Participatory Budgeting came under attack at the Greensboro City Council town hall meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3 from an unlikely direction.
On the City Council, the opposition to Participatory Budgeting has come from the more conservative councilmembers. Since the current City Council is made up of eight Democrats and one member too liberal to be a Democrat, the $500,000 give-away program no longer has detractors on the council itself.
At City Council town hall meetings, speakers range from far left to farther left, so it was a little surprising that several spoke negatively about Participatory Budgeting.
In particular, several speakers noted that while the Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA), which runs the city bus system, and paratransit system SCAT are underfunded, the city was going to spend $90,000 to run a free trolley around the downtown “for rich people.” The idea was described as a “whim” and a “vanity project.”
Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said she wanted to make sure that people understood the City Council didn’t vote to spend $90,000 on a downtown trolley, but it was the people who voted for it.
One speaker noted that less than 1 percent of the people of Greensboro voted in favor of it, but that was enough to get it funded for $90,000.
The current city councilmembers are staunch supporters of Participatory Budgeting even though, with all the effort to get people to vote on spending $100,000 in their City Council district, the total participation has not reached 2 percent of the population, even with allowing anyone over 14 years old to vote and allowing people to vote from their phones.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that the vote totals until this year were much lower – in the 1,500 range.
An issue that has come up before and no doubt will come up again is that this speaker, who appeared to be well informed about many city projects including the voting totals for Participatory Budgeting, said that he had no idea how to vote for a Participatory Budgeting project.
City Councilmember Tammi Thurm, who was involved in the whole process, went through a list of ways that the city had tried to inform people about Participatory Budgeting and she sounded a lot like Mayor Nancy Vaughan talking about how impossible it was to get the word out that the city was changing its glass recycling process.