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City of Redwood City – Budget Deliberative Forum Story

Case Story

Community:City of Redwood City (San Mateo County)

Population: 77,269

Summary: Community Workshops Inform Council Priorities

This diverse city has established a reputation for innovative community-building and civic engagement activities, which the city council and staff build into many areas of municipal daily work. This includes city budgeting.Redwood City holds deliberative public workshops early in the process of preparing its two-year budget.In January 2008, Redwood City conducted two community workshops designed to gather input from a broad cross-section of residents, which would help the city council determine the key priorities to guide their spending over the next two years.

A general invitation issued via e-mail, public access TV, press releases, the city website and flyers brought nearly 100 people from all areas of the city to the three-hour evening workshops. The city determined that providing food contributes significantly to the success of such efforts, so dinner was served. Participants were seated at round tables in small groups of about eight people, with a trained volunteer facilitator at each table to help guide the discussion.

After participants were given an overview of the budgeting process, facilitators at each table asked questions designed to gather budget ideas and suggestions and reach some level of consensus about what the city council’s priorities should be when preparing the new budget. Each table reported its findings to the entire group at the meeting’s conclusion. City staff gathered all the data and prepared a briefing for the city council on the priorities that were generated.

The results of these workshops were referenced during subsequent council deliberations and public hearings on the budget. While not all of the reported community priorities were reflected in the final budget, the community had significant and early input into the budgeting process.

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