29th Ward residents invited to propose how to spend $450,000

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Ald. Chris Taliaferro points out one of the three areas of the 29th Ward. Residents from each area are being asked to help select a total of $450,000 in projects.

Austin residents are invited to participate in this year’s participatory budgeting cycle. The annual process lets ward residents ages 14 and up decide how to spend a portion of the aldermanic menu money.

At a meeting earlier this week, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said his office has allocated $450,000 for participatory budgeting. The money will be divided in three areas to fund community projects proposed by residents in the north, central and south parts of the 29th Ward.

Residents can propose ideas to beautify or improve community areas and streets, Taliaferro told nearly 20 residents who attended the Nov. 14th meeting.

“Community development starts conversations,” Taliaferro said, adding these are the types of projects residents are encouraged to propose. “It starts giving people the pride to live in the neighborhood.”

Street resurfacing or sidewalk improvements will not be considered, as they will be funded with the remaining menu money, city and TIF funds, he said.

This is a change from 2022 when residents voted on how the ward would spend $1 million from aldermanic menu money. That year, residents determined how much would be dedicated to street resurfacing in addition to proposing and choosing community projects.

In another change, residents will not be able to propose projects across Austin. Instead, residents will be able to propose and vote on community improvement projects for the area where they live – north, central or south. Students attending schools in these areas will also be invited to vote, Taliaferro said.

A team of volunteer residents will lead efforts in each section to get residents involved. Each group will organize outreach efforts, gather residents’ ideas and determine if they are viable, with support from the alderman’s office.

With these changes, the alderman’s office hopes to increase participation across the ward and implement projects across Austin.

“We have to get a lot of folks involved,” Taliaferro said. “We’re excited about it because we’re trying something new.”

Austin resident Keli Stewart suggested creating dedicated committees to coordinate schools’ participation or lead marketing strategies to reach more residents. These ideas could be implemented next year, Taliaferro said.

Tentatively, the ward’s sections and leading teams consist of the following:

  • North section: the area between School Street to Austin Boulevard, c0-led by residents Steve Green and Vee Thomas.
  • Central section: the area from Austin Boulevard to Lake Street, co-led by Mary Cole and Maria Sorrell.
  • South section: the area from Lake Street to Roosevelt Road, co-led by Angela Savage, Tina Augustus and Beverly Howard.

After each group collects ideas from residents, they will be submitted to the Chicago Department of Transportation. The city agency will determine estimated project costs and feasibility, a process that could take up to 90 days. Afterward, residents will vote and choose the projects they want to see implemented.

Voting would take place in early to mid-March. When voting, residents will have the option to rank the top three or four projects in their area. Depending on the winning projects’ costs, more than one project could be funded as long as total costs don’t surpass $150,000 per ward area.

“We have to have an aggressive schedule because we like to get these projects submitted prior to construction season starting, which is generally in April,” Taliaferro said.

Projects that have been funded in the past include community gardens, murals, street identifiers and fitness courses.

Here are the projects that were selected in 2021 and in 2018. And here are the projects that were chosen in 2016, the first year participatory budgeting was done in the 29th Ward.

All ideas are welcome, yet they will need to be evaluated to ensure that once implemented, the project will be sustainable.

For instance, the South Austin Neighborhood Association proposed the creation of the Veteran’s Peace Garden, partly funded through aldermanic menu funds. SANA is responsible for taking care of the garden.

Residents interested in leading efforts in their neighborhood area or participating in the participatory budget process can contact Anita Hayes, director of infrastructure of the 29th Ward office at (773) 237-6460 or anita.hayes@cityofchicago.org

Another community meeting about participatory budgeting will be held by the end of November or early December, Taliaferro said. The final date will be announced by the 29th Ward’s office.

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