Seattle’s Participatory Budgeting program for parks and street projects, Your Voice, Your Choice, is back for its second year, with a funding increase for projects of 50%, and no time is being wasted bringing the projects to fruition this year. If you have an idea for a small street or park improvement you’d like to see in your neighborhood, you can already submit the project, right now through February 2nd. But a new feature from past years is that projects that were not selected last year will carry over. So if your project ended up in the mix last year, it still has a chance!

The cap for individual projects remains at $90,000, which means that with a total budget for projects of $3 million, up from $2 million last year, 33 full-scale projects could be funded, but likely the number will be more because many projects fall under that cap. The 2017 Your Voice Your Choice project list included 33 projects.

Just like the process last year, after all ideas are collected by early February, they will get winnowed down, judged against the other ideas collected for each city council district, ideally based on equity and needs analysis, by attendees at workshops through March. At the end of that process, there will be eight to ten projects, which will go on the district ballots. Ballots will go live June 16th through July 16th.

One issue I raised during the 2017 process was that voters could only vote in one council district: if someone has an interest in safer streets around where they work and live and those places happen to be in different council districts, they have to choose. I can’t think of a compelling reason to restrict voting districts when the projects themselves have already been broken up.

Also added this year will be a new steering committee, which is taking applications now. These will be made up of community members who will provide input on the entire participatory budgeting process, and who will lead the project development workshops in March where the top 10 projects per council district are selected.

The number of people who voted for projects last year was 7,737, or about 1% of Seattle’s population, with many districts having less than 1,000 people voting in them. Given that this will be only the second year of Seattle experimenting with a city-wide participatory budgeting, it will be interesting to see what improvements can be made to the process as it moves forward with its new beefed-up budget. The $3 million budget is still much too small to make a dent toward fixing Seattle’s street safety deficit, but perhaps one day we’ll see participatory budgeting taking up a larger share of Seattle’s transportation budget.

Projects selected this year will get implemented during 2019 after being approved by the City Council in their budget this fall.

The Department of Neighborhoods created this video to announce the 2018 Your Voice Your Choice season has begun:

Featured image: An improved crossing at Denny Way and 5th Avenue was one project idea that made the ballot in 2017 for District 7 and will carry forward onto this year’s project list.

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the The Urbanist since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. Ryan's writing has appeared in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Bike Portland, and Seattle Bike Blog, where they also did a four-month stint as temporary editor.