Participatory budgeting starts today, and Brooklyn is a trailblazer
The fifth annual Participatory Budgeting (PB) Week has kicked off, and this year Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is expanding the funds going into the process.
Adams has pledged to allocate $1 million in 2017 capital funding to be apportioned equally to winning projects from the votes conducted by Brooklyn councilmembers.
In participatory budgeting, residents directly decide how to spend part of the city’s budget to improve their neighborhoods. This year, twenty-eight councilmembers are participating, ten in Brooklyn.
In 2011, four New York City council members — Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams — launched the PB process.
Lander (D-Cobble Hill-Windsor Terrace-Park Slope) was named a “Champion of Change” at a 2013 ceremony at the White House for his role in making the public a part of his budget process.
On Monday morning, lines had formed at several of the voting sites. To make PB voting easier for Downtown residents and workers, Adams is opening Borough Hall as a universal voting site for Brooklynites living in participating council districts.
“I’m excited to bolster the voices of Brooklynites and help amplify their power to shape their tax dollars are spent in our borough,” Adams said in a statement in February. “PB is a revolutionary approach to growing democracy from the ground up, and this partnership with the City Council will cultivate that growth even further, funding more capital projects and engaging more potential voters.”
“Brooklyn is never shy in being a trailblazer,” Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook – Sunset Park) said in a statement. “Our borough president has made history today by being the only borough president to say ‘Si Se Puede’ to a more participatory democracy.
Besides Menchaca, the borough’s PB participants this year are Councilmembers Robert Cornegy, Jr., Laurie A. Cumbo, Mathieu Eugene, David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Mark Treyger, and Jumaane D. Williams.
Each will receive $100,000 from Adams to expand that council member’s committed PB allotment, resulting in additional projects winning funding in the upcoming fiscal year.
Residents of participating districts throughout Brooklyn (roughly 60 percent of the borough is participating) have already chosen projects to put on the ballots. All of the projects came from suggestions made by people who live or work in the districts, and anyone who lives in the district can vote.
This year, residents can vote for as many as five of theirr favorite project proposals. Each participating councilmember guarantees funding for the three proposals that tally the most votes.
Projects range from a proposed dog run in the Prospect Park Parade Grounds to a new teen space at the Carroll Gardens Library, air conditioning at local schools, safer street crossings, park benches and a new aquatic weed harvester for Prospect Park.
In Councilmember Lander’s district, in addition to the usual ballot of capital projects, voters will be able to cast up to three extra votes on the “expense funds” ballot. Expense funds are smaller and more flexible than capital funds, such as supporting innovative programs at local organizations.
Last year, councilmembers asked residents to decide how to spend $32 million. In Councilmember Menchaca’s district for example, more than $2 million was allocated to school technology, playground lighting, outdoor fitness equipment and library improvements. Lander allocated roughly $1.4 million to projects including air conditioning for a school cafeteria, auditorium renovations, a safer crossing at Hicks Street and more.
To find out where to vote in your district visit http://labs.council.nyc/pb/.
PB voting will take place in Brooklyn Borough Hall from Monday, March 28th until Friday, April 1st from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The overall voting period for participating districts is from Saturday, March 26th until Sunday, April 3. All residents 16 years of age or older with proof of residency in a participating council district in Brooklyn will be eligible to vote at Borough Hall.
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