An increasing number of Chicagoans are becoming engaged with local government through an innovative process known as Participatory Budgeting (PB).
With the assistance of the UIC Great Cities Institute, the Participatory Budgeting Project has established processes in several wards to allow residents to formulate and then vote on ideas for capital improvements in their neighborhoods.
Already underway in three different wards as a means of allocating aldermanic “menu” money, PB has recently been pioneered with Tax Increment Financing dollars in West Humbolt Park by Blocks Together. The process is also coming to a local high school.
A new report from the Participatory Budgeting Project highlights some of the organization’s more notable recent accomplishments. Among them:
- More people of color, low-income individuals and youth participated in PB efforts during the most recent round than the one that proceeded it. In the 49th Ward PB vote, African Americans increased their rate of participation by 7 percent, and lower-income individuals increased their rate of participation by 9 percent.
- Targeting youth at school assemblies during school hours increased their engagement and turnout. Approximately 30 percent of 22nd Ward PB voters and approximately 10 percent of 49th and 45th Ward PB voters were under the age of 18.
- Over $1.6 million in additional funding beyond the commitment of aldermanic menu money was leveraged for community projects identified through the PB process. In the 45th Ward, for example, Independence Park will be renovated to be accessible to children with disabilities using $100,000 in funding from the PB Vote, $100,000 in privately raised donations, and $560,000 in State of Illinois funding.
- PB is becoming institutionalized into Chicago government. In November 2014, the mayor and city council voted to fund the hiring of a new assistant budget director whose primary task is to support aldermen as they implement PB projects.