A Budget By (and For) the People

David Lepeska, The Atlantic

It might be the hottest idea in democracy since the voting machine.

In an effort to cut wasteful spending and generate political support, cash-strapped municipal officials are turning to a process called participatory budgeting, which allows residents to devise and vote on small-scale infrastructure projects. Pioneered in Brazil, it’s since been taken up by some 1,200 cities in just over two decades.

The American trailblazer is Joe Moore, alderman of Chicago’s 49th Ward and the first elected United States official to invite his constituents to choose discretionary spending projects. In late 2007, shortly after he was nearly voted out of office, he attended a workshop on participatory budgeting during a social forum in Atlanta.

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