Past Event

Budgetary Power to the People: Chicago's Experiment in Participatory Budgeting

In 2009, the 49th Ward became the first in Chicago to engage in a process known as participatory budgeting, in which community members vote directly on how to spent municipal funds. Since then, each year Alderman Joe Moore has turned over his ward’s $1.3 million in “menu money”—funds earmarked for infrastructure projects—to the community, which has voted for everything from sidewalk repairs to public murals. This year, four other Chicago wards carried out their own participatory budgeting programs. 

This spring, in its series “Direct Democracy in Chicago’s 5th Ward,” In These Times Magazine has followed 5th Ward residents as they navigate the budgeting process. On June 11, series author Joel Handley will lead a panel discussion of the lessons to be learned from how the participatory budgeting program has worked in Chicago, and how effective it has been in empowering residents to take part in the fiscal decisions that  impact their communities. The panel will also explore the possibilities for replication of on a larger scale and what it might look like if more of the city budgetary decision making was under the direct control of Chicago citizens.

Panelists include:

Elliott El-Amin
, who served as a community representative in the 5th ward’s participatory budgeting program, has 30+ years experience as a businessman, civic and community leader. He is Managing Director of the Global Generation Group, a certified minority/ woman owned consulting firm.
Maria Hadden is the project coordinator for the Participatory Budgeting Project in Chicago. She has served as a member of the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Leadership Committee, and she now co-chairs the PB Chicago Steering Committee. 

Joel Handley (moderator) is a Chicago-based freelance reporter. He graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2009.

Abbie Illenberger is the field director at the Grassroots Collaborative, which unites twelve community and labor organizations that organize for economic and racial justice. The Grassroots Collaborative recently conducted community outreach for the PB voting process in Chicago’s 46th Ward. Abbie has worked in labor and community organizations for 20 years, most recently in Wisconsin in the fight to recall Scott Walker. 
Joe Moore is known as a pioneer for political reform, governmental transparency and democratic governance, he has represented Chicago’s 49th Ward since 1991. Encompassing the majority of Chicago’s Rogers Park community and portions of the Edgewater and West Ridge communities, the 49th Ward is one of the nation’s most economically and racially diverse communities
Presented by In These Times and The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council

Free and open to the public. For more information please call 312.422.5580.

If you need a sign interpreter or require other arrangements to fully participate, please call 312.422.5580. For parking locations near the facility, please visit