Democracy is Inspiring
Last fall, as part of our new participatory budgeting initiative, we asked for your ideas for projects that would improve our neighborhoods. Nearly 1,000 of you answered the call and offered your ideas – from subway station improvements, to new community spaces, to upgrades to local playgrounds. You can view all of the ideas people submitted here.
Since then, a team of 100 community volunteers have been working in seven “budget delegate” committees to research and evaluate these ideas, to figure out which ones are feasible, and determine how much they would cost.
They are now working to put together the ballot – at the end of March, you will be able to vote on which projects will get funded.
Participatory budgeting has helped renew my faith in local democracy. Constituents have told me they have never felt so engaged in the decisions being made about their neighborhood and they are hungry for more, to be involved in the decisions about transit, education, and policing in our neighborhoods.
The process has pulled in a diverse group of people, with volunteer budget delegates from every neighborhood in the district. Some got involved because they are excited about one or two ideas that were proposed by their neighbors; others because they want to be part of this ambitious experiment in grassroots democracy. Along the way, a few of them have documented their experience in some really compelling blog posts (linked in this e-mail, listed below, or available at BradLander.com/PB) – they are well worth reading.
Some budget delegate committees focused on first-hand experience to evaluate projects. The Transit committee sent delegates to project sites to document potential improvements and speak with people who use the area’s buses and trains. The Public Safety, Public Health, and Sanitation committee is taking a different approach, using hard data to select locations for potential new street lights, recycling bins, or security cameras. In their first meeting they reviewed crime statistics from the NYPD to help the group prioritize the best safety proposals. The Education committee met with principals and focused on schools serving low-income families to decide which projects would have the greatest impact.
Before you come out to vote, you’ll get a chance to take a closer look at the projects that these volunteer committees have developed and are placing on the ballot. On Wednesday, March 14, at 6:30, at the Park Slope Armory, we are holding a Participatory Budgeting Expo (361 15th Street). You can see the proposed projects, talk to the budget delegates who developed them, and start to think about which ones you want to vote for during the last week in March.
Thanks to everyone who has been involved in making Participatory Budgeting a success – and I look forward to seeing you on voting day.
PS: In case you missed it, I published my annual report to the community last week, which outlines my work over the last year in your neighborhood and at the City Council. Hope you get a chance to read it and let me know what your priorities are for this year.
Participatory Budgeting Blog PostsPB Delegate Committees Get to Work (Maggie Tobin, 11/14/11)Using PB to Address Public Safety (Rachel Fine, 11/21/11)Transit Committee Seeks Best Projects for Scarce Funds (Sara Nordmann, 12/1/11)Budget Delegates for Parks & Recreation Get Real (JC Martinez-Sifre, 12/12/11)So Much Work, So Little Time – Culture & Community Facilities Committee (Lizzette Gonzalez, 1/5/12)PB Committee Tackles Flooding at Subway Station (Tracy Turner, 1/20/12)Streets & Sidewalks Committee Turns Your Ideas into Projects (Michael Fettman, 1/25/12)Education Committee Asks the Hard Questions (Jason Boutin, 1/26/12)
What does your neighborhood need? An improved park? Safer streets? New school technology? In participatory budgeting, you give your ideas and City Councilmember Brad Lander has set aside $1 million to fund them. And your votes will decide which projects get funded.