Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Media, Event Feature Citizen Power over Local Budget

April 12, 2011

On Thursday, April 12, Alderman Joe Moore from Chicago’s 49th Ward will speak at the Watson Institute about implementing a more democratic form of municipal budgeting in his community.

Participatory budgeting is an innovative international model, first developed in Brazil, for maximizing citizen involvement in the local budget process. It offers ordinary citizens real decision-making power in how their local tax dollars get spent.

The process in Chicago was fashioned in part by Institute Professor Gianpaolo Baiocchi, leader of the Watson Institute’s Participatory Democracy Project and author of Militants and Citizens: The Politics of Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre (Stanford University Press, 2005).

To date, participatory budgeting has been implemented in more than 1,000 municipalities worldwide. Its recent arrival in Chicago’s 49th Ward makes Alderman Moore a leader in bringing the process to the US. Through several months of discussions over the past year, more than 1,600 residents of the 49th Ward came together to directly decide how to spend Moore 's $1.3 million discretionary budget. 

In 2008 Moore was named the "Most Valuable Local Official" in the country by The Nation. More recently, in a Politics Daily column by Alison Fairbrother ’09, Moore attributed his landslide re-election earlier this year in part to this innovative process, which is expected to continue in the new budget cycle.