Protests at International Participatory Budgeting Conference at Loyola University.
Saturday, Occupy Rogers Park Chicago and other members of the community greeted participatory budgeting advocates from around the world at the International Participatory Budgeting Conference in Rogers Park. We discussed the failings of PB49, including Alderman Moore’s efforts to quash programs aimed at engaging youth of color in our community.
Activists from marginalized groups within the community wore masks in keeping with the dominant demographic of PB in the 49th Ward. More than 70% of PB49 voters are white, college educated, homeowners, which is not in keeping with the diverse nature of our community.
This is an excerpt from that website:
“Young people of color have every reason to feel disenfranchised by a system that starves their schools of funds, and then targets their schools for closure. These young people are routinely profiled, and used as scape goats for everything that ails their communities. They watch politicians like Alderman Moore congratulate themselves each time another large group of young black or brown men are pumped into the prison industrial complex. But in a participatory democracy, there is an opportunity for engagement, in spite of cynicism. The idea itself is so powerful: In a participatory democracy, you aren’t simply trying to pick the best liar, casting a vote, and hoping for the best. You’re coming together with other members of your community to make concrete change. Given the opportunity to understand what that means, and to play a role in it, we have seen evidence that young people will become more involved. But when such programs are quashed or watered down, the status quo remains intact.”
Our proposed solutions are largely based on a paper co-authored by Josh Lerner, who is the executive director of the larger Participatory Budgeting Project.
Members of Occupy Rogers Park Chicago feel very strongly about participatory democracy, and any politicized manifestation of the concept that cheapens what should be a valuable tool of empowerment.
According to Occupier Jerica Jurado, a student at Loyola University, “Alderman Moore complains that the project lacks sufficient funds to diversify the process, but in reality, he is shutting out potential resources. He doesn’t want to engage Loyola students, because he says we’re transient members of the community, but Loyola could provide interns and assistance with outreach. Students could help make this project what it is supposed to be: A means to empower marginalized individuals. Right now, it’s just Joe’s fan base playing Sim City with 1.3 million dollars a year.”
According to local organizer Babur Balos, “We love the idea of participatory democracy, but with PB49, we have an alderman shutting down the efforts of people who are willing to invest their time and money to make the process more inclusive. Moore controls the process, right down to the flyers that are distributed, with his name stamped on everything connected to the project. It’s hard for people to get excited about joining a committee where they won’t be allowed to make real change happen.”
This week, Moore stated that by drawing attention to the problems with PB49, we were attempting to twist his greatest political advantage into a weakness. We think this statement is indicative of how Moore really views PB49. To him, participatory democracy is a political prop, and our concerns are merely a distraction from his moment in the spotlight.
Learn more: http://www.pb49.org