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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Participatory budgeting expo draws Evanston residents as voting period nears end

Megija Medne/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston hosted its second participatory budgeting expo, gathering dozens of people to hear about the proposals on the ballot.

Organizers of Evanston’s participatory budgeting program hosted the city’s second proposal expo at the Levy Senior Center on Saturday afternoon. Drawing a dozen visitors, it was an opportunity for Evanston residents to learn more about the proposals on the participatory budgeting ballot.

The program allows residents to decide how to spend $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Of the 20 proposals on the ballot, residents can vote on up to seven of their favorites. Once the ballots close on Sept. 30, votes will be tallied, and the most popular proposals will get city funding of up to $3 million.

“This is the first time I’ve been really excited about the budget,” said attendee Mary Beth Roth. “I have read some of these posts online and I was really looking forward to asking questions.”

Roth said she’s had trouble staying engaged in budget discussions at City Council meetings. Participatory budgeting provides an easier way for residents to have a say on how some public funds are allocated, she said.

Another attendee, Robin Brown, said she is looking forward to supporting proposals that focus on affordable housing, rental support, small businesses and supporting youth. 

“We know that young people always need things to do, and people from Evanston being able to start small businesses will keep money in the community and provide jobs,” Brown said. “And affordable housing is a real problem in Evanston.”

Housing is the reason Evanston resident Serge Leguerre attended the expo. Leguerre, who is currently unhoused, said he has been trying to find a place to live.  

“I would like to see the city go with the program for affordable housing for people that don’t have money or those that have little money,” Leguerre said. “I’m among the people who have nothing because I don’t have any income.”

Leguerre said he already gave his vote to the Affordable Refugee Housing proposal represented by Thony Daye,  vice president of the Haitian Community Organization.

The proposal addresses the recent influx of migrants coming into the Evanston area, many of whom have had to sleep at the Evanston police station, Daye said. 

Daye said he is currently in contact with 80 different families, most of whom have more than three children, who need a place to live. Guaranteeing a permanent home would help families send their children to school, sign up for medical benefits and provide for other necessities, he said.

The expo also drew younger Evanstonians. Voting for participatory budgeting is open to anyone over the age of 14. 

Tyshawn Ivy, a senior at Evanston Township High School, was among the representatives of a $210,000 proposal to create a Youth and Young Adult Drop-In Center.

“It’s going to bring a lot of people together,” Ivy said. “It’s important to keep kids off the streets and have an after-school activity to do instead of going out.” 

Both the attendees and proposal representatives had positive feedback about the participatory budgeting process.

Michelle Long, a representative of the $690,000 Asian American Art and Cultural Center proposal to fund a space dedicated to the Asian American diaspora, said she feels “this should be something that we continue to do every single year.”

“It’s a really good idea,” Brown said. “We, as people who live in the city, should have a say in how the city spends money.”

Participatory budgeting voting is open until Sept. 30 for everyone who has a “meaningful connection” to Evanston. Residents can cast their ballot either online or in person in any of the locations around the city.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @_megija

Related Stories: 

The Daily Explains: Here’s how to vote on participatory budgeting in Evanston

‘Democracy working in action’: Evanston, NU collaborate on participatory budgeting pilot program

Voter registration opens for Evanston’s participatory budgeting pilot


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