How to give your two cents when you spend $2 million

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The public vote is underway to decide which community projects in Grand Rapids will receive a share of $2 million in federal coronavirus aid.

It is part of Grand Rapids. participatory budgeting processdesigned to give citizens more say in how dollars are spent.

Residents in each of the city’s three commission districts have until October 5 to comment. Anyone who lives in Grand Rapids and is at least 13 years old can vote.

Brand ambassadors like Robert Simmons are occupying desks in libraries across the city to help residents through the process.

“We want you to vote for your top 5: one to five, with one being your favorite and five being your least popular. It’s as simple as that,” explained Simmons.

There is also a online option agree.

Simmons said the response has been positive.

“They are very surprised at the amount of money that is being invested in the community and the fact that they have the power to distribute the money,” Simmons said.

From landscaping and beautification projects along South Division Avenue in First Ward to a reading and arts initiative at Palmer Elementary in Second Ward to the modernization of Madison Square Library in Third Ward, 27 projects make the list. Voters can see how much money is available in each community and how much each program would get.

“You have three different breakdowns. The first is $600,000 for First Ward, $400,000 for Second Ward and then you have $1 million for Third Ward,” explained Kenny Medrano of Participatory Budgeting Grand Rapids.

The participatory budgeting process started in December 2021. 600 ideas were submitted by citizens. A steering committee made up of station residents reviewed the proposals.

“Based on equity, feasibility and need, the best ideas that you’re seeing now go into phase 3,” Medrano said.

Once the votes have been counted and the winning projects announced, the next phase begins.

“And from there, the city commission votes on it,” said Medrano.

While the participatory budgeting process is designed to give residents more control and more transparency when it comes to the budget, Medrano also gives them options beyond the budget.

“We had a large number of people just involved in the process,” he said. “Because that’s an important part of just being involved, apart from voting.” How to give your two cents when you spend $2 million

Dais Johnston

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