Seattle city council will use participatory budgeting to allocate $30 million to programs that create “true public health and safety”.
Residents of Seattle will get to decide over the coming months how to spend $30 million, much of which would otherwise go to the city’s police department.
In response to mounting public pressure to divest from policing after the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year, Seattle has allocated $30 million to a participatory budgeting (PB) process that would give everyday people a say in how the money should be used.
Seattle Council diverted directly $12 million from the Seattle Police Department, while the remaining $18 million came from the mayor’s Equitable Communities Initiative Fund.
Across the USA communities, energised by the Black Lives Matter movement, have been organising to demand that upwardly spiralling police funding be replaced by a system of prevention and community cohesion – the things that matter to citizens.
Organizers have created “people’s budgets” that show how officials can cut police funding and invest instead in housing, health care, and other social services.
“Those closest to the problems are closest to the solutions,” reads a statement signed by 75 local organizations that advocated for what they call a solidarity budget. “Black, brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are most harmed by COVID-19, climate injustice, racism, and criminalization, and should be central to the process of transforming Seattle’s budget into one that serves all people.”
Participatory budgeting was piloted in the US in 2009 when residents of Chicago’s 49th Ward demanded greater transparency about how the city was spending public funds. The interest in Chicago inspired residents in other cities like San Francisco and New York City to organize community-led budgeting projects.
The idea of participatory budgeting came to fruition in Seattle Youth Voice, Youth Choice program, an image from which is pictured above. Starting in 2015, that initiative allowed young residents to vote for neighbourhood-level projects. Since 2017, all residents have had the opportunity to vote on improvements to streets, sidewalks, and parks.
Find out more on this story from this local news reports.
Watch how PB for young people began in Seattle on the Seattle Channel website.
Feature image: Seattle Channel