The phrase "budget presentation" usually doesn’t conjure images of fun and games. But some people at the City of Arlington say, maybe it should.
A creative presentation to make sure citizens are informed and engaged has quickly become an internet sensation.
It all started in Jay Warren’s game room with something he’s been doing for years.
"It's a hobby, admittedly kind of a nerdy hobby, but it's one that I've had since a kid,” said Warren.
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Across multiple tables, he’s built a pint-sized LEGO city consisting of thousands of bricks and years’ worth of work.
Still, that’s just what he does with his spare time.
By day, Warren’s the Director of Communication and Legislative Affairs for the city of Arlington, helping citizens engage with whatever’s happening at city hall.
Sometimes, even he admits, those can be rather dry topics.
His job is to make them interesting.
“That’s our struggle. How do you make that relatable to a resident that might not otherwise care, but it impacts them?” said Warren.
That includes the city’s annual budget video.
"How do we show them how their money's being spent in an understandable, engaging way,” he said. "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."
It's something that's done piece by piece, or like in his LEGO city, brick by brick. That gave his teammates an idea for Warren's two worlds to collide, using Legos to create a video explaining how the city plans to fund the 2022 fiscal year.
For the most part, his work was already done.
"There are a lot of hours put in here because, again, it's my hobby,” said Warren.
City videographers then stepped in to make the magic happen, creating a four-and-a-half-minute stop motion film that uses a touch of nostalgia to educate people about Arlingtons' proposed $552 million operating budget.
And if the goal was to engage, you might say they knocked it out of the park. Once posted, the video went viral, reaching more than Arlington's population.
"We're probably pushing close to 700,000 views,” said Warren.
Still, for city staff, true success is measured in civic engagement served up in a fun way.
“We need that feedback. We need that input to make the right decisions for the residents of Arlington,” he said.