What Is Participatory Budgeting? A Proposed MTC Pilot Project and Brief Lit Review

By Chirag Rabari

According to the Participatory Budgeting Project, participatory budgeting (PB):

... 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 has been around internationally for some time and recently PB projects have been implemented locally on a limited scale in both Vallejo and Oakland. Since 2012, the City of Vallejo has engaged over 15,000 residents in allocating nearly $7 million for 25 local projects. In Oakland, over 1,200 residents of two City Council Districts helped decide how to spend nearly $800,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to benefit low-and moderate-income residents. 

Here at MTC, staff are proposing to pilot PB projects through the next cycle of the Community-Based Transportation Planning (CBPT) Program, set to run from 2017-2021, which the MTC Planning Committee will consider this month. In addition, up to $1 million will be set aside from the Lifeline Transportation Program to support projects identified through the CBPT process (see here for more information about proposed guidelines for the latest cycle of the Lifeline Program). Stay tuned as developments continue on this front in the new year...

In the meantime, though, Julie Tunnell - head librarian of the MTC-ABAG Library - pulled together this handy review of some of the prominent literature (academic and otherwise) on PB. Collectively, these pieces give a good sense of the mechanics, promises and occasional perils of participatory budgeting:

Background & Exploration

In The News

Case Studies & Examples

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