Spring 2013 Newsletter

PB Chicago Lets Residents Decide How to Spend Public Money

Participatory budgeting (PB) is creating quite a stir in Chicago lately, and project organizers are eager to inform the public about the City’s newest democratic experiment.

On April 17,, Thea Crum, Economic Development Planner from Great Cities Institute (CGI) at UIC, and Maria Hadden, Project Coordinator for Participatory Budgeting Chicago, held an IPCE-sponsored Brown Bag event to break down the PB process for Chicagoans. Over lunch with interested UIC students, faculty, and staff, and community residents, Crum and Hadden explained what the PB process in Chicago looks like, how it got started, what it looks like in cities around the world, and why it’s beneficial to citizens and their communities.

Crum and Hadden emphasized that PB is a different way to manage public money. It is a democratic process that gives ordinary people real decision-making power over real money. In a typical PB process, community members make budget decisions through an annual series of meetings in which involved residents brainstorm, develop, and vote on projects to be implemented in their communities. By employing the PB process, organizers hope to strengthen communities and make them more equitable and inclusive.

This past year, four aldermen in Chicago piloted a joint PB process inviting residents in their wards to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, giving a portion of Chicagoans the power to make real decisions about how public money is spent. Aldermen Arena (45th Ward), Cappleman (46th Ward), Hairston (5th Ward), and Moore (49th Ward) spearheaded this year’s experiment, which is now in its final stages as residents prepare to vote on projects they would like to see funded.
In 2009, Chicago Aldermen Moore launched the first PB process in the U.S., based on the model developed in Brazil. There are now over 1,500 participatory budgets around the world, most at the municipal level.

This event was held as part of IPCE’s Spring 2013 Civic Engagement Brown Bag Series.


 

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