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Pilot Project Would Give Louisvillians A Say On How Tax Money Is Spent

Jonese Franklin

Some Louisville residents could soon have more input on how the Metro Council spends their tax money.

Councilman Brandon Coan and Councilman David James, along with Metro’s Center for Health Equity, are partnering to bring participatory budgeting to their districts. The process lets citizens come up with project ideas that everyone votes on, and the winning project gets Metro Council funding.

Coan said it would start with $100,000 for each district, giving residents a chance to involve themselves in city government. Half of the funds would come from the councilperson's capital infrastructure funding, $25,000 would come from grants offered by the Center for Health Equity, and $25,000 would come from fundraising.

“What participatory budgeting basically is, is giving people an opportunity to decide through direct democracy how we spend some of these monies that we’re able to control,” Coan said. “You’re not going to be able to construct a brand-new community center for $100,000, but it’s a nice enough prize that people will be able to see the fruits of their labor and decide that it’s worth continuing to stay involved.”

Other cities, like Chicago, have already adopted participatory budgeting, spending hundreds of thousands on projects decided by its citizens. Most of Chicago’s projects have focused on beautification and utility, resurfacing streets and sidewalks, planting trees and improving public parks.

Francesco Tena, a manager with the participatory budgeting project, said budgeting this way can increase citizen involvement among people normally excluded from decision-making.

“Often times, some of our largest issues in society hit certain people first and hit them the worse. And those are usually the same people who don’t get a chance or are denied participation in the political processes,” Tena said. “For the state, you’re actually getting better ideas because they’re coming from people who know what the problems are and how to fix them.”

Coan said the project would begin in his district and in James’ district this July. If the project goes well, he hopes to improve upon it and, if possible, expand its budget and reach to other districts.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.