The next round of participatory budgeting is about to begin! Now is your chance to determine how you and your neighbors will spend my 2011 Aldermanic “Menu” allocation.
If you’ve been reading my e-mails over the past year, you know I’m using a participatory budgeting process to give 49th Ward residents the power 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 is the first political jurisdiction in the nation to adopt such an approach, and it was so well-received this past year that I have pledged to make it a permanent fixture in the ward.
For information on how participatory budgeting works in the 49th Ward, CLICK HERE.
The 2011 participatory budgeting process begins next week with the first in a series of “neighborhood assembly” meetings that will be held throughout the ward from now until the middle of October.
The ward is organized into eight sections or areas, with a neighborhood assembly held in each area. In addition, a Spanish language assembly will be held. The neighborhood assemblies are open to any 49th Ward resident. At each neighborhood assembly, the attendees are given a brief description of the aldermanic infrastructure menu program and the participatory budgeting process. Meeting attendees will then be asked to brainstorm ideas for possible uses of the infrastructure menu money.
At the conclusion of the meeting, we will ask for volunteers to serve as “community representatives,” who will be charged with developing specific spending proposals for a ward-wide vote in April 2011.
We ask that you attend the neighborhood assembly in your area. However, if that’s not possible, you are free to attend a neighborhood assembly in another area.
FOR A MAP OF THE 49TH WARD THAT DELINEATES THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLY AREAS, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this e-mail.
FOR A SCHEDULE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLY MEETINGS, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this e-mail.
A Recommendation to allocate a specific percentage of the 2011 Aldermanic Menu budget to Street Resurfacing
At the conclusion of the 2010 participatory budgeting process, I asked for volunteers who had worked on the process to serve on a “Leadership Committee” to evaluate the process and come up with recommendations for improvement. This volunteer group of neighborhood residents is recommending one significant change to the process–that a specific percentage of the 49th Ward aldermanic infrastructure budget be allocated to street resurfacing.
Reasons for the Recommendation
Though most neighborhood residents support the participatory budgeting process, many expressed concern that traditional “nuts and bolts” infrastructure improvements, such as street resurfacing, may not have received the attention and funding they deserved. Of the seven street resurfacing proposals on the ballot, only one garnered enough votes to receive funding out of the 2010 aldermanic menu. This is likely because most of the winning proposals, such as artistic murals and dog friendly areas, had a ward-wide constituency, whereas the constituency for a specific street resurfacing proposal is limited to those who live on or use that street.
Most of the residential streets in the 49th Ward were last resurfaced in the late 1990s and are beginning to show their wear. Though most residents agree that our residential streets deserve attention, the participatory budgeting vote process was set up in a way that may have unintentionally shortchanged block-specific proposals.
How the 2010 Participatory Budgeting Election Worked
Thirty-six individual proposals appeared on the April 2010 participatory budgeting ballot. Each voter was entitled to vote for up to eight projects. The project proposals that won the most votes up to my $1.3 million capital budget allocation were submitted to the City of Chicago and its sister agencies for implementation.
How the Proposed 2011 Election Process Would Work
Just as in the 2010 election, a list of individual project proposals, including street resurfacing proposals, will appear on the participatory budgeting ballot and voters will be asked to vote for up eight projects.
In addition, a separate question will appear on the ballot asking voters to vote on a specific percentage of the 2011 aldermanic menu budget that should be devoted exclusively to street resurfacing. The voters will be asked to vote for one of eleven options ranging from 0% to 100% (i.e., 0%, 10%, 20 %, 30 % and so on up to 100%). To enable the voters to make an informed decision, the ballot question will include the estimated cost of resurfacing an average block in the ward (this year it was $32,000).
Once the polls have closed, the votes on this separate question will be tallied and an average calculated. That average will determine the percentage of the 2011 aldermanic menu budget that will be devoted exclusively to street resurfacing.
The street resurfacing proposals that win the most votes up to that percentage allocation will be submitted to the City for resurfacing. The remaining budget percentage will be allocated to the other project proposals that win the most votes.
Here’s an example of how it might work: Let’s say the voters collectively determined on average that 30% of the ward’s 2011 menu money should be allocated to street resurfacing. That means that 30% of my $1.3 million aldermanic menu budget, or $390,000, would be set aside for street resurfacing only. The street resurfacing proposals that win the most votes up to $390,000 would be resurfaced using my 2011 menu allocation.
The remainder of my aldermanic menu budget, or $910,000, would be allocated to the other top vote-getting proposals.
Though this recommendation might appear rather confusing at first, the Leadership Committee and I believe it allows for a way to address a basic ward infrastructure need while still remaining true to the spirit of participatory budgeting of allowing the residents to determine how their tax dollars will be spent.
This is a recommendation only, and the Committee and I will be interested in hearing your feedback on this proposed change. You will have an opportunity to share your views at the neighborhood assemblies, or feel free to reply to this e-mail and express your opinion on this and other aspects of the participatory budgeting process.
This experiment in democracy will not work unless we have full and complete participation from all sectors of our diverse community, so I urge you to attend one of the neighborhood assemblies and bring your 49th Ward friends and neighbors. Most importantly, I urge you to bring your ideas.