Benjamin Solotiare, Manager of Volunteer Services and Community Engagement at The Fortune Society

Fortune Encourages Increased “Participatory Budgeting”
Which Seeks To Involve Everyone

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Five years ago, four City Council members brought a radical new version of public engagement to New York City — Participatory Budgeting (PB). As a member of the City Wide Steering Committee — and through my work coordinating outreach to Fortune participants — I have been deeply involved with how PB works in New York City.

At this point, PBNYC is the largest process of its kind in the country, having grown from the original four Council Members to 27 this cycle. PB is a civic-engagement tool that allows anyone — including people on parole, immigrants, youths, seniors, and non-English speakers — to become positive agents of change. It brings people together to share ideas about how to spend their tax dollars on local capital improvements to their community … and then to work with each other and government agencies to determine which projects are feasible and are most needed. In the spring, the community then gets to vote on which projects get funded with their tax dollars.

Over the last two months, people around NYC have been working together on the first stage of PB, collecting ideas and signing up to be Budget Delegates — the people who will review and evaluate all the ideas and determine which projects will end up on the PB ballot in the spring. As they do this, they will learn more about their neighborhood and neighbors, they will work with city agencies and Council staff, and they will examine what the community needs are — not only in their immediate vicinity but in other parts of the district in which they live. The power to make real change in their community will fall on their shoulders.

PBNYC works on a local level in New York City to empower all individuals to make the decisions that used to be made by the few. At The Fortune Academy, located in District 7 represented by Council Member Mark Levine, we have hosted Neighborhood Assemblies for the past two years. The meetings give Fortune participants direct influence on how to spend city tax dollars. In meetings like these, PBNYC recognizes that being a formerly incarcerated individual does not diminish the positive effects they can have on the community.

PB is a chance for local elected officials to demonstrate that they believe the people they serve have an insight into the community that is useful and important. Most importantly, PB seeks to involve all the people in the community, not just those with access, or who are in the know, but anyone who lives in the area. PB recognizes that belonging somewhere isn’t an official status; it’s being an active, involved member of your community.

Check out to see if your Council Member is participating – and learn how to get involved!


Categories: Community


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