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Members of the City Council’s Participatory Budgeting decided Thursday afternoon that Evanston needs to hire a consultant to run a planned participatory budgeting exercise.

“That sounds pretty reasonable,” Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said of the idea of spending perhaps $100,000 on a consultant to guide the process in which residents would be invited to engage in deciding how the city will spend $2.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Mayor Daniel Biss, the other members of the committee, agreed that the city will need outside help to shepherd the process along — especially given that they hope to have final decisions on spending the funds by the end of the summer.

They plan to ask city staff to seek proposals from the Participatory Budgeting Project, with offices in New York and California, and the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago and perhaps other vendors.

Burns suggested the city may also need to work with a software vendor to make the data collection process run smoothly.

Thea Crum from the Great Cities Institute spoke to the committee, suggesting that it would best to collect community feedback during the summer. “Popup voting,” she said, “is much more successful when it’s warmer. “

That way, she said, the city could leverage events like farmers markets that are already going on — so it doesn’t have to be a participatory voting-only event that the city would be trying to draw people to attend.

Burns suggested that if the test with the ARPA money was a success he could see participatory budgeting becoming a permanent part of the city’s budget process.

The committee plans to hold its next meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. So, all these alderpersons are voted to make decisions. Yet, all I see them doing is hiring consultants to make decisions for them. It’s like we have the McCaskey’s running Evanston over here. For crying out loud, lol.

    Consultant for city manager job. Consultant for budgeting. Consultant for yada yada yada.

    You guys can’t figure this out on your own? Our Mayor can’t make a hard decision like this on his own? It’s fine to seek outside help but it’s now becoming a recurring theme with our alderpersons. Would be nice to see them stop passing the buck and get it done on their own.

    Put the money on consultants towards schools, hospitals, police/fire/paramedics, etc.

    I bring it up again … they want a pay raise 3x the amount they are getting paid right now. Pay me 3x their salary and I’ll hire consultants too.

  2. I am in total agreement with Mr. Sabotka… Why are we spending another $100,000 of taxpayer monies on yet another consultant? Let’s add a few things up here: Consultants for moving the Civic Center $370,000 (despite the overwhelming civic will to STAY!). Another consultant to study (a proposal) replacing the Animal Shelter: $626,000 (for a $6.3 mil. shelter – that’s $2100 per sq/ft if we estimate adding 50% more space than the existing). Now this… totaling approx $1.1 Mil! Why isn’t there a Civic Board to vet this kind of hasty spending? I am dumbfounded why we as a community can’t prioritize civic priorities! Let’s save millions by repurposing the old Recycling center with an indoor dog run… was this even considered?
    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

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