A Stimulating Process
March 17, 2009 3:43 PM
The federal stimulus legislation is designed, as you might expect, to get money into the economy as quickly as possible. On the other hand, our town has a well-earned reputation for love of process, sometimes lengthy process. So, how can we reconcile those two seemingly contradictory facts?
Well, I think we can. By my best estimate right now I'd say we're looking at something in the range of $18 to $25 million coming directly to the city under the stimulus bill. (More will come to Dane County and to private entities, mostly nonprofits.) Some of that will come to us directly through formula allocations while some we will have to apply for either to the feds or the state government.
In order to make things as transparent as possible and to give alders and members of the public as much opportunity as possible to weigh in on how that money should be spent, here's what we're doing.
* We've established a website as part of the city's general website to keep everyone up-to-date on the categories of stimulus funding available, what it can be used for, what city agencies are proposing, the deadlines, match requirements, etc. The website has a feedback function so anyone can respond directly with their ideas.
* Council leadership and I will put a stimulus update on the agenda for each Board of Estimates meeting until it's no longer necessary. We've already had two BOE briefings on the stimulus package and I think they've been very helpful. Of course, anyone can view those meetings by going on the city's website.
* Alders have been getting and will get regular updates on the plans as they evolve. In most cases resolutions for spending plans from each agency will come to the Council for approval. And of course, before any money is spent that changes our budget, a budget amendment must be approved.
* For pots of money that will involve outside agencies (CDBG, for example) I've asked Community Development Director Bill Clingan to work out a process that solicits ideas from nonprofit agencies that might be our partners.
The stimulus package can help not only jumpstart our economy but remake it in fundamental ways. For example, I'd like to see us use as much of it as possible to help move our economy away from its excessive reliance on fossil fuels. I think we can get those resources invested quickly just as the President and Congress intended and also do it in a way that respects Madison's tradition of citizen involvement.