St. Petersburg residents want say in budget planning

04/01/13 Lauren Misa
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On Thursday, residents of St. Petersburg will meet to discuss what they think the city’s budget priorities should be. It's year 2 of what’s called the People’s Budget Review.

The proposed budget will reflect what the residents want their city to look like and what is most important to the community. Aaron Dietrich is an organizer for People’s Budget Review.

"We've seen in past years that the city was holding public budgets from us and we were not getting a lot of resident participation. We've got critical issues we deal with in the budget and it determines our quality of life on so many levels. We wanted to make sure that as many residents as possible were able to voice their opinion on so many issues that directly affect the quality of their lives. We believe that residents really have a lot more input and a lot more understanding of what their needs are."

Dietrich says this year there will be surveys to see what the residents really want for their city.

"What we're really doing in 2013 is putting out three surveys the first will be around vision, the second will be focused on specific policy ideas, based on what people are giving us about their priorities for the city and what they want their city to look like in the long term. From that we want to get some specific ideas about what kinds of initiatives, what kinds of projects that people would really be interested in funding. And that final survey is obviously the real brass tacks elements which is resources. How do we really propose to pay for this?"

Dietrich says in prior years, elected officials outnumbered residents at public budget hearings, but he hopes that will change.

"We were really glad last year to see a lot of that mentality change. People saw directly, that were involved with this project last year that the city really was listening. That was really the purpose, recognizing the problem that people are not engaged in one of the most critical policies, discussions, policy discussions in the city."

The People’s Budget Review will give residents the chance to speak out and give their input on what should be done with the St. Petersburg budget.

"April 4th is really a night to get away from the mold of the traditional press conference. We're really trying to get people to think creatively, imagine their city, celebrate their city. We're trying to get people to tell us what they like most about their city, what they want to have changed about their city and what they want to let St. Petersburg to look like ten years down the road. So we're inviting artists to come out draw your vision for St. Petersburg out in front of the steps of City Hall. Tell us on video, take the survey online. Draw pictures, sing a song, whatever works for you. Everyone can have their say."

The official launch for People’s Budget review 2013 will be at 1 p.m. this Thursday in front of St. Petersburg City Hall, which is located at 175 5th St. N.

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