Monthly Archives: July 2016

PB, The New Library, and Where Petitions Will Be This Week

This week’s edition of dna info West Ridge gives prominence to the petition drive to bring participatory budgeting (PB) to the 50th Ward. Under the banner headline “Residents Want Say on 50th Ward Budget,” Linze Rice details our story. If you missed the print edition, you can read the story here.

PB is democracy in action, not an attack on the alderman, not an attempt to usurp her statutory authority, not a comment on her leadership. It is a positive action designed to involve residents in ward decision-making. It has been successful in eight other wards, where citizens chose a variety of projects to fund, from community gardens to street lighting to improved access to public buildings for the disabled. Yes, we need to have the potholes filled, and, as part of the PB process, residents can choose to continue to spend all or part of the Ward’s menu money doing just that.

But the community may choose other options. For example, to date there has been no funding available for a feasibility study for the new library that West Ridge so desperately needs. But the amount is so small in relation to the menu money–about $30,000–that it could easily be appropriated through the PB process–and we’d be one step closer to making that new library a reality!

Have you signed the petition yet? If not, there are still several ways to do so.

Contact us at We are working throughout the neighborhood, and chances are we have a petition circulator near you or a volunteer who can stop by a your convenience.

You can attend National Night Out on Tuesday, August 2. Petition circulators will attend the events at Green Briar and Warren Parks.

You can come to the Northtown Library this week. On Monday and Wednesday, we’ll be inside from 10 a.m. until Noon. On Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll be inside from Non until 2 p.m. We’ll be stationed at Computer #2 all four days (that’s the large-screen computer facing the Circulation Desk). On Saturday, August 6, we will be in the library’s meeting room between 9 a.m. and Noon. Sunday, August 7, is the last day to sign; please contact us via email, to sign the petition then.

The signed and notarized petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections on Monday, August 8. After that, petition signatures can be challenged by PB opponents, and then we’ll have an opportunity to respond to those challenges.

We’ll keep you posted on what happens.


Two More Weeks!

We have two more weeks to achieve our goal!

Volunteers have been working hard to secure enough signatures to add our referendum to November’s ballot. These last two weeks are critical – remember, we need signatures from 8% of the registered voters in each precinct to qualify for the ballot.  All signed and notarized petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections on August 8.

Have we missed you? Are you ready to sign? Are you able to work a few hours to help with the final push? Can you knock on a few doors in your building or on your block? Would you be able to pick up a few signatures at worship services this weekend? Let us know by e-mailing We can get one or more petitions to you fast.

Petition circulators will be at the Northtown Library from 9-11 a.m. this Saturday, July 23, and at the Jewel on Howard this Sunday from 1-5 p.m. as well as in various precincts, so le us know if you’ll be home and ready to add your name to the petition.

Help make participatory budgeting a reality in the 50th Ward!

And thanks.

How Was Menu Money Spent Citywide from 2012-2014?

Participatory budgeting (PB) gives residents a voice in how their ward’s menu money is spent.  The attached reports detail menu money spending in all fifty wards for 2012, 2013, and 2014. As you’ll see, the money can be spent solely on infrastructure improvements, such as lighting, trash cans, speed bumps, alley aprons, park improvements, and street resurfacing.

It’s interesting to compare the spending ward by ward, and to see the difference that citizen participation makes in those wards, like the 49th, where the process is resident-driven.

More information about PB and how it has worked since 2012 can be found here.

2012 MM

2013 MM

2014 MM


Sign the Participatory Budgeting Petition at Tonight’s Public Safety Meeting

Tonight the alderman is sponsoring a public safety meeting so the West Ridge community can meet Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and the commanders of the two police districts that protect West Ridge residents, Roberto Nieves of the 24th and Elias Voulgaris of the 17th.

Petition circulators will be available outside the Horwich Center so you can sign the petition in support of participatory budgeting if you haven’t already done so. You will need to know which precinct you live in, and that info’s available on your voter’s card. We’ll be on the sidewalk rather than on the Horwich property so as not to be in the way as people enter the building.

The meeting is at the Horwich JCC, 3003 West Touhy, at 7 p.m. tonight.

Voting in Participatory Budgeting

Who can sign the petition to add participatory budgeting (PB) to the November ballot?
Only registered voters in the 50th Ward can sign the petition.

Who can be on the leadership team?
Any ward resident or local business owner can volunteer for the leadership team and make a case for his/her inclusion to the project oversight team. There is no set formula for representation (i.e., members are not selected by racial, ethnic, or religious group or by sex). What will matter is the volunteer’s willingness to work long hours without compensation to learn about and subsequently guide the process through its birthing phase.  The leadership team simply won’t work unless it is as inclusive as possible so everyone can expect a fair and equitable process for choosing leadership team members..

