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Participatory Budget Prompts Mixed Feelings in Paris
Earlier this year, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced an innovative program: 426 million Euros set aside through 2020 to build urban improvements chosen directly by Parisians. From the article: "It’s the largest sum of public money ever to have been allocated to such a scheme." From a ballot of 15 projects, the Budget Participatif poll (open September 24 – October 1) selected nine for construction. All Paris residents were encouraged to vote, even those without French citizenship.
The projects chosen this year will cost a total of 20 million Euros. Among them are vegetation walls to improve urban biodiversity, funds for school gardens, new cultural venues to enliven abandoned areas, mobile trash collection points, and co-working spaces for young entrepreneurs. Rejected proposals included some unusual projects: pop-up pools and birthday party "tipis," among others.
Many residents applaud the new program, citing its democratic intentions and inclusiveness. Some see it as an important first step toward directly consulting residents on a wider range of budgetary decisions. Parisians will be able to submit their own proposals online for consideration on next year’s ballot.
The program also drew criticism. Some believe it is a frivolous use of city funding on "Anne Hidalgo’s pet projects that fail to address real problems." Others complain the government failed to make project details clear. Another issue is possible voter fraud: the online poll required only an email address, allowing repeat votes.