Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.

The City Committee, the Biggs/Kofford Report and the city’s budget office all say the same thing – we’re living in a revenue neutral world with continuously escalating operating costs. And while they disagree on exact timing, all agree that without significant revenue growth in our local economy, we’re skipping down Little Red Riding Hood’s path where the Big Bad Wolf of unsustainability will devour us.

They say our revenue will increase nominally over time and our expenses will increase more than nominally over time. Without a change in thinking – without a willingness to believe in ourselves, trust ourselves and invest in ourselves, we’re up the oarsman’s creek without the proverbial paddle; we’re skating on thin ice; we’re driving while drunk. On our current course, we run a budget deficit by 2015 and deplete our fund balance (our savings account) by 2019.

Ah, belief, trust and investment. Those are interesting words. If we truly believed, trusted and invested in each other we could eliminate a lot of unnecessary meetings and argumentation and could spend more time imagining and creating a better place. If we’d believe and trust that the Mayor and his staff evaluated our current financial situation and crafted our best possible budget we could eliminate hours of posturing, wrangling, weeping and gnashing. Alas, alak and unfortunately, local politics cannot live in a world without unyielding scrutiny.

The proposed 2012 general fund budget is $224,575,000. That’s a $1,400,000 increase from the 2011 budget. It eliminates around 38 jobs and cuts something like $3,700,000 in salaries and operating costs, and charts a course for future budgets where everyone is accountable every year – (which seems to me, is the only honest way to budget with someone else’s money). And while significant budget cuts sound good on their face, realize, you can only cut “so much meat from the bone” before you start to seriously imperil the patient. And we can’t forget that city government is a competitor in the global economy for talent and lest we suffer a brain drain, we need to be mindful to properly compensate our star players.

I commend the Mayor’s committed to no new taxes. His 2012 budget reflects that sentiment and generally, philosophically I agree. However, and I know your eyes will burn as you read the next sentence, I’d argue that to grow our city and increase our revenue to “more than nominal” (else we’re screwed), we’ll be called to believe in each other, trust each other and invest in each other.

We’ll be called to invest in federally mandated storm water infrastructure repairs and other unfunded, back logged capital improvements like roads and bridges. We’ll be called to invest in interesting public/private partnerships like growing our advanced educational institutions and we’ll be called to invest in the creation of new amenities like a Monument Creek Waterway, a downtown sporting/event center and other amenities that will enhance our cultural attractiveness in the global marketplace. We’ll be called to believe in each other, to trust each other and invest in each other. Oh, and as for the 2012 budget, I trust the Mayor and his staff.

Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.