Post by kerouac2 on Oct 11, 2017 12:08:59 GMT
Municipal participatory budgets are slowly but surely gaining ground in the world. What are they? They're a percentage of the municipal budget that is set aside for people to decide what projects they specifically want to support, from planting gardens, repainting schools, better street cleaning or organising aid for migrants. The percentage of the budget usually varies from 1 to 5% and voting is mostly done over the internet in big cities, but in Paris there are also ballot boxes in some municipal buildings and also at the street markets during the period of consultation. Porto Alegre is still the world leader and the share has increased from 17% to 21%.
Porto Alegre, Brazil was the first city in the world to launch this system -- in 1989. Since then, the Dominican Republic uses the system in all local government. Other noteworthy cities that have adopted the system are Chengdu, China as well as New York, Toronto and Paris. The system is particularly popular in Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Brazil. In Brazil, the system has been adopted by 5,571 municipalities. In France, only 45 so far, including Metz, Arras, Montrouge, Rennes but also some small villages. In the United States, the cities of Vallejo (Calif.) and Greensboro (NC) use the system fully.
Paris is the city that apparently gives citizens the most power, if money = power. 5% of the budget is participatory and that equals 41 euros per Parisian. Any Parisian can propose a project. Obviously there are a few committees along the way to weed out ridiculous or impossible suggestions. This year there were 196 projects for which to vote, divided into two categories: citywide and neighbourhood projects. Each Parisian gets 10 votes -- you can vote for 5 citywide projects and 5 projects limited to your arrondissement. Among the winning projects are plans to vegetalise more of Paris, the creation of neighbourhood recycling and mutualisation centres where people can bring their old appliances to be fixed by workers in rehabilitation and also borrow items that they rarely use instead of having to buy them, modular mobile service centres for migrants (showers, washing machines...), collective kitchens for people with little or no income where group meals can be prepared and people can contribute items...
None of this happens overnight. The city has made it clear that it can take 2 or 3 years to implement certains decisions since there are a lot of hurdles along the way, but once a project has received sufficient votes, it will be implemented.
Not everybody is in favour of the system, considering it to be cheap "clientelism" (pandering to public opinion) when fully trained specialists should be deciding exactly what to do. I disagree, particularly since the fact that in a city like Paris, only 5% of the budget is open to voting, which is a pretty good safeguard to prevent "wasting" too much money especially for the projects that will ultimately fail. Some cities have adopted a "reverse participatory budget" for saving money, though, where voters choose services or equipment to abandon. This sounds more dangerous to me.
Do any of the rest of you live somewhere that is practicing participatory budgets?