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Van Bramer wants feedback on how best to spend $1 million in city funds, to host meeting on participatory budgeting

July 1, 2014 By Christian Murray

Residents of Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City will soon have a direct say on how $1 million in city funds will be spent in the district.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who each year allocates city funds for parks, clubs and schools, plans on introducing participatory budgeting in the 2015/2016 fiscal year, where about 30% of the discretionary funds he receives will be put in the hands of the community to spend.

Next week, Van Bramer will be hosting two “Participatory budget information session” —one in Sunnyside, the other in Queensbridge–to explain to residents how the process works and how individuals should put forward their ideas for the neighborhood. (see below for details)

The participatory budgeting program allows residents to determine where to allocate funds for capital projects in the district. The community might decide to spend funds on, say, improving a Long Island City park to funding a Woodside dog run.

The process involves holding a series of town hall meetings and workshops where residents present their ideas to the community and a vote is held on whether an item is worth funding.

“I’m excited by this,” Van Bramer said when he announced it at a Community Board 2 meeting earlier this year. “It is a community driven process that allows people to vote,” he said at the time. “It is a way to increase transparency.”

Van Bramer said he was reluctant to allow the community to vote on all or most of the funds. He said that some groups that are not as well organized might be overlooked in the process. However, he said at time, he would monitor how it works out and would make changes accordingly.

Participatory Budgeting info sessions-1

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tony giordano

Participatory budgeting is wonderful, but please learn from two mistakes we made in the 38th. First, we must NOT create a situation that pits one group with needs against another. This does not create community – this Balkanizes communities – it creates competition between the needy. No school that needs new toilets should have to campaign against others in need. A school that needs air conditioning or a library that needs a community room or any other need must not be treated like competition. The second mistake is – during the voting – a better method than just stopping people on the street or at various polling sites has to be used – the electorate must be an informed electorate. Our process wasted $600,000 on NYPD security cameras – when there is no need for them. People when asked to vote, who had no background about the “candidates” looked and said “gee i want security which one jumps out at me – oh NYPD”. We have NYPD cameras on 5th Avenue and to date they have never caught a criminal and when we ask to see footage after a nearby crime are told – no it didn’t get that angle. We the people should have a voice in the budget process – but not a voice that in essence is against others in need. A the power to vote is not a good thing if that vote is not with knowledege…how do we correct his? I don’t know.

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