Campus, city generate cost-sharing ideas
09 April 2003
An initial brainstorming session attended by staff and administrators from the campus, the City of Berkeley, and the Berkeley Unified School District yielded encouraging new ideas about ways to achieve cost-sharing benefits through mutual cooperation.
Organized by the Berkeley Alliance — an umbrella organization originally formed by the three participating entities — and members of the city/university partnership planning team, the March 21 all-day session was intended to “facilitate collaborative activity and programming,” in the words of Alliance Chair Father George Crespin. In practical terms, that meant not only identifying potential cost-sharing (or even cost-saving) initiatives but promoting mutual understanding of the ways pending state budget cuts will affect the city, the campus, and local schools, as well as the community at large.
That understanding was virtually non-existent prior to this session, says Elizabeth Gillis, coordinator of the Chancellor’s Campus Community Initiative, who acted as facilitator for one of the six working groups that met during the day. “Some of the people came in with a degree of skepticism about the idea,” she says, “grumbling that ‘this is just more work.’ But by the end of the day, there was a lot more enthusiasm than you often find at these sorts of events — and a greater understanding of the nitty-gritty details of our mutual situations.”
‘Viable’ or ‘not worth exploring’
The day began with budget-overview presentations by UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Horace Mitchell, Berkeley City Manager Weldon Rucker, and Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Michele Lawrence. Each was at pains to note the impact on their respective budgets from reduced revenues from the state of California.
Facilitated workshops followed, focusing on six specific areas: transportation, purchasing, human resources and training, information technology, health and human services, and revenue generation. Participants strove to identify potential areas for cost-sharing and possible savings, ranking each as “quick and easy,” “very viable,” “moderately viable,” “viable but with no immediate cost savings,” “complicated but worth exploring,” or “not worth exploring.” In some cases the relative likelihood of substantial cost savings was also identified, providing an additional metric by which initiatives meriting further development could be highlighted.
Substantive input was provided by a number of observers — including Berkeley city council member Linda Maio, Mayor Tom Bates, and Superintendent of the Alameda County Office of Education Sheila Jordan—some of whom, though invited primarily to attend the morning budget presentations, were inspired to stay on to participate in the work-group sessions, says Gillis, “even though we tried to send them away at lunchtime!”
“The discussion focused on practical efforts, as opposed to theories or concepts,” says Steve Lustig, assistant vice chancellor for university health and counseling services, who participated in the health and human services subgroup. “We all looked at what’s doable, what’s needed by all three jurisdictions, and what we can do together to produce real budget savings.”
Lustig, who has 35 years of experience in community work, observes: “If you look at past history, in difficult budget times people tend to retreat, to protect their own services. But in this case, people are reaching out, asking what the community’s needs are and how we can provide for them. That’s a much healthier approach.”