The second round of Participatory Budgeting wrapped up last week, with more funds to spread around ($600,000, up from $500,000), a greater number of project proposals (540 rather than 380) and a 53 percent increase in overall voter participation.
That big spike in interest could be due to the retooling of the PB timeline—last year, the program ran in parallel with putting the city’s own budget planning. “That was incredibly difficult for us,” says Jeana Franconi, budget director for the city. Planning started in May this year, and the steering committee formed in June. Citizens submitted their ideas in August, and the final voting concluded in December.
Was Franconi pulling for any specific proposal? “I will say that I really appreciate ideas that are outside of the box—things that we never would have thought to put in our capital plan,” she says, though she’s a little hesitant to play favorites. She points to projects like the prepared food rescue freezer van, which received the highest overall number of votes from Cambridge residents, and water bottle refill stations, which came in third, as off-the-wall ideas from community members that have the potential to make a real difference.
The next PB go-around will be even bigger than this year’s, with $700,000 in available funds. Franconi says she’d love to see more youth involvement in 2016—there was one youth committee this year, and “their enthusiasm was infectious,” she says. “Next year, my goal is to try to get PB as a civics lesson in the upper schools. I would love to see younger kids get involved—maybe with the homework assignment of getting out to vote.”
And, as always, the city will be looking for help from its citizens, whether that’s assisting during the planning process or volunteering on-site during the final round of voting in December.
“We really love the enthusiasm from the Cambridge residents,” Franconi says. “I’m always amazed at how thoughtful the residents here are.”
Check out the complete list of Participatory Budgeting winners below!
- Cambridge Prepared Food Rescue Freezer Van ($48,000)
- Separate Bike Lanes from Traffic ($50,000)
- 5 Water Bottle Refill Stations ($40,000)
- Make Massachusetts Avenue Safer for Bikers ($70,000)
- Shape Up Our Squares! ($40,000)
- Faster, Better #1 Bus for Cambridge ($250,000)
- New Chairs for Cambridge Public Schools! ($102,000)
To find updates on these projects, track their progress and stay up to date on the next round of participatory budgeting, head to pb.cambridgema.gov.