Participatory Budgeting is coming to Queens
by Ed Wendell
Jan 15, 2014 | 1188 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What would you do with a million dollars? That’s the question facing residents of Woodhaven, and we’ll be kicking off that discussion on Saturday, January 18, at 1 p.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ, 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

Participatory Budgeting is coming to Woodhaven, courtesy of Councilman Eric Ulrich, and the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association has been very receptive to the idea since the start. There will be a presentation on Participatory Budgeting at this meeting, so if spending a million dollars interests you we hope you’ll attend.

What is Participatory Budgeting? In a nutshell, it gives the residents of Woodhaven a say over how taxpayer money – our money – is spent. In the past, these decisions have been made by others and they did their best to make the best decisions for our community.

This process opens up the dialogue within the community, so that people can begin looking around them to see what our needs are. We will be responsible for coming up with the ideas on how the money should be spent and, ultimately, weeding out the good ideas from the bad and making the final selections.

It is my opinion that Participatory Budgeting is a great thing for the residents of Woodhaven, but only if we can make the first word in that phrase count. In other words, we need participation. We need residents to get involved, to show up at meetings and share their opinions.

What kinds of things can we choose to spend the million dollars on? Well, it has to be on brick-and-mortar projects; it has to be something tangible. In other words, it can’t be used to fund organizations or groups.

For example, at a recent budgeting session in Ozone Park residents discussed adding elevators to train stations and adding new street lights. They also discussed funding renovations of local police precincts.

So, if it were up to you, what kind of projects would you want to see funded here in Woodhaven? Would you like to see a new roof for the Woodhaven Library? How about some enhancements to any one of our playgrounds?

These are some of the discussions we will be starting on Saturday and I look forward to hearing what my neighbors have in mind.

Now, if you recall, Woodhaven was left split into two districts by the redistricting fiasco early last year. Currently, only one district in Woodhaven (District 32) is participating in this program. District 32 covers most of Woodhaven.

District 30 Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has not yet signed up for the program, but we hope that she will do so in the very near future. We want all residents of Woodhaven to have a say in how we spend our tax dollars.

One final thought: these are the early stages of the process. We’ll be brainstorming for ideas and then getting price tags for everything on our wish list. That’s when the fun begins because that’s when we start finding out how much things cost. And that’s when we’ll have to make the tough decisions on what is feasible and what is not.

Sometimes, we are critical of our elected officials for not funding everything we want, but the truth is that there is a limited number of dollars available. And even though a million dollars sounds like a lot, it can go pretty quickly.

As a result, we might find ourselves having to make some tough calls between funding one project or another, wishing we could fund them all, but knowing that we can only fund what we can. It will certainly help us understand some of the limited resources our elected officials have, and make us a bit more sympathetic to the choices they have to make.
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