May 2014

District 10 Residents Can Vote to Spend $100,000

Keith Burbank

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen is giving her constituents the opportunity to spend $100,000 of the City’s budget. The monies are from the supervisor’s discretionary account, funds that in the past Cohen invested without widespread community consultation. This year Cohen opted to engage in a participatory budgeting pilot program. Through the process residents identified projects they wanted funded; this month a vote is being taken to determine where the money will go. 

This is “not about what somebody else says is important,” said Mayor Ed Lee, who attended the last of three budgeting meetings, which was held on April 17 at the Southeast Community Facility in Bayview. The process allows “you to say what you need.” 

Meeting participants did just that, proposing more than 60 projects at meetings held at The Village on Sunnydale Avenue and the California College of the Arts on Kansas Street. At last month’s meeting attendees voted to narrow the list, with a final vote for projects to receive funding to be taken from May 5 to 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at City Hall and various locations throughout the district.

Among the final ideas being voted on is a public school mentorship program aimed at low-income students of color who have been suspended for disruptive behavior. Students would be paid a stipend to participate in the program. “I strongly, strongly support that,” said Toye Moses, director, Southeast Community Facility. He hopes such an initiative will reach youth before they end up in jail. Moses also expressed support for the participatory budgeting idea. “This is a very good process. I think it’s very well handled, and it’s a great idea.” He said it’s a way of getting something done that people want. 

“I think the process is great,” said Chris Waddling, a Bayview resident who said he’d have liked to see more Potrero Hill and Dogpatch residents at the meetings. “I feel they are going to be left out.” He said if Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods get all the money, maybe next year Hill residents will speak up more. “I would like to see it [participatory budgeting] happen again.” 

Though this is the first year for the program in District 10, District 3 is in its second year. District 7 is also participating this year. New York City, Chicago and Vallejo, California have also engaged in participatory budgeting, according to the Participatory Budgeting Project. According to PCB’s website, the idea started in 1989 in Porte Alegre, Brazil. 

Other projects on the final ballot include a community safety system or neighborhood watch group responsible for contacting authorities about illegal dumping, graffiti and crime; a mini mural program to decorate utility boxes districtwide, and an effort to increase the number of art shows and festivals. Residents also expressed strong support for lighting additional palm trees along Third Street and installing more trash receptacles and bag dispensers for dog waste in Bayview’s parks and public spaces. 

Theresa Kao, a budget analyst in the Controller’s Office, told attendees one project wasn’t feasible because it’d cost more than the $25,000 project limit. That idea involved bringing a grocery store selling healthy foods to the Bayview, as well as building more parks in the community. Kao said the City doesn’t operate grocery stores. Besides the limit, projects must cost at least $5,000, provide benefits to District 10 residents, be one-time, non-recurring expenditures, be dispersed before the end of the 2014 fiscal year and cannot be used for operational expenses.

“It’s [participatory budgeting] a great idea,” said Visitacion Valley resident Russel Morine, who despite his enthusiasm, was frustrated that the supervisor’s office failed to provide cost estimates for all of the 60-plus projects before the April 17 meeting. Yoyo Chan, a legislative aide to Cohen, said the supervisor’s office underestimated how long it’d take City departments to develop the estimates. The cost of each project will appear on the ballot. 

 

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