Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which members of the public get a direct vote in how a portion of tax dollars are spent.
It has been used in parts of Chicago for more than a decade, and made its U.S. debut here in the North Side’s 49th ward in 2009, led by then-Ald. Joe Moore.
The concept was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and is now used in cities across the world.
In Chicago, residents vote on how to spend the majority of the roughly $1.5 million in “menu money” city council members are allotted for infrastructure projects each year — in the handful of wards that choose to use it. Residents can propose ideas, work with city officials to hone their pitch and then vote on which ideas they like best. Winning projects are built in conjunction with the city.
The process — facilitated by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute — is also utilized in a handful of Chicago Public Schools as a form of civic education.