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The Candidates State Their Cases / 6th Council District : BRUCE HENDERSON

Incumbent Bruce Henderson, 48, is a lawyer who formerly was in private practice. He was elected to the City Council in 1987. His law degree is from UC Berkeley. He lives in Pacific Beach.

Many attempts have been made to involve citizens in local government. Examples include storefront police offices, planning groups, town councils, business improvement districts, recreation councils, even district elections.

The effort to empower neighborhoods is of great importance. As our population grows, the need for regional planning increasingly moves the decision-making process higher up the governmental ladder and farther from the voter. We want to think regionally, yet have to act locally to assure quality of life.

Empowerment of neighborhoods is the reason that, for several years, I have championed the concept of “neighborhood budgeting.” It is what District 6 needs to combat its most pressing problems: crime, traffic and preservation of community character. And it would help the city’s other communities as well. The concept is both simple and easily accomplished.

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Given a city already divided into neighborhood planning areas, we need merely make our best estimates of the city revenues derived from each community and the expenditures received by each. For example, we would take the city’s budget and, line-by-line, reveal expenditures by neighborhood on community planning, fire protection, housing services, library services, litter control, paramedics, parks, police, recreation centers, recycling, roads, trash disposal, sewers and water. Reasonable estimates would also be made for each neighborhood’s share of lifeguard services, museum and art programs, tourism and job promotion, pollution control, and other citywide services. On the revenue side, an estimate would be made, again neighborhood by neighborhood, of receipts from property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, income taxes, etc.

By circulating the budgets to town councils, planning and taxpayers groups and interested individual citizens, people could, for the first time, comment on priorities, question efficiency, or measure projected results against appropriate benchmarks.

As might be expected, there is danger for abuse of neighborhood budgeting. It could encourage some to pit neighborhood against neighborhood. But, in truth, competition for funding goes on daily. It is promoted, among other things, by the absence of any objective measure of winners and losers. I would argue that neighborhood budgeting won’t promote Balkanization. But rather, the process would be an information tool that would help city government prioritize its resources.

Neighborhood budgeting will assure a fair allocation of public monies among all our neighborhoods. It is one more way government can be brought to the people.

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