Citizens, for their part, grow cynical and angry and learn nothing from poorly designed, empty-gesture or cynically rigged public participation exercises. As a consequence, the spiral of mistrust, gridlock and political dysfunction deepens.
Who knows what your neighborhood needs better -- you or City Hall? Participatory Budgeting, a powerful new tool employed by innovative cities around the world is answering that question for millions of urban residents.
After we just completed an election season where democracy was under attack across the country, a movement has sprung up in New York City that seeks to strengthen rather than subvert involvement in the democratic process. It's called participatory budgeting.
It's not just our legislative fights and our progressive principles that make us part of the "new progressive movement." It's also a style of politics that is infused with hopeful energy, and partners with community members.
When offered the opportunity to meet and talk together with neighbors in a collaborative process, and to use shared resources to confront common problems and improve our community, people respond enthusiastically.
As an alderman, I have embarked on an new alternative to the old style of decision-making. I'm letting the residents of the 49th Ward decide how to spend my entire discretionary capital budget of more than $1.3 million.