Talkin’ finances

Reading the city budget is no easy task. City Manager Dave Burkland and Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy do their best, but there’s no getting around the mass of spreadsheets and documentation, no matter how pretty the cover page and how concise the summary.

The proposal coming before the Chico City Council on Tuesday (June 16) has 323 pages. No wonder it’ll be a day-long session.

All this may seem a set-up to dissuade public participation. It takes a big investment in time and effort for a citizen to dissect financial documents, then sit in council chambers from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a weekday. That’s a tall order even for an accountant with insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But public participation is important. City staffers make the recommendations they deem best for their organization—employees and customers (i.e. citizens). Customer feedback matters. As Burkland told me Tuesday evening, while answering questions for my preview on the budget workshop, “I understand why people are concerned and appreciate that. … We want the public to trust us.”

Trust is earned. Respect garners trust. Receptiveness yields respect.

From what I’ve gleaned, the budget strategy makes sense, mainly because it’s a work in progress that will be continuously refined.

I’m not too comfortable with all the transfers to make the general fund balance, but in light of what the county and state are going through, this seems a reasonable measure in dire times. Massive hacks (i.e. layoffs) would create a ripple effect; we should avoid them until we have to make that choice.

I say “we” because it’s our tax money, our services. Council members are our proxies. Their authority comes from us. They answer to us. They listen (at least most of them do most of the time), and they’re obligated to do so when it comes to the public-comment portion of meetings.

Go online; visit the city’s Web site: The budget is on the Finance Department’s home page. If that’s too extensive a commitment, click over to the City Council home page and e-mail your thoughts to your elected representatives.

The city budget should reflect the priorities of the people who live here. Do your part to make sure it does.

Summer class of ’09: With the graduation of Sarah Hubbart and Katie Booth, CN&R editors have been waving goodbye to spring interns while waving hello to a new group for summer. Sarah is heading to Washington, D.C., to work in agriculture advocacy; Katie—author of this week’s cover story—moves to L.A. later this summer to pursue an acting career.

Joining us as a photographer who may well get some bylines is Jasmine Roufchaie. She’s a documentary/multimedia major at Chico State who might just be the CN&R’s first intern to understand Farsi.

Therese Marucci, a writer with a news story this issue, is pursuing a double major of journalism and English. She served as assistant features editor at the Orion, Chico State’s student paper, this past semester and will be features editor in the fall.

Also making her debut this week is Leah Tallchief. She, too, is a double major: psychology and journalism. She’s worked as a copy editor for the Orion and a resident adviser at University Village.

Back with us for another term are Serena Cervantes, Sarah Kelly and Matt Siracusa. Quite the class we have!