When Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi noticed nearly $1 million earmarked for transportation infrastructure projects had gone unspent in his district, he thought, essentially: Who better to spend this than the constituents?
As part of a participatory budgeting program, the District 2 representative today kicks off the “Downtown Decides!” campaign, which asks Atlantans how they’d like to see the Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST monies allocated.
The $1 million, of course, wasn’t just floating in a void.
Kwanza Hall, Farokhi’s city council predecessor, had previously allocated some of that for infrastructure projects in downtown sections of District 2.
The rest was expected to be used for repaving efforts after the Atlanta Streetcar’s construction, but federal funding was identified for that project instead, Farokhi tells Curbed Atlanta.
This year, I learned nearly $1 million in Renew/TSPLOST funds dedicated for transportation improvements in District 2 Downtown were unspent. Tomorrow, we launch the City's 1st participatory budgeting program asking Downtowners how to spend it: https://t.co/9r6ivqByQZ https://t.co/hEty8fJpwi— Amir Farokhi (@AmirForATL) November 19, 2019
Now, the new initiative gives downtown residents, students, workers, and visitors two months to submit ideas for projects that would improve the neighborhood’s transportation systems.
“This includes streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, intersections, lighting, bike lanes, parking spaces, and general use of public space,” states a City of Atlanta announcement.
Once the submission window closes, the city will take a few months to vet and price the proposals; ideas have to be legal and affordable, after all.
Then, in May, officials will open an online portal, through which Atlantans can vote on how they’d like to see the money spent.
The online system will allow participants to split the $1 million among projects, and the ones that garner the most interest would, in theory, be funded and realized.
“PB isn’t a new idea. It’s used the world over from Paris to Madrid, Seattle to Chicago,” Farokhi said in a press release. “Atlanta will be the first major city in the South to try it. Ideally, the project is successful and we can push for citywide expansion in next year’s budget.”