Who can take part in choosing projects, developing proposals, and voting?
All 50th Ward residents over the age of 14, parents with children who attend 50th Ward schools, and 50th Ward business owners can help select the projects eligible for menu money spending. Voters formerly had to be 18 or older, but this has been changed to help adolescents develop a sense of civic responsibility.

Non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, can also vote to choose and fund projects. This is a contentious issue. It is true that menu money come from taxpayers, and those residents in the country illegally do not pay income taxes. However, they do pay other taxes (sales tax, for example). It cannot be denied that ALL residents have an interest in neighborhood improvement.

PB therefore does not distinguish between citizens and noncitizens. What matters is one’s residency and commitment to the community of West Ridge.

I don’t like all these kids and foreigners having a say in what happens to my tax dollars.
Many people would agree with you. Some think the kids are too young to be involved, while others believe that giving the undocumented such access is a good reason not to support PB. But consider this:

Young people have responded strongly to the idea of bringing PB to the ward. Recent grammar school graduates, high schoolers, and other young people are eager to play a role in making the 50th Ward stronger and improving the neighborhood in general. Many are disappointed that they cannot sign the petition. Their enthusiasm for participatory democracy reflects the highest American ideals of citizenship.

According to U.S. Census data, 10% to 12% of all West Ridge residents are in the United States without authorization–approximately 7,200 to 8,600 residents, based on the current West Ridge population estimate of 72,000 residents. Many more residents have green card status–they are permanent residents but not U.S. citizens. Permanent residents pay income taxes. Chicago is a recognized Sanctuary City, which means that citizenship is not a requirement for access to or participation in municipal governance.

PB grants access to all members of the community without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, or citizenship status. PB recognizes instead the common welfare–the improvement of ward infrastructure–to which all residents contribute.

My project lost–I feel like my vote didn’t count. Now what?
Only a few projects will be funded. Some of those that won the most support from the voters may not move forward because of cost increases, for example, or because they have been proposed by a City department and are on its project schedule. Your project may receive the go-ahead after all. Or you and your supporters can present it again in the next PB process. Don’t give up.

How Project Choice Works in Participatory Budgeting

Who guides the participatory budgeting (PB) process in the ward?
Residents and business owners all have an equal opportunity to volunteer for the ward’s leadership team, which guides the process under the direction of the UIC Great Cities PB initiative.

Who chooses the projects to be funded by menu money under the PB process? How is this done?
Choosing the projects to be funded is an entirely voluntary process. Interested residents and business owners (except for members of the leadership team) meet in groups of their own choosing; this may mean a block club, a group of business owners in a given area, parents at a local school, a church or social club. No group is barred from meeting to advance a project.

During these brainstorming sessions, members of the group work together to build agreement, ranking their projects from those with the most support within the group to those with the least. The group then decides which project to support, develops a proposal for it, including an estimate of the funding required for it, and submits the proposal for vote by the larger community.

Then what?
All proposals are reviewed by the leadership team. A ballot is created for community voting. The community votes for the proposals it wishes to support. After the voting, the projects are ranked from first to last in total number of votes received. The projects with the most votes are funded using the menu money.

It’s important to note that funding adjustments are sometimes required because projects prove more or less costly than anticipated. It’s also important to remember that some approved projects may conflict with plans already made and funded by the City or other governmental agencies. For example, voters may approve a project for curb repair, but the City’s Water Department may plan to tear up that area for water main work later during the year. A fair solution requires negotiation that includes the alderman, the leadership team, and the City.

The PB process then begins again, and citizen involvement in this budgetary operation continues.

Does PB hurt the alderman?
No. Implementing PB in a ward reflects an alderman’s commitment to constituents. It encourages civic participation and citizen interest in the political process. It’s important to note that the alderman is not excluded from participation. PB is simply another way for an alderman to work with residents and business owners for the good of the ward. It harms no one, and creates an atmosphere of mutual trust and support between the alderman and constituents.

What Does Participatory Budgeting Cost? And Who Pays?

Let’s explore the costs of implementing participatory budgeting (PB) in the 50th Ward.

Is the participatory budgeting petition process going to cost residents of the 50th Ward or the City of Chicago money?
No. All costs for the petition process to get the issue on November’s ballot are being paid by POWR (People of West Ridge) NFP.

Is it true that the referendum itself will cost residents of the 50th Ward money?
No. Costs for placing ANY referendum on the ballot are part of overall election expenditures and are built into the budget of the Chicago Board of Elections, including costs for referenda initiated by either the City or by taxpayers.

The City is permitted three referenda on the November ballot, all of which require City Council approval before they are presented to voters. Two of the three have already been approved by the Council. These referenda will ask:
1.  Should Illinois strengthen penalties for illegal gun sales and require background checks for gun dealers and their employees?
2.  Should Illinois fund the Chicago Public Schools?

