As noted in Participatory Budgeting in Brazil (.PDF)

Participatory budgeting (PB) began more than a decade ago in Porto Alegre, one of the most populated cities in South Brazil. PB is a process through which citizens present their demands and priorities for civic improvement, and influence through discussions and negotiations the budget allocations made by their municipalities. Since 1989, budget allocations for public welfare works in Porto Alegre have been made only after the recommendations of public delegates and approval by the city council.

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The primary empowering aspect of participatory budgeting is the participation of low- income segments of the population and their influence on the decision-making process. PB has encouraged the active participation of various segments of civil society in a process that earlier involved only the elected representatives. While allocating resources, PB gives priority to the needs of the poor, who constitute a majority of the population. According to the official estimate, about 40,000 citizens of Porto Alegre participated in public meetings to allocate about half the city budget in 1999. Hence, the citizens held a considerable responsibility for governing the city of 1.3 million inhabitants.

With the success of PB in Porto Alegre it has stemmed to (.PDF)

Over 300 Brazilian municipalities adopted PB between 1989 and 2004, and cities in at least 30 other countries also have adopted PB

(emphasis mine)

It has even reached the likes of the United Kingdom regarding a the Welsh town of Colwyn Bay with their participatory budgeting programme.

Example Cities


Would it be possible for US cities to adopt participatory budgeting under the current system?

Note: An answer would reflect any of the cities above referencing the aforementioned issues in regards to state policies or you could use the all the cities if state policies don't reflect upon the answer. I'm just querying whether any US cities could adopt PB under the current system.

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    I'm not sure I understand what this is. We do have public hearing for all sorts of things including public works, how is this different? – user9389 Apr 26 '17 at 0:10
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    From what I understand the public hearings you're mentioning would define citizens to express their views to an authority who would then "decide" and still vote based on what they would like to vote for, PB allows the participants to have a form of voting within the programme on said issues and enact it based on that. – Bradley Wilson Apr 26 '17 at 0:18

Yes, and it's already happening.

For example, see Cambridge, MA, Vallejo, CA, and New York City, NY. In Chicago, use differs by ward at the discretion of the alderman for that ward; San Fransisco and Long Beach, CA also only applies it in some districts. Cities in Michigan are reportedly considering allowing voters as young as 12.

In most cases, cities have flexibility to determine their own process for allocating funds. The degree of flexibility and the budgetary processes are often outlined in a city charter and/or state law governing city governments. Even in fairly restrictive setups, the leaders who control the budget allocation process could choose to announce that some pot of money would be allocated consistent with the results of a participatory budgeting process, and pass the resulting allocation through more traditional channels. Done well, participatory budgeting projects can be politically popular and aid those leaders' chances of re-election.

You can explore a map with dozens of US participatory budgeting projects, as well as many international ones, here.

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    Being new to the idea of PB, I was wrong in assuming it didn't exist already in the states. Thank you for the clarification and I'll look forward to delving into the details of the sources you've listed. – Bradley Wilson Apr 26 '17 at 0:34

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