Austin Talks | The 29th arrondissement seeks residents’ ideas on what to fund in the neighborhood
West Side residents can still submit project ideas for this year participatory budgeting cycle, the process that allows residents to decide how the neighborhood will spend $1 million in Alderman’s Menu cash.
“We are about to end the collection of ideas [phase]said Byron Watson, Director of Infrastructure and Special Projects for the 29th district. “We want to involve our voters [and] listen to them.”
In this phase, all residents of the neighborhood – regardless of age – can come up with ideas to improve their community using the annual menu money allocated by the city. Residents can share their ideas with the service through a submission form or by calling the 29th arrondissement office until Saturday, September 17.
The original deadline – September 15 – has been extended to give more residents a chance to voice their needs, Watson said.
“No idea is a bad idea,” Watson said. “We just have to figure out if this idea can be funded with menu money.”
This is the city of Chicago Office of Budget and Management who determines which projects can be funded with menu money, as these funds are part of the city’s capital improvement budget.
Menu money can be spent on improving the park; sidewalk improvements and repairs; lighting and signaling; public art; street resurfacing; and embellishment. Each year, the City of Chicago allocates $1.5 million in menu money to each of the city’s 50 neighborhoods.
Currently, nine Chicago neighborhoods are engaging their constituents in participatory budgeting processes coordinated by UIC Institute of Major Cities. The role of the UIC Great Cities Institute is to provide information, training and one-on-one technical assistance in each phase of the BP process to residents and service staff, acting as a neutral partner.
“I always have to make sure these projects are done in the same way, and that’s kind of the role I play…just being the neutral partner of the alderman’s staff and the residents, because they each have their own needs,” said Norma Hernandez, community development planner at UIC Great Cities Institute. “And sometimes you can have conflicts.”
After finalizing the idea collection phase, all ideas will be analyzed and evaluated by community representatives and service staff to determine if they are eligible for menu money and if they are viable.
Only viable ideas that can be funded with menu money will make it to the ballot, Watson said.
Later this year, neighborhood residents will vote to determine the winning project(s). Residents will also decide how much menu money should be spent on street resurfacing, a priority for Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th). Watson said the alderman’s office needs a floor of at least $600,000 and wants residents to consider whether they want to spend up to $1 million on street resurfacing.
“It gets them thinking about how the money is allocated,” Watson said, adding that participatory budgeting helps educate residents about what local governments need to consider when making funding decisions.
If more money is allocated to street resurfacing, less money is available to be spent on projects proposed by residents, Watson said.
Thea Crum, associate director of the Neighborhoods Initiative at the UIC Great Cities Institute, said residents involved in PB also learn what government officials need to do to complete a project.
“I think sometimes when you’re out of government you’re like, ‘Why isn’t this just happening? Why can’t you just do this thing? “, Did she say. “And then when you’re actually part of the power of PB, you don’t just say, ‘I want to see this,’ and then expect someone else to do this job. You are actually working hand in hand with the government.
Aldus. Taliaferro first introduced participatory budgeting to the neighborhood in 2017. Some projects selected through participatory budgeting in recent years have included community gardens, a fitness class at the Austin City Hallbike paths, a mural in Columbus Park and public art at Sayre Language Academy.
To learn more about 29th Ward Participatory Budgeting, call (773) 237-6460.