What Would You Do With $1 Million of the City’s Money?

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A citizen, participating in democracy. Photo: iStockphoto

Not a totally hypothetical question! Four city council members have decided to engage in "participatory budgeting," meaning that they'll let their constituents help choose how to spend their districts' $1 million discretionary funds. So if you live in Brad Lander, Jumaane D. Williams, Melissa Mark-Viverito, or Eric Ulrich's districts, start spitballing.

The idea, modeled after a Brazilian program, has also been tried recently with overwhelmingly positive reaction in Chicago. For a few glorious minutes after reading the headline on the new program in the Times, Intel Noreen imagined all the things she might do with $1 million of the city's money to spend as she saw fit. Playing the ponies was obviously the first thing that came to mind: You gotta grow your investments. What about a task force to eliminate the odor from certain blocks? Seltzer in the water fountains? But it seems the idea is to focus on "street repairs, new parks and public artworks," under the theory that citizens will have a better sense of what is actually needed or in disrepair on their block. That seems okay too. Though that seltzer thing could be huge.

4 Council Members, Each With $1 Million, Will Let Public Decide How It's Spent [NYT]