Pocketbook Power to the People: Chicago Expands Participatory Budgeting
"Here in the beach-lined Rogers Park neighborhood, Chicagoans are activating an experiment in democratic governance: participatory budgeting. A simple yet radical departure from traditional city budgeting processes, the participatory system allows residents of a given area to directly vote on how government money is spent within their community," explains Anna Clark.
In the years since Rogers Park began asking residents to propose priorities for using their council member's “menu money”, cities such as New York and Vallejo have experimented with the practice. "The results are promising," notes Clark, "with participation levels relatively strong and zero scandals to date."
"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in late October that he’s interested in taking participatory budgeting citywide. And this isn’t just talk: Emanuel’s 2014 budget includes funds for a manager of such a program, who would provide technical support to bring the process into each of Chicago’s 50 wards. Other U.S. cities will be watching, potentially opening to the door for mainstreaming a practice that has struggled to gain legitimacy beyond the provinces of the left."