Resnick: "If we're going to solicit feedback, we should listen to the feedback."
Ald. Scott Resnick was thrilled to see more residents pitch in with ideas on Madison's budget process this year.
Using a new website, IdeaScale, residents logged in and told officials how to spend their tax dollars.
Only about 1,600 people bothered "voting" for ideas, but that's still more input than the city usually gets.
"When it comes to our town-hall style meetings, a great turnout might be 25 people. Very often we'll see more staff than citizens," Resnick says. "So when someone can sit at home and provide input for what the city should include in the budget, I get excited that 1,600 individuals weigh in. That's fantastic for any kind of budgeting process."
But Resnick noted one glaring problem with Mayor Paul Soglin"s proposed operating budget: It didn't fund the most popular idea residents voted for. On the site, 281 people asked the city to expand curbside composting of food waste.
While supportive of composting, Soglin put the city's plans to build a food biodigester -- which would turn the waste into methane and fertilizer -- on hold because of the tight budget. So Resnick and other alders are offering a $41,233 amendment to expand the city's pilot composting program next summer.
"If we're going to solicit feedback," Resnick says, "we should listen to the feedback."
The city currently has 500 families separating their food waste for trash pickup. The amendment, if approved by the city council, would add about 800 families to the program.
Participating families separate food waste, soiled paper products like pizza boxes and napkins, and pet waste. It is then sent to UW-Oshkosh's food biodigester.
George Dreckmann, the city's recycling coordinator, says the expansion would allow the city to experiment by adding some restaurants and apartment buildings.
Dreckmann isn't sure yet which neighborhoods might be included. The two neighborhoods now participating, one on the near east side and one on the southwest side, were selected because of volunteer interest. The expansion might not use volunteers.
"There's something to be said for testing the less than willing," Dreckmann says. "When you roll out a program citywide, there's going to be a significant part of the population that says, 'Oh, gosh, what are you guys doing? Odors and maggots and mice, oh, my.' There's going to be some concerns."
Dreckmann anticipates that the city will build a biodigester in 2016 and implement citywide composting in 2017.