Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

To address problems bubbling up from communities, some local governments are putting money directly into the hands of their citizens.

The big picture: Participatory budgeting (PB) is a tool that enables residents to determine how a portion of taxpayer dollars are spent. It's getting traction from California to North Carolina.

How it works:

  • Communities are allotted a portion of public dollars to spend as they see fit.
  • Volunteers identify pressing local needs — looking at sectors like transportation, housing, and education — and collaborate with public officials to draft viable budget proposals for how to use the allocated funds.
  • These proposals go to the entire community for a vote before they are enacted.

History lesson: The PB process can be traced back to a successful experiment in Brazil in 1989.

  • After a brutal military dictatorship, the city of Porto Alegre enacted PB to introduce transparent, responsive decision making and government accountability.

The impact: The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program have called participatory budgeting a best practice in democratic innovation, and Portugal is the first country to use it on the national scale.

What we're watching:

  • In Boston, residents ages 12-22 can participate and allocate $1 million per year.
  • Seattle recently expanded an existing program, and now anyone age 11 and older can participate in allocating $2 millon per year.
  • In New York City, over half of the city council allocated a portion of their discretionary funds to the process, which is open to residents as young as 11. Between 2012 and 2018, that resulted in more than $210 million dollars flowing into projects like new technology in libraries.

The bottom line: PB goes beyond creating a process for incorporating civic input into budgeting — it makes civic engagement possible for marginalized communities and involves young residents who aren't yet eligible to vote.

Hollie Russon Gilman is a fellow at New America's Political Reform Program, Georgetown's Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation, and Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.

Go deeper

How overhyping became an election meddling tool

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.

Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Biden ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan as cases surge in the Midwest.
  2. Health: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests, Trump's testing czar saysMask mandates help control the rise in hospitalizations Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies."
  3. Business: Surge is sinking consumer confidence Testing is a windfall.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. World: Putin mandates face masks.
30 mins ago - Podcasts

Pete Buttigieg talks Joe Biden's economic plans

Joe Biden has a very different prescription for America's economy than does President Trump. Not just in terms of how to tax and spend, but also in how to approach trading partners like China.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's economic policies and philosophies with former presidential candidate and current Biden campaign surrogate Pete Buttigieg.