By Karen Stokes
To create vibrant communities, the residents need a voice in the decisions that affect them.
After rallying since 2019 for the City of Milwaukee to establish a participatory budgeting process, on Feb 24, the African American Roundtable (AART) announced that it is launching a participatory budgeting program.
AART will invest $40,000 in community-led projects to improve the quality of life for Milwaukee residents on the Northwest Side. The organization states that this is an area that has seen decades of divestment, lack of leadership and neglect.
Residents will have the opportunity to propose, vote on and execute their program ideas. A steering committee composed of residents will be selected to determine eligibility, criteria for proposals and the amount each project will be awarded.
This is about changing lives and building community power,” said Devin Anderson, AART’s Membership and Coalition Manager. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
The concept of participatory budgeting is not new in America. Various cities in the United States have already created participatory budgeting processes, Chicago, New York, Vallejo, Calif, Greensboro NC and Cambridge, Mass. have all implemented participatory budgeting to some degree.
A 2019 poll found strong support for several innovative approaches to local civic engagement, such as holding community discussions on relevant issues, surveying residents’ views, or proposing how to spend public money.
“In addition to improving the lives of people in Milwaukee, we’re hoping our program can be used as a blueprint in other communities across the country that are craving for change,” said Markasa Tucker-Harris, AART’s Executive Director. “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
The winners will be announced in the late fall. The success and long-lasting impact of this program will determine if it is funded again in 2024 and beyond.
AART will continue to advocate for participatory budgeting on the city level. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members decide how public dollars are spent.