Majority Leader Van Bramer with teachers from P4@Skillman, whose project to build a special needs playground received the most votes. City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer unveiled on April 18th the winning Participatory Budgeting projects for the 26th Council District, which encompasses Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Dutch Kills, and Astoria. Over 3,600 people voted on projects to improve their neighborhoods. The top six projects add up to a total cost of $1.85 million.

The winning projects are:

1.Special needs playground for P4 @ Skillman (1,437 votes; $250,000)

2.Playground upgrades for PS 112 (1,169 votes; $500,000)

3.Basketball court renovations for Ravenswood (891 votes; $350,000)

4.Basketball court renovation for Queensbridge Houses (891 votes; $350,000)

5.Dutch Kills pedestrian safety (installation of bus bulbs on 31st St. at 36th Ave and 39th Ave.; 888 votes; $300,000)

Majority Leader Van Bramer with delegates who represented the winning projects. 6.Bathroom repairs for PS 111 (886 votes; $100,000)

Residents came together and said loud and clear how they wanted to spend our citys money, and every project they chose is a fantastic investment in our community, said Van Bramer. Because so many people made their voices heard, Ive decided to allocate an additional $800,000 over the $1 million promised so that residents can see these community improvements come to fruition. From school playgrounds and new basketball courts, to bathroom upgrades and pedestrian safety, Im sure these projects will make our community a better and more vibrant place to live.


Budgeting is a democratic process by which community members decide how to spend City Council capital funds. The process began in the fall, when community members gathered at neighborhood assemblies to brainstorm capital improvements. Then, volunteer budget delegates winnowed down the list of hundreds of ideas into a smaller number of real, implementable projects that made it onto the ballot. Residents of the 26th District aged 14 or over were able to vote for their favorite projects during the first week of April. The winning projects, announced last Monday, will be funded.

Thousands of residents, business owners, youth, and community leaders took part in this years Participatory Budgeting process. Neighborhood Assemblies and public meetings were held in Astoria, Dutch Kills, Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, the Woodside Houses, the Queensbridge Houses, and the Big Six Towers. Fifty residents acted as budget delegates and worked with city agencies and the Majority Leaders office to turn ideas into project proposals. Over 75 people attended a project expo at Sunnyside Community Services, and more than 3,600 residents voted for their favorite projects.

Carbon budgeting legislation needed Sunday, 24 April 2016, 12:53 pm
Press Release: Generation Zero

Carbon budgeting legislation needed to live up to Paris Agreement
Generation Zero press release

Youth climate change organisation Generation Zero has reissued its call for carbon budgeting legislation following New Zealand's signing of the Paris Agreement yesterday.

Spokesperson Nina Atkinson said: "Following the Paris Agreement, establishing a proper carbon budgeting process in New Zealand is more necessary than ever."

"Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett's recent comments about the need for a long-term plan for a low carbon economy are very encouraging."

"Doing this properly will take time and resources, and needs to ultimately deliver the right policy and legal framework so that the plan is credible and durable."

"The UK Climate Change Act is a model for how a plan like this can be created, enforced and monitored."

Generation Zero called for New Zealand to adopt similar carbon budgeting legislation in its 2014 report, The Big Ask: One Key Step For Real Climate Action.

The UK process involves enshrining a 2050 emissions reduction target in law, setting 5-yearly carbon budgets in line with a least-cost pathway to the 2050 target, and mandates that the government produce regular plans showing how it will meet the carbon budgets.

Also critical to the process is the establishment of an independent climate commission (the UK Committee on Climate Change) which provides expert technical and policy analysis, recommends carbon budgets, and reports on the government's progress.

Want more murals in your neighborhood? College scholarships for students from low-income families? More visible crosswalks? District 7 residents have the unique opportunity to decide which of these--and other--proposals their tax dollars will fund, through this years participatory budgeting process.

If youre over 16 and live in the district (outlined below), youve got until April 22nd to cast your vote, either online or at one of three polling places (Laguna Honda Hospital, West Portal library, or Ingleside library). The 2016 ballot contains proposals from three categories: safety, culture, and neighborhood services; theres also a $75,000 proposal to revitalize West Portal Elementarys schoolyard.

Since participatory budgeting debuted in San Francisco in 2013, three of the citys 11 districts have used it in various years. This year, however, District 7, represented by Supervisor Norman Yee, stands alone in letting residents determine how a small portion ($500,000) of the citys budget ($8.96 billion for fiscal year 2016-17) will be spent.

Supervisor Yee hopes other districts will adopt the program down the line. This year, I am the only Supervisor to have Participatory Budgeting, he said in an email, but I hope to see this successful program expand citywide.

Direct democracy is gaining steam in D7, according to Erica Maybaum, a legislative aide to Yee. Voting opened at 5am last Friday, and as of this morning, theyd counted 4,553 votes from 1,600 voters, already surpassing last years two-week total.

