participatory budgeting in chicago!

04/20/2010 § Leave a comment

i introduced the history and impact of participatory budgeting (PB) earlier.

this post is on the first successful PB process in the US, completed in the 49th ward of chicago led by its alderman, joe moore.  i talked to the PB coordinator last week, and she was ecstatic coming off the final budget election.  over 1,600 people voted for a menu of budget proposals, developed and vetted by over 400 participants in neighborhood assemblies.  the goal is to prioritize the allocation of $1.3 million of “menu money,” normally under the discretion of the ward’s alderman.  the menu is limited to neighborhood level developments, ranging from pot holes and street signs to community gardens and bus shelters.

voting was open to residents of the 49th ward, 16 years and up with an ID.  there were no restrictions based on immigration or criminal record status or current voter registration.

the top 5 vote getters:

1. side walk repairs, repair of dilapidated sidewalks at 27 locations in 49th ward.  cost $188,292.  910 votes

2. bike lanes, phase 1 of a Rogers Park bike network, providing east-west and north-south bike lanes across the ward on Touhy Rogers and Ashland.  cost $100,000.  837 votes

3. dog friendly area at pottawattomie park (7340 N. Rogers) construction of an enclosed dog park on the vacant northeast corner of the park.  cost $110,000.  762 votes

4. community gardens in Dubkin Park and and Pottawattomie Park, a portion of each park will be dedicated to a community garden where youth and families can produce food, learn about ecology and develop social ties through gardening.  cost $ 33,000.  741 votes.

5.  underpass murals, twelve (12) murals created by Chicago artists on CTA and Metra underpasses. cost $ 84,000.  740 votes.

full list of funded projects here

participatory budgeting in some form has been used in over 1,200 municipalities around the world, and now the US has its critical first.

in boston, an obvious difference is that our district councilors dont get their own discretionary funds.  the council’s only formal budgetary power is to vote the mayor’s (king) proposal up or down.  in some contrast, chicago’s budgeting system geared for local patronage politics also structured space for a rogue alderman to devolve that power back to the people.

anyway.  in the long term, im interested in the use of economic rights to frame transformation to a new democratic economy

economic right #1: the right to democratically determine the use of public funds


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