Delano residents demand transparency and community engagement in city budget

October 5, 2023 /

On September 13, the City of Delano council members approved the biennial operating and capital improvement project budgets for fiscal years 2023-2025 without resident input or publication of funding allocations.

Over $100M was approved without understanding how funds would be distributed and how that would help contribute to the community’s basic needs. LOUD for Tomorrow condemned the Delano City Council’s actions and, at the September 18 meeting, called for immediate budget transparency and community engagement.

LOUD for Tomorrow is a local youth-led advocacy group dedicated to transforming communities through civic engagement, advocacy, and community healing. They train young people of color to lead local issue campaigns with an environmental and electoral justice lens. 

“To build a stronger, more inclusive Delano, it must include all its residents; voices, values, and priorities,” said Dayanna Carlos, LOUD for Tomorrow communications comadre.

During the Delano City Council meeting on September 18, LOUD for Tomorrow’s co-founder and co-directors, Jose Orellana and Anai Paniagua expressed disappointment with the city council and city manager for approving the budget without transparency or community input on September 13.

According to Carlos some critical notes from co-directors remarks included:

  • Urging the Delano city council to change its avoiding habits and instead encourage community engagement. They educated them on a model to use, such as the “participatory budgeting process,” which has been seen as the strongest method of community engagement that includes governments who are looking to make their communities more inclusive and participatory to directly tap into the community’s collective intelligence and align the allocation of public funds with real-life community needs.
  • Requesting city council to include in budgeting allocation the uplifting of the community so that young people, residents, and elderly communities have safe homes, good jobs, and basic needs.
  • Requesting transparency and answers from the city manager. These questions have yet to be answered:
    • Where are the budget details on the city budget on the website?
    • When did the development of the budget start?
    • Who were the critical stakeholders in the budget process?
    • Why was the budget approved as part of the special meeting instead of a regular meeting
    • What community engagement was planned for this budget?

At the meeting, LOUD For Tomorrow’s youth phone bankers Riley Ramos, Alexis Ortiz, and Navjot Sahota, expressed disappointment and concern about the city council’s budget allocation and the lack of alignment with the community’s needs.

“The city council did not say anything as part of LOUD’s Public comment. Still, as part of closing remarks, city councilmember Veronica Vasquez encouraged the rest of the city council to consider hiring someone for public relations to help with community engagement as well as ‘do the right things’ and present the community with the budget presentation to include community input to the approved budget,” said Carlos.

LOUD has not heard back from the Delano City Council or City Manager regarding involving the community in their decision-making. They have also yet to see any communication from the Delano City Council on the next steps or if they plan to discuss the budget issue.

LOUD for Tomorrow will continue to attend city council meetings and hold the city council and city manager accountable for the needs of community residents.

“Community residents must hold city council members accountable for their lack of engagement, transparency, and budget allocations. As the next election season comes up, we encourage Delano residents to learn more about elected officials and demand our local government to be transparent and inclusive of the community needs,” said Carlos.

LOUD for Tomorrow encourages residents to reach out to keep updated on events and upcoming activities. They are making phone calls to residents and plan to canvass in the following months.

“We know there is so much power in the community, and when our voices are heard in the city council, they can influence policy and the daily lives of Delano residents. We encourage all residents to stay connected to ensure their voices are heard,” said Carlos.

As part of LOUD for Tomorrow’s ongoing phone banking effort, residents have expressed interest in needing improvement in youth recreation. Delano residents would also like the city council to use the money for COVID-19 resources, mental health, housing, fixing Delano’s roads and current infrastructure, and expanding Delano’s emergency room and health care access are critical things to consider allocating to city budgets.

“Engaging community voices can ensure that our governments are more inclusive and make policies that can enhance the Central Valley. By having a community voice in decision-making, we can tap into your community’s collective intelligence and real-life community needs in the government process,” said Carlos.

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