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.

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