We have reported a few times on the grow of Participatory Budgeting in New York, from relatively modest beginnings in four districts, spending around $4m dollars, to over half the city with an annual budget closer to $32m. In a new article from the Gotham Gazette the author and contributors ask why it doesn’t now grow to cover the whole city.
In the article by Colin O’Connor it is noted: "In four years participatory budgeting has exploded from four to 27 New York City Council districts. With over 51,000 voters casting ballots last cycle to allocate a total of $32 million dollars to projects across the city, New York‘s experiment in direct democracy has quickly become the largest of its kind in North America."
As Speaker of NYC council and a leading proponent of PB Councilwoman Mark-Viverito, points out "Nearly 60 percent of PB voters identified as people of color; approximately one in ten were under 18; nearly 30 percent reported an annual household income of $25,000 or below; more than a quarter were born outside of the U.S.; nearly a quarter reported a barrier to voting in regular elections, with one in ten reporting they were not U.S. citizens; and 63 percent identified as female. Participatory budgeting allows votes from anyone living in the City Council district at hand, 14 years of age and older."
However not all elected members are convinced. Councilman Rory Lancman, of Queens district feels "Participatory budgeting takes an extraordinary amount of office time and resources for no discernible improvement in outcomes over working through the existing vast civic infrastructure for public participation. My district does not lack for opportunities and vehicles for community engagement, which I’m proud to say my constituents take ample advantage of."
To which David Beasley, Communications Director for the Participatory Budgeting Project, the nonprofit that helps run the program, replies “Participatory budgeting should not replicate the existing power structures…that‘s not what PB is for."
The article contains a lot of rich detail, such as the above exchange, on the growing debate about PB in NYC. One way or the other, PB has made an impact, and looks like it is here to stay.
- Read the full article from the Gotham Gazette