The third referendum has not been chosen but it will be one of these two questions:
1.  Should Chicago issue municipal ID cards to help undocumented immigrants who cannot otherwise obtain governmental IDs access City services?
2.  Should there be independent oversight and management of O’Hare and Midway Airports (i.e., should the airports be removed from mayoral control)?

Various precincts and wards will also have referenda on November’s ballot for such decisions as whether liquor moratoriums should be imposed in certain areas. The 50th Ward’s initiative would be the only referendum on participatory budgeting, but not the only citizen initiative on the ballot. Neither the Ward nor its residents is charged any money to support the referendum’s inclusion on the ballot.

Citizen participation in government is vital to our democracy. PB grants citizens control over a very small part of a ward’s overall budget. It allows citizens a chance to experience the decision-making process that determines how and where tax money is spent. Menu money is the same in every ward. Overall, the City grants its fifty wards $65M in annual menu money; so far, citizens have a direct voice in spending only $9.1M of that amount.

Given the huge increase in property taxes that has just hit West Ridge property owners, is it true that they will have to pay more money to support PB?
No.  There are no costs to property owners associated with citizen control of the ward’s menu money.
Citizens are not required to take part in the PB process. Participation neither increases nor decreases the costs. Refusing to participate may mean that issues important to you won’t be addressed, but as a citizen in a democracy you are free to choose whether or not you wish to be involved in bringing those issues to your neighbors’ attention and seeking funding to address them.

Is it true that establishing the voting process will be costly and that those costs will be borne by 50th Ward taxpayers?
No. Eight other wards have implemented PB, creating various voting options. The 50th Ward thus has several voting models from which to choose, including paper ballots and online voting.The voting process would be administered as it is in all other wards–by a committee of volunteers under the supervision of the UIC Greater Cities Initiative.

Sample ballots from the 10th, 36th, and 45th Wards illustrate the process. Note the wide variety of projects that residents of each ward were asked to vote to fund. Be aware, also, that residents may choose to continue to use all the menu money to fund street repaving. You’ll notice that all voting takes place at the aldermen’s offices.

For mre information, please visit the Web site for the University of Illinois Great Cities Institute, which administers the program throughout Chicago.

If your church group, block club, senior organization, or neighbors would like to meet with PB50 organizers in an informational session at which you would have the opportunity to present your questions, discuss various options, and sign the petition if you wish, please contact POWR at or to arrange a meeting.

Participatory Budgeting Update

Great things are happening as the PB50 Project moves forward!

Petitions are being circulated through the 50th Ward, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Residents truly want to be involved in improving our ward and have many ideas for how menu money could best be spent. If you are a registered voter and  haven’t yet signed a petition, or if you’d like to volunteer a few hours to collect signatures, please contact us at or

Thea Crum, Director of UIC’s Great Cities Institute’s Neighborhood Initiatives program, spoke at our June 30 meeting. Thea presented new information about PB Chicago; she is both GCI lead staff person as well as a member of the North American Participatory Budgeting Research Board. There are some changes to the program beginning with 2017, including a lowering of the voting age for PB projects to 14 (from 18). You can learn more about GCI and participatory budgeting here.

The week has also brought two discussions of participatory budgeting, one local and one national.  DNA Info wrote a great story about our efforts to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward (published July 6). And Time magazine, in its current (July 11) issue, names participatory budgeting “…one of the reasons to celebrate America,” ranking it 83rd of Time‘s 240 reasons, one reason for each year of our nation’s existence.

The PB50 Project Steering Committee is hard at work planning the next community meeting. Watch this space for date and time!





PB Campaign Moving Forward

We are out gathering signatures on our petition to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward!

As you know, the alderman declined to attend our meetings or to signal any support for our initiative. We are moving forward.

We will be at the July 4 parade at Indian Boundary Park on Monday, July 4, beginning at 10 a.m. PB50 will host a lawn sign decorating event for kids, who will be able to decorate a lawn sign to take home or take a kit and lawn sign  home to decorate later. All materials will be provided by PowrArts in support of the PB project. Lawn signs are available in two sizes for a small donation.

Margaret of MarGREAT’s Lemonade will be with us. She’s a 12-year-old entrepreneur earning money for college by selling her homemade lemonade, which was a great hit at the Devon Community Market the last two years.

On Tuesday, July 5, PB50 will collect signatures outside the Northtown Library from 5-7 p.m. and then attend the CAPS meeting with out neighbors scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Library.

Petition circulators are going door to door, and we are on track to get 40% of the signatures we need in just the next 10 days! Contact us if you haven’t signed yet (

Signing our petition is a great way to celebrate Independence Day!