On January 27 we held the first forum on Participatory Budgeting, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a city budget. We’ll look to hold a second meeting within the next month or so.
We asked people in attendance to consider three main questions in small-group discussions about what a participatory budgeting program could look like in Seattle. Here’s a summary of what we heard:
1. What would be the benefits and drawbacks to a citywide vs. district-based model?
Support for using district councils; boundaries should depend on desired outcomes; districts are best at first, citywide could be done later; it might be better to look at proposal over a longer time period; no conclusion, use district councils or existing neighborhood identities.
2. What kinds of funds should be used, and what kinds of project eligible?
Consolidate city grants; use a hybrid system, with some funds dedicated to youth, as in Boston; some funding could be at-large; capital projects have more impact than programs unless substantial funds are available; allow for multi-district projects.
3. What would be needed to make a Seattle PB process as accessible, inclusive, and equitable as possible?
Print in multiple languages; go to places like churches and schools; use existing grant infrastructure; involve marginalized communities, and account for culture; need equal distribution; use best practices from other cities re: equity and accessibility; have small test cases with communities that don’t usually participate in city programs; the location and time of gatherings is important, for seniors, non-English speakers, and transit-dependent persons.
The materials used in the meeting are linked below: