City Manager Rad Bartlam's public information sessions on the city budget are like a college-level survey course in city finance.
The timing is perfect.
As government budgets continue to be squeezed, the public is becoming more concerned. But before the public can make a meaningful difference, we all need to know what we're talking about.
Whether we lean toward lower taxes, toward justice for the workers or more safety and services for everyone, we all have slightly different takes on the problem of government budgets and Lodi's budget in particular. We all suspect their are inefficiencies in government. But it's hard to know where. We all worry if there's self-dealing and corruption, though we don't have time to be down at City Hall all day long seeing who's doing what. There's more talk now about employee compensation than we can every remember.
What can we do?
We can take a little time and learn a little more.
There may be devil in the details of municipal finance. But there is also much wisdom and good judgment behind those same details.
Bartlam's lectures are, in effect, opening the books for all to see — at least for all who care. Those, like Tea Party volunteer Ed Miller, who take the time to review the values, judgments and details in the city books, may perhaps spot the oversights.
A knock against the Tea Party has been that members were taking collective aim at President Obama while ignoring governmental goings-on in their own backyards. Bravo to Mr. Miller for showing the Tea Party is connecting — and watching — at the local level.
Those who have absorbed the lessons can make informed suggestions and help form a consensus for change.
Similar outreach is planned by the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District board. Board members plan two public workshops in coming days. The first is Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Lodi Library and deals with the district budget. The second deals with projects, with a date and time yet to be set.
After months of hue and cry in the little water district, some civil discourse and education is quite welcome.
We hope more people will attend Professor Bartlam's classes as well as the sessions offered by North San Joaquin.
Public participation, after all, is the oxygen of democracy.
— Lodi News-Sentinel