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Richmond City Councilman Wants Citizens To Vote On New City Improvement Projects

(Roberto Roldan/VPM)
City Council Chamber. (Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

The City of Richmond may soon allow communities to decide for themselves which neighborhood improvement projects to fund. 

First District City Councilman Andreas Addison has proposed a resolution to set aside $3 million a year for what’s known as participatory budgeting. The resolution outlines a process where citizens propose new projects at public meetings and volunteer “budget delegates” turn those ideas into full proposals with the help of city staff.  Residents of each city council district can then vote on which projects to fund in their district.

Addison said participatory budgeting puts local government decisions in the hands of its citizens and encourages learning. 

“What this does is engage people in the budget cycle to be informed,” Addison said. “People might say ‘What I thought was an easy fix might cost $300,000 and that might not be the easy solution I thought it was.’” 

The $3 million would come from the city’s Capital Improvement Program budget, which funds larger improvement projects like sidewalks or community center renovations. 

The resolution does not currently outline how the $3 million would be divided among the nine city council districts.

Addison said he hopes that negotiation that can help foster the debate around equity and equality.

“Because of annexation, we have some parts of the city that don’t even have sidewalks,” he said. “So if we have one part of the city where people want sidewalk improvements and then you have people in another neighborhood saying they don’t even have a sidewalk, it might get people thinking about priorities.”

The participatory budgeting resolution still needs to be voted on by Richmond City Council. At a Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, two city council members - Kristen Larson and Parker Agelasto - both signed on as patrons. It’ll ultimately be up to Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration to put it in next year’s budget.

You can read the full resolution here.

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