Hairston finds budget solutions

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) discussed last week how the ward’s discretionary funds would be spent in the aftermath of its short-lived participatory budgeting (PB) program.

In 2012, the ward became the fourth in the city to implement PB, a process by which constituents vote on how to spend the area’s $1 million in menu money. But Hairston ended the program after her last ward meeting in October, citing participant frustration with the process.

“While residents enjoyed the opportunity to be involved, they did not enjoy the hours,” Hairston said at her monthly meeting Tuesday. She added that “unforeseen expenditures” left uncovered by the city — including refreshments and office supplies, according to a January interview with Hairston’s chief of staff — “proved to be a challenge without having budgeted for that.”

This year four groups of residents from Hyde Park, South Shore, Woodlawn and Grand Crossing will instead each allocate $250,000 worth in community improvements.

“This new process preserves the transparency component of PB5 — and the community involvement of PB 5 — without the burden of the time and expenses,” Hairston said.

Hairston added she would provide constituents with information on the cost of community improvements. Her office will seek proposals on how to spend menu money by early June, according to Chief of Staff Kimberly Webb.

Although a news brief from Hairston’s office last spring deemed her ward’s participatory budgeting vote a success, she dismissed last Tuesday any notion that the process would have benefited from another year and expressed disappointment with last April’s turnout.

“There are other wards that have more than 700 people come out. We barely had 100,” Hairston said.

E-mail: j.bishku@hpherald.com

Twitter: @jeffhba