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Money talks, and so must we

The budget.

It’s big. It’s imposing, complex, and big. Did we already say it was “big”? Yes. It. Is.

For most of us, numbers that end in “Illion” - million, billion, gillion! - are more or less meaningless, and efforts to grasp their impact and effect on our regular lives can be daunting or simply unappealing.

But now is the time to try.

The city staff and the city commission are already well into the process that will yield the financial roadmap for the next fiscal year beginning on October 1st. Department heads are reviewing, requesting, rationalizing, and recalculating the needs and wants for their areas of responsibility. In this regard, they are doing what all business managers do on a regular basis, making it more familiar than it might first appear.

The role of citizenry is not as obvious and its influence is not readily discernible, but it - we - have an obligation to be involved. Here’s how:

Become familiar with the city’s formal organization and how the city government intersects with the professional staff that manages it.

Review the numbers for a sense of the “big picture”. Did we already say it was “big”?

Consider how you would like to see the revenue stream flow to projects and possibilities that will help form the best version of Lakeland - even if only in accordance with your own humble opinion. This is how and why we must engage the process.

Write to the commissioners. Write to the department heads.

If you believe more - or less - should be spent on sidewalks, streetlights, firefighters, public art, public safety, or communication, please organize your thoughts and send them to the people you elected to represent you and your interests.

In spite of some noisy complaining to the contrary, the city management and government are open and receptive to citizen input and issues. Most of the failures of engagement belong to us. It is not reasonable or responsible to ask City Hall to listen and respond to propositions they are unaware of. Send your message. Make your case. Do your duty. Engage your citizenship!

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