By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

The New Orleans Coalition on Open Governance is holding a training session for citizens Wednesday to teach them how, when, and where best to speak up so that their voices are included in the city’s budget process, which is already underway.

The coalition, of which The Lens is a member, wants to help citizens identify areas where their input can be effective in setting the city’s budget priorities for 2012.

“What we’re hoping to do is galvanize residents into working with more intention on the budget and giving informed input into budget allocation,” said Deborah Cotton, communications director for the coalition. “Right now the majority of the money is going to public safety, but it’s not clear whether we’re spending the right amount of money on the right programs.”

The session will be led by Bob Rhoden, a former city official who has experience, familiarity and contacts with the current budget planners in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.  In advance of the meeting, the coalition also has been in communication with Norman Foster, chief financial officer for the Landrieu administration, Cotton said.

“He is helping us to think about our overall plan, how to look at the budget and find key strategic areas where folks can have the most impact,” Cotton said.

The Landrieu administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The session will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Grace Episcopal Church on Canal Street.