Anne Hidalgo, the mayor Paris, has hailed the first ‘participatory budget’, with schemes for increasing green spaces and community areas proving to be popular, a success. The questions ask if given €20m of taxpayers’ money, what would Parisians do to improve their city? The final responses are interesting since voting closed on Wednesday. It is the French capital’s first 'participatory budget' and has been tried out as a potential way of using the city's budget on other matters in the future. People of all ages and nationalities who are resident in Paris have been given the chance to choose from 15 projects. They include walls of vegetation, 'pop-up swimming pools' and mini 'learning gardens' in schools. The most popular ones selected will be included in the 2015 city’s spending plan so that work on them can begin in January. Parisians were given one week to vote on line or at their mairie in each of the twenty arrondissements.
A €2m project to cover about 40 'blind' walls with plants in order to cheer up local areas. They will also create a 'micro-climate' and introduce a degree of 'biodiversity' to the city received the highest number of votes. The second was a €1.5m scheme to use derelict and abandoned areas within the city’s ring road for community events including concerts, exhibitions and showing films. The third most popular was a €1m project to introduce 'learning gardens' in all primary schools. Other popular projects voted for included mobile rubbish collection points to improve recycling, establishing co-working spaces for students and young entrepreneurs and renovation of the city’s music stands where public concerts could be held. Other popular suggestions were closing some roads at particular times to allow children to play without fear and dangers of traffic and, a nice one that I like and my children would love, pitching teepees around the city so that children could use them to celebrate birthdays and other occasions.
Hidalgo, said that allowing people to decide on the us of 5% of the city's hall investment budget every year from now until 2020 was “handing the keys of the budget to the citizens”. Furthermore she expressed a view that it is “a new tool for citizens to participate that allows all Parisians to propose and choose projects that will make the Paris of tomorrow. They can have a real effect on local life". There are comparable participative schemes in hundreds of cities worldwide, including Porto Alegre in Brazil, the first to introduce the idea in 1989, as well as in smaller communes throughout France. However, nowhere else worldwide is believed to have as yet allotted such a large sum of public money.
Pauline Véron, Anne Hidalgo's deputy mayor who is in charge of local democracy, said that Parisians would be asked to suggest their own projects in future referendums, not all of them restricted to environmental schemes.
It looks like a wonderful scheme. The money was allotted and would have been spent anyway, so this does put decision making in the hands of the people of the city. Would it be welcome where you live?