This year, there will be a question on the November ballot that would change how the city budget is created. It would allow the city council to change budget items by a majority vote, and create an Office of Participatory Budgeting to allow people to vote on certain budget items. More of us would get a say in how we spend our city’s money.
Currently, councillors can only vote yes or no on the entire budget; they have no power to shift funds within it. Also, there is currently no process for voters in Boston to have direct input on the budget through participatory budgeting, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend a portion of a public budget. This project exists in many other major cities like our neighbors next door in Cambridge, as well as in New York, Seattle, Oakland, and Chicago.
By voting yes on Question 1 this November, voters will have a chance to amend the City of Boston’s Charter to allow far more voices to influence the budget process, including communities who have historically been excluded from influencing the budget.
This effort – “Yes on 1 for a Better Budget” – is led by a coalition of community organizations, teachers, nurses, faith leaders, environmental groups, small businesses, elected officials, and voters across Boston.
The changes were approved by every member of the city council, including the two mayoral candidates, so all the people most involved in the budget process agree that these are good changes for Boston. Allowing legislative budget changes is very common, and government bodies from the federal and state governments down to cities and towns work this way, and it works very well.
Having more leaders who are closer to the needs of the communities in the city will ensure that community needs are better met in the budget than by allowing only the mayor to set the priorities. Why vote Yes on 1? Boston needs more affordability, stronger schools, thriving local businesses, and good youth jobs. Yes on 1 would allow us to better achieve these goals by giving local city councillors more input so that every Boston neighborhood is fully included.
Andres Del Castillo is co-director of the group Right to the City Boston.