Roeland Park mayor, council win award for citizen engagement in budget process

A full house of Roeland Park residents were at the community center to talk about the city budget.
A full house of Roeland Park residents were at the community center this summer to talk about the city budget.

Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt and the Roeland Park City Council are one of the winners of the 2013 Consensus Civility Award. The council and mayor are being honored for the process they implemented to involve citizens in the budget decisions this year.

At the center of the Roeland Park involvement were two town hall meetings in which the participants were divided into small groups to talk about the budget challenges the city was facing in crafting its 2014 budget. The town halls let people talk about their priorities for budget cuts and give new ideas to face the issue. Residents also could pose questions that were answered on the city’s Website so everyone could see the answers.

Mayor Marquardt said the small group breakout gave more people a chance to participate. “I was amazed,” he said of the way the process worked and the response from the public. “I still get comments weekly” about the method. Most residents who attended were happy with the process, he said. “It started out contentious and ended with everyone clapping.”

Marquardt said he and the council knew it would be a difficult year. The city faces financial challenges, not the least of which is the coming loss of sales tax revenue associated with the Walmart that will be moving to Mission.

Roeland Park Councilors Marek Gliniecki and Teresa Kelly were instrumental in bringing in help from KC Consensus director Jennifer Wilding to plan the facilitated small group process. Consensus is a non-profit that focuses on involving the public in public policy issues.

Commenting on the Roeland Park project, Wilding said: “The public hearing is the method most often used to engage citizens. It often results in citizens standing at a microphone yelling at elected officials. Roeland Park’s elected leaders and staff wanted a meaningful method to engage their residents, and they knew that this wasn’t it. Instead, they worked with Consensus to craft a small-group process that had people making hard choices as individuals and then in discussion with other residents. I am extremely proud of Roeland Park leadership for making sure their residents had a meaningful voice in difficult budget choices. It was my privilege to help them make it possible.”

The awards will be given Nov. 14 at Rockhurst University. Roeland Park residents Ardie and Gretchen Davis nominated the mayor and council for the award.

Roeland Park broke residents into small groups at its budget forums.
Roeland Park broke residents into small groups at its budget town hall.