Quality of Life Commissions and Budget Equity

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Quality of Life Commissions and Budget Equity

Postby Steve Adler » Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:05 pm

Colleagues:

On the dais, many of us have expressed a continuing desire for a better and more effective way to receive and process budget recommendations we get from the Quality of Life Commissions. The Commissions are working hard and we need to do better to take advantage of and to benefit from this resource of community insight and expertise.

We should handle the QofL recommendations this year as a transitional year as we commit to do better. This year, we’ll still allocate funding with consideration of the work of our Commissions. (The Concept Menu and the first showing of individual council member priorities contain many of the Commissions’ recommendations.) We need to act on them. We need to do more. We must also set into motion a deliberate course of action that will have us change structure and systems so we can be in a different place and with a different process next year.

We should fund in this year’s budget as many of the specific policy areas brought forward by the Commissions’ recommendations as reflect our community’s greatest needs.

As we are considering reserves allocations for next year as part of this budget process, we should also consider beginning to fund a QofL Fund reserve that would accrue every year and would be earmarked for the work of making our city a more equitable one.

We should increase the capacity of the Equity Office (Item # E-17) so that, over this next year, it can work with the QofL Commissions and the City’s Public Health department to review current spending, programs, vendors and partners with an eye to finding opportunities to maximize and increase equity. This should lead to changes in next year’s base budget or recommendations that would come to Council as part of next year’s budget process.

As part of the increased capacity in the Equity Office, it should institute a new process for requesting, receiving and processing recommendations from the community, through the QofL Commissions so as to increase the likelihood of their inclusion in the base budget, the budget as finally adopted, and both with recurring rather than one-time funding.

Along with many of our colleagues, I support Concept Menu, Item E-17 and would propose this associated budget direction (rider).

As part of that allocation, I proposed we adopt a Budget Direction (or Rider) such as the draft below:

Re: Concept Menu Item E-17, Increased Capacity in the Equity Office
“Increased Equity in the Budget Process”

Challenge: Once again, equity budget requests from the Quality of Life (QoL) Commissions are absent from the base budget (which contains other equity elements). Council is forced to make tough decisions on equity and priorities at the very end of the Budget Process. Many of us have expressed a desire that:
(a) our departments do even more to align their spending and programs with equity goals in mind, even before and without the need for QofL Commission suggestions or recommendations;
(b) the QofL recommendation reach the City Manager and her staff early enough in the process to be considered for incorporation into the Manager’s Proposed Budget;
(c) these recommendations are considered for recurring dollars, rather than as one-time expenditures;
(d) our equity and QoL funding recognize that our current budget process must do better in giving greater opportunity to ideas, priorities, vendors and organizations that have faced (or are facing) barriers to entry and access to City funding; and,
(e) we want a new and different QofL Commission budget process that recognizes the potential service to the City that comes from large and small ideas and organizations, including those that do not as yet have the capacity to compete in the present system.

An equity lens should be part of every City decision and process. The Equity Officer is helping the City move to this place with the creation and testing of new equity tools. We support that work. We are allocating additional monies to this office with the direction that it increase its capacity to do more and more quickly and to add greater diversity into the Office itself.

This budget direction further expresses the Council’s expectation that among the outcomes that will be achieved with increased funding to the Equity Office will be that, over this next year, it will work with the QofL Commissions and the City’s Public Health Department to review spending, programs, vendors and partners with an eye to finding opportunities to maximize and increase equity. This should lead to changes in next year’s base budget or recommendations that would come to Council as part of next year’s Manager’s base budget or Council’s budget process.

This budget direction is to express the Council’s expectation that among the outcomes that will be achieved with increased funding to the Equity Office will be the creation of a new and different process that advances and incorporates into the Budget Process the community’s voices as expressed through the QofL Commissions. One such idea is expressed below for illustration only as one possible process.

The QofL Commissions have sent to the Council a recommendation that the Council consider establishing a standalone Quality of Life Fund with a dedicated funding source (or a commitment to fund in the next budget with an expectation of continued funding). I support this idea. It parallels several Council funds and grant programs like the Economic Development Department's Cultural Arts Fund, the Public Health Department's Chronic Disease Prevention Mini-Grant Program, and others. Each of these could serve as models.

Several “buckets” could be created within this fund to address initiatives and priorities as expressed by the QoL Commissions.
1. Capacity Building - Funds to be used to support developing organizational infrastructure such as management, governance, financial resources, strategic planning, metric identification and measurement, and administrative systems.
2. Mini-grants - Grants under $2,500 that have a focus on equity issues and topics but could not compete in the standard procurement process, for programs such as youth services, Housing and Community Development, Cultural Arts, Education, Health, and others.
3. Core Programs - Funding categories established organizations with a track record and that can meet the City's vendor requirements. Levels can include for example: a.
(1) Requests of $2,500 to $25,000;
(2) Requests of $25,000 to $75,000; and
(3) Requests over $75,000.
This funding framework allows small or large, new or well-established community-based organizations to participate in working on equity concerns.

Management and administration of the Quality of Life Commissions and the Quality of Life Fund will reside in the Equity Office and in the Economic Development Department. This department has experience working with similar funding mechanisms such as the Cultural Art Funding Program.

The QofL Commissions' role would be primarily to identify community needs related to equity concerns and disparities where gaps need to be closed. The City's Equity Officer would provide technical assistance to the QofL Commissions to align these issues to key equity goals and objectives as well as the Council’s new strategic plan. The funding procurement process would be mixed. The mini-grant program grants could be awarded by QofL Chairs, the Equity Officer, Economic Development, and other relevant City department representatives. Larger grants would include similar review participants joined by review panels of experts in various fields, all applying established funding criteria. Establishing funding requirements and criteria up-front similar to the Cultural Contract funding process allows an efficient and effective process to make funding decisions.

s
Mayor
Steve Adler
 
Posts: 160
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:12 pm

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