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Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

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Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby swimmingupstream » Fri May 20, 2011 3:36 pm

The remnants of local failed political party, Progressive Dane, is pushing something called “participatory budgeting.” The last PD alder Marsha Rummel has asked the new mayor and council to incorporate it into the budgeting process for this year. The idea is to invite “average” citizens to be at the decision making table helping to make budgetary decisions for the coming year.

In fact participatory budgeting is elitist and undemocratic. Most working class citizens of this city would not be at the decision making table because they can not get time off from their jobs and can not afford to hire babysitters so that they can attend multiple meetings. Most people do not have the time and the wherewithall to learn the budget inside out in order to fully participate. Instead, most average citizens think that they are electing alders and a mayor to make these decisions.

Who would be represented at “Participatory Budgeting” meetings? People who are already politically affluent. It would be the cast of regulars who think they should be running the city but can't seem to get themselves elected in even the most progressive areas of the central city. These meetings would be dominated by downtown Isthmus dwellers who don't have kids to worry about. You can also count on the trust funders being well represented as well. :lol:

It seems that Progressive Dane now can't even win elections on campus or on the near east and west side. Their new strategy now seems to be to do an end run around the council and mayor and try to become the decision makers through undemocratic means.

Uncool.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby nosidamhigh » Mon May 23, 2011 2:51 pm

swimmingupstream wrote:It seems that Progressive Dane now can't even win elections on campus or on the near east and west side. Their new strategy now seems to be to do an end run around the council and mayor and try to become the decision makers through undemocratic means.

Well said. Right on. Participatory decision-making in a representative democracy sounds appealing but makes no sense. It's the same nonsense as zero-based budgeting and a tad more insidious.

PD is clever, or maybe simply misguided, but I bet you all that PD is worried. Given that the Board of Estimates has a majority of PD and PD sympathizers, and given that Soglin alligned himself with the far left to win the election, they have to come up with a process to deflect from the "draconian" cuts to the city budget should the forecast hold up.

I for one will be eagerly amused by the inherent flaws of a participatory budgeting process and the tough choices they will have to make. If they only had conservative council members to blame.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby gargantua » Mon May 23, 2011 7:30 pm

nosidamhigh wrote:
swimmingupstream wrote:It seems that Progressive Dane now can't even win elections on campus or on the near east and west side. Their new strategy now seems to be to do an end run around the council and mayor and try to become the decision makers through undemocratic means.
If they only had conservative council members to blame.


Not to worry. They have Walker.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon May 23, 2011 8:57 pm

Remember that at the city level we have amateur legislators ... they're all part-timers and for many it's their first shot at elected office. That's why Madison's committee structure is so vital. It brings in professionals from all different fields to help out.

Now, that said, it falls on alders to filter all that input they've requested. Because like you say, they hear from those with the time and inclination to participate, which is not necessarily a representative sample of the populace.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby nosidamhigh » Mon May 23, 2011 10:16 pm

green union terrace chair wrote:Remember that at the city level we have amateur legislators ... they're all part-timers and for many it's their first shot at elected office. That's why Madison's committee structure is so vital. It brings in professionals from all different fields to help out.

Mayor Dave was criticized for attacking and undermining the recommendations of the city committees. Ironically, a so-called participatory budget process equally undermines existing committees by supplanting them. Let's rely on the city committees we have.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Brenda Konkel » Tue May 24, 2011 11:41 am

Yes. Democracy and people participating in their government is scary stuff. We should stop it at all costs! :twisted:
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Stebben84 » Tue May 24, 2011 11:54 am

Brenda Konkel wrote:Yes. Democracy and people participating in their government is scary stuff. We should stop it at all costs! :twisted:


So who gets to participate? Don't we have elections for this very matter? Why stop here. Why don't we send a questionnaire out to the public getting all of their ideas? If we're talking about participation, everyone should be involved.

I have to agree that I think this is a silly idea.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby tjmertz » Tue May 24, 2011 12:14 pm

1. The Mayor and the Council decided to create a participatory budget process. The shape of that process and what weight it is given in determining the final budget will also be decided by the Mayor and the Council. There is no end run around elected officials or the committee structure.

2. Yes PD has been in an elections slump, but we are far from dead. Things like participatory budgeting demonstrate that PD remains a vital source of ideas for local governance.

