/ Modified jan 22, 2024 11:12 a.m.

Budget de la Gente funds community connection in Ward 1

The ward is the first in Arizona to implement participatory budgeting.

360 tucson chambers city hall City of Tucson's council chambers in downtown.
AZPM Staff

Residents of Tucson’s Ward 1 are helping to decide how nearly a half a million dollars will be spent in their community.

The Budget de la Gente program is the first municipal participatory budgeting program in the state. In 2023, the program distributed $450,000, and is gearing up to do the same in 2024.

According to Ward 1’s Community Outreach Coordinator Angela Reyes, Councilmember Lane Santa Cruz wanted a chance to bring local government decisions closer to home.

“Part of the Councilmembers’ vision and coming into office was changing that ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ narrative, and including more of that community that we don't get to see typically, in governmental offices,” Reyes said.

The first cycle received over 130 idea submissions online. Then, residents met in steering committees to discuss and vote on the community’s ideas.

The biggest project funded from last year’s budget is a $250,000 skate park on Cushing Street. With the rest of the funds, the committee awarded 20 of the best beautification proposals with $10,000 each, which included community classes, neighborhood signs, and planting wildflowers along the Santa Cruz river.

Steering committee leader Melissa Cordero said the experience has taught her a lot about local government.

“Like, learning the actual costs of a speed bump. I don't know if that's normal public knowledge,” she said.

The program is open to people of all ages, and Cordero said she was especially impressed that high school and college students took an interest.

“Oftentimes, we think people are just disengaged, because they don't care or, you know, or they might have that mindset, ‘my vote doesn't count’, but I don’t think that’s the case at all,” she said.

Cordero said the funded projects are reflective of Ward 1 residents.

“It makes a lot of sense that something that would bring people together would be a winning project. That’s what the community in Ward 1 is built on,”

Idea submissions for the next round of funds has begun in Ward 1. Employees said the results of their first round of participatory budgeting will be rolled out throughout the year.

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