By Juan Soto
How would you spend $1 million of tax money in your neighborhood?
That is what City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) wants to know.
The elected official hosted Monday a participatory budgeting session to explain how the process of giving constituents decision-making power over their tax dollars works.
About 60 residents showed up for the event at Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Center, at 220-01 Linden Blvd., which the councilman said “is not a bad turnout at all for a Monday night in the middle of summer.”
Miller said residents of the 27th Council District, which includes St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights and Springfield Gardens, “are excited about the opportunity to participate in the spending of $1 million.”
The next participatory budgeting session will be held Aug. 6 at Shiloh Baptist Church, at 173-70 160th Ave.
Once the information meetings are over, neighbors should come up with ideas for the projects they want and need, such as improvements in libraries, parks, streets and schools.
Last year, for example, in Councilman Donovan Richards’ (D-Laurelton) district, constituents proposed a $150,000 library technology update and a $150,000 computer lab for a public school.
Miller is one of the 21 Council members participating in this program for the current fiscal year.
“This is also an opportunity for the community to organize and engage in fund-raising activities,” said Miller, adding that “this king of program creates the next generation of activists.”
Beginning in September, neighborhood assemblies will study the ideas, develop the proposals, present the projects and get community feedback.
Around March or April, residents will vote on the projects. The five ideas with the most votes will become a reality.
Participatory budgeting began in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a demand by civic groups seeking transparency and influence in city government. It expanded to hundreds of cities around the world since. It arrived in New York City in 2011.
“This will allow us to fund projects that interest the community,” Miller pointed out. “And also, people will come together and create long-lasting projects.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.