WICKER PARK — Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) and his office are asking residents how to spend $1 million on infrastructure projects next year in the Northwest Side ward.
The 1st Ward launched its annual participatory budgeting process Wednesday, allowing neighbors to get involved in allocating funding for ward projects like bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and more.
The 1st Ward is earmarking about $1 million of its annual $1.5 million menu money for the process. Any 1st Ward residents interested in submitting ideas or volunteering in the process can sign up here.
Usually, aldermen spend menu money at their discretion, but participatory budgeting — where the aldermen let residents decide on what gets funded — has gained popularity in recent years.
“Every year, truly, that we’ve done this, we have had more ideas, more comprehensive proposals, more folks voting on this work, and it is genuinely making the 1st Ward a better, safer, healthier place for people to live,” La Spata said.
This year’s process will take place over three phases. Residents will be able to submit ideas for projects online and through a series of meetings this summer. A portal run by the University of Illinois Chicago will be online soon, said Nicholas Zettel, 1st Ward policy director.
This fall, volunteers will hold workshops to formulate submissions into working proposals.
Residents will then vote on proposals this winter, with the most popular submitted to the Chicago Department of Transportation for approval and implementation.
Voting will likely occur in December and January, Zettel said.
Last year, seven projects won approval through the participatory budgeting process, including pedestrian bump-outs at certain intersections and repainting bus lanes.
The most expensive proposal was for a protected bike lane on a mile-long stretch of Wood Street, which received mixed reactions from neighbors.
At a community meeting in February, some neighbors said they had no idea the participatory budgeting process was occurring and requested a re-vote, which did not occur.
CDOT officials had no updates on the Wood Street bike lane proposal last month, and a spokesperson did not return a request for comment this week.
Zettel said the 1st Ward is expanding its outreach this year to include as many residents as possible, including to neighborhood groups across the ward.
“We’re being a lot more intentional. We’re going to flyer a lot more areas, we’re always flyering, we’re always trying to put things out electronically, trying to put the word out. This year, we did a more robust email campaign, and we did everything earlier as well,” he said.
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