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.

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