Non-paid citizens as providers of civic services
In commercial district revitalization, there are two basic models for organizing revitalization programs--staff driven (for a community development corporation, a business improvement district, or a government agency) or volunteer driven augmented by professional staff (the Main Street Approach).
In places with a lot of resources, the staff driven approach has the ability to be properly funded. In smaller places, the ability to generate significant operational funds is much less likely, so you need citizen involvement in order to leverage resources.
At the level of local government, especially when there are unions, there are limited opportunities for citizens to be involved as volunteers. Usually collective bargaining agreements forbid the use of voluntary or non-union labor to fill a function covered by positions in the union.
This will change in many places, out of financial necessity. Going forward, in an environment when citizens aren't willing to increase their property taxes, and with real estate less likely to escalate, and in places where the local population and tax base is shrinking, there will be fewer resources available to communities.
So if people want to still have libraries and parks and other services, it may well be that residents have to step up and provide some of the person hours necessary to offer the service.
Here are some examples. The Sacramento Bee reports in "Unique nonprofit coalition keeps state parks open in Sonoma," about how a group of nonprofit organizations have stepped in to maintain various state parks in the county, as they are being abandoned by the State of California. The state is closing parks, to save less than $30 million per year, not even a rounding error in the budget ("" from the Los Angeles Times).
In Vallejo, California, a city still in bankruptcy proceedings, after significant budget and staff cuts, residents are providing more assistance for service provision. See "Vallejo, Calif., once bankrupt, is now a model for cities in an age of austerity" from the Washington Post. From the article:
A comparable example, but not involving local government, is how residents in Timberlake, South Carolina found themselves having to buy the golf course and clubhouse, in order to maintain the golf club feature of their neighborhood, after the developer went out of business. To do it on a cost-effective basis, residents are doing a lot of the maintenance work themselves. See "Golf club members go from saving pars to saving a course " from the New York Times. From the article:
Dnd something I learned in Baltimore County, when I worked in the planning office there... In Baltimore County, programming at parks and recreation sites isn't provided by people who work for the County Department of Recreation and Parks. Services are provided and mostly funded by volunteers through Recreation and Parks Councils that are organized and funded by residents. The facilities are grouped into 45 spatial units, overseen by the respective Recreation . This happened in the 1970s, in the face of budget cuts back then. Harford County has been moving towards that model, after seeing it work in Baltimore County.
Note I do think there are some equity and capacity issues that remain unaddressed. The DRP doesn't provide much in the way of training resources to the committees, no Park Pride conference like in Atlanta or the Events 101 festival management training that is provided in Fairfax County, Virginia. And low income areas find it much harder to raise monies and other resources, while the committees in higher income areas have no problem raising hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
It will be interesting to see how this develops over time.