By Marti Brown, past Vallejo City Councilmember
I just read Dennis Yen’s letter to the editor dated June 18 regarding Participatory Budgeting (PB) and all I could think of was that Fleetwood Mac song: “tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies, tell me, tell me lies….”
It would be one thing if his letter was grounded in truth and fact, but it’s baseless and only serves to demonstrate that he barely participated in PB Vallejo if at all. I guess when you know nothing about a process you can make up whatever “facts” you want, right?
Mr. Yen’s first paragraph in his letter is so inarticulate and without anything more than conjecture that it doesn’t even warrant a response. His second paragraph makes no sense at all. Regardless of whether capital projects are approved through the PB process or by the City Council, city staff will have to work. But isn’t that what we pay our staff for? To work?
In the third paragraph of his LTE, he states that PB is a grand experiment and has only been implemented on a project-by-project basis. All I can say is: ignorance is bliss. PB has been implemented in more than 1500 locations around the globe and, IN MOST CASES, those processes were implemented town or city-wide—NOT on a project-by-project basis. He also states that it’s a “loosely conceived dream.” Again, PB has been engaging citizens around the globe for more than 25 years. Just because the United States is a late bloomer when it comes to PB doesn’t make it “a dream.”
As for the final paragraph of his letter, Dennis suggests that PB has been used to distribute ‘Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, monies for our city golf courses and supporting Downtown businesses.’ Huh? This is such a complete lie that, once again, I don’t even know where to begin.
In my experience as both a former Vallejo City Councilmember and a member of the public, the city has always conducted the bare minimum of required civic engagement when it comes to CDBG funds (more due to a lack of resources than anything else). There has been nothing remotely close to PB and allowing citizens to place project ideas on a ballot and vote on them. The golf course? What percentage of the city’s population even uses the golf courses and yet the city subsidizes its water to the tune of $500,000 per year. Dennis, do you really think the citizens of Vallejo would vote to subsidize the water at Blue Rock Springs Golf Course at a half a million dollars per year if they knew that it would pay for the total compensation of a little more than two police officers per year? Seriously? And what PB process has the Central Core Restoration Corporation done to include citizens in revitalizing the downtown? Your entire letter reminds me of the Wizard of Oz – pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain. It’s baseless, without fact or merit.
For the record, the City of Vallejo spent approximately $50,000 on consultants for PB Vallejo this year. A pittance compared to the consultants used to justify water agreements and fee structures between the City of Vallejo and Blue Rock Springs Golf Course. By the way, Dennis, don’t you work for Blue Rock Springs? No hidden agenda there, right?
With PB’s ongoing success in more than 1500 cities worldwide and growing every year, I’d hardly call it an “unproven social experiment.” Nice try, but if there’s anything that’s unproven, it’s the content of Dennis Yen’s letter to the editor.
Note: All opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.