Upon becoming the Hampton city manager in January 2010, Mary Bunting faced the task of balancing the upcoming FY11 budget - when home values were declining and some mandatory costs were increasing. Hampton, a city that had won national awards for civic engagement, faced major cuts to city services.
The standard process called for the manager to work behind closed doors until she proposes a budget to the elected body, which then holds public hearings. People object to the cuts, and new cuts are substituted - too late for opposition to gather or be effective. That process favors insiders and leads to conflict, pitting individuals against each other and against their own elected representatives.
Bunting went to back to her core Hampton values: Trust employees and citizens to know what is best. Don't make decisions in a vacuum. She pulled together a multi-disciplinary team from a variety of departments and challenged them to embark on the most extensive community involvement project the city had ever undertaken.
It was called I Value because it wasn't just about cuts or budgets. It sought to determine which city services were the most valued. I Value lets citizens evaluate the service they are getting vs. the services they desire, weighed against the fiscal realities of what they are willing to pay. It has become the way we as a city do business.