I am deeply honored to have been invited to participate in the University of Illinois Great Cities Institute Participatory Budgeting Project, sponsored by the Chicago Community Trust. The project will also include a Steering Committee to be comprised of leaders in the fields of good government, community organizing, information technology, community education, and community-based planning, who will design the basic participatory process and make key decisions about issues that arise during the year.
Partipatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. There are over 3,000 PB processes around the world, most for city budgets. Alderman Joe Moore launched the first US process in 2009 in the 49th Ward, letting residents decide over $1 million of capital gmenu money. This year the Participatory Budgeting Project will expand participatory budgeting to several other wards, based on a model successfully used in New York City. In the process, we hope to:
1. educate residents about budgeting, local government, and their city,
2. generate fairer spending decisions that better reflect community needs,
3. boost political participation of marginalized and disenfranchised populations,
4. build new community networks and develop new grassroots leaders,
5.use technology, arts, and culture to engage people in new ways,
6. increase government transparency, and
7. build momentum for broader reforms to democratize budgeting.