Over 1,800 residents of our community cast ballots, which represents the largest voter turnout in the six-year history of participatory budgeting in the 49th Ward.
The voters this year decided that 62% of the $1 million allocated for PB should be devoted to basic infrastructure, including street and alley resurfacing and sidewalk repairs. As a result, six blocks of streets and four alleys will be resurfaced and approximately two blocks of sidewalks will be repaired.
- Park improvements, including new drinking fountains at Pottawattomie Park and Goldberg Playlot and new gates at Goldberg and Harold Washington Playlots;
- One hundred more trees planted on parkways in Rogers Park;
- An improved pedestrian crossing at Clark and Chase Streets to make crossing the street safer for students at the Chicago Math and Science Academy and other pedestrians;
- Six new bus benches for seniors and others to rest on as they wait for the bus;
- Five more underpass murals to brighten up dingy CTA and Metra viaducts; and
- A mini Astroturf soccer field at Langdon Park.
When I launched the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting process six years ago, I had high expectations for our very special neighborhood. The 49th Ward has a proud history of civic engagement, and I knew my constituents would embrace this process.
But the participatory budgeting elections have exceeded even my wildest dreams. They are more than elections. They are community celebrations and an affirmation that people will participate in the civic affairs of their community if given real power to make real decisions.
I’m proud to report that our Participatory Budgeting model continues to spread across the nation with cities as diverse as Long Beach, California; St Louis, Missouri; and Greensboro, North Carolina joining New York City; Boston, Massachusetts; and Vallejo, California in adopting “PB.”
I’m also thrilled that several newly elected aldermen in Chicago have pledged to adopt Participatory Budgeting in their wards, including 29th Ward Alderman-elect Chris Taliaffero and 36th Ward Alderman-elect Gilbert Villegas (see photo on left), both of whom stopped by the Chicago Math and Science Academy yesterday to observe our election proceedings.
This is a people-powered process from beginning to end. From the initial planning stages to its final implementation, the process is driven by scores of community volunteers. I extend my deepest gratitude to the members of the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Leadership Committee and the 49th Ward residents who volunteered countless hours as“Community Representatives.” I especially want to acknowledge 49th Ward residents Sheree Morratto and Roberta “Bobbie” Patzold, who co-chaired the Leadership Committee and devoted countless volunteer hours to ensuring the success of our initiative.
And kudos to my 49th Ward Service Office staff–especially Cecilia Salinas, who is my lead staff coordinator for the Participatory Budgeting process, Betsy Vandercook, my chief-of-staff, and Wayne Frazier, who oversees ward infrastructure projects. Michael Land, Ann Hinterman and Bob Fuller of my staff also pitched in to support the work of the Leadership Committee and community representatives.
PB49 voters once again were able to cast their ballot electronically (see photo on right) thanks to the able assistance of Stanford University Professor Ashish Goel and his Stanford Crowd sourced Democracy Team. We hope to use Stanford’s expertise in digital technology to expand voter participation even more in future elections.
I also wish to extend my gratitude to Josh Lerner and Maria Hadden of the Participatory Budgeting Project and Thea Crum of the University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute for their ongoing guidance and support.
Finally, and most importantly, my thanks to the residents of the 49th Ward who voted in this historic election and took democracy into their own hands. I’m proud to represent this amazing community.