Participatory budgeting coming to 41st Ward; Nov. 3 meeting set


Neighborhood and business groups are being asked to recommend infrastructure improvements for the 41st Ward as part of a participatory budgeting process in which residents will choose the projects.

“Our goal is to get projects in every part of the ward which they will vote on,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said.

Napolitano will hold a community meeting on the participatory budgeting process at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in the library at Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. The meeting will include an explanation of how the process works, and recommendations on infrastructure improvements for the ward will be taken.

Napolitano is one of only a few aldermen who plan to hold a community vote next year to determine how to spend most of their ward’s 2017 allocation of $1.32 million of discretionary funds.

A vote in the 41st Ward was not taken for the 2016 allocation due to time constraints given that Napolitano did not become alderman until mid-2015, Vittorio said. The 2016 funds were used for side-street resurfacing, he said.

Previous 41st Ward alderman Mary O’Connor did not use the participatory budget process. In the neighboring 45th Ward, Alderman John Arena started the process in 2012, and winning projects there have included the planting of trees in parkways and the installation of bike lanes.

The vote in the 41st Ward will be held in the winter over a period of several weeks. Vittorio said he expects “a tremendous response” given the ward’s high number of well-organized community groups which are assisting with the process.

Residents will be asked on the ballot to indicate what percentage of the funds should be used for resurfacing and to choose from about a half-dozen community-based projects, Vittorio said. Residents will vote on how to spend $1 million of the funds, as the rest will be reserved for emergencies, he said.

The ballot may include a minimum percentage which guarantees that at least half of the funds are used for side-street resurfacing, which costs $70,000 to $75,000 per block, Vittorio said. The size of the ward, which is the largest in the city, mandates that a significant portion of the funds go toward resurfacing, he said.

Based on some initial discussions, possible projects for the ballot could be upgraded street lighting on Higgins Avenue to help revitalize the commercial area and improved pedestrian crossings in Downtown Edgebrook, Vittorio said. The latter project would require assistance from the 39th Ward because the Edgebrook business district covers both wards, he said.