Possible trial of participatory budgeting in Auckland
The following suggestion has been sent to all of the Auckland councillors:
There are frequent complaints that voter turnout, particularly for local elections, is poor and possibly declining. Participatory democracy through juries and assemblies selected mainly by lot shows promise as a way of reawakening an interest in the processes of democracy, and one of the most widespread ways of trying out these new procedures is that of participatory budgeting.
If a suitable budget, say of a million dollars (which pro-rata for the 21 local board areas in Auckland would represent of the order of 1% of the Council’s capital budget), could be obtained for a trial in a local board area, then it would be possible to conduct an experiment in participatory budgeting, doing democracy differently. Possibly it would be the first such trial in New Zealand. It could involve inviting the various residents’ and other local associations in the local board area (in this case the Waitakere Ranges Local Board because that is where I live), to discuss amongst themselves and come up with an outline project which could then be refined and costed with any necessary technical input either from council officers or from an external consultant.
In keeping with the aim of this proposal to include the element of selection by lot, the local associations could act as organisers and facilitators, and arrange to select ten or a dozen local residents by lot to meet, discuss and decide on the preferred project from among those initially suggested for their area. The project need not necessarily be in the form of capital works, just something they felt would contribute or add social capital to their local community. They would need to be mindful that their project was going to be compared with those of the other participating associations in the final selection.
The local meetings would also select, by vote or by lot, one of their number to present the costed proposal at a central jury meeting, the jury comprising one member from each association (so hopefully at least ten or twelve). The jury for the whole local board area could either comprise the set of representatives chosen to present the projects, or a separate set, again chosen by lot, one from each participating association. The jury could meet at a suitable venue and deliberate in front of an audience of as many of the associations as wanted to attend, so that the process was public and transparent. The jury’s finally selected project (or projects if more than one was achievable within the budget available), and the reasoning behind their selection would be announced to the meeting at large. The selected project or projects would be implemented. The essence of the trial would be the selection of the final project or projects by the people themselves, subject only to meeting any relevant requirements of the Council’s overall plan and regulations.
This general idea was presented to the Waitakere Ranges Local Board at their meeting on 8 June 2017.
There are a dozen or more local residents’ associations within the Waitakere Ranges Local Board area who could participate, and out of a registered voting population of over 30,000 it should be possible to conduct a meaningful trial of selection by lot. It is not known yet whether there is any interest at either Auckland Council level, or within the residents’ associations, but this will be pursued, with luck after some commitment on the part of the Auckland Council to provide the budget. The purpose of the email was to see whether the Auckland Council would care to discuss the proposal.