are smaller than 10 years ago)
  • Revenue is less dependent on growth and development (D, so-so, we built a ton of infrastructure that we maintain but is under used and we are talking about doing more)
  • Sustainable mindset and practices in place including, urban growth boundaries, strong environment, and buy local (D-, OK at best on environment, mediocre on buy local, but a God awful failure on urban growth boundaries)
  • Retail Diverse, less leakage (C, good, but too much subsidy for low paying corporate owned businesses)
  • Staff / elected body in concert (B+, really better than the public perceives, I am the biggest hiccup)
  • History of community engagement and partnerships (A, we do well here)

Overall we do pretty well which is why we are not in the tough shape that some other communities find themselves in.

One of the controversial statements that was made, that I agree with is that public safety cannot be sacred. Public safety is the biggest part of our budget and if we ignore that when making cuts everything else gets destroyed. I care about our parks, culture, and neighborhoods.

There was also a tremendous focus of local engagement. They recommended local forums that utilized an independent 3rd party moderator and specifically encouraged us to recruit a diverse audience, because we know the loud mouths will show up, but everybody needs to be represented. Lastly, they said to feed people, it makes a difference. So stale 2 week old donuts here we come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.