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Oregon's first participatory budgeting process helmed by teens, young adults.

COURTESY PHOTO: YOUTH VOICE, YOUTH VOTE PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING - Local youths are meeting at forums to figure out how to best spend $500,000 ARPA funds. Local youths are continuing to make their voices heard during Oregon's first-ever participatory budgeting foray — which places funding decisions in the hands of the people.

YV2 (Youth Voice, Youth Vote) Participatory Budgeting is a months-long process that has young people 13-25 discuss and generate ideas on how to best spend $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds set aside by elected leaders in Salem.

Teens and young adults from Gresham, Wood Village, Fairview, East Portland, rural Multnomah and North Clackamas County have been regularly meeting during fun outings to brainstorm uses for the money. Next spring and summer the eligible projects will go on a ballot, and the ideas will be voted on by residents.

There have been a series of forums with activities to inspire ideas for health, wealth, fun and connectedness. They are free to attend, have food, and include chances for youths to win $50 raffle prizes. Most recently a gathering was held Monday afternoon, Nov. 21, at the Gresham Library, 385 N.W. Miller Avenue.

There are five categories being mulled by the youths for the spending — youth health services; housing and homeless services; youth public art; youth recreation and cultural programs; and economic justice.

The ARPA funds were committed by Sen. Kayse Jama, Sen. Chris Gorsek and Rep. Ricki Ruiz. Next summer the projects selected by the youths will be voted on, with implementation of 5-7 ideas taking place next fall.

All of this not only spurs youth voices, and gets them active in bettering the community, but also test drives the participatory budgeting process, which is when community members have a direct say in how to spend portions of a public budget. In the past the concept has been bandied within the city of Gresham as a possible way to guide parks and recreation funding.

The youth-led program is supported by nonprofit organizations East County Rising Community Projects, Participatory Budgeting Oregon, Play Grow Learn, The Rosewood Initiative and Unite Oregon. The goal is to engage at least 5,000 youths.

The plan is for a second cycle to allocate further public funds in 2023 and 2024.

Learn more at youthpb.org.


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