NEW YORK—Julie Menin wants to see an end to member items, and to show she is serious, the Manhattan borough president candidate says she will use participatory budgeting to allocate the office’s discretionary funds.
The five borough presidents receive five percent of the discretionary portion of the city’s capital budget, with Manhattan receiving roughly $20 million. Menin wants to let the citizens choose how the money is spent.
Participatory budgeting recently wrapped up its second year in New York City, with eight council members electing to let community members vote on how to spend $1 million of their discretionary funding.
The process takes several months as the community generates ideas, determines if they are plausible, and then votes for winning projects. The projects are then funded through the budget, which is approved by June 30 each year, at which point the process can begin for installing, building, or fixing whatever was decided.
“Neither council members nor the borough presidents should receive funds that can be distributed at their personal discretion,” Menin said in her policy proposal. “To be clear, the worthy nonprofits that currently receive funding through these means could still be supported, but through a more equitable and transparent process.”
Menin said a needs-based formula, much like the city’s Department for the Aging uses currently, could be a model to decide discretionary funding amounts. Currently the city council speaker decides how much each council member receives.
As borough president, Menin would not have the authority to prohibit member items. The City Charter would need to be changed.