Councilman Mark Kersey wants your help drafting the city’s infrastructure budget. He kicked off a series of meetings this week designed to let the community weigh in on what gets built and when.

The meetings grew out of a pilot program that let resident-based community planning groups help shape last year’s budget early on. Previously, their suggestions were saved for later drafts. The City Council voted this summer to make early input the standard.

Kersey said getting residents to buy into the process is key when their needs outpace available funding.

“This is a multibillion-dollar problem,” Kersey said, referring to an infrastructure backlog that could cost well over the current estimate of $898 million. “It certainly wasn’t created overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight, so that’s why it’s so important we engage the communities and have them help us understand what their communities need.”

Speak City Heights

Avital Aboody said the new budget process will benefit the city’s older neighborhoods. She works to stoke resident engagement through the Greater Logan Heights Community Partnership, a coalition of nonprofits in the Logan Heights area.

“I would really encourage residents to go and speak their minds and make sure that their needs get on the priority list,” Aboody said. “Because if they’re not going and getting it on the list now, then another budget cycle will go where the needs are unmet.”

But Aboody said the process could be even more inclusive. She said the meetings haven’t been publicized well in her community, where fewer people have regular access to the internet. Aboody said Council members shouldn’t forget the impact of an old-fashioned flier. And she said the Council’s initial outreach to planning groups last year was shortsighted — members often don’t fully represent the community or ease access for residents who don’t speak English, she said.

Kersey said his series of meetings will supplement the city’s work with planning groups. All residents are invited to attend, regardless of whether they’re affiliated with a community group. The city, along with Code for America and the Community Budget Alliance, has also set up a program that allows for community input on the web and via text.

District 4 residents will meet 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Malcolm X Library. The meetings run through December.

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her...

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