Don't make budget deliberations a game of winners and losers

The Urban County Council is once again facing the tough task of taking the budget proposed by the mayor and coming up with a spending plan for the city's next year.

A budget reflects a city's image of and plan for itself. The most fundamental questions must all come back to one: What kind of community do we want to be?

Every council person, indeed every citizen is probably ready to explain why a project he or she favors — whether it's improvements to a neighborhood park, running trails, cleaning and enhancing the entrances to the city, public safety or summer employment for youth — is more valuable than someone else's first choice.

But the council must be careful to avoid facing one project off against another, as if crafting a public budget is a reality show in which winners and losers will be named at the end of the day.

Sharp pencils and questioning minds are essential to balancing a budget, particularly these days. The trick, though, isn't to find every possible place to cut but how to live within our means while reaching for our aspirations.

This is a tough job in any circumstances and one that's been doubly hard in the last few years. It's a thankless task but one the council has generally performed well, weighing the realities of our income against the needs and aspirations of our community.

It is a reality show, but the reality is not about who, or what, will be left standing at the end of the process; it's about how the community will thrive or decline collectively.