Revenue is down but the public’s needs are the same. So the City of Austin is looking into starting a matching program for public improvements like sidewalks. This is a good idea modeled after a program in Seattle, but the details need be worked out to ensure that the improvements being subsidized have wide constituencies. It would be unfortunate if this was just a way to get sidewalks paved faster in well-heeled neighborhoods. I’ll keep readers posted on the details of the program.
In addition to using matching programs, the City might look into using more crowdsourcing and contests to engage Austinites to use their talents to solve simple and complex problems. For example, the City opened up the development of a name and logo for the upcoming comprehensive plan to the public. Good move, CoA! We want more of that. In the past I have argued the the City Council should have put out a symbolic prize a la the Netflix movie recommendations contest for the WTP4 water demand estimates. Hopefully, we’ll see more efforts along these lines soon.