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Cleveland citizens group supports proposed participatory budgeting legislation

Legislation would appoint citizen committee on how Cleveland should spend $5 million in federal aid
CLE citizens group supports proposed participatory budgeting legislation
Posted at 10:54 PM, Jan 09, 2023

CLEVELAND — Cleveland citizen's group Participatory Budgeting Cleveland or PB CLE is supporting proposed legislation which would create a resident steering committee to help decide how $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent.

The legislation is supported by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and co-sponsored by Cleveland council members Jenny Spencer, Stephanie Howse and Rebecca Maurer. It calls for more than $500,000 to be appropriated for administrative costs to setup the program.

PB CLE Community Organizer Molly Martin told News 5 participatory budgeting, or the peoples' budget, would get more citizens involved in government and give them a bigger voice, especially in under represented communities which can also suffer from low voter turnout.

Martin said PB CLE had held more than a dozen community events over the past year to collect ideas on how the funds could best be used.

“We think that people of Cleveland need to have a say in how public decision are made," Martin said. "That would let the residents of Cleveland brainstorm ideas on how money gets spent in our city, specifically how would some of the American Rescue Plan Act gets spent.”

CLE citizens group supports proposed participatory budgeting legislation
Molly Martin is Community Organizer with Participatory Budgeting Cleveland.

“When it comes to ideas, we’ve seen things from a mobile mental health crisis van, to students at Saint Martin de Porres High School wanted to see more affordable housing in the St. Claire/Superior neighborhood,” Martin added.

Ward 7 Cleveland Councilwoman Stephanie Howse told News 5 she introduced similar participatory budgeting legislation when she was a member of the Ohio Statehouse.

“It’s just a part of the tool box, when we look at engaging residents, many times there are many great idea out there," Howse said. “It can show a correlation with having this process and leading to an increase in voter turnout.”

But Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin told News 5 he and the majority of Cleveland council members are against the idea of participatory budgeting, because it would take too much funding from crucial projects like street repair, youth programs and education.

“I believe that what they’re trying to do has a lot of nobility, but I don’t support it," Griffin said. “I don’t see anything measurable that can show this will lead to more voter participation, I don’t see how this can be done equitably. To create another steering committee, to put a half million dollars into creating another unelected body in the City of Cleveland to administer dollars, I just don’t think it’s good government.”

CLE citizens group supports proposed participatory budgeting legislation
Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin doesn't think participatory budgeting legislation has enough council support to become a reality.

Still, Martin is hoping the idea will collect growing support and will be up for a city council vote before the end of winter. Martin and other PB CLE members said participatory budgeting has been an effective way to get citizens involved in other U.S. cities.

“In order to build community trust, you have to give some of the power to the community," Martin said. “If our elected officials are elected to represent us, something like participatory budgeting is only deepening their knowledge about things that residents in their wards want to see done.”