The White House recently announced major plans to promote participatory budgeting as a citizen tool in local communities as part of its new Open Government National Action Plan. This welcome news is being celebrated locally in Chicago, where the 49th Ward under Alderman Joe Moore was the first in the nation to adopt this democratic, participatory process and where organizers have been working hard over the past several years to expand and implement it in other wards across the city. Currently, four wards—the 5th, 22nd, 45th, 49th—are using the process, and a number of other wards in the past have engaged with it as well.
This declared commitment to PB from the White House reflects President Obama’s pledge to making government more open and accountable by increasing citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government. In 2011, the Administration created and compiled goals for achieving open government at the federal and local levels, which were outlined in the country’s first Open Government National Action Plan. Two years later, a second plan seeks to build upon these efforts through a range of actions designated by the Administration that will not only expand upon past successes, but will also implement new initiatives.
According to a White House blog post, PB is highlighted in the plan as a high profile commitment:
The United States will promote community-led participatory budgeting as a tool for enabling citizens to play a role in identifying, discussing, and prioritizing certain local public spending projects, and for giving citizens a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent in their communities. This commitment will include steps by the U.S. Government to help raise awareness of the fact that participatory budgeting may be used for certain eligible Federal community development grant programs.
Other highlights include: updates to “We the People,” FOIA modernization, participation in the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), and providing open data to the public.