Opinion: Yes on 1 for a Better Budget –The Time Is Now

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This year, there will be a question on the November ballot that would change how the city budget is created. It would allow the city council to change budget items by a majority vote, and create an Office of Participatory Budgeting to allow people to vote on certain budget items. More of us would get a say in how we spend our city’s money.

Currently, city councilors can only vote yes or no on the entire budget; they have no power to shift funds within the budget. Also, there is currently no process for voters in Boston to have direct input on the budget through participatory budgeting processes, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend a portion of a public budget. This project exists in many other major cities like our neighbors next door in Cambridge, as well as New York, Seattle, Oakland, and Chicago.

By voting yes on Question 1 this November, voters have a chance to amend the City of Boston’s Charter to allow far more voices to influence the budget process, including communities who have historically been excluded from influencing the budget. This effort  “Yes on 1 for a Better Budget” is led by a coalition of community organizations, teachers, nurses, faith leaders, environmental groups, small businesses, elected officials, and voters across Boston.

The changes were approved by every member of the city council, including the two mayoral candidates, so all the people most involved in the budget process agree these are good changes for Boston. Allowing legislative budget changes is very common, and government bodies from the federal and state governments down to cities and towns work this way, and it works very well. Having more leaders who are closer to the needs of the communities in the city will ensure that community needs are better met in the budget than allowing only the mayor to set the priorities.

Why vote Yes on 1? Boston needs more affordability, stronger schools, thriving local businesses, and good youth jobs. Yes on 1 would allow us to better achieve these goals by giving local city councilors more input so that every Boston neighborhood is fully included.

Vote on November 2nd, Yes on Question 1.

Andres Del Castillo is the Co-Director for Right to the City Boston

Editor's note: Question 1 reads as follows --  "Shall this city approve the charter amendment proposed by the city council summarized below?"

The following is from the City of Boston's website and is a summary of the proposed charter amendment:

The proposed amendment to the Boston City Charter would change the City of Boston’s budget process in several ways. Under the proposed amendment, the Mayor and City Council would hold budgetary powers together, with the power to modify and amend appropriation orders. As is the case now, under the amendment only the Mayor may initially submit a budget or appropriation order. Currently, the City Council can adopt or reject a budget, or reduce specific items in a budget. Under the proposed amendment, the City Council would have the ability to amend the budget by reallocating funds among existing or new line items. The total amount of the City Council’s amended version of the budget, however, could not exceed the total amount of the budget proposed by the Mayor. The Mayor could accept or reject the City Council’s version of the budget, or amend any line item in the City Council’s version of the budget. The City Council would have the ability to override the Mayor’s veto or amendments by a two-thirds vote. In addition, the Mayor and City Council would also be able to amend the Boston Public School budget, subject to existing laws providing that only the Boston School Committee may originate a school budget or allocate spending within a school budget. The proposed amendment also requires the City Council and Mayor to create by ordinance an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting, including an external oversight board, to further public engagement with public spending. Under the proposed amendment, the office could create and oversee an equitable and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents. The structure of the office and oversight board, and the binding decision making process on the budget, would be described in the future ordinance enacted by the City Council and Mayor.