Ready, set ... PB!
We're off-and-running with participatory budgeting. After much preparation -- thanks again to our district organizing committee and all the volunteers helping so far -- we've started the outreach to get hundreds of people to contribute ideas & help shape the projects that will eventually appear on the ballot.
We're also starting to talk to people in a wide range of settings around the district. On Friday, I met with over 100 people about PB and started to hear their ideas ... in two very different groups:
Seniors in Park Slope: Over lunch (and just before the beginning of BINGO) I talked with 50 seniors at the Park Slope Senior Citizen Center. They really appreciated the chance to have their ideas heard. Several suggested sidewalk repairs at key locations where they are afraid of tripping on their walk to the center. One long-time residents of 16th Street wants a red-light camera at an intersection that she says that many drivers run. One man proposed a new street-light at a dark location on his block.
Bangladeshi leaders in Kensington: Then Friday night, I joined a few dozen Bangladeshi leaders at a great meeting at Khan Tutorial in Kensington. The Bangladeshi community in Kensington is large, but relatively new and growing, and still developing connections to civic and political life (e.g. despite its size, there's not a Bengali-speaking not-for-profit social service organization in the area). So we wanted to take extra steps to make sure people have the opportunity to participate.
This meeting was organized by Annie Ferdous & Mamnunul Haq, two new members of Community Board 12 and of our PB district organizing committee. They pulled together a great set of community leaders -- younger and older, men and women, with many different connections in the community. They were excited to learn about the process, and eager to participate in the neighborhood assembly at PS 230 on Monday, October 17th. And they started to talk about a range of great ideas for projects: a "mother tongue" monument celebrating diverse languages (including Bengali), cricket fields, maybe a community center.
Their enthusiasm extended beyond PB and capital projects, and we also talked about how to bring more ESL classes into the community, and how to help the many Bangladeshi construction contractors access business opportunities. These can't be done through PB, but they show the power of PB to promote civic engagement and strengthen our communities in a wide range of other venues.
If you've got a group that would be interested in PB -- PTA meeting, senior center, school classroom (of any age), civic group, tenants association, block association, religious group, music or performance venue before the show, you name it -- just let us know.
At a time when faith in government, even faith in democracy itself, feels strained, I think we've got an antidote. When offered the opportunity to work together with neighbors, in a collaborative process, to use shared resources to confront common problems and improve our community, I really believe people will rise to it. So let's make sure as many people as possible have the chance.