Last week, 21 laptops purchased with Participatory Budgeting funds arrived at the Community Learning Center (CLC). This is the first project from the City's pilot PB process to be completed.
The CLC helps adults improve their lives and increase their community participation through free educational programs and services, which include English language classes; reading, writing, and math classes; preparation for High School Equivalency examinations, college or training programs, and the U.S. citizenship test; career counseling; tutoring; and basic computer instruction.
CLC students and teachers will be able to use these laptops as part of classroom activities, to research local resources and job opportunities, to learn about the projects on the ballot in the upcoming PB vote, and of course to vote for their favorite PB projects between December 5-12!
After consulting with community outreach workers and families, the Public Health Department's Agenda for Children Literacy Initiative ordered 231 bilingual books in 11 languages with half of the Participatory Budgeting allocation for this winning project.
This batch of books includes stories in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu (all bilingual with English).Read more
Interview by Steering Committee member Leonardi Aray
Q: How did you hear about Participatory Budgeting?
I received flyers in the mail and heard about it from you, my neighbor.
Q: Why are you involved with PB?
Community is really important to me. I was looking for ways to actively engage with the Cambridge community, putting down roots here and creating a stronger sense of connection to place. I also wanted to better understand Cambridge city government and politics. I have always been an environmental advocate and politically engaged.
Q: Tell us about the process you are currently involved with and some of the challenges.
I am on the PB Health, Safety, and Environment Committee. We just submitted 10 proposals for City review and feedback. When the PB process began I was hesitant about how it would unfold. It was challenging to see how it would all come together. However, after excellent discussion and deliberation as a committee, I am really proud of the proposals we submitted. The committee worked really hard and we took our roles as budget delegates seriously.
Above: Youth Delegates on the Parks, Recreation & Education committee use maps and other tools to help assess proposals
Last week, Budget Delegates submitted 36 proposals for final vetting and cost estimates by City staff. The following list shows the proposals organized by Budget Delegate Committee.
By PB Steering Committee member Karen Cuenca
The eight Budget Delegates on the Environment, Health & Safety Committee and their facilitator, Steve, have been meeting once a week at the Eastern Bank community room since September. They started the second cycle of Cambridge’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) project with 142 projects to research.
At their most recent committee meeting on October 6, the Delegates updated each other on their research progress and discussed which projects should move forward. Michelle Monsegur, Budget Analyst for the City of Cambridge, and Mary Regan, Community Organizer for the Participatory Budgeting Project, were also present at the meeting.
Over the course of the meeting, committee members talked about their efforts to follow up with the people who proposed the projects, conversations they had with community members, and what they found through their own research. Committee members who were unsure about next steps to take in their research were able to bounce ideas off of each other. Monsegur answered specific questions about project eligibility and directed committee members to specific City departments and contacts.Read more
By PB Steering Committee member Karen Cuenca
In June 2015, the 24 members of the Steering Committee met for the first time to start their work overseeing Cambridge’s second Participatory Budgeting (PB) process. Mina Makarious, a Cambridge resident of five years, is serving on the Steering Committee for the second time. A municipal lawyer, Makarious was drawn to the opportunity to become more involved with his city through an innovative democratic process.
In the first PB cycle, the City of Cambridge and the Steering Committee were guided by The Participatory Budgeting Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities build participatory budgeting processes. According to Makarious, the first PB cycle was about learning what other cities had implemented and working together to shape the process for Cambridge. Among the initial decisions the Steering Committee made was to set the minimum voting age at 12 years old to encourage community members to become civically active from an early age. This year, Makarious notes that the City is “more independent” and is making the PB process its own.Read more
On Tuesday night, Budget Delegates from the Environment, Health & Safety Committee met to review feedback they received from City staff the week before and to start planning further research and site visits. This committee has an interesting list of 142 ideas to consider. Projects range from drinking fountains to butterfly gardens to ideas to address homelessness in Cambridge.Read more
On Monday night, a crowd of Budget Delegates gathered in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall to meet with department representatives for the first time.
City staff from the Arts Council, Community Development, Conservation Commission, Electrical, Human Services, IT, Library, Open Space Committee/Executive, Public Works, and Traffic, Parking & Transportation departments were stationed at different tables around the room.
Angela, one of our Budget Analysts, commented, "This looks like department speed dating."
Essentially, it was.
Above: Budget Delegates meet with representatives from the Open Space Committee/Executive and the Conservation Commission.Read more
During idea collection in August, community members submitted a whopping 540 ideas!
Scout Magazine recently highlighted some of their favorites - check out the article here.
Many of our volunteer Budget Delegates met last night for the first time to learn about the next phase of PB - proposal development.
Budget Delegates will be working in the following 4 committees to research and prioritize the 540 submitted ideas over the next few months and distill them into the final proposals that will appear on the ballot in December:
- Culture & Community Facilities
- Health, Environment & Safety
- Parks, Recreation & Education
- Streets, Sidewalks & Transit
The Parks, Recreation & Education committee will be based in one of the City's Youth Centers and made up of youth delegates who will do this proposal development work as part of a broader, structured internship program.
Stay tuned for more updates on all of the committees' work!