The number of participating districts last year, was astoundingly low, when you consider that there are 51 districts in the city. While the numbers for participating districts are not available yet this year – the process has just begun in many communities, which are hosting preliminary discussions – every district should be taking part.
It's simple really: give the people who pay the taxes a chance to have a real say. What participatory budgeting does, on the most basic level, is it gives residents a chance to feel like they have an impact. And opening it to everyone – not just those who are registered to vote – but everyone over the age of 14 makes it really inclusive.
The process is also incredibly inclusive because it starts and ends in the community. The Councilpersons who reserve the $1 million to be spent, start off with town hall style meetings where the projects are conceived. From there, they are fine-tuned and presented to the community.
The residents advocating for the projects show you how important, even minor things – like a senior van, or new technology in a local school – are so important to people.
In it's fifth cycle, it's now apparent, as the number of districts that are participating every year continuos to grow exponentially, the city needs to step in and make this mandatory.
It started in 2011, with New York City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams, a bi-partisan group and has ballooned from there. But now, it needs to be every community.
The politicians who keep this process away from their community, for whatever reasons, need to see how important it is get people involved in local government and give them a real voice in how their tax money is spent, even if it's a small portion.