A Short History of Participatory Budgeting in Stinson Neighbourhood

A Short History of Participatory Budgeting in The Stinson Neighbourhood
by Lee E. McIlmoyle
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Participatory Budgeting and Direct Democracy receive a real boost in the arm this past weekend, when civic-minded Hamiltonians went to the ballot box to vote on which proposals–drawn up over months of community-led planning and deliberation–to approve in Hamilton, Ontario’s first Participatory Budget Poll. With over a thousand residents participating, it was a resounding success and a mark of how engaged Hamiltonians actually are in their respective communities.

One has to wonder how this process [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_budgeting], successfully initiated in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, took this long to reach Canada, but it has arrived, and not without some considerable controversy. Amidst the excitement were also voices of dissent, from equally engaged citizens who have, through no fault of their own, become embattled with the PBW2 process, convinced that their unique community needs are not best served by this process.

This article is intended to set the record straight and hopefully extend the olive branch to these important community members, and to the many residents of the neighbourhoods who have told poll voting staff members in no uncertain terms that they feel frustrated and disenfranchised from the politics of the municipality and the various neighbourhood associations who may have felt slighted by the speed and thrust of this important movement.
____________________

from: Joanna Millions [Vice President, Stinson Community Association – 2012]
date: Tue, 24 Jul 2012 08:53:33
subject: SCA Meeting this week Confirmation

SCA/SNAP Committee   STATUS OF
members invited:            ATTENDANCE:

Lucio Barcaroli                 [UNCONFIRMED]
Adam Bentley                  [UNCONFIRMED]
Paul Casey                        [ABSENT]
E. Chacinski                      [UNCONFIRMED]
Frank Chacinski               [UNCONFIRMED]
S. Cole                                [UNCONFIRMED]
Katherine Dymkowski    [UNCONFIRMED]
Fivel Flavour                    [UNCONFIRMED]
Yvette Foster                   [UNCONFIRMED]
Brian Goodman                [CONFIRMED]
Tim Havercroft                [UNCONFIRMED]
Brenda Mitchell               [ABSENT]
Devon Mordell                 [UNCONFIRMED]
Linda Quest                     [CONFIRMED]
Greg Reader                    [UNCONFIRMED]
Maggie Day-Myron        [UNCONFIRMED]
Elizabeth Brown              [CONFIRMED]
Dawn Mcilmoyle              [CONFIRMED]
Erika Morton                   [CONFIRMED]
Lee McIlmoyle                [CONFIRMED]
Jody Matheson                [UNCONFIRMED]

Norman Kearney            [CONFIRMED; Guest Speaker]
Mike Cameron                 [CONFIRMED; Guest Speaker]

Hi Folks,

The tally is in, we will be having our meeting Wednesday the 25th at 7pm at Carter Park. Please bring Chairs or Blankets. I would suggest we all meet in the area along Young street (where the proposed ice rink would be) as this seems to have the least amount of foot traffic, and is nice and shady.

See you all tomorrow night. 🙂

Jo
____________________

And so began the inauspicious introduction of Participatory Budgeting to the Stinson neighbourhood of Ward 2 in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a relatively cool and pleasant dusky evening, and we were joined by Norman M. Kearney, Facilitator and Founder of Participatory Budgeting Hamilton, and by Mike Cameron of Councillor Farr’s office. There were coloured and labelled ward maps shown, a brief history lesson delivered, an explanation of the Area Rating Special Capital Re-Investment Program [http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/188B39E3-7D73-4B3E-86E0-D032BFB5C8B9/0/Feb15EDRMS_n268617_v1_8_5_FCS12024_Area_Rating_Special_Capital.pdf], and how Norman had managed to convince Councillor Jason Farr of Ward 2 to give the internationally-known Participatory Budgeting concept a chance.

Many of us were initially skeptical, and there was much debate amongst ourselves, to say the least, as more than a few of us were suffering the after-effects of fatigue from having shepherded the Stinson Neighbourhood Action Plan to the end of the planning stage. However, despite the misgivings of some, and the vocal disapproval of at least one renowned neighbourhood watchdog, an informal poll of attendees was taken, a majority reached, and it was decided that we as a neighbourhood would add our name to the list of cooperating neighbourhoods that were addressing Jason Farr to indicate our interest and support of the PBW2 process.

However, the confusion set in almost immediately, as there were at least a few of us who left that ad hoc meeting convinced we had been coerced into participating in this strange new process, and the neighbourhood remains skeptical and divided over the issue to this day. This is truly unfortunate, as some of the most vocal detractors of PBW2 in the Stinson community could be true agents for improvement in the ward–and a definite asset to the process going forward–if they could be persuaded to set aside their differences and come to understand Participatory Democracy and PBW2 better.

Ultimately, the future of Participatory Democracy in Hamilton is up to its residents. In no way is this process controlled by unseen political forces, and with the buzz behind it building and rippling outward across the city, thanks to the first successful PBW2 poll, other wards are becoming interested in having Direct Democracy as well. There is still the slimmest chance that PB in Hamilton may eventually get lost in the shuffle, as elections in 2014 will decide the outcome of the various supportive Councillors, including Councillor Jason Farr, who has shown great support over the months of hard work and occasional controversy. But with its first taste of true democracy in action, I doubt Hamilton will have seen the last of Participatory Budgeting.

Lee.
(with thanks to Joanna Millions)

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