City of Rochester
(Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013)—Mayor Thomas S. Richards today released the details of the City’s participatory budgeting program designed to help stem neighborhood violence and crime by providing citizens with direct decision-making power over how to spend up to $200,000 on public safety improvements. The City will utilize its Voice of the Citizen (VOC) public meeting format to implement the initiative that is included in the Mayor’s Office 2013-14 budget.
“We have had great success with our past VOC programs,” said Mayor Thomas S. Richards. “Our citizens have shown that they have good ideas. They deserve the opportunity to take an even greater role by participating in this process and deciding how this money will be spent in their neighborhoods to improve public safety.”
The program will consist of the following cycles:
• Four VOC Budgeting for Public Safety meetings in August and September; • Work sessions to develop project proposals in September, October and November; • A two-week voting period in December; • Project implementation from January to June, 2014.
Mayor Richards will host the following VOC Budgeting for Public Safety meetings, scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
• Monday, Aug. 26: Edgerton Community Center, Stardust Ballroom, 41 Backus St.
• Wednesday, Sept. 4: Thomas P. Ryan Community Center, 530 Webster Ave.
• Thursday, Sept. 5: Danforth Community Center, 200 West Ave.
• Monday, Sept. 16: Carter St. Community Center, 500 Carter St.
Citizens attending the VOC sessions will brainstorm and discuss ideas for projects aimed at reducing violence and crime and vote for those ideas that they think should be further developed. Attendees may also volunteer to serve as a delegate to continue working on turning the selected ideas into tangible action plans. Volunteer delegates and any interested citizen volunteers will then take part in work sessions with City staff to refine, prioritize and develop the projects/spending proposals that will be placed on a ballot in December.
After the ballots are developed, a two-week voting period will take place where citizens will select which projects get funded. Paper ballots will be made available at City branch libraries, the Central Library Downtown, Recreation Centers, Neighborhood Service Centers and City Hall. The ballots will also be available on the City’s website where residents can cast their votes online. Voters will be required to provide their name and address on the ballots and may only vote for the projects in the city quadrant in which they reside or own a business. Finally, the City will either implement or facilitate the project(s) that receive the most votes.
Up to $50,000 will be made available to each of the four city quadrants to be spent on projects or initiatives that will be categorized into broad themes that arose from public input gathered during the last round of VOC: Seeking Solutions to Violence forums:
• Increasing opportunities for youth and families; • Neighborhood group, block club and business association enhancements; • Creating inviting and safe surroundings; • Improving City Hall – citizen relations.
These themes will serve as a starting point for discussions, however, all feasible ideas regardless of their theme will be accepted during the VOC brainstorming sessions and it is expected that additional themes will arise.
“We will do our best to provide the community with a grassroots opportunity to come together to exchange ideas, work to turn ideas into viable projects and decide which projects get funded,” said Mayor Richards. “Since this is a new process for us, I am sure there will be some difficulties with the process along the way, but that is why we have a representative democracy.”
VOC: Budgeting for Public Safety is a component of the Mayor’s public safety plan to engage neighbors. Residents are asked to think about, research and discuss local problems and needs with family, friends and neighbors prior to coming to the VOC meetings and to encourage them to participate in VOC meetings where their ideas can be vetted.
For more information, contact 311 (429-5990 outside city limits) or visit www.cityofrochester.gov/youdecide.
News media: For more information, contact Communications Director Gary Walker at 428-7405.