Year two is under way for City Council Member Brad Lander’s District 39 participatory budgeting initiative. This annual process, which now includes eight City Council Members, empowers citizens by giving people, not politicians, the power to suggest how their tax dollars should be spent and then vote and decide on the winning proposals.
Like last year, Lander has allocated $1 million of his discretionary funds towards participatory budgeting. So far, Lander’s office has held four neighborhood assemblies in his district, including Carroll Gardens, Kensington, Windsor Terrace and Park Slope (the Borough Park assembly will take place on October 15).
Judging from constituents’ responses at the assemblies, District 39 residents are enthusiastic and energized about this year’s process. At each assembly, district residents learn about participatory budgeting and then meet in smaller groups to exchange ideas and offer proposals in small break-out sessions. Some of these residents will volunteer to become “delegates,” who will work on putting together the final proposals for the March ballot.
In addition to the adult break-out sessions at each assembly, there is an exciting new addition this year: every assembly has a “youth break-out session,” which consists of young people between the ages of 12 and 18. About 40 young people have already proposed some amazing ideas, such as countdown subway clocks, sports facilities and school gardens. Many of these young people are going to continue act as youth leaders throughout this process, where they will help the “youth committee” winnow down the proposals and ultimately create a few concrete “youth initiated” proposals for the March ballot.
If you have a great idea for how to spend $1 million dollars, now is the time to get involved!
About the author: Joni Kletter is a community volunteer who helped pull together last week’s participatory budgeting neighborhood assembly in Park Slope.