Since 2011 a few districts of New York have seen Participatory Budgeting (PB) become a regular annual event. Based on the success of those early programmes now it is growing to encompass almost half of the city. More and more councilmen and women are choosing to include it in their promise to electors.
Last April 10 districts decided on how to spend $14m. Over 17,000 local people participated in the ballot.
As reported in numerous media outlets, such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 22 districts will run with PB this year, spending over $25m.
And the results appear encouraging. Citing research carried out by the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, the NYC based City Limits website reports that the diversity of NYC is being represented in the process :
- 66 percent of PB voters were women;
- 60 percent identified as people of colour;
- 49 percent had less than a college degree and nearly half have household incomes less than $50,000;
- 32 percent were born in another country;
- 22 percent of ballots were cast in a language other than English;
Their participation is breaking down boundaries and new people are getting engaged in other ways:
- almost 70 percent had never before worked with others in their community to solve problems; and
- 22 percent of PB voters identified barriers that made them ineligible to vote in traditional elections.
And it is not only the Democrats and Liberals who embrace PB. In his opinion piece John Quaglione, 2013 Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate for New York City(NYC) Council in the 43rd District said:
There is no downside, as far as I can tell, in allowing the taxpayers of the greatest city in the world, in the best and most powerful democracy ever created, to have input in how their tax dollars are spent in their communities.
I can think of no better way to decide what needs improvement than to talk to the people who go to our parks, schools, libraries, senior centers and more. All 51 Council Districts should welcome participatory budgeting in their communities.
- Find out more on what’s afoot in New York at PBNYC