Participatory budgeting in 29th Ward put on hold

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Former Ald. Deborah Graham left the full $1.3 million menu money on the table this year for newly elected Ald. Chris Taliaferro, which means he’s now responsible for figuring out how to spend those funds.

During his campaign earlier this year, Taliaferro promoted the idea of participatory budgeting, which would allow residents in the ward a say in how that money gets spent – something a handful of aldermen already do.

But it turns out residents will have to wait until October to have an opportunity to give their suggestions for capitol improvement projects that would be funded next year.

“Right now, because of the time restraints … being able to do the participatory budgeting would be very difficult to do for this year,” Taliaferro said.

Instead, he will be using the menu money this year for various projects, such as resurfacing alleys and streets, fixing street lights, and making other general infrastructure improvements.

Last year, the 29th Ward’s menu money was used for street resurfacing ($665,915),  street lighting ($584,000) and alley resurfacing ($49,038), as AustinTalks reported last month.

It has been only one month since Taliaferro and the city’s other 49 aldermen were sworn into office, but already the Chicago City Council is facing tough decisions, the most pressing of which are the city’s budget and pension crises, Taliaferro said.

On June 15, the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a plan to borrow $1.1 billion to pay off old debts.

Taliaferro — who sits on several committees, including Human Relations, License and Consumer Protection, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, Public Safety, and Transportation and Public Way — said it was explained to him that the move is “absolutely necessary” because of the “dire straits” the city face.

“From a broad perspective, I do support (the plan),” Taliaferro said.

The new alderman said he has been spending much of his time since taking office May 18 meeting with various groups working to reduce violence and increase community participation.

“I’ve had a meeting almost every week with some type of community group or social organization, with the idea of getting our youth involved in activities throughout the summer to help reduce violence,” he said.

On the subject of violence in the ward, specifically the gun violence that has been a major topic of discussion recently, Taliaferro said he does support Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin’s plan to charge those pulling the trigger and their co-conspirators with domestic terrorism, but the he urged caution in labeling an entire population as terrorists.

“It could easily get out of hand when that particular charge is used to label someone, or label a group of people, as domestic terrorists because of the activity that they may be involved in,” said Taliaferro, who’s been a long-time Chicago police officer.

Ward residents can visit the new 29th Ward office at 6272 North Avenue; the ward office number is  (773) 237-6460. Taliaferro hosts ward nights every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.

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