District 7 borders. (Photo: SF Board of Supervisors)

The process is designed to be community-driven. Neighborhood associations, nonprofits, and even individual residents can submit and shape proposals in the following categories: Neighborhood Services; Culture; Small Businesses; Education and Youth; Pedestrian Safety; and Other. 

Anyone over 16 who lives, works, or plays in the district can attend community brainstorming meetings and workshops, and submit proposals using a simple, two-page form. If youre not from a nonprofit and dont apply for grants, we didnt want this to intimidate you, Maybaum said.

Proposals are narrowed down by an eight-member neighborhood council, then passed on to the appropriate city department to determine feasibility and cost. If a project is designated unfeasible, the city department will propose an equivalent alternative. (For example, Maybaum said, if a road is deemed too wide for a proposed speed bump, a stop sign may be substituted.)

From there, the ballot is translated into three languages -- English, Spanish, and Chinese -- and put to the district for a vote. To win funding, a proposal requires a minimum of 200 votes. The top four vote-getters in each category receive funding.

This years ballot includes 19 proposals ranging from $5,000 to $38,000 each, plus the West Portal Elementary project, which stands on its own in a new $75,000 category. To be eligible for the larger grant, a project has to serve at least three neighborhoods.

Last years participatory budgeting winners included a radar speed sign at 14th and West Portal, and a study to evaluate a possible parking lane along Brotherhood Way. Among this years proposals are several pedestrian safety enhancements, a college savings plan, butterfly habitat restoration, a West Portal centennial campaign, and a few mural projects, including an extension of Precita Eyes Laguna Honda Hospital mural, which we covered in December.

Maybaum said students and parents of West Portal Elementary, who have two proposals on the ballot, have embraced participatory budgeting as a civics lesson. The school held an assembly about the process, and parents and students have led get-out-the-vote efforts. They see it as a really great way to teach civic involvement, she said. Should one of their proposals be chosen, theyll get to see it through beginning to end.

Photo: West Portal Elementary School

Participatory budgeting started in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, one of several innovative efforts to build a culture of democracy in the country after 19 years of military dictatorship. Since then, its spread to over 1,500 locations internationally, including a handful of US cities. In 2013, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to introduce online PB voting. 

Supporters tout PB as a way to deepen democracy, empower citizens, and create more effective budgets. A 2014 study done in Brazil showed promising results: municipalities that adopted PB spent more on sanitation and education, and saw significant drops in infant mortality rates, particularly over the long term.

But when Vallejo became the first city in the nation to adopt PB on a citywide scale, The Atlantic reported that opinions were mixed. The amount allocated for PB shrank after the initial year; some residents pointed to the time-consuming process and high administrative costs of running the program, while others speculated legislators didnt want to give up authority over spending.

Yee sits squarely in the optimistic camp. I am so proud of this community-led process that encourages creativity and innovation, he said. Participatory budgeting offers a tool for greater civic engagement and participation. Who better to decide on what to fund than our own residents?


Babafemi Ojudu, special adviser to the president on Political Matters throws light on a number of issues that arise from governance at the centre. He spoke with Tony Egbulefu and Muyiwa Oyinlola.

Looking at the executive that is controlled by the APC and the legislature that is controlled by the APC, how do you see the working relationship?

The executive is independent of the legislature and the legislature is independent of the executive. Either of them is doing its own job. Maybe one would have thought that the relationship would have been smoother, because the APC has the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. The executive is not grudging about the legislature, theyre doing their job; those in the executive are also doing their job. Maybe as time goes on, theyll be able to harmonise positions and things will work better.

Critics say President Muhammadu Buharis trip to China to borrow the huge sum of $6billion is taking the nation back to the era of indebtedness, a problem which the former Obasanjo-led administration cleared. In fact, the renowned lawyer, Femi Falana has said hes going to challenge the borrowing in court. How do you react to this?

The point is, the country must run. When the government came in, it met a lot of problems. And again, recall there was a drastic reduction in the income accrued to the government. Oil price went down drastically. And there was a huge reduction in the foreign reserve. Government must run. You have to provide services, you have to provide infrastructure. So, what do you do?

Till date, great countries across the world still take loans. America is indebted in trillions of dollars. It depends on what you do with the money. The money in question here is not for entertainment; its not to be spent to win elections. The money here is meant to provide real services; it is meant to help in the area of agriculture, and to help in other areas where you want to diversify the economy.

So, I dont see anything wrong in taking loans. What could be wrong in taking loans is when you dont use it for the purpose for which you got it.

And I dont think that is Falanas argument. His argument is that there are other sources for which government can generate the money it wants to borrow. So, there is no controversy between the federal government and Femi Falana. Those loans are tied to projects. Its not for recurrent expenditure.