THE SPECIAL election to fix California's budget mess was held on May 19th but it failed to fix anything. In fact, because of the defeat of all of the state propositions, except one, the state is now facing significant financial problems - the main one is how to balance the budget. (Click here for an interactive election map with results for the state propositions by county).
Some of today's newspaper headlines include: State Budget Crises Puts the Squeeze on Firefighting; California Poison Control System About to Fold; Colleges, Universities Face Big Cuts After Propositions Fail; Election Fallout Cuts to the Core; Cities, Schools, State Brace for Deep Budget Cuts; and, Furloughs Will Leave Courts Dark Once a Month.
As you can see from the headline listing above, the financial situation may touch every level of government from the state to cities and counties to schools and to the courts.
One of the interesting questions that comes from California's dire financial situation is, "will the online efforts of governments be cut, scaled back or remain status quo. Or, will they be expanded?"
San Mateo County, for instance, just announced an online effort to hold "Town Hall" forums online at a cost of approximately $6,000 per year. The forum page says, "SMC Forum is an on-line forum for civic engagement" and the first question of the new meeting place is, "Should citizens have the authority to amend the constitution and call for and conduct a constitutional convention? (So far there is one post to the forum - BTW, the user answered the question of calling a constitutional convention as "Maybe" by writing, "I am nervous about the decision making abilities of the average citizen. They tend to be very cynical and reactionary.").
The online presence and use of web 2.0 technologies has expanded in the public sector and my experience tells me that citizens value useful online resources. In this era of budget cutbacks will these public services be seen that way by decision makers or will they be seen as nice to have but just can't afford them services?
Time will tell.
In truth, they need more online information, not less. I think it would be foolish to cut these services.