By Outreach Committee member Chris Featherman
The Cambridge Participatory Budgeting (PB) Outreach Committee held its first meeting of the new PB cycle on May 24, 2016, at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library. Led by Michelle Monsegur, City Budget Analyst, volunteers shared strategies for collecting ideas from residents for the City’s third PB process, in which community members will decide how to spend $700,000 of the City's capital budget.
Ideas are for one-time capital projects on City property that will benefit the public. Committee members hope to gather ideas from diverse participants during idea collection phase, which runs from June 1st to July 31st. Last year, 540 ideas were submitted, and 4,184 Cambridge residents age 12 and older voted, a 53% increase over the first cycle. “Nearly 4,200 votes is great,” said Monsegur, “but in a city of over 100,000 residents, I’d like to add a zero to that total." That's where the Outreach Committee comes in.
The Committee hopes to increase voter participation by reaching out to as many age, income, language, and other demographic groups as possible to make the PB process open and inclusive. To help spread the word, members are planning outreach events across the city. Look for them at the Cambridge River Festival on Saturday, June 4th, and at Hoops ’N’ Health on Saturday, June 18th. They will also be at library branches, youth and senior centers, and upcoming events across Cambridge throughout June and July. Community members can also submit their ideas online during that time.
The Outreach Committee will meet again on June 23rd to discuss their progress. After the idea collection phase ends on July 31st, ideas are sent to volunteer Budget Delegates, who will work in committees to review and research submitted ideas and prepare the final ballot for December’s PB vote. Visit this page to learn more about volunteering as a Budget Delegate.