Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday that her administration would be partnering with the City Council to hold four public listening sessions through the end of February to gather feedback as she prepares her first city budget, a reversal in the customary order that she hopes will bring more people into the process.
"This year we are starting with resident feedback," Wu said at a City Hall press conference she called to announce the public comment process.
Wu said the decision to hold listening sessions before she presents her budget to the council builds on the vote taken last November by Boston residents to give the council more control over the development of the city's budget. The former city councillor said she herself had been frustrated by a process that often saw budget line-items "locked in" before residents were invited to share their views on city spending.
The listening sessions are being planned for Feb. 15, 19, 23 and 25.
"It's important to make sure residents' voices are heard during this process," City Council President Ed Flynn. Boston voters in November approved a reform to allow the City Council to change appropriations in the mayor's budget as long as it doesn't add to the bottom line. Currently, the council can only approve or reject the mayor's budget and transfer funds only when requested by the mayor. The mayor could reject the council's budget, and it would take a two-thirds council vote to override.
"The issue was both governance and balance of power, as well as a balance of the process itself," Wu said.
On Beacon Hill, there is no formal process for the public to weigh in on budget matters before the governor files his annual budget and the general public is usually invited to a single public hearing on the budget prior to the House releasing its spending bill.