Beginning in 2010, Alderman Joe Moore employed a “participatory budgeting” process, allowing 49th Ward residents to decide directly how to spend the Ward’s $1.3 million ”menu money”–discretionary funds received annually by each Chicago alderman for infrastructure improvements in their wards. The 49th Ward was the first political jurisdiction in the nation to adopt such an approach, and it worked so well that Alderman Moore has pledged to make it a permanent fixture in the ward.
Members of the 2009-10 Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee and many of the “Community Representatives,” who designed the 2010 spending proposals, formed a “Leadership Committee” this past spring to refine the rules and organize the 2010-11 Participatory Budgeting process.
The 2010-11 process begins with a series of nine “Neighborhood Assemblies” held throughout the 49th Ward this September and October. The assemblies will be held in eight different neighborhood areas and one ward-wide assembly for Spanish-speaking constituents. Open to all residents, the assemblies introduce the principles of participatory budgeting and ask residents to brainstorm ideas for infrastructure improvements in the Ward.
Those who wish to become more involved can volunteer to serve as “community representatives” and go on to develop specific spending proposals for the Ward-wide vote in the spring. Last year, over 60 representatives met regularly in six-themed budgeting committees:
· Parks & Environment
· Public Safety
· Traffic Safety
· Art & Other Projects
This year’s Community Representatives will decide whether to keep the same committees or propose new committees. The committees will use the ideas suggested at the Neighborhood Assemblies, along with their own community-based and technical research, to decide which projects to put on the final ballot. At a second round of neighborhood assemblies in March, the committees will present a list of projects they propose to go on the ballot and give residents the opportunity to offer final input.
In April 2011, all 49th Ward residents age 16 and over, regardless of citizenship or voter registration status, will be invited to vote on the projects proposed by the committees. Each resident will be able to vote for up to eight projects. This vote is binding, as the projects that receive the most votes will be funded up to $1.3 million.
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