Local Participatory Budgeting – Chicago, IL

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Neighborhood improvement
  • Engagement Approaches Participatory budgeting
Project Description

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Participatory Budgeting in Chicago


Looking to engage residents in making decisions that impact their everyday lives, Alderman Joe Moore implemented a local participatory budgeting effort in Chicago’s 49th Ward.

Project Summary

For the past eight years, Chicago’s 49th Ward has used participatory budgeting to help determine the priorities and projects that Alderman Joe Moore submits to the city and its related agencies. In this ward, residents have real power in deciding how to spend taxpayer resources.  Since 2010 the residents of Ward 49 have worked to suggest projects, set priorities and determine the allocation of $8,300,000 in capital expenditures.

Looking at the process for 2015 gives insight into the process and potential of this approach.

In 2015, Joe Moore promised to allocate $1 million his $1.3 million budget for capital expenditures to the projects and priorities set by residents of his ward. Leading up to the April 2015 election, 49th Ward residents identified needs, researched projects, and prepared full spending proposals. Voting was open to all 49th Ward residents age 16 and over, regardless of citizenship or voter registration status.  Voters considered two separate measures:

  • the first measure set the percentage of the ward infrastructure budget that would be devoted exclusively to street resurfacing, street lighting and sidewalk repairs
  • the second ballot determined how the remaining infrastructure budget would be allocated. Each of the 1,841 voters were permitted to vote for up to four projects.

In 2015, residents of Ward 49 elected to spent 62% of the 1,000,000 set aside for projects on street resurfacing, street lighting and sidewalk repairs. The remaining 380,000 was spent on the projects receiving the most votes.  For the 2015 budget period that included 6 projects ranging from new bus benches and underpass murals to planting more trees in and a mini-astroturf field at Langdon Park.

Alderman Moore pledged to submit to the City of Chicago and its sister agencies for implementation the projects that won the most votes, up to $1 million. While each of the projects received tentative approval from the city, there was always a chance that other factors might impede implementation.

Engagement Approaches

Not only are residents provided with the power to make real choices about the priorities and projects in their community – but on the Ward 49 website they can get updates on the status of projects.  Residents can track progress and, as of August 2017, each of the six identified priorities had been completed.  The project updates include photos, the date each component or project was completed and additional information – such as background on the artists selected to paint the murals.


For more information visit: https://participatorybudgeting49.wordpress.com/

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