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City of San Jose – Working with Existing Neighborhood Councils and Committees Story

Case Story

Community:City of San Jose (Santa Clara County)

Population: 989,496

Summary: Neighborhood Advisory Committees

The San Jose Strong Neighborhoods Initiative, a network of neighborhood advisory committees, was organized to strengthen community participation in redevelopment areas. The committees developed visions for their neighborhoods and identified priorities for redevelopment spending. The city council expanded the neighborhood advisory committee model citywide following the success of these efforts.

Prior to the city’s decision to involve the new neighborhood advisory committees, the proposed budget was presented in local meetings to council districts. Residents could ask questions and cast “dot votes” to identify priority efforts that should be funded and things they could do without. Though turnout at these meetings varied widely, participants asked good questions and provided feedback that could be shared with elected officials.

The agency decided to encourage the participation of neighborhood associations in the budget process by summarizing its 1,000 page budget in a six-page “Budget in Brief.”

Next, San Jose retained a consultant to facilitate a three-hour budget workshop for community leaders. Its Neighborhood Services Department maintains a roster of approximately 200 active neighborhood associations and asked each to designate a community leader to participate in the budget workshop.

At this workshop, residents created lists of positive things about living in their community and things they would like to see improved. The participants then reached a consensus on five priority areas. These priorities were incorporated into the agency’s annual budget message. In turn, the city manager incorporated the input into the budget and noted how this aligned with the identified priorities.

Finally, elected officials and senior agency staff participated in another facilitated workshop. The session followed the same process, though only elected officials participated in prioritizing goals. After elected officials selected their three-year goals, participants divided into working groups to discuss next steps. This allowed the city manager to link his budget presentations to the council’s priority goals as well as neighborhood-generated priorities.

The process has been influential. One approved annual budget included funds for two additional code enforcement staff, an idea responsive to the neighborhoods’ priorities even though code enforcement was not one of the elected officials’ original top five priorities.

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