Transparent & Accountable Budget: A How to Guide

It is time for Richmond City government to become the good stewards of taxpayer resources that we expect. Everyday, we as citizens have to balance the many different priorities that arise in life and make the tough financial decisions. It is time for leadership in City Hall that does the same for 1st District residents.

The First District accounts for more than 20% of our city’s property tax base, and our area contains some of Richmond’s greatest economic drivers. However, we have no accountability on how our hard-earned dollars are spent by City Hall. This must change, and it will take forward-looking leadership and a fresh perspective to get it done.

As your next City Council representative, I will fight to streamline our budgeting process and increase transparency. I believe firmly we need to institute line item budgeting — where we break down, into an easily digestible format, how much money is specifically designated for trash collection, fixing our streets, cutting the grass or fixing the dilapidated infrastructure in our crumbling schools. As our budgeting process currently stands — we just see large numbers like $3M for city cleanup or $11M for Richmond Public Schools with no clear breakdown of how those dollars were spent. Furthermore, we must establish a monthly tracking system for key expenses and expenditures. This will enable residents to monitor and track how their tax dollars are being spent and to hold our city government accountable for the performance and growth of Richmond.

I will fight to create this type of breakdown of the annual budget I pass

For more engagement with this budget: CLICK HERE! Seriously, you can click on a fund and see how it is spent by department. This is accountable and transparent budgeting at work.

One that is easy to read and understand, but that is also inter-actable!

A simple breakdown of the budget that allows for clicking on the expense type and drill down.

Richmond needs to see where the money comes from & where it goes:

I want to see our annual Expenses and Revenues visualized to make sense of our Finances. For more info: CLICK HERE!

I have been asked many times how this change is possible on City Council. The answer is straightforward. The key role of City Council is to pass the City and School’s budget each year. To account for this spending, I will pass an Open Data Policy Ordinance similar to Oakland and in Washington D.C., one that will expand the work I led in City Hall, to officially drive transparency in all departments. This will allow for us to have the public information made available that shows the budget and finance information. I will then utilize the skills, talents, and abilities of the community from tech businesses to colleges and universities to our passionate residents, to create data visualizations that meet our needs and expectations. Change will not be overnight, but as will build and collaborate on these changes, we will shape the future of our City through leading and instilling good government practices.

I also believe we need to have a participatory budgeting process as part of our overall budgeting process. Several other cities across the U.S. (New York City, Chicago, and City of Vallejo, CA)have implemented a process where residents, students, and business owners and from each district meet with city leadership to make suggestions based on their needs and priorities, and formulate a plan for fixing parks, streets, and other capital projects. This is an extremely useful tool for city government as it allows for the leadership to directly hear from the people and the businesses that make their city great and to include their ideas into the final budget. This is the type of citizen engagement that has been missing from Richmond city government for far too long, and it is a change that needs to happen. This allows for a conversation about our budget and how we spend public funds. It’s a moment for leadership to learn the needs of the community and the people to see how the budget process works to understand how their tax dollars are spent. This is how good government functions, and I will bring this vision to reality on City Council.

The next City Council will have a lot of issues to deal with: getting our financial house in order so City Hall can keep up with the boom in growth and business development coming to Richmond, fixing our crumbling schools and improving access to quality education, addressing our public safety professionals’ growing pay gap compared to the surrounding counties and bringing new jobs and development to our city to reduce our high poverty rate. This is going to require leadership that knows where the challenges lie in City Hall, leadership that can pull the different sides together to find a solution, and leadership that truly seeks to represent the people and to bring them into the discussion.

We need a budget process that is easy to follow, scheduled at times we can participate and be engaged with how our funds are prioritized and spent:

Check out more information about Oaklands Budget Process:

As a candidate who spent the past 8 years in City Hall fighting to bring new ideas and best practices for better government to Richmond, I know what it takes to drive this change forward, which is why I stepped forward to run for City Council. I have studied, learned, and met the people that have led these changes from across the country and will bring these practices to City Hall through policy, budget, and visionary leadership.

I invite you to check out my website to read my RVA First plan for how we as the 1st District can lead the way forward for our city and drive this change that we desperately need. Our city is at a crossroads and we have an important decision to make on election day. Will we embrace our full potential, bring new jobs to Richmond and experience the tremendous growth staring us in the face? Or will we continue along the same path and squander this tremendous opportunity? Friends, I think that’s an easy choice — and it’s why I ask for your support and vote on November 8th!

Recovering bureaucrat. Pioneered as Civic Innovator. Now serving a second term on City Council in Richmond, VA. Words are my own.

Recovering bureaucrat. Pioneered as Civic Innovator. Now serving a second term on City Council in Richmond, VA. Words are my own.