The People’s Budget: Residents Help City Divvy Up Funds

Dec. 6, 2013 / By

If Sherman Ray Harper had a say in the city budget, he would invest in more recreation centers because he doesn’t want more youth to end up homeless like him.

North Long Beach resident Elizabeth Quintero would add more parks and green space in her neighborhood.

Residents like Quintero and Harper may be able to give the term “money is power” a whole new meaning in Long Beach.

The New York-based non-profit, the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), has been working with cities across the nation to make this reality. Roughly 1,200 cities have participatory budgets already and Long Beach is next on the list.

In California, PBP has already begun its work in Long Beach, Merced, San Diego and Oakland. Last month, the organization held it’s first meeting with residents in Long Beach.

How it works:
Participatory budgeting gives ordinary people real power over real money, letting them work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. It begins with the gathering of residents into meetings where they come together to brainstorm ideas on what they wish to see in their neighborhoods.

After much discussion, the ideas are collected and residents vote through a democratic process. The money, which is provided by the city through taxes, gets allocated based on this method every year.

“Our hope for this project is that it will increase civic engagement and improve the allocation of public funds by listening and engaging community stakeholders,” said Building Healthy Communities, Long Beach Hub Manager Rene Castro said. “Residents will gain an opportunity to vote on what they feel matters to them.”

Castro hopes to have the city consider the participatory budget method next year, but it is still in its planning stages.

In the video above, VoiceWaves speaks with PBP Executive Director Josh Lerner and local residents about how participatory budgeting could work in Long Beach.

For more information on participatory bugeting, go to


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Adalhi Montes

As a teenager, Adalhi began volunteering at many programs helping our communities become healthier and safer to provide resources to people in need. He was involved with Weed and Seed in Central Long Beach and is a youth mentor for the California Conference for Equality and Justice. Adalhi is also in the process of completing the neighborhood leadership program at the Advanced Organizing Institute and is studying Radio and television broadcasting at LBCC. In the future, he looks forward to joining the Marine Corps and continuing his education.