By Bay City News Service
Vallejo residents will get the chance to help decide how to spend some of the city's sales tax revenue under a new "participatory budgeting" process unveiled by the city this week.
City Council members and representatives from the group Better Vallejo, the NAACP and the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Participatory Budgeting Project launched "Participatory Budgeting Vallejo" at a news conference Monday. A one-percent sales tax hike approved by voters as Measure B in November 2011 is expected to generate $9.8 million annually over the next 10 years.
The City Council in April agreed to set aside $3.2 million, or 30 percent, of Measure B sales tax funds for participatory budgeting. Vallejo is the first city in the country to adopt the concept citywide. It is being employed on a district-wide level in New York City and Chicago, according to Ginny Browne, community engagement coordinator with the Participatory Budgeting Project. At nine public assemblies through Dec. 5, members of the public will present ideas on how the money should be spent to improve Vallejo.
Browne said the assemblies are "the engine" of the process. Volunteer budget delegates, who can be as young as 14 years old, will collect the ideas proposed at the assemblies and determine which are feasible and not already in progress. They will narrow down the list to about 30 projects, Browne said.
A steering committee will conduct a citywide election over several days in May to allow voters to choose which of the projects should go forward. The priority projects selected by voters will then go before the City Council, which must approve the projects before they can proceed.
Brown said it is possible that one project that has widespread support could get the lion's share of the $3.2 million, or that four or five projects could be funded. The Participatory Budgeting Project's goals include informing the public about the concept, generating project ideas at the assemblies and recruiting delegates, who will receive training in December, Browne said.
The first assembly is at the Vallejo Adult School, 2833 Tennessee St. between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.