Mayor and City Council Launch First Participatory Budgeting Program,

Published on November 05, 2021

Denver is delivering on its promise to put the power of the purse directly in the hands of residents by launching the city’s first participatory budgeting (PB) program giving residents direct decision-making power over $1.7 million of capital funds. The effort builds on previous community outreach efforts relating to city finances, including this summer’s community engagement process to inform priorities for economic recovery funds led by Mayor Michael B. Hancock in coordination with City Council. This process reached nearly 7,000 residents and saw the highest rates of participation from historically underserved neighborhoods like Westwood, Sun Valley, and Montbello.

Through Denver PB, residents will propose, deliberate, and vote on infrastructure projects for their communities. True to its participatory nature, the first phase of Denver PB seeks applicants to join committee and outreach teams to lead the process. To achieve equitable engagement, leadership positions will be paid and aim to overrepresent communities that face higher barriers to civic participation, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), immigrants and refugees, youth, and persons with disabilities.

“Our city works best when we work together, and we recognize some residents face greater barriers to civic participation,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Denver PB aims to break down those barriers and give historically underserved communities the power to decide how to spend $1.7 million in their own neighborhoods. I want all of our residents to feel connected to their city and I encourage everyone, especially those who have never taken part in a government process, to get involved and help lead Denver PB.”

The PB Program will compensate locals through both a Community Steering Committee and through mini-grants. Residents may apply for one of the two paid opportunities:

Community Steering Committee:

  • Residents can receive up to $700 for their time and participation on the committee. The Community Steering Committee will set the rules for the first cycle of Denver PB and will oversee the phases of the program. The application period will close on Nov. 29, 2021.

Community Connector Mini-Grant:

  • Community organizations and non-profits can receive a mini-grant of up to $7,000 for inclusive outreach and engagement throughout the program. The application period will close on Nov. 29, 2021.
  • Individuals and informal small groups can receive up to $1,000 mini-grants for outreach materials and support at key phases and for culturally relevant relationship-building among historically underserved populations. The application period will remain open throughout the program and mini-grants will be distributed on a rolling basis.

The city will host pop-up events and community information sessions in historically underserved areas throughout the application period to make the process as accessible as possible. Once the steering committee and mini-grants have been established, the Denver PB Program will progress through the end of the year and into 2022. Program phases include:

  • Designing the process
  • Gathering project ideas from the community
  • Converting ideas into feasible project proposals
  • Implementing a polling system where residents choose winning project proposals
  • Constructing winning projects, which could begin as early as 2022

Of the $1.7 million dedicated to implementing winning projects, $1 million is designated for the recently completed Neighborhood Planning Initiative areas, the Far Northeast, East and East Central Denver. The remaining $700,000 will allow residents citywide to fund mobility safety projects across Denver.

“In the last year, we’ve seen the power of an engaged citizenry, and Denver PB is an opportunity for residents to further their engagement and be active players in our democracy,” said Denver City Councilwoman At-Large Robin Kniech, who spearheaded the program and continues to serve as an advisor. “The Community Steering Committee and mini-grants invite residents to get in on the ground floor, offering the chance to shape the first cycle of Denver PB and lay the foundation for a transparent and accessible program.”

The current $1.7 million for Denver PB was allocated in previous budget cycles. The Mayor’s proposed 2022 budget includes an additional $1.7 million of capital funds for the next cycle of Denver PB to build further on the Denver PB work. Denver City Council will vote on the proposed budget in November.

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