More than 250 people showed up for the San Luis Obispo City Financial Planning Community Forum wanting one thing: money.
No, they weren’t there to personally pocket municipal cash, but for a chance to tell city leaders how they should spend tax dollars. Revenue cuts represented a newly popular category this year. Residents were given a chance to express their opinion on which spending programs to reduce or eliminate.
The city grouped speakers by interests, and the largest of the groups was made up of bicyclists. They were overwhelmingly young and enthusiastic, holding up their safety helmets when their representatives spoke and tapping away at their iPhones when others were speaking. Soccer and rugby enthusiasts wanted more time on the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields. Elderly golfers defended their turf against anyone who thought the Laguna Lake Golf Course should be converted to other uses. As more than one councilmember said, it was democracy in its rawest form.
One popularly expressed opinion was a recommendation to cut employee salaries and benefits, a suggestion brought to prominence by the City Manager’s Fiscal Responsibility Task Force budget report.
The meeting was emceed by Don Maruska, a management consultant hired for $7,400 to facilitate meetings and help the city staff and leaders with their budget process. He said he was hired to help the city make tough budget decisions and was greatly impressed with the meeting.