Participatory Budgeting and Member Items

Friday, April 05, 2013

Brad Lander, Brooklyn City Councilman (D 39 - Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington) and one of the lead sponsors of the Community Safety Act, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, City council member representing East Harlem and parts of the Bronx and Upper West Side and a member of the council's Progressive Caucus, talk about this year's expansion of participatory budgeting, which allows residents' of their districts to allocate some of the member items funds. Voting concludes this weekend for the 8 districts involved. Member items are under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the arrests of NYC politicians, including Queens Council Member Halloran.


Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito

Comments [8]

James Hanks

So proposal #10 will buy a school 120 auditorium/music room seats for $150,000. You mean to tell me that it costs of $1,000 to buy and install a seat?
I love being given choices, and hope to see more of such participatory democracy. But choices like this make me sad.

I hope that future events like this are announced further in advance so that there can be more debate/research about each proposal. It might even result in more public scrutiny of how the City goes about spending money, and motivate people to find out why exactly a seat an a public school auditorium costs $1,250.

Apr. 05 2013 03:11 PM
Caron from Brooklyn

I recommend that those who are skeptical about participatory budgeting try it out. Delegates are not chosen by the councilmembers, they step up at the neighborhood assemblies that anyone can attend. It's been encouraging to see how many people who feel left out of democracy have gotten involved. District committees of residents work hard along with citywide partners like Community Voices Heard and Participatory Budgeting Project to involve diverse groups in the process and speak up for equity in the funding. As an active participant in the process my concerns and ideas have been welcomed. Of course the process could improve and reach more people - that's why people should get involved to make it better. As participatory budgeting grows across the city we can push it to further to reach its ideal of direct democracy. If you live in a district involved come out and vote - it's an inspiring experience.

Apr. 05 2013 11:57 AM
An Occupier, Queens from Queens

Someone phoned in with worries that minorities in Jackson Heights may not be able to participate effectively if/when Participatory Budgeting starts in this District. Two things: 1)Danny Dromm has apparently indicated a wish to include Jackson Heights in the PB process later this year; and, 2)'Occupy Queens', hopeful of engaging with vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups, has already started to reach out to community groups in Jackson Heights to help make sure that PB's primary goal of 'Inclusion' will be achieved. Inquiries welcome:

Apr. 05 2013 11:06 AM
Paul from Lower Manhattan from Downtown New York

Brian has miss-characterized the participatory budget process as "direct democracy." The way Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander described it, it's more appropriate to call it "deliberative democracy." Yes, the final voting on which projects to fund involves direct decision making based on votes by district residents. The crucial aspect is the DELIBERATION among residents beforehand in the assemblies to help choose what projects go on the ballot. Without that engagement on the front-end, well before the decisions are made through voting, this would be an empty process. In the process described by the council members, the residents who participate in determining projects that go on the ballot play the important role of "issue framers." For more on citizens as "issue framers" in their communities, see the book "Results That Matter" and for more positive roles people can play in their communities (all described in the book) see

Apr. 05 2013 10:43 AM
Joseph from Park Slope, Brooklyn

I'm a constituent of Brad Lander's, and took part in Participatory Budgeting last year, as I will, again, this year. I was very impressed by the creativity and dedication of the community, and was glad to be a part of the process. It shows that citizens and government can work together.

Apr. 05 2013 10:17 AM
Josh from Brooklyn

Thank you to the hundreds of community members across the city who stepped up to organize Participatory Budgeting, together with the Council Members and partner organizations! Especially to the diverse residents who volunteered to serve as budget delegates - putting in months of work to turn the public's ideas into concrete project proposals, to educate and inform their neighbors, and to organize an inclusive voting process that opens up budgeting to thousands more people.

Apr. 05 2013 09:41 AM

I have concerns about this process of Participatory Budgeting:

1. Who is monitoring election independently? The same city council people who supposedly cannot allocate 1 million dollars without oversight are the same ones running the elections.
2. How can people be fairly informed of process and vote- those on twitter and fb have opportunity those unconnected dont
3. A small organized group representing less than 1 percent of district can get their project funded but other worthy projects dont see light of day. Gentrifying schools with high-powered PTA's have more access than other groups.
4. City council person controls process, including appointing delegates to "help shepard" projects through process
5. City councilperson is abdicating his or her elected responsibility

Apr. 05 2013 06:47 AM
George from Brooklyn

Are there plans to restrain political favoritism with member items by the council speaker?

Apr. 05 2013 06:38 AM

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