It would be hard to argue with recent U-B editorials advising that when local governments need to reduce spending, the cuts should reflect priorities. I'd like to suggest a way to determine those priorities, though, which I think will serve all of us better than simply designating some services as "essential" and others not.
Democratically elected governments do more than just provide community services that the private sector can't appropriately provide. Local governments also serve as a forum for community decision-making and planning.
They're expected as well to assure the orderliness, safety, fairness, and long-term well-being of the community.
Everyone familiar with the U.S. Constitution knows that we, the people, established our government "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
That's a much different role than that of a mere provider of services; it's a recognition that any group of people needs agreed-upon processes and leadership in order for the group to function for the benefit of its members.
When we recognize our local governments as a primary means to a just, safe, sustainable and economically strong community, we begin to have an adequate context to determine budget priorities.
In determining those priorities, I suggest we look at the full picture of where we are now and where we want to be as a community. We can then decide how best to get from here to there with the kinds of financial and other resources available to us.
This is by no means to suggest that government can or should do it all. We need everyone doing his or her part - local businesses, nonprofits, faith congregations and each of us who lives here.
Our community is home to all of us, and we all need to help make it the best it can be.
Mayor Barbara Clark