What should the Governing Body do with its Capital Budget?

Downtown New York City? No, look closer. That’s Topeka.

We had a great Book Club meeting earlier this month! Discussion was lively and examples and anecdotes were plentiful.

For those of you following along with this process, we have the chance to contribute to Topeka’s future as a Strong Town – the City Council is currently discussing their Capital Improvement Plan (and Budget) for the next year. The Council will vote on the budget on April 7th, so the March 17th meeting might be a good time to comment.

If you’d like to speak at a meeting of the Governing Body, it’s easy! Call or email the City Clerk to get your name on the list. Meetings are held the first three Tuesdays of the month at 6pm. If you miss the next meeting and would like to email your council member, or the whole council, you can do that, too.

What would a Strong Town do with a Capital Budget?

  • The City and County would invest in a Value Per Acre study. We can only make good decisions with good information. If we don’t know exactly where we’re losing money on infrastructure and development, we’re likely to repeat past mistakes. Topeka needs to commission this study or use local experts to research this information.
  • No new roads. It would be nice to have a new street with more lanes and curbs and gutters and stormwater drains, but if the property taxes in the area aren’t funding the project – and won’t fully fund the maintenance and upkeep of the project – then it is too much. In some cases, existing streets should be scaled down to better fit what we can afford now – and what we’ll be able to afford in the future.
  • Make little bets. Spend money on the things that might just pay off in the long run. Neighborhood improvement projects, like sidewalk connections, crosswalks, and street lighting are all great examples of things that make a neighborhood more useful for everyone.
  • Dedicate the city to relentless maintenance of its existing infrastructure within the areas that fund themselves. We should be able to be proud of what we have built together. Now, let’s make sure it’s all looking as nice as possible. (But do the Value Per Acre study first.)
  • Observe where people in the community are struggling, and take the next immediate step – something we can do right away – to address that struggle. Repeat.

If that list sounds familiar, that’s because it’s all based on the Strong Towns Approach to Public Investment.

If you’re not feeling like getting involved in civic activity, that’s totally fine! We would still love to see you at the next Strong Towns Book Club meeting on March 21st. We’ll be discussing Chapters 7-8 (and probably a little bit of Chapter 6 that we missed last time). Put it on your calendar — we’ll see you there!