Every year, all 50 wards receive $1.3 million to spend on infrastructure through the aldermanic discretionary budget. This is colloquially known as the “menu money” because the Department of Transportation provides aldermen with a menu of projects items to install in their ward. This menu includes a variety of infrastructure options, including street repaving, sidewalk replacement, curb replacement, bike lanes, street light replacement, and other capital projects.
In most wards, this money is allocated by the alderman, with varying degrees of input from city departments, staff, and residents. Since 2012, however, Alderman Arena has allowed residents of the 45th Ward vote on how they would like to allocate $1 million of those discretionary capital funds through a tool known as participatory budgeting (PB).
PB is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. The process was first developed in Brazil in 1989, and there are now over 1,500 participatory budgets around the world, mostly at the municipal level. The first PB process in the US was launched here in Chicago in 2009.
Often, residents are very familiar with their neighborhoods and might have unconventional ideas that can improve their daily commute, parks, schools, and more. Participatory budgeting is a tool that taps into that resident genius and allows it an incubator space. This process puts transparency into how the city spends our tax dollars and gives residents a real voice – by offering ideas and voting for specific projects – into how that money is spent in our ward.
Alderman Arena created an interactive map reflecting all projects that were implemented using the aldermanic discretionary budget to help residents visualize how the money has been spent since he first took office in 2011. In 2015, the ward boundaries changed due to a remap. Some projects that fall outside the current 45th Ward boundaries were in the former boundaries. To view the different layers of the map, click on the arrow located in the upper left-hand corner of the map. To open the map in Google Maps, click on the brackets located in the upper right-hand corner of the map.
Alderman Arena also created an interactive map reflecting all projects that have been approved through the participatory budgeting process. When possible, Alderman Arena used different revenue streams to pursue projects so he would be able to address more infrastructure issues throughout the ward.
To view different layers, click on the arrow located at the upper left-hand corner. To open the map in Google Maps, click the brackets located at the top of the upper right-hand corner. You may view additional details on any given project by clicking the respective pin on the map or in the layers view. More information on participatory budgeting in the 45th Ward is available at the PB45 website, pb45.org.