Having grown exponentially since it's inception, Participatory Budgeting is now something most council districts in New York City get to enjoy. It asks residents a very simple question: what projects should your council member spend $1 million in discretionary funding on?
It's not only democracy in action, but it has corporeal results. You aren't voting on a representative whom you hope will carry out campaign promises, but on actual projects that you and members of your community will benefit from.
The process is possible thanks to the tireless work of advocates and volunteers who come together to develop and lobby for the projects that matter most to them, but it's the members of the community going out and voting that makes it a reality.
So New Yorkers who have the opportunity should get out and vote this weekend to show the City Council that this process is worth it and working. It's a vote where you don't have to hear a candidate pander or talk about the size of his or her hands, but you can go, view a project you like, and choose it for your community.
Another positive of participatory budgeting is that it reduces barriers to voting, by allowing anyone to participate once they turn 14. According to the Urban Justice Center, one in ten voters last year were under the age of 18, nearly 60 percent were identified as people of color, and nearly 30 percent reported an annual household income of $25,000 or lower.
Participatory budgeting is great for New York City and if your council district isn't participating, it might be time to give your council member a call and find out why. Every district in New York City and every resident should be a part of this democratic movement.