Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ward Four meetings led by Jordan always highlight major issues

Ward 4 meeting highlights city budget

Lioneld Jordan and Shirley Lucas hold their Ward 4 meeting on the last Monday every month at City Hall. They're always timely - usually covering the next council agenda or some new plans or development in the ward. Lioneld always gives us a monthly update on the city's Street Improvement Project. So it wasn't surprising that the September meeting turned out to be a short course in political science and city finance, sort of a Participatory City Government 101. It's also a working model of the quarterly town hall meetings that Lioneld will be committed to when elected mayor. As an impromptu leadoff, our three candidates for the Ward 4 Council seat - Lewis, Honchell and Sulliban - introduced themselves and their platforms for five minutes each. All showed themselves to be worthy choices for our next alderman. Then the meeting was turned over to Paul Becker, Fayetteville's Finance Director, who gave an update on the city's budgeting process. His presentation proved to be a rich learning experience for everyone. Mr. Becker treated us to an expert and fast-paced analysis of our city budget, punctuated by comments from Shirley and Lioneld and audience questions - all in less than 45 minutes. He shared a half-dozen easily read cardboard charts that he described as "old fashioned," but they painted a graphic picture of the major portions of our city budget, detailing sources and distribution of the funds. He fielded our questions directly and clearly - even from those of us who know little about the complexities of the city's budgeting process. Characteristically, the general tone of the meeting was like a family or neighborhood get-together, with Lucas and Jordan supplying additional information on budget items that most affected our ward - including some straight talk about the options for balancing the 2009 budget. Although we've had Ward 4 budget discussions annually, I believe that Becker's was the first we've applauded. Maybe that's because we have some especially difficult needs to be resolved and our U. S economy is suffering. We urged Becker to put his charts on the city's Web site for the community. And later, we posted the meeting videos online and requested replays of the complete Ward 4 meeting on CAT. An edited version also is showing on the Government Channel. You'll see the kind of accountability that we've learned to depend on in Ward 4 for the past eight years. Lioneld has promised to hold similar quarterly meetings that will be rotated among the wards when he's elected mayor, another reason we'll be voting for him in November. It's the kind of experience and sharing that we've learned to trust. Join us at the Oct. 27 Ward 4 meeting. In these lean times, we especially appreciate the careful stewardship that Lioneld and Shirley give us for our tax dollars. It's another reason to vote for Lioneld Jordan - experience you can trust.
Jim Bemis / Fayetteville

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