Today, Mayor Ed Lee announced the San Francisco Budget Challenge – an online tool that allows the public to look at budget-saving options at City Hall. The website provides San Franciscans with an interactive look into the City’s budget.

You can get started here:

The Challenge provides background information on the different departments, their current budgetary issues, and the City’s proposed options of solving each in a case-by-case basis. Each option is even prefaced with a pros and cons analysis. You can see the percent of respondents who are like-minded and made the same decision.

And even though the site is not technologically perfect, it does provide valuable information and insight to the city budget. It’s a powerful educational tool – In fact, every high school senior should be required to explore it.

The only aspect of the San Francisco Budget Challenge lacking is the integration of social media – and it shows again that the City is still behind at becoming a model government 2.0 city.

And yet – while participating in this online game, San Franciscans merely “look” at ways to balance the budget, but are their voices really heard?

Would the government work better if we had more say?

We should implore the City to go one step further in engaging San Franciscans. Phil Ting recently wrote about a Participatory Budgeting movement in Chicago, where residents were able a have a greater voice in how their dollars were spent – a greater democratic voice yielded a happier community and a happier city.

The San Francisco Budget Challenge is a good start, but is just a start. Take a look and let us know what you think.