Council member Amir Farokhi introduced legislation Dec. 3 that would amend the City Charter to fund Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Atlanta (Legislative Reference 18-O-1768). With PB programs, residents propose capital projects for their communities, create a ballot of the best ideas, and vote on which projects to implement free of government interference. PB programs have successfully been implemented in the U.S. and globally, from Seattle and Chicago to Paris and Madrid.
If passed, the legislation would be a marked step forward for the city and empower residents to improve their neighborhoods, Farokhi said.
“We have residents who feel disengaged, don’t trust their government, and feel that their most immediate needs are falling on deaf ears,” he said. “This bill addresses all of the above. It gives residents a direct say in how tax dollars are spent. Residents know better than City Hall what their neighborhood needs most. So, let’s empower them to act on it.”
Farokhi’s bill envisions a slow, careful build before citywide participatory budgeting is implemented.
“My bill asks that two percent of the City’s general fund eventually be set aside for participatory budgeting. That would have been a little more than $1 million per council district this year,” he said. “But we have to walk before we can run. We need to pilot this in a few districts to prove that it can work. Afterwards, we can scale it across the City for every district.”
Farokhi hopes to get funding for his pilot as part of the fiscal year 2020 budget, which will be approved in June 2019. He has already begun making his case around City Hall.
“I hope to gain the support of my colleagues and the Mayor. Participatory budgeting would mark an important, ambitious step for us. The moment calls for this in Atlanta.”