May 26, 2023 - Politics

Grassroots coalition taking participatory budgeting to the ballot

A painted banner reading "People's Budget"

Members of the grassroots coalition PB Cle, holding a banner outside City Hall in January. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

The grassroots activist coalition formerly known as PB Cle is relaunching this afternoon as "People's Budget Cleveland," as organizers sprint to get a participatory budgeting initiative on the November ballot.

The big picture: The proposal would require the city to allow residents to decide how to allocate 2% of the general fund every year.

  • This year, 2% of Cleveland's general fund equals roughly $14 million.
  • The ballot measure would also create a 10-member steering committee appointed by the mayor and city council.

Between the lines: Other U.S. cities have created participatory budgeting pilots with federal stimulus funds, but the Cleveland project would represent the largest annual per capita designation in the country, according to the campaign.

By the numbers: To get the initiative on the ballot, the campaign must submit valid signatures totaling 10% of the last municipal election turnout — about 6,000 signatures.

  • Organizers aim to collect at least double that number and submit them by July 5 in order to get petitions certified and the amendment to the Board of Elections by a Sept. 8 deadline.

Flashback: Activists founded PB Cle in 2021 to create a mechanism for citizens to participate directly in government spending.

  • A PB pilot using federal stimulus funds was introduced this year, but city council tabled it in February after council members criticized the initiative during a lengthy hearing.

What they're saying: "Sitting through that grueling City Council meeting was worth it," People's Budget Cleveland campaign manager Molly Martin tells Axios, "because all the people who are dedicating real-ass time to this were ignited by what they witnessed."

The bottom line: "Really the only tool we have, democracy-wise, to fight what's happening in Columbus is ballot initiatives," Martin says.


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