Does Participatory Budgeting Lead to Local Empowerment? The Case of Chicago, IL.
This paper uses Baiocchi and Ganuza’s communicativeempowerment framework to examine a case-study of participatory budgeting (PB) in Chicago, IL. Chicago hosts the longest ongoing PB project in North America: since 2009, the 49th Ward has allocated $1 million annually through PB. By 2016, the process had expanded to $6.2 million dollars of infrastructure funding in seven wards. Baiocchi an Ganuza’s framework provides a mechanism for examining the
relationship between the neoliberalization of municipal government and the growing popularity of PB. I argue that when one considers the empowerment dimensions of PB, the experience of Chicago has been decidedly mixed: limitations in the primacy, scope and reach of the participatory process limit the capacity of PB as currently constituted to function as a democratic challenge to elite policy making in municipal governance.
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