Back to local stuff

I spent the evening with the Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers. I learned a bit more detail about the sort of shenanigans that are embedded in the budget, and received a bit of clarity as another member observed that the city is currently in a very reactive mode, responding to each crisis with more spending, plans, proposals, and (especially) studies (which cost money, of course). My plan now is to help APT with whatever strategy they want to take on this budget cycle, but then perform a detailed critique of the FY 2010. That critique could be a basis for making specific proposals for the next year’s budget, before the City Manager makes his proposal, and for being better prepared for analyzing that proposal when it does emerge.

For example, with the exception of Little League, it seems that the city runs all of the youth sports leagues. Why? In my hometown, nearly every kid played soccer, but there was a Junior Soccer Association that ran the leagues (using the town’s fields). Why is the government running the Portsmouth junior soccer league? That’s just silly. With a thorough analysis, we could probably find dozens of programs that can be merged or moved to voluntarily-funded non-profit groups. I am looking forward to it.

I also want to try and help APT grow. Apparently, lots of people think they are useful and valuable, and their donations reflect that, but membership sure doesn’t. I think that part of the problem is that the work is so thoroughly un-glamorous, and I don’t know how to fix that, but I suspect that making positive proposals to change things rather than reacting to proposals will be part of the answer.

The nuts and bolts of the budget are interesting to watch develop—especially in how little grand vision there is at any level. The City Manager might have a clear picture of the whole thing, but I am pretty sure no one else does. Next week’s work session focusing on the police and fire departments—two huge sections of the budget—should be lots of fun.

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