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Participatory Budgeting Oregon could help fill gaps in funding to Southwest groups

A portion of the roughly $300,000 in city funds that once went to Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. will now be used to pay for new staff in the Office of Community and Civic Life. The Civic Life bureau hasn't said what will happen with any leftover money in the budget, but one nongovernmental organization is eying the chance to help dole out any extra funds.

COURTESY PHOTO: PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING OREGON - Participants in a 2019 participatory budgeting simulation activity jot down ideas and feedback. The simulation was facilitated by Participatory Budgeting Oregon, a group that advocates for more equitable and just expenditures of public funds.Participatory Budgeting Oregon is a nonprofit civic-minded advocacy group for public participation in local governmental decisions and spending.

"We would 100% love to see Participatory Budgeting Oregon selected as the method to distribute the funds," said Amanda Hudson, program director for the organization.

Hudson said the group aims to find the best use of taxpayer dollars for community projects, through a process that puts the public in the driver's seat. 

"This isn't just a generic civic engagement process where you just ask people for their input," Hudson said.

The NGO is already on the city's radar.

"Participatory Budgeting Oregon has done a great job of educating the region about this process in which community members decide how to invest a portion of a public budget," said Daniel McArdle-Jaimes, strategic communications officer for Civic Life.  There are so many great ideas that originated all over the world that we can benefit from here."

McArdle-Jaimes noted the concept began in Brazil and is catching on elsewhere. In fact, Civic Life Director Suk Rhee attended the organization's conference back in 2018.

"We will be having conversations (with the city) and proposing, how participatory budgeting could look. Here's what the pot of money would be, here's how much of the SWNI budget could be allocated to outreach," Hudson said. "It's really connected to that government reform. How do we change how we do business? We're offering this way more empowered method of designing and spending for community." 


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