Last week, two City Council Districts in Queens took part in the participatory budgeting process, with a third vote on the horizon in the storm-ravaged Rockaways. The process gave constituents in these two districts a voice in what is important to their communities and what they believe should be a financial priority.
One of the districts that took part is represented by Councilman Dan Halloran, who was arrested last week on bribery and fraud charges. When questioned about the significance of the arrest, Council Speaker Christine Quinn stressed that the results of the Participatory Budget process were non-binding and the results would be reviewed before any money is allocated.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Councilman Halloran, giving a voice to residents of the Borough is something in which we wish more Council members would take part.
All too often, Council member item allocations are rife with back-room deals and do not take in to account what matters to the communities they represent. Participatory Budgeting changes that, while also providing accountability and transparency for where and why money is being allocated. In the wake of Halloran and State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s arrests, it is imperative that Queens residents – and residents throughout the City – have more of a voice in where this money goes.
Members of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center have said that they expected the process to double in size this year and the two Council members who took part in the process last week – Halloran and Mark Weprin – touted the high level of participation of their constituents.
The Participatory Budget process is expected to continue in the coming years. Hopefully, other members of the Council see the benefits of the process and join in. Not doing so would be a disservice to their district, to the City and to the residents they were elected to serve.