Let’s talk about public-private partnerships, grants, and budgets. And while we have this conversation, let’s think about the natural state of bureaucracy and what that means for the vision of local government. I’ll round this out by the end of the blog post, but keep these last two topics in the back of your mind as we converse. Let’s dive in.
The Town of Zebulon has a great local farmer’s market, sponsored by the Town and held on the municipal complex grounds, called the Farm Fresh Market. Now, I must avail that my husband used to write agricultural grants and feasibility studies for a living, which often included studies on farmer’s markets. For this reason, I have grown suspicious of “local produce.” But Good News! No worries to be had at the Farm Fresh Market. When it is declared local, it is local – like no more than 3 mins outside of Town limits local. How awesome is that? Besides ensuring honest vendors, the Farm Fresh Market and its Manager Maurine Brown, has done an excellent job partnering with other organizations to offer food to those that are in need.
Examples: The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and the Kids Summer Meals program. This past week was the first week of the program, and sixteen children received a nutritious lunch at no cost to their parents/guardians! The Farm Fresh Market also partners with Farmer Foodshare, a 501c program that the Market runs in assistance with the Zebulon United Methodist Church. Basically, customers and vendors make donations (food, or cash to purchase food), and it’s all then distributed through the church’s food pantry. Lastly, the Market has secured grant funds that allow it to double EBT funds for its customers, i.e., someone that can only traditionally purchase $25.00 worth of food at a brick and mortar store can actually purchase $50.00 worth of food at the Farm Fresh Market. And in the two years that the Market has been in operation, its number of weekly EBT transactions have doubled. Material significance? More fixed income people are eating healthier and locally sourced produce!
Other exciting news from the Town of Zebulon is the budget! It was passed about two weeks ago, and I’m still excited about it. I briefly made mention in last week’s planning post, but I want to provide more detail here. For one, the Town aims to become a walkable community. This means more sidewalks, more connectivity, and even a future Zebulon greenway. Additionally, downtown is set up for revitalization, which equates to grants for current and new business owners to help bring historic storefronts to life and buildings up to code. Market studies will ensure the success of business endeavors, and all this will in turn have a positive affect on the local economy. Old roads are being updated; fleet vehicles are being managed; and the future will shine bright like a diamond. There’s my contemporary culture reference. You’re welcome.
Now, casting your thoughts back to paragraph one. Remember when I told you to keep in mind the natural state of bureaucracy and the vision for local government? What is the natural state of bureaucracy? Slow. Horrible, isn’t it? Well, no. It’s that way intentionally. If things happen as quickly in the public sector as they occur in the private sector, there couldn’t be as extensive checks on the process. In addition, government would sway so easily amongst the tide of public opinion that it would lose its impartiality.
In the words of Walter Lippman, (The Public Philosophy, 1955):
[Mass opinion] has shown itself to be a dangerous master of decisions.
So what does this have to do with a farmer’s market and an annual budget? Everything.
Think vision. Local governments, knowing that the process to attain measures and undergo projects are time-consuming and strenuous, must remember to exhaust all available options. Recall the Market’s use of grant funds and partnerships to provide for the community. They intertwined public funds with private funds to achieve a purposeful public health goal. The budget looks towards the future, with knowledge that the projects described within it will take time and money. Town staff ask the question, how can cost be mitigated without sacrificing quality and purpose?
I have stated all of this, and if you are still reading I applaud you, to make my paramount point. Bureaucracy may seem mindless, but do not forget that those that work in local government have a long term public service outlook on the world. We want the public’s lives to be better, even if that means we have to spend our whole lives trying to make that happen.