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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

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Participatory budgeting election reveals seven new projects for Evanston

Up three flights of stairs and inside the Parasol Room of the Morton Civic Center sat a neat array of various pastas, tables and chairs. The room buzzed with anticipation as guests of all ages began to file in. This Oct. 13 event celebrated and announced the seven winning projects of the Participatory Budgeting (PB) election, which will be funded with $3 million from Evanston’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) finances.

In 2021, every state government in the United States was set to receive a total of almost $2 trillion after President Biden passed the American Rescue Plan Act. Illinois allocated funds to each city respectively, giving Evanston $43 million that went to finance various community projects. However, the City of Evanston reserved $3 million to allow its people to propose and nominate projects for funding. 

Participatory budgeting is a civic engagement/direct democracy process,” said Matthew Ouren, the PB Manager. “Communities around the world have used participatory budgeting to create more public engagement in the budgeting process. The City of Evanston decided to try participatory budgeting because it wanted to engage community members that aren’t typically engaged.”

Anybody who lives or works in Evanston was encouraged to submit proposals; however, it was a lengthy process that also required hours of preparation for each of the budget delegates. A board had to first compose and pass a rulebook that outlined how the process would work. Community members then submitted project ideas, which were later developed into proposals that the public voted  for. Finally, the funds were allocated towards the winning proposals. Overall, the entire operation started in December 2021 and came to an end this October.   

Community members and PB budget delegates were pleased to discover that the election received 6,565 votes, around 8.5 percent of the total Evanston population.

“As a percentage of population, our turn out was one of the highest turnouts of any participatory budgeting process. I’m really proud of the fact that we were able to achieve that with our first attempt at participatory budgeting,” Ouren said.

The winning projects, revealed on Oct. 13, were:

  1. Mental Health First Aid Training – 3,400 votes – $50,000
  2. Grants/Incentives for Activities and Education Support for Marginalized Students in Grades 3-12 – 3,117 votes – $700,000
  3. Evanston Urban Farm – 3,014 votes – $350,000
  4. Affordable Housing Subsidy – 2,918 votes – $810,000
  5. Affordable Refugee Housing – 2,890 votes – $645,000
  6. Youth and Young Adult Drop In Center – 2,692 votes – $210,000
  7. Small Business Grants – 2,095 votes – $150,000 

Ouren predicts that each of the subcategories will begin implementing changes as soon as early next year.

Those involved in the process were proud of the election’s success and believe participatory budgeting should be implemented regularly.

“I think this is a good chance for community members to work together,” said Morgan Wu, Northwestern University student and member of the PB tech team. “It’s about letting the city hear [the] people’s voice and I think it’s very meaningful.”

Voters involved in the process enjoyed their ability to decide where City funds were allocated.

“I think participatory budgeting is a really wonderful, exciting democratic idea,” said Rachel Rosner, a voter in the election. “It really gets the people’s ideas out there.”

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About the Contributor
Nadira Bumi, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Nadira Bumi, and I’m a writer for the News section. I’m a junior, and although this is my first year in The Evanstonian, I am excited to contribute as a writer!  Outside of school, I play piano and the electric guitar. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with friends, cooking, reading, and crocheting.
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