Len Brown might feel the tide has turned on the sins of the recent past, but is now juggling a budget that will determine if his vision is real or not.

Yesterday, the mayor kicked off the public process of a new 10-year budget with a broad outline of where he sees the Super City heading.

It followed a "scene setting" workshop last month where, by all accounts, councillors were wowed by another Vancouver perspective on liveable cities and decided public transport and improved urban living were the top "transformational shifts" for the budget.

Spending priorities extended to the city centre and South Auckland.

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It's one thing to up the ante in these areas, but another to put in real dollars when there is no public appetite for large rate rises or debt increases.

This is especially so given the current problems of soaring debt, hefty rate increases and the $2.86 billion city rail link, which has a start date of 2016 but no funding package.

Ideas by Brown for tolls and a regional petrol tax to fund transport, and an income or GST tax to replace rates have been rejected by National and Labour. This limits Brown's options for new funding.

Public-private partnerships are no silver bullet, leaving the mayor with the old levers of rates, debt and a political stick of dynamite - cutting spending and reducing services.