How can you reconcile citizens' demands to provide better services while shrinking budgets?How can you reconcile citizens' demands to provide better services while shrinking budgets?
You've spotted one of the major problems in the process of democracy, one that has become pathological in California since the passage of Proposition 13. Despite what politicians claim in campaign promises, you can't reduce taxes, allow huge amounts of individual choice, and increase services all at the same time. You can sometimes manage two of the three, but not all three. For example, countries such as Britain and Canada deliver excellent affordable healthcare to everyone -- but they restrict choices, by insisting on only subsidizing drugs and procedures that have been proven safe and effective rather than paying for whatever medicines people see advertised on TV, however ineffective or inappropriate. You can increase taxes and deliver choice and excellent services, or decrease taxes and have horribly bad services. Right now, the US under Republican control is accumulating not only visible public debt but crumbling infrastructure and deferred maintenance, and with low taxes on the wealthy (Romney paying 15%, for example) and corporations, it's difficult to see how these problems will be addressed at the national, state, or city level unless people vote for candidates who are honest about needing to increase revenue.
This shouldn't be cast as a partisan issue. Both parties are equally guilty.
Sadly, we likely cannot reconcile these. Some people would say that we can provide better services for lower costs by privatizing the services. In other words, we should hire private companies to do things like maintain our parks because they would do it better at a lower cost.
Fundamentally, however, we cannot reconcile these. What we have to do is to realize that we can't have our cake and eat it too. We have to choose either higher taxes or lower spending.
I think that there are plenty of places where the government wastes money. For instance, the crazy budgeting system with categorical budgets. If we were a bit more sensible about it, maybe we wouldn't spend money just because it's in one budget, and instead we can move it to another budget where it's needed.