Real Power? Real Money?

… a reflection on Participatory Budgeting in New York – Published on Public, by Eric Dirnbach, Dec 1, 2016.

… This process is known as participatory budgeting (PB) and I wanted to see how it worked. My main questions were: Is PB as currently practiced an innovative way to enhance local democratic decision-making and empowerment? Or is this token inclusion, while the real decisions are made elsewhere, as usual?

The Participatory Budgeting Project, a non-profit organization that promotes PB in the U.S. and Canada, describes PB as

  • a different way to manage public money, and to engage people in government. It is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. PB gives ordinary people real power over real money.

PB was first used for the municipal budget in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, and since then the PB movement has grown to over 3,000 cities around the world. Portugal recently announced that it will use it for the national budget. PB is being used in more than 40 communities in the U.S.

New York City is in the midst of its 6th cycle of PB and the program has grown to 31 out of 51 City Council districts. Each district has been allocated at least $1 million for proposed projects. The requirements are that each project cost at least $35,000, last 5 years, be located on city property, and be brick-and-mortar type infrastructure projects such as fixing up a playground or library.

I voted in the final PB project selection last year. My district had been presented with 21 options, and chose five projects from among them: a senior center renovation, planting street trees, school science lab improvements, school technology upgrades, and a library renovation. When my City Council Member Mark Levine announced the beginning of this current PB round, I decided to follow the entire process … //

… From a social justice perspective, PB could be a way to allocate more resources toward lower-income, disadvantaged communities. Certainly PB wouldn’t be generating such excitement on the left if wealthy neighborhoods captured the benefits. Indeed, the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform includes a demand for PB as a tool to advance racial justice. The New York City Cycle 4 evaluation found that the majority of PB voters identified as people of color and that they accounted for a higher percentage of voters than in local elections. A Public Agenda study of 46 PB processes in the U.S. and Canada found that lower-income residents were often overrepresented in participation. PB looks like potentially promising terrain for activists.

Of course, funding for worthy projects in the low-income neighborhoods in my district could also be moved through our elected City Council representative in the standard way. This would involve community members and organizations doing more traditional protests and lobbying for these projects, with our Council Member and his staff ultimately making the determination on whether to push for funding. Perhaps this would have led to similar outcomes. But this is the very process that already serves wealthier residents fairly well. The existence of PB is an implicit criticism of standard representative democracy — after all, if the political process satisfied low-income communities, PB wouldn’t be needed. The direct involvement of community members in brainstorming, discussing and selecting these projects, with less mediation through elected representatives, has placed more power in their hands and is a taste of what’s possible if the program could be expanded.

I’ll have more to say about PB as it concludes next year. For now, my concerns are whether PB is a direct democracy project that is genuinely empowering for local residents as a way to solve community problems. It’s been very interesting so far and I look forward to the rest of the process.

(full text, photo of the notes-list).


Weltall 360: Panorama-Spaziergang durch erste ISS-Module, 4.49 min, auf YouTube von RT Deutsch; oder auf derRT-Website;

16 y/o German girl talks about muslim immigration, destruction of her own country, 20.17 min, german spoken, activate english subtitles, uploaded by GlobalVortex;

Fake news reported by MSM that causes death and destruction – John Pilger, 96.40 min, uploaded by KafkaWinstonWorld, Nov 18, 2016;

George Soros & Hillary Clinton, 20.13 min, uploaded by JUN J, Nov 17, 2016;

Snowden Q&A on how US Election affects your privacy, his pardon, 60.35 min, uploaded by RT, Nov 11, 2016 … (Streamed Live);

The truth is … there was no one to vote for – John Pilger, 28.12 min, uploaded by RT, Nov 9, 2016 … Going Underground US election special … Afshin Rattansi goes underground on the US election results. Author and documentary filmmaker John Pilger tells us what has been revealed by Trump winning the US election, plus what does a Donald Trump presidency mean for the Middle East;

Wirtschafts-Faschismus, IWF-Insider packt aus – PETER KÖNIG (AZK 2016), 89.34 min, von Frubi TV am 9. Nov 2016;

bei Anne Will: zu viel Wahrheit in einer Sendung, 28.49 min, von World Wide Peace TV am 8, Nov 2016;

THE ART OF WAR: Crystal Clear Agreements, enduring subordination, on Voltairenet.orh, by Manlio Dinucci, Oct 27, 2016: President Barack Obama was absolutely right to pat himself on the back for “the crystal clear agreements [and] long friendship” that united his country to Italy. In actual fact, that European state is “welded from the hip” to its US suzerain by a number of treaties and a long history;

Former CIA agent blows whistle on secret shadow government – Kevin Shipp, 41.22 min, uploaded by KafkaWinstonWorld, Oct 13, 2016 … Thank you, Dane, for your hard work organizing these conferences that provide a forum for experts and insiders to speak out on vital topics that all Americans need to hear …;

… and this:

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