North America’s first municipal participatory budgeting in Chicago was used to allocate $1.3m infrastructure budget
In 2009, residents of the diverse 49th Ward of Chicago collaborated to determine how best to spend a $1.3 million infrastructure budget of Alderman Joe Moore.
It was a landmark move and the diverse Ward has gone down in history as the first political jurisdiction in the USA to employ participatory budgeting.
The rules and leadership of the PB process were developed when Alderman Moore brought together 40 community leaders from civic, religious, and political organizations to form a participatory budgetary Steering Committee.
A series of nine neighbourhood assemblies kicked off the process, eight in different neighbourhoods and one “ward-wide” meeting that catered to Spanish-speaking constituents. Here, residents identified spending ideas, selected community representatives and voted on which projects to fund.
Over 100 volunteers worked to develop a total of 36 projects. Of these, 14 were selected in a vote by over 1600 members of the community to receive a total of $1.3 million in funding which constituted the entire capital infrastructure budget.
Members of the 2009-10 Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee and many of the “Community Representatives” formed a “Leadership Committee” that will lead the 2010-11 Participatory Budgeting process.
It’s worth noting that Alderman Moore’s staff is making additional efforts to include the input of underrepresented groups after it was identified that the neighbourhood assemblies have drawn mostly older, white homeowners.
Such a demography is at odds with the fact that the 49th ward is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse in Chicago, yet neighbourhood assemblies.
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