City officials in Arlington, Texas, are basking in notoriety after producing a video explaining the budget using animated Lego characters and scenes.
The stop-motion Lego video has garnered nationwide attention for being so creative after the city published its video online following a decision earlier this year by officials that its typically boring budget presentation ought to be more lively and interesting since it directly impacts Arlington residents and taxpayers.
The roughly four-and-a-half-minute presentation is the brainchild of Jay Warren, Arlington’s director of communication and legislative affairs, who had already spent years constructing a Lego-sized city inside his home. He said filming it as a means of explaining the ins and outs of the budgetary process would be helpful and entertaining at the same time, according to NBC5.
The video portrays residents both working and taking part in the city as it functions, all the while demonstrating where Arlington’s $552 million budget goes — schools, emergency services, public services, transportation, and other line items.
And by Sunday, the video had been watched nearly 690,000 times as of this writing.
“It’s a hobby, admittedly kind of a nerdy hobby, but it’s one that I’ve had since a kid,” Warren told the local media outlet regarding his Lego city.
But, as the city’s communications director, one of his jobs is to make such topics as explaining the budget to residents interesting, hence the video.
“That’s our struggle. How do you make that relatable to a resident that might not otherwise care, but it impacts them?” he said.
“How do we show them how their money’s being spent in an understandable, engaging way?” he continued. “We looked at it and thought, what does the budget really do? We’re building a budget every year. We’re looking at the key priorities city council has and what they want to build for this year.”
If the objective was to elicit responses and engagement, by any measure, the video has been a success.
“We need that feedback. We need that input to make the right decisions for the residents of Arlington,” Warren told the local outlet.
Though Warren had put many hours over a number of years building his city, it only ‘came to life’ with the right production touch.
“City videographers then stepped in to make the magic happen, creating a … stop motion film that uses a touch of nostalgia to educate people about Arlingtons’ proposed $552 million operating budget,” NBC5 reported.
The video opens with a female character talking about how she loves “my city” for its many perks including good parks, a modern library system, safe neighborhoods, “good roads,” and “friendly people.”
“That’s a lot,” she says. “How does all that get done?”
Next, a male character is shown explaining that “keeping a city running takes a lot of work,” all of which “starts with the annual budget.”
“Just like with Legos, the parts of the city’s budget come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and colors,” the male character continues.
The video then proceeds to explain the various aspects and expenditures contained in the annual budget, as well as where the money comes from and what plans the city has for the coming year in terms of where councilmembers are making investments.
In addition to expanding emergency services — fire, police, and dispatch — the city also plans to expand road construction and repair, as well as enhance other city services in the wake of a tough winter and the COVID pandemic, all while reducing property tax rates for a sixth straight year by about six-tenths of a percent.
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