Chicago is entering participatory budgeting season, where some alders invite residents to help allocate up to $1.5 million per ward in discretionary funds on ward projects.
Alex Linares, an economic development planner at the University of Illinois Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, helps local officials implement best practices. He shares what to know about the democratic process.
The participatory budgeting process. (Courtesy of UIC Great Cities Institute)
What are the types of projects being funded?
“The money comes from capital infrastructure funds, which is very much tied to physical space. The nature of the funds is still sidewalks and street resurfacing. But we do have projects like park improvements, beautification projects, playground areas, nature spaces, and basketball and tennis court improvements. Also, we’ve seen strong advocacy from residents pushing for bike lanes and bike infrastructure.”
Which wards do participatory budgeting?
“The 1st, 29th, 33rd, 35th, 39th, 47th, and 49th Wards. The 36th and 40th Wards are in talks to potentially restart their processes. The 11th, 12th, and 25th Wards have reached out as well.”
Why should Chicagoans get involved in this process?
“Participatory budgeting is transparent: You’re not just looking at what gets funded, but how. It’s also more equitable: Who’s voting? If we see that most people in the area are higher income, volunteers and staff can ask, ‘How do we do better outreach and engagement?’"
+ The 1st Ward’s info meeting is Wednesday.
+ Want to bring the process to your ward? Reach out to your alder.
Update: The 33rd Ward is also doing participatory budgeting. H/T to reader Daniella M. for the reminder.