The participatory budgeting process lets citizens brainstorm ideas and then vote on how ward money will be spent, but 5th Ward Alderman Leslie has decided to remove most transportation projects from consideration. The district, which includes parts of South Shore, Grand Crossing, Woodlawn and Hyde Park, is one of four wards where citizens will help decide how to use their alderman’s $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” money this year, and the only one on the South Side.
“Participatory budgeting allows the community to bring up ideas that we might not have known about otherwise,” said 5th Ward Chief of Staff Kimberly Webb. “It’s a chance to be transparent and inclusive. Our constituents are just so enthusiastic and grateful to be part of the decision process, and Leslie really appreciates everything the community has contributed to the process.” The ward held five community assemblies last fall and winter to get ideas from residents for the budgeting ballot.
In the Far North Side’s 49th Ward, where Alderman Joe Moore first pioneered participatory budgeting in Chicago in 2010, citizens have voted to spend menu funds on a number of sustainable transportation projects. These included a new traffic/pedestrian signal, sidewalk repairs and heated ‘L’ platform shelters, plus bike lanes, paths and parking racks. Many of these projects have already been completed. Alderman John Arena’s 45th Ward, on the Northwest Side, and Alderman James Cappleman’s 46th Ward, on the North Lakefront, are currently considering sustainable transportation projects for their budgeting ballots.
The transportation committee for the 5th Ward’s budgeting process came up with 23 ideas to improve travel options in the district. These included pedestrian safety upgrades at 55th and Kenwood, near the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club; new bus shelters and concrete bus pads; improving the Lakefront Trail and multiuse paths in Jackson Park; and fixing potholes and speed humps. However, in February the committee learned that Hairston decided to designate these ideas as “service requests” that should be paid for by the Chicago Department of Transportation, the CTA and the Chicago Park District. The projects were therefore ineligible for the budgeting ballot.