Services scale up; do residents want that?

Fairmont city leaders got together this week to consider what kinds of things the city would wish for, whether or not money is an object. Their thoughts are not without merit, but they also demonstrate something of a formula. Which is that government services tend to expand, and the expansion builds on itself.

Several of the things city leaders would do involve improving existing facilities, by adding signage, equipment or technology. Or expanding hours and adding staff. Our leaders also would consider building new, such as more trails, a mini golf course or a dog park.

We note that on the scale of possible city services, from zero to, say, 1,000, the trend is to scale up, not down. We wonder if that is unavoidable, just as a simple mathematical principle. Then again, city services are a product of politics.

Do residents really want the things outlined by the council? Do they want all existing services? Do residents consider the alternatives, or do they just let the council decide? Do residents and council members consider choices that would scale down services? Do cities ever brainstorm about ways to reduce services and their costs?

A lot of questions, we know. We hope council members and residents will have a meeting of the minds in coming weeks and months as the city begins its 2014 budget process. The city’s method of putting together a wish list is an excellent way for leaders to gauge public sentiment and to shape city services for the future.