Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Missing the point on constituent service/discretionary funds available from legislators

The point isn't that the funds exist, but the arbitrariness and/or self-serving nature of how the funds are used/allocated.

The solution to the lack of democracy, openness, logic and transparency isn't taking the money away/eliminating the funding source--groups and projects need the opportunity to garner funds for worthy projects--it's to make the process more open, transparent, participatory, and democratic.

To use a hip term, "crowdsourcing" or some such might make the point better that the issue is to address the arbitrary and capricious nature of the allocation process, not to eradicate the funds.

The participatory budgeting process embarked upon by four New York City Councilmembers (blog entry: "More on ethics: discretionary funding-constituent funds"), where they are using public, open, transparent, "crowdsourced" like processes to divvy up "discretionary" funds allocated to their Council District/Councilmember is what DC ("D.C. Council’s ethics package leaves many unsatisfied," Post) and Prince William County ("Should Prince William Board have discretionary funds?'" from the Post) is the kind of process that needs to be adopted to correct the problem.

-- Participatory Budgeting in New York City
-- Materials, Participatory Budgeting in New York City

If they can do participatory budgeting in an aldermanic ward in Chicago--a city which makes the ethically challenged in DC more akin to choirboys--it can be done in DC or Prince William County.

The 2011 projects for Ward 49 in Chicago, chosen through a participatory budgeting process:
  • Bike Lanes on Albion, Eastlake & Pratt (Phase II). This is a Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) project. We are awaiting the resurfacing of Pratt (see Street Resurfacing below).
  • Bike Racks. Twenty racks will be purchased, with CDOT matching with an additional 20 racks. The site locations are being determined.
  • Improvements to Ridge, Touhy & Rogers Intersection. Final estimate was given by CDOT and we are awaiting scheduling.
  • Improvements to Metra Underpasses at Birchwood, Estes & Touhy.This is a joint effort by CDOT and Union Pacific. The project will include washing, lighting, repainting, and pigeon abatement.
  • New Playground at Touhy Park. The initial estimate assumed matching funding from the Chicago Park District. If it is not forthcoming, we will need to reasses the project scale or seek an additional funding source, or both.
  • Path Extension at Jarvis, Leone & Loyola Parks. Same issue as with the Touhy Park Playground (see above).
  • Street Resurfacing of Pratt, Wolcott, Columbia & Jarvis. This is a CDOT project. Repaving of the 12 blocks was delayed from Fall 2011 to Spring 2012 to coordinate with the People’s Gas new gas line project throughout the 49th Ward.

  • Participatory Budgeting Meetings, October 2011, Ward 49, Chicago

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