Brooklyn Boro

Councilmembers want Brooklyn residents to decide how to spend $1 million

September 26, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Justin Brannan had idea sheets printed up in different languages. Photo courtesy of Brannan

You don’t have to be a politician to have a say in the city budget, thanks to an innovative program that allows everyday citizens to propose capital projects, pitch their bold ideas to fellow residents and then vote to decide which notions get serious city funding.

It’s called Participatory Budgeting and it’s all the rage on the New York City Council.

Eleven members of the council’s Brooklyn delegation are bringing participatory budgeting to their districts for the 2018-2019 cycle.

Here’s how it works: Each council member sets aside at least $1 million from his or her discretionary budget. Residents living in those council districts can go online at https://council.nyc.gov/pb/ to propose projects they think should be funded. All ideas are welcome, including everything from speed bumps, to technology upgrades in schools to the installation of benches in parks.

Many lawmakers also have idea sheets in their district offices. The sheets are printed in different languages.

Proposals will be accepted through October.

Along the way, council members will be hosting assemblies in their districts to give residents a chance to present their budget proposals in person.

The projects will then be listed on a ballot and residents will get the chance to vote for their favorites in April 2019. The winning proposals in each district will be funded in the city budget that will be finalized later that spring.

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The Brooklyn councilmembers taking part are Stephen Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy, Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander, Mathieu Eugene, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Jumaane Williams, Mark Treyger and Justin Brannan.

Brannan (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst-Bath Beach) is a first-time participant. He was first elected to the City Council in November of 2017, too late for that participatory budgeting cycle.

He is excited about the idea of opening up the budgeting process to his constituents.

“Participatory budgeting is fiscal transparency and small ‘d’ democracy in action,” Brannan told the Brooklyn Eagle. “By empowering the community, participatory budgeting gives residents direct influence and power over their neighborhood. The idea is to make the process as inclusive as possible, emphasizing participation from those who have historically been excluded from electoral and democratic processes. I ran on a platform of giving power back to the people and making sure everyone has a seat at the table in the room where it happens — and this is where it starts.”

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