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Training Brings More Voices Into San Diego’s Budget Process

About 50 people spent Wednesday night at the Logan Heights Library talking about zoning and throwing around acronyms like CIPRAC (Capital Improvements Program Review and Advisory Committee) and CIP (Capital Improvements Program). But the mood was surprisingly light and energetic.

The new fiscal year started about a month ago, but already the city is gearing up to decide which projects make it into next year's budget. How residents are mobilizing to make their voices heard.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Photo by Megan Burks

Ryan Jackson, 19, took two buses and his skateboard to a community planning training hosted by the Community Budget Alliance Aug. 21, 2013. He says he wanted to find out how to bring more transportation options to his Skyline Hills neighborhood.

That's because, in addition to officials who are accustomed to all that jargon, there were moms from the neighborhood and teens who skateboarded to the meeting.

It was one in a series of trainings the Community Budget Alliance and Center for Policy Initiatives are doing to demystify the budget process and bring new faces into the conversation.

Ryan Jackson, 19, sat in the front row wearing Converse sneakers and stud earrings. He said the meeting was his first introduction to community planning.

"I can say I've always been a bit of a nerd. I like maps and stuff," Jackson said. "I don't know, for some reason I just started to have a fondness and interest in my community, wanting to make it better for the people after me, especially my little sister."

Jackson said he'd like to see more transit options and jobs in his neighborhood, Skyline Hills.

Organizer Corinne Wilson said similar trainings during the last budget cycle resulted in some major wins for San Diego's neighborhoods. One budget hearing had more than 200 public speakers, many groomed by the budget alliance. Their comments helped push through 11 new projects, including a skate plaza in City Heights and a pilot program that will provide free bus passes to some local students.

This time around, CBA and CPI have made it even easier to make recommendations to the city. They've teamed up with Code for America (which Wilson describes as Teach for America for computer geeks) to develop a mobile phone app that sends suggestions directly to area planning groups and CIPRAC, which helps craft the mayor's budget draft each October and November.

Just text "rebuild" to (619) 326-9125 and answer a series of questions about what you'd like to see in your community. You can fill out the same survey online here.

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