The City of San Antonio is trying something new with the upcoming budget process. Normally, City Manager Sheryl Sculley presents her recommended budget to citizens at a series of community meetings in August and September, by which point all the heavy lifting has been done and only minimal tinkering remains. This year, however, Sculley and City staffers have moved some of those community meetings up a few months, and Tuesday night's gathering at the Northeast Service Center had more in common with the SA 2020 brainstorming sessions and 2010 Eastside Reinvestment Summits than past budget hearings.
With Sculley and a COSA who's-who (District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules, Police Chief William McManus, Assistant City Manager Peter Zanoni, and Management & Budget Director Maria Villagomez) in attendance, a group of more than 40 residents gathered around six tables and established their budget priorities. Like Soules, their council rep, they quickly established that they're all about basic city services, with little tolerance for anything that they perceive as taxpayer-funded progressive social engineering.