I have some exciting news to report. I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. today to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. The Obama Administration has been following the 49th Ward’s Participatory Budgeting process and the President is seriously considering incorporating a participatory budgeting model in future discretionary federal spending decisions. My meeting with the President today is intended to iron out the details.
Though the Obama Administration asked me to keep the plans to incorporate Participatory Budgeting at the federal level extremely confidential, an intrepid Rogers Park blogger, Michael Glasser of RogersPark.com, somehow uncovered the story. Now that the news is out, I have received permission from the Obama Administration to confirm the story.
Like most reporters, Mr. Glasser missed a few key details in his story–including my meeting today with the President–but his report is largely accurate. For your information, I have reprinted his story below:
Obama Team, Moore, Discuss Bringing 49th Ward PB to Feds
By Michael Glasser
Those of us who follow Joe or Barb Moore on Facebook know that they recently took a trip to the east coast, visiting city halls along the way. What most of us did not know was there was another purpose behind their trip – a meeting with Obama White House officials interested in the Federal Government using Participatory Budgeting for future discretionary spending.
According to a member of the White House staff, the Obama Administration has been monitoring the successful implementation of Participatory Budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward, and they are considering using it on a national level.
According to a recent email from Moore, announcing upcoming “Expos” where residents can view 2013 budget items: “The 49th Ward is the first political jurisdiction in the nation to give its residents the power to determine how to spend a portion of a governmental budget. Thousands of ward residents have voted in the first three participatory budgeting elections. The process was such a success that I pledged to make it a permanent fixture in the 49th Ward.”
Continues Moore: “New York City has adopted the 49th Ward’s Participatory Budgeting model and this year, for the first time, Participatory Budgeting has expanded to three other Chicago wards where my City Council colleagues have agree to use a participatory budgeting process to determine spending for their discretionary capital budget.”
The nation’s capital has taken notice. Though details about the discussions are unavailable, there is thought that the Obama team might seek to phase in special national “budgeting elections” in the 2017 budget cycle, giving US citizens a chance to weigh in with their priorities and have a direct say in how tax dollars are spent with a binding vote.
“Should the US use its proceeds to fund mental health or offer more foreclosure relief?” ponders a White House staff member. “Keep the museums and national landmarks open, or ease the burden on college students facing insurmountably high tuition? With limited funds to spend, why not allow the citizens themselves to make these tough choices?”
Elected officials from many jurisdictions have taken notice, according to one Congressional staffer. “All Congressmen know that they face impossible budgeting situations, and they are desperately seeking ways to explain painful cuts to angry constituents. Why not offer that Congressman the ability to respond by raising his or her hands in the air and say: “Hey. What can I do? Did you vote?”
Rumor has it that federal interest in Participatory Budgeting extends beyond merely discretionary domestic spending. According to State Department sources, the State Department has considered using Participatory Budgeting to deal with establishing our nation’s foreign policy.
One State Department source noted that there are far too many places in the world meriting US intervention. “Iran. Syria. North Korea. China. With so many hot spots, and only limited resources, why should policy experts be making these tough decisions. Why not simply ask voters to decide where we should place boots on the ground?”
The idea of a country using a model similar to Participatory Budgeting to decide foreign policy is not unprecedented.
Only this past fall, the tiny island Pacific atoll Watup asked its citizens to decide which of its two island enemy neighbors they should attack. With consensus from 54%, the voters authorized its government to launch an attack, by war canoe, with poisoned spear, against its enemy to the north, Wuznu.
The attack was delayed due to lack of funding and might be returned to next year’s ballot.
(If it’s not clear to you yet, I’ll make it clear now . . . APRIL FOOL!)