Last night was ostensibly THE most important of the three Participatory Budgeting (PB) meetings. Over the past few weeks, two kickoff meetings were held - one in Visitacion Valley, the other in Potrero Hill - where residents came together, brainstormed, and developed ideas. Online submissions came in too, resulting in over sixty ideas that were then given an initial vetting by City staff to determine their viability and ability to be funded through this process. Likely hundreds of person-hours have been spent by City staff and consultants on this already.
So, with sixty-four ideas, you'd think you'd have at least that many people at the vetting meeting last night to advocate for their idea and move it to the next round in the process. Not so. Maybe about seven people from Visitacion Valley showed up last night. Another ten or so from Bayview. The only person I met there who was from Potrero Hill/Dogpatch was a reporter for the Potrero View. The rest of the room was City staff, including Supervisor Malia Cohen and Mayor Ed Lee, and the PB consultants. As we were marking our favorite ideas - the ones that will go on in the PB process to be voted upon - I overheard people asking things like "Where is Franklin Square Park?" My question is, where were all the people who'd submitted ideas, especially from Potrero Hill, who could answer that question and advocate for funding? Did people who submitted ideas think that the kickoff meetings were going to be all they had to do? Did people not realize that they had to come to the vetting meeting last night in order to see that their favorite project got onto the May ballot?
From what I could tell last night, NONE of the Potrero Hill projects will even make it to the vote because NO ONE from Potrero Hill bothered to come down and make a case for them. The projects that will get funded will all be in Bayview and Visitacion Valley because there were a handful of people from these neighborhoods who made an effort and showed up when it mattered, and it'll be they who end up directing where the money goes.
It's called Participatory Budgeting for a reason, so if you don't participate, don't complain if you are excluded from the budgeting.