Tag Archives: reports

Saturday in the Park: Spreading Out and Scaling Up

Sunday was the last day of the Participatory Budgeting Conference, so I checked out as I left the motel that morning.  I quickly discovered that walking to Loyola University, while previously a pleasant walk, was less so with my luggage.  So I took advantage of a passing bus to take me down the street.  The bus system of my own Richmond rates as one of the worst, so a convenient bus seemed like science fiction.

(That’s why it’s “Saturday in the Park”… cause I was in Chicago… never mind.)

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Saturday in the Park: The Participatory Budgeting International Conference

May 4th, 2013

I knew it would be a rough day when I dropped my pants at the airport.  Well, my pants fell down, at the security checkpoint.  The young TSA agent yelled, “I’ve never seen that before!”  I found that surprising, because the TSA forces people to remove their shoes and belts when they pass through the checkpoint.  Then you hold your hands up to have a weird naked picture taken.  I guess the TSA gets used to half-naked, shoeless people scrambling for their belongings tumbling out of a conveyor belt.  A pantsless guy must be a novelty almost as fun as giving a cavity search.  I was early for my flight, but I needn’t have bothered: the flight was delayed for four hours.  My fellow passengers and I finally crammed ourselves into our winged shoebox in the early afternoon and headed off for Chicago!

Chicago is the home to the United States’ first experiments in participatory budgeting, and this past May 3rd through 5th was host to the Participatory Budgeting International Conference.  Regular readers will know about my enthusiasm for participatory budgeting, and similar democratic projects, as the hope of recovering the original idea of democracy.  Participatory budgeting is a process in which local assemblies of citizens suggest projects and elect delegates to negotiate the feasibility of these projects with city administration.  The assemblies vote for a slate of final projects, and a citizen council oversees the implementation of the winning projects.  The participatory cycle begins the next year.  Participatory budgeting has spread across the world, and has an impact on various socio-economic indicators, including reducing infant mortality and including more marginalized communities. read more »