Million Dollar Concept
How much does it cost to unify an often divided community? I think it takes somewhere around a million dollars to do the trick. Imagine this; the government allowing you to decide how your own tax money is spent. This once unheard of idea now has a name, and its name is participatory budgeting.
Councilman Eric Ulrich was one of the few brave members of the City Council who wasn’t afraid to think outside the box, not only by teaching the community how the city’s budget process works, but also by bringing the community closer together in the process.
This once utopian idea of community unification has been realized by the simple notion of giving the community the power and means to solve its own problems. Imagine that, the government allowing the community to solve its own problems.
Of course, there are some requirements; this isn’t an unlimited, unregulated, never-ending flow of cash. Participatory budget funds can only be spent on capital projects, projects with at least five years of staying power. In other words, long term changes with long term effects.
Councilman James Sanders Jr.’s participatory budgeting isn’t the ultimate fix to the problems plaguing the east end of Rockaway, but I believe it’s a start in the right direction.
Having average residents, many of whom have lost hope in their government, coming together to collectively decide where money is spent is a vote of confidence, and also a gesture of respect.
Even though a million dollars is chump change in terms of government funding, the end product is priceless and something I have never seen done before; residents of Rockaway working collectively with the government to produce innovative, long lasting changes on the peninsula.
It’s a great start, let’s keep the ball rolling.