In 2014, near 2,000 Rogers Park residents voted in the Participatory Budgeting election, approving everything from street resurfacing to new trees and bus benches. Near a year later, some of the projects are starting to get underway, and Rogers Park Residents are getting ready to once again vote on how the 49th Ward will spend $1 million to improve the neighborhood. So, just how far will $1 million go?
The 2015 Projects
Ten residential blocks and five alleyways were set to be resurfaced in September, accounting for 62% of the elected budget. Fourteen perecent is to go to park improvements, another 7% to trees in the neighborhood, 2% to pedestrian crossing improvements, 2% to new bus benches, 3% to underpass murals, and 10% to an astroturf soccer field at Langdon Park.
Some projects are in full swing, with street resurfacing underway, the soccer field open, and design winners already selected for the underpass mural. Other projects, such as the tree planting and bus benches, haven’t been publicized if they’ve gotten underway at all.
Bus benches and tree lined streets may seem like small business to some, but the idea of participatory budgeting, the way on which these things were decided, is actually a pretty big deal.
Participatory budgeting circumvents the old tropes of small-scale politics and bureaucrats sitting behind closed doors to decide on projects that will impact a large neighborhood in the nation’s third largest city.
The participatory process welcomes in Rogers Park residents from step one. It’s a long and often involved process, requiring neighborhood assemblies, representative meetings, project proposals, and elections to determine how a significant portion of the ward’s budget will be spent. All this is put in place to give residents a chance to have the changes they want put in place in their neighborhood, though. To that end, the 49th ward has seen great success, with numbers of voters steadily climbing as Rogers Park residents become more concerned and aware.
The 2016 Elections
Neighborhood assembly meetings are starting this November, with representative meetings to follow Decembre through March, and a final round of neighborhood assembly meetings to take place in March and April before everything is put to a vote in April of 2016.
These meeting will help decide what’s eligible to be on the ballot in 2016, but looking ahead, Alderman Joe Moore is already turning residents’ attention to potential infrastructure and area improvements needed by the neighborhood.
Street resurfacing is likely to once again make an appearance, with proposals for sidewalks, playgrounds, security cameras, community gardens, El station improvements, and renovations of public buildings all encouraged.
Trying to predict what will be submitted or approved isn’t the game of this article or of the meeting process ready to get underway. The idea isn’t to see what others will push through, it’s to get the community involved in deciding that for itself. So, to all you Rogers Park residents – take a look at your neighborhood and make your voice heard. You have a neighborhood that’s offering you the resources, all you have to do is make it happen.