Tell us about yourself.
My name is Johnny Walker. I’ve lived in Vallejo, California for nearly 14 years and the greater San Francisco Bay Area for over 20. I am a 3rd generation native Californian born and raised in Orange County. I’m a REALTOR® and have worked in residential real estate for six years focusing on property management after having worked more than ten years as a financial analyst in commercial real estate with a neighborhood and community retail focus.
How did you first get involved in PB, and why?
I have a unique perspective in that I spoke against PB at Vallejo’s City Council in January 2012, as I was of the mindset that our elected officials have the responsibility to manage the city’s resources and the information as presented was not clear as to how this process would be implemented. After a lot of additional research thanks to Councilmember Brown and a very long conversation with her, I became convinced that in order to change the message about Vallejo, the residents here needed to step up and become part of something much greater than ourselves. As the largest city to enter municipal bankruptcy at that time, and given the rampant negative press about our community, it became clear to me that something unique and inspirational had to happen here.
What did you end up doing in the PB process?
I became convinced that in order to change the message about Vallejo, the residents here needed to step up and become part of something much greater than ourselves.
I thought it was important to be part of the Participatory Budgeting Vallejo Steering Committee representing the Solano Association of REALTORS® and to help shape this first-ever citywide exercise in citizen democracy, especially as an initial dissenter.
Probably the most rewarding experience for me was as a facilitator with the Economic Development Budget Delegate Committee. These were some seriously motivated individuals and they come from all walks of life. For a number of them, this was their first experience with community engagement and involvement.
What most surprised you about your experience with PB?
As a member of the Steering Committee, I was immediately impressed by the quality and caliber of folks from other business organizations, community service organizations, and neighborhood associations. Writing the rules and designing the process with nearly two dozen community leaders was an enriching experience, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve done.
As a facilitator for the Economic Development Budget Delegate Committee, I couldn’t be more impressed with the collaborative process, mutual respect, and willingness to take ideas presented by other people they don’t know and work to create something meaningful and beneficial for Vallejo. Out of all of my involvement with PB, being the facilitator for this outstanding and dynamic group of doers was the most rewarding for me personally.
What were the biggest impacts of PB on your community? On you as a person?
The goals of PB Vallejo were to improve our city, engage our community, and transform our democracy. Lofty goals indeed. From my perspective, that is exactly what this process has done and as a result, working to change the message. We are no longer one of the most miserable cities and the most dying town; we are now the first city in the United States to engage in such a truly democratic process citywide.
– October 2013