3. As far as I can tell "politically affluent" is intended to be a put down of people who choose to be politically involved. Rather than discouraging engagement with local government, PD has always sought to expand knowledge and participation through things like the annual City and County "Budget 101s", bringing more people into the processes. This is another way PD remains vital.

4. If you have concerns about or ideas to improve the accessibility to the Participatory Budgeting process, share them with the Mayor, your Alder and PD. We'll join you working to make the process as inclusive and accessible as possible.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Brenda Konkel » Tue May 24, 2011 12:27 pm

Stebben84 wrote:So who gets to participate? Don't we have elections for this very matter? Why stop here. Why don't we send a questionnaire out to the public getting all of their ideas? If we're talking about participation, everyone should be involved.

I have to agree that I think this is a silly idea.


Funny you should mention surveys, yes, that was discussed. You might want to educate yourself by watching the meeting on channel 98 or read this. http://www.forwardlookout.com/2011/05/a ... -you/10874

It also should be noted at the CCOC meeting, both Sue Ellingson and Chris Schmidt were excited about the idea because the went to a presentation by the alder from Chicago who has done this.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Stebben84 » Tue May 24, 2011 1:04 pm

So it seems they threw out a number of ideas. They seemed to be leaning towards some sort of committee meeting with the public invited to be on the committee. And a vote? Maybe they haven't got to that point yet. I've been to "roundtable discussions" with maybe around 20 people and that works ok. What if 75 - 100 people show up and want to be on that committee. That sounds like a clusterfuck to me.

Should they do this for every committee. I think they should also open this same idea up to the Landmarks and other commissions.

I just feel like I vote for my alder because I trust their judgement in making decisions and casing votes that I agree with. If I don't, I go to neighborhood meetings, send emails, and make calls. I kind of agree with some of the above comments that this is just going to attract the usual suspects and drown out the voices of people who can't dedicate more time to this.

I'm sure you would have no problem with MG&E or other local executives trying to get on the committees?
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby green union terrace chair » Tue May 24, 2011 2:37 pm

Stebben84 wrote:I'm sure you would have no problem with MG&E or other local executives trying to get on the committees?

If they live in Madison, yes. If they work in Madison but live in Maple Bluff, no.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby tjmertz » Tue May 24, 2011 2:49 pm

The question about MG&E Execs does bring up an interesting question about this process and lobbying reporting and disclosures. Any thoughts?

I'd say that the same rules pertaining to public testimony should be in place.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby green union terrace chair » Tue May 24, 2011 3:07 pm

tjmertz wrote:The question about MG&E Execs does bring up an interesting question about this process and lobbying reporting and disclosures. Any thoughts?

I'd say that the same rules pertaining to public testimony should be in place.

I noticed during the whole Edgewater saga that you didn't need to be a Madison resident to speak in front of the city council, or any committee for that matter. At the very least residency ought to be disclosed.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Kyle Szarzynski » Tue May 24, 2011 5:22 pm

There is clearly a lot of discussion about what exactly Participatory Budgeting will look like (http://www.forwardlookout.com/2011/05/a ... -you/10874) but it seems to me that, as a principle, increased citizen input should be counted as a good thing. I'm inclined to think there may be issues of privilege in this idea - in that poor and marginalized people, already feeling disenfranchised, may find it more difficult to participate - but I think this is an argument for increased outreach and more diverse forms of participation, not abandoning an idea designed to expand democracy.

So, I think we can debate the details - indeed, we should debate the details. But I think Alder Rummel's proposal is otherwise very exciting. The more voices heard in what is bound to be a difficult discussion around the Operating Budget, the better.

As for Progressive Dane (whose number of endorsed candidates increased from 3 to 4 this past election cycle, for those who are counting), Participatory Budgeting is indeed central to its mission and founding values. Organizing, garnering interest and increasing participation around local issues is what PD does. And so it certainly makes sense that party would support an pro-democracy initiative such as this.
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Re: Participatory Budgeting? Anything but?

Postby Bad Gradger » Tue May 24, 2011 5:51 pm

Bold prediction: A "participatory" budget will restore 3/4 of any cuts the Mayor proposes, recommend hiking the mill rate well past the referendum threshold, and be of minimal help to the City Council.
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