Show Your Support for Sustainable Transportation Projects in Four Wards

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Poster for participatory budgeting project expos in the 46th Ward.

Chicago’s participatory budgeting movement has exciting potential to democratize the way city money is spent, which could lead to innovative walking, biking and transit improvements. First pioneered in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, participatory budgeting allows citizens to recommend projects for public funding and then vote on how the cash is spent.

In 2010, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore allowed his constituents to determine how to spend the district’s $1.3 million in discretionary “menu money,” the first recorded example of participatory budgeting in the United States. Since then, instead of just funding the usual street repaving, sidewalk repair and streetlight replacement, Moore’s constituents have also voted to spend money on new walk signals, transit shelters, bike lanes and racks, and other nontraditional projects.

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49th Ward residents voted to spend menu money to install this contraflow bike lane on Albion Avenue in Rogers Park. Photo courtesy of CDOT.

Last year Moore invited the other 49 aldermen to a briefing to try to persuade them to try participatory budgeting. A handful of them expressed interest, and last fall the process launched in Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward, John Arena’s 45th Ward and James Cappleman’s 46th Ward. Residents showed up for multiple community meetings, brainstorming ideas for ways to improve their neighborhood’s infrastructure. This winter, locals formed committees to evaluate hundreds of proposals to determine which ones should be included on ballots.

Next month community members in the 49th, 5th, 45th and 46th wards can come to ten different project expos to check out info tables and talk to their neighbors about the proposals that will appear on the ballot; voting begins in May. If you live in one of these wards (look up your ward here) be sure to attend one of the upcoming expos, listed below, and show your support for biking, walking and transit projects on Election Day. Visit PB Chicago or contact your alderman for more info.

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Discussing proposals at a 49th Ward participatory budgeting meeting in 2011. Photo by John Greenfield.

5th Ward, Alderman Leslie Hairston

  • Wed., April 10 – 5:00pm – 8:00pm, Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 South Ingleside
  • Sat., April 13 – 10:00am – 12:00pm, Location to be determined.

45th Ward, Alderman John Arena

  • Tue., April 9 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Filament Theatre, 4041 North Milwaukee
  • Thur., April 11 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Saint Constance Church, 5843 West Strong
  • Sat., April 13 – 10:00am – 2:00pm, Copernicus Center, 5216 West Lawrence

46th Ward, Alderman James Cappleman

  • Sat., April 6 – 10:00am – 12:00pm, Uplift High School, 900 West Wilson
  • Mon., April 8 – 6:00pm-8:00pm, Preston Bradley Center, 941 West Lawrence

49th Ward, Alderman Joe Moore

  • Wed., April 3 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm, United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 West Morse
  • Thur., April 4 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm, Pottawatomie Park, 7340 North Rogers
  • Wed., April 10 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm, St. Jerome’s Parish, 1709 West Lunt(Spanish Language Expo)
  • You might want to correct the address for the last date. It looks like you got the wrong St. Jerome’s. Try this one.

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Chicago aldermen traditionally use their $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” money for basic street, sidewalk and lighting improvements. However, this year a handful of wards are holding participatory budgeting elections. These often result in money being set aside for innovative transportation projects, and walking and biking infrastructure is a relative bargain. 49th Ward Alderman Joe […]

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