New York City was the scene for an interntional conference on Participatory Budgeting (PB) this weekend, March 30-31. In the words of one PB organization, it
allows the citizens of an area (neighbourhood, regeneration or local authority area) to participate in the allocation of part of the local Council’s or other statutory agency's (health services, police) available financial resources. PB aims to increase transparency, accountability, understanding and social inclusion in local government affairs. PB applies to a varying amount of the local Council’s budget and the actual process is developed to suit local circumstances.
The New York Times did a pretty good job covering it, even thought the title--Putting In Their 2 Cents--sounded a commentary on media bias on its own note. The story reports on what it calls
a compelling picture of engaged residents that persuaded four council members to take part: Brad Lander of Brooklyn, who represents Ms. Tobin and Mr. Christiansen; Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district includes the Upper West Side, East Harlem and Mott Haven in the Bronx; Eric A. Ulrich, who represents the Rockaways in Queens; and Jumaane D. Williams, whose district stretches from East Flatbush to Midwood, Brooklyn.
One paragrph captures one core goal of the overall project:
One of the goals of the process was to involve people who weren’t already active in politics. That seems to have been at least partially achieved: While some of the participants were affiliated with civic-minded organizations, almost 40 percent said they rarely voted in elections, according to data from the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, an advocacy group that collected information throughout the participatory budget process. About 20 percent of participants had household incomes under $25,000, and more than half were female.
I think non-subscribers can read the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/nyregion/for-some-new-yorkers-a-grand-experiment-in-participatory-budgeting.html?_r=1&hp#