Delegates Ready Projects for Participatory Budgeting Cycle 7 Ballot

Vote Week is April 7th–April 15th

PB 33 2017 003
One of District 33’s polling sites for 2016’s PB vote was at the McCarren Park Farmers Market in front of the BK Story Voyager, a mobile literacy learning initiative that was a winning project on 2014’s Participatory Budgeting ballot. (pictured far left) Benjamin Solotaire, Participatory Budgeting Director for Council Member Stephen Levin

Organizers in Districts 33 and 34 are currently in the homestretch of preparing for the 7th annual Participatory Budgeting vote. During April 7–15 our community will be able to choose which local projects will be funded by at least $1M (per district) of NYC’s public budget. This effort gives direct power to the people to decide what is best for their community. The process also builds community engagement and develops new community leaders.

Plenty of work goes into bringing the projects to the ballot. Much of this work is in the hands of volunteer delegates who start the previous November. People can volunteer to serve as budget delegates if they are: at least 11 years old and live, work, own a business, attend school (or are parents of children who attend school) in the district they would serve. They then go through an orientation and join committees to discuss and develop project proposals.

A Reynoso PS 132 STEAM RC 001 WEB
Council Member Reynoso cuts the ribbon on PS 132’s new STEM lab which was one of the winning projects from District 34’s 2015 Participatory Budgeting Cycle

Acacia Thompson is a Participatory Budget Delegate for District 33. This is her story.

How did you first get involved with Participatory Budgeting?

I first became involved because my children’s school was on the ballot, and I spread the word about the PB vote to enlist support. This experience inspired me to be part of the delegate process.

What does being a delegate entail?

Delegates meet bi-monthly from November to April and vet the proposed projects from the community by examining their eligibility, validity, and equity.  We meet with city agencies to determine if projects are eligible and what they would cost. We research proposed projects by making site visits.  We look at who the project would serve and how projects are equitable around the district.  We propose polling sites and make sure they are dispersed throughout the district.

What do you get out of being a delegate? What keeps you involved?

As a delegate I get to make improvements in our district I know will help its residents and it is a way for an everyday citizen to wield change.  I feel strongly in making sure the projects are equitable and serve those who aren’t well represented.

What would you tell a neighbor to convince them to participate/vote in Participatory Budgeting?

These projects are not vague city administered projects.  Participatory Budgeting is a way for people to make real change in their district by funneling money into projects the community decides upon.  They are improvements to local schools, transit, and parks, and increases in public safety measures.  We see it in action now as McGolrick Park is receiving much needed renovations and our schools have new laptops and lockers.

Is there something that isn’t known about Participatory Budgeting that you think we should know? 

These projects are proposed by citizens, put on the ballot by citizens (Participatory Budget Delegates), and voted on by citizens.  Councilman Levin’s office organizes the Participatory Budget cycle but it is entirely run by the people of the district.  If someone sees a change needing to be made they can propose it and fight for it.  When we have questions about a project we contact the person who suggested it to get a clear picture of the need which can help determine if it gets on the ballot.  This process is empowering and makes me feel as if I have a little bit of power to make the district better.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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