An image from the website.

Evanstonians who want a say in how $3 million of federal pandemic aid will be spent will get that next month.

Anybody at least 14 years old who lives, works, studies or own a business in Evanston can vote in the participatory budgeting balloting that starts Sept. 1.

Devon Reid has been pushing the participatory budgeting concept since 2018, when he was city clerk.

At his 8th Ward meeting Tuesday night the council member introduced the city’s PB consultant, Celia Carlino, who said people can register to vote on the Participatory Budgeting Leadership Committee website,

Once registered, they should receive an email enabling them to vote online.

Carlino said residents initially suggested more than 1,300 ideas, and volunteers narrowed the field. 

The 20 proposals listed on the website that made the cut range from $150,000 in small business grants to $2.5 million for a mobile dental van. Combined, they add up to nearly $11 million in spending, so many projects will go unfunded.

Carlino says people will be able to vote for up to seven projects — and the most popular ones will be funded — until the money runs out. Final decisions would be subject to a City Council vote.

That means people with a strong interest in one project are likely to “bullet vote” just for that one, to increase its chances of making the cut.

Carlino said at least two information fairs will be held in September to promote the initiative, where residents can vote in person.

There will also be opportunities to vote at the Levy Senior Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10, and at the Fleetwood Jourdan Center from 5 p.m. Sept. 23.

Carlino said that, despite residents’ interest in the initiative, online registration is lagging.  She urged residents to register immediately so that they can receive updates and voting information.

Another topic addressed at the meeting came from the office of State Senator Mike Simmons, who represents Illinois’ 7th District.  A very small portion at the tip of Southeast Evanston, which overlaps the 8th Ward, is included in this district.

Simmons was instrumental in securing $1,000,000 in funding to replace lead pipes currently found in public and private properties throughout the state.  Simmons’ Chief of Staff, Heather Saenger, who spoke at the meeting, said that residents should check to see if they are eligible for the lead pipe replacement program.

She acknowledged that the properties identified as eligible for funding was “a drop in the bucket,” given there were probably upwards of 10,000 Evanston properties which have lead pipes.  Devon Reid said that only ten people from the 8th Ward had signed up for the program so far. 

Those wishing additional information regarding lead pipe replacement should contact Simmons’ office at, where their inquiry will be forwarded to the City of Evanston, which administers and does inspections related to lead pipe replacement.  The city also has a website with information about lead pipe replacement at .

Desiree Shannon relocated to Evanston in 2022 from Columbus, Ohio. She has a journalism degree from Otterbein College of Ohio. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Washington...

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  1. With our crumbing parks and municipal buildings, wouldn’t it be better to invest in these infrastructure items?

  2. ‘Participatory budgeting’ is a complete joke.

    First, the city spent I think something along the lines of a few hundred thousand dollars just for the consultants to run the program. So there is money needlessly poured down the drain that will not benefit the community in any way.

    Second, it is a completely elite-driven, unrepresentative process. The people participating in the process either have enough leisure time to go to all the meetings and ‘volunteer’ for the committees to winnow down the list, or they are part of existing networks and organizations that can step in and push their narrow interests.

    Although it is advertised as ‘participatory’ it is fundamentally anti-democratic.

    Finally, why do we have a professional city manager and an elected council? The city manager is supposed to develop a budget based on their professional assessment of the things the city needs to properly function. The council scrutinizes and approves the budget.

    Doing this participatory nonsense allows the council to throw its responsibility off on random citizens. The whole thing is meaningless ‘democracy theater’ whose main winner are the Northwestern consultants who got six figure contracts to run the whole charade.

    1. Alfonso said it perfectly. A huge waste of money on consultants, not to mention the estates time. The obvious (no consulting necessary) use for that money is to spend it on our crumbling parks. $3M would go a long way towards fixing up at least one of them.

  3. Fountain Square still doesn’t have a working fountain. Fix the little things before looking for “problems” to solve.

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