Voters Select Seven Participatory Budgeting Projects

Participatory BudgetOfficials announced the FY19 Participatory Budget winners at a results party on Dec. 12. Photo courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

Over 6,700 Cambridge residents voted on how to spend the city’s participatory budget, selecting seven projects in the areas of environment, community resources, streetsmarts, and youth and technology.

The winning projects are 100 Trees for a Cleaner, Greener Cambridge; Critical Resource Kits for the Homeless; Flashing Crosswalks for Safer Streets; Drinking Water Across More Parks; New Musical Instruments for CRLS; Jade Chain: Living Moss Walls to Combat Pollution; and Upgrade the Gately Youth Center.

Each voter—any Cambridge resident who is at least 12 years old, including university students and non-citizens—could pick up to five of the 20 project finalists. The top project, 100 Trees for a Cleaner, Greener Cambridge, garnered nearly 4,000 votes. The seventh-place project, Upgrade the Gately Youth Center, squeezed in just 43 votes ahead of the eighth-place project.

Voter turnout increased by 43 percent compared to last year, according to Budget Director Sarah Stanton. She attributes this jump to an active outreach committee and set of volunteers, and also says the organizers made a huge effort to get the word out by sending postcards to all residents and hosting many events throughout the voting week.

“It shows that the city really enjoys this, and that the project is really participatory in nature,” she says.

These top seven projects total $867,000, which is $67,000 over the amount allotted for the process. The city manager funded the remaining balance.

“Participatory Budgeting has been an incredible community engagement tool in the city and I am pleased we were able to invest $67,000 more in funds to allow a seventh winning project to be selected,” City Manager Louis DePasquale said in a statement. “Over the past four years we have been able to engage thousands of people in this innovative process, and I am particularly proud that all Cambridge residents at least 12 years old, including non-US citizens and university students, were able to vote.”

Funding for the projects is part of the FY19 budget and therefore doesn’t kick in until July 1, so the participatory budget winners will be in a planning phase until the summer.

Here are the details on the winning projects from the participatory budget’s website:

100 Trees for a Cleaner, Greener Cambridge
Cost: $141,000
Locations: Barren sidewalks in East & North Cambridge
Description: “Let’s green our streets by planting 100 trees in neighborhoods lacking foliage! From cooling heat islands to cleaning our air, these trees will be a long-term investment in making our city a healthier, happier place.”

Critical Resource Kits for the Homeless
Cost: $50,000
Location: Citywide
Description: “Deliver resource kits to homeless residents through established programs. These kits will provide supplies such as socks, feminine hygiene products, toiletries, first aid kits, and other items to Cambridge’s most vulnerable population.”

Flashing Crosswalks for Safer Streets
Cost: $176,000
Location: 10 locations citywide
Description: “This project would fund rapid flashing beacons at 10 high pedestrian risk crosswalks. These beacons increase the visibility of pedestrians, especially at night. They can alert drivers to crossing pedestrians, thereby preventing crashes.”

Drinking Water Across More Parks
Cost: $100,000
Location: Parks and playgrounds without fountains
Description: “Install new water fountain/bottle-fillers at up to 10 parks that lack drinking water fixtures. This will ensure that more residents can enjoy free, clean, drinking water at their local park, no matter which neighborhood they call home.”

New Musical Instruments for CRLS
Cost: $200,000
Location: Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Description: “New music instruments for CRLS would encourage and support arts education for Cambridge students. Newer equipment at the high school would not only benefit high school students but middle school students as well.”

Jade Chain: Living Moss Walls to Combat Pollution
Cost: $100,000
Locations: Porter, Inman & Harvard Squares, Binney Street
Description: “Four moss walls will bring life to underplanted areas of Cambridge! These walls can be customized with benches or solar charging stations, harnessing the low-maintenance, high-impact qualities of moss to clean our air and beautify our squares.”

Upgrade the Gately Youth Center
Cost: $100,000
Location: Gately Youth Center
Description: “The Gately Youth Center is in need of an upgrade. Updating the furniture and music studio as well as renovating the kitchen would bring more youth and foster stronger community at the center.”