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2008 Media Releases


Date:
May 29, 2008
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Alan Tomkins, Public Policy Center, 472-5688


MAYOR SAYS “PRIORITY LINCOLN” IS SHAPING BUDGET DECISIONS

Read the Priority Lincoln Final Report PDF - 812 K

Mayor Chris Beutler today said the success of the PRIORITY LINCOLN public process will be measured by how well City leaders use what they have learned to shape the budget for 2008-2009. About 2,000 people participated in the process, and Beutler promised that the City budget will reflect the “hopes and aspirations” of citizens for Lincoln’s future.

“By engaging the public in a conversation about Lincoln’s budget, we have elevated the community interest above the narrow demands of the special interests,” said Beutler. “The public participation process demonstrated clearly that before we cut services or raised revenues, the public expected us to leave no stone unturned in finding efficiencies and cheaper ways of doing business.”

The PRIORITY LINCOLN process started in March, and the City released the results of the scientific phone survey of 605 residents in April. The report issued today also includes findings from a follow-up discussion with 51 phone survey participants; a non-random survey filled out by nearly 1,300 residents; a series of town hall meetings attended by about 200 people; and a small focus group.

The studies were coordinated by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. Other partners included the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Bureau of Sociological Research, which conducted the scientific phone survey; Leadership Lincoln, Inc., which conducted the town hall meetings; and the Lincoln Community Foundation, which funded the majority of the project.

Alan Tomkins, Director of the Public Policy Center, said safety and security were identified as the highest priorities. Economic opportunities also ranked high, but Tomkins said many believed that area should be handled by the philanthropic and business communities, not the City. The results showed strong support for the PRIORITY LINCOLN process, and many expressed appreciation for being asked for their input.

“A surprising finding was that residents want to maintain the current array of services and activities, and they said they are willing to pay more taxes to keep services from being cut,” said Tomkins.

Beutler said the City is working on innovative ideas and new efficiencies, but those won’t be enough to fund all the services Lincoln residents value.

“The community’s high level of support for City programs means that we can no longer reject out of hand any suggestion that maintains services,” said Beutler. “It’s clear that people feel there is a minimum level of service they expect, and they may be willing to make sacrifices to maintain the services they value. With a nearly $6 million deficit, we have to be honest with the public, talk about what the City will lose with cuts and decide whether those services are worth paying more money to keep.”

Beutler said the emphasis on safety and security will continue, but with a new twist. “We will make an unprecedented effort to measure how successful we are at keeping you safe,” said the Mayor. “We will continuously examine indicators such as the violent crime rate, our success in resolving criminal cases, and motor vehicle crashes that result in injury. This will help us better focus our limited resources on those efforts that make a difference in keeping your family safe.”

The Mayor said a key to the economic growth the public expects is faster service from City government on development projects. “Time is money, and my proposed Development Services Center will cut red tape and keep builders building rather than managing their projects at City Hall. In the upcoming budget, we will commit significant new dollars toward a study and implementation. Our citizens have signaled they want new action on jobs and growth, and with the Development Services Center, they will have it.”

Beutler said the City also has responded to the PRIORITY LINCOLN findings in other ways. His office has contacted non-profits to explore innovative solutions to provide human services at a lower cost. And he said the City is looking for ways to save money in those outcomes and services identified by the public as lower priorities.

“We have tough choices ahead,” said Beutler. “But thanks to the input of more than 2,000 citizens, we have the guidance we need to make the right decisions for our future.”


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