Budget Justice at the Sacramento City Council
On February 2, members of the Measure U Community Advisory Committee presented to the Council about a concept known as participatory budgeting—a process that lets community members directly decide how to spend a part of a public budget. Members were joined by Kristania De Leon from the Participatory Budgeting Project and Felicia Flores from the City of Vallejo where participatory budgeting has been implemented.
The Committee asked for $225,000 to be allocated immediately to develop and hire a local agency to run the process of community engagement, and to dedicate city staff time to support participatory budgeting in advance of the Council approving additional funding for community projects in the FY 21-22 budget. City Council will vote on that proposal at their February 16 meeting.
Link to the Presentation
Link to a short video describing Participatory Budgeting
Background and Context
The Measure U Community Advisory Committee first approached the Mayor and Council in February 2020 to request $5 million to be set aside for participatory budgeting.
“In July 2020, the Committee submitted an alternative spending plan for the FY 20-21 budget that had been passed by the Council in mid-May without feedback from the Committee. The Committee was systematically excluded from participating in the Council’s budget process for FY 20-21, in part due to the cancellation of its meetings (and the refusal to host virtual meetings), due to COVID-19.”
In response, the Committee asked for $15 million for participatory budgeting.
On September 8, 2020, the Measure U Committee reiterated its $15 million ask. Councilmember Jennings offered a workshop to further discuss the proposal with the Council. That workshop was originally scheduled for January 19 and then postponed until February 9. In the interim, the Committee sent its mid-year budget revision recommendations - a reiteration of the recommendations previously shared that the Council had not formally adopted or responded to.
“On February 2 during the mid-year budget revision meeting, Councilmembers Valenzuela and Vang proposed that $10 million in excess funding be spent on Participatory Budgeting. That proposal was voted down 6-3 in favor of $0 for Participatory Budgeting in the revision and a non-binding promise to include $1 million for Participatory Budgeting in the FY 21-22 budget that will be passed on June 15, 2021.”
While the Committee is thankful that some progress has been made, admittedly, the Committee is also frustrated that they've been ignored for so long and that the investment is so paltry compared to the ask—especially since the promise of Measure U was to invest at least half of the $100 million annual revenue into Sacramento communities that have been left behind.
In order to achieve social justice, we have to include more people in governance—especially local governance.
Participatory budgeting allows for budgets to be more responsive to community needs by engaging the residents directly in the decision-making process, operating both as community cohesion, trust building, responsiveness, and education all at once.
Sacramentans seem remarkably aligned on the need to address several long standing issues in Sacramento, including housing and homelessness, youth programming, and inclusive economic development. This process would allow residents to co-create solutions.
“Adequate investment is needed for maximum impact.”
What can you do?
Write or call your City Council member and urge them to:
allocate funds to plan for Participatory Budgeting on February 16
allocate more than $1 million in next year's budget at the March 2 Budget and Audit Committee Meeting, April 19 Budget proposal meeting, May 4 Budget hearing, and on June 15 during the meeting where they will vote to approve the budget.