The people of the West End have spoken: This is what they want with $100K
Vancouver is testing out a new voting system for civic engagement
The results of a community-wide vote in Vancouver's West End are in and the neighbourhood is getting a new calisthenics exercise park, improvements to the sidewalks, and a memorial donation to two local schools.
These are all pretty typical community projects but the difference is how they were selected: by participatory budgeting.
Anyone over the age of 12 who lives, works or volunteers in the West End could cast a vote on how the city spends $100,000 — raised from parking fees — to improve the neighbourhood.
"The participatory budgeting process really is democracy in action," said Anthony Kupferschmidt, with the West End Seniors Network.
"To have citizens empowered to have a direct say in how these dollars are spent gives all of the community a sense of buy-in in improving the community."
The new voting process is part of a pilot project by the City of Vancouver to increase civic engagement by allowing the community to choose where funds are invested.
"This process was incredible because it brought together all of our neighbours," said Kupferschmidt.
Fourteen different projects were on the ballots, all proposed by members of the community, and ranged from chalk art block parties to pedestrian crossings.
"The range was so broad and I think it really reflects the diversity of the interests of the people who live in this neighbourhood," Kupferschmidt said.
"It speaks to what this community wants to see."
Close to 8,600 people cast votes on their favourite project proposals.
"That's incredible," said Adriane Carr, a Vancouver city councillor who lives in the West End, on Saturday while announcing the winners.
"The mobilization took place over 10 days. That is such a process of democracy, I'm in awe."
The new exercise park, which comes with a price tag of $50,000, is set to be built at the Barclay Heritage Square. Sidewalks will be repaired or replaced at six locations with a budget of $30,000.
The final project, the Christine Fretwell and Kathryn Gibbons Memorial Gift to West End Students, is in memory of two mothers from the community who died recently. It still requires city approval but Lord Roberts Elementary and King George Secondary are expected to each get $10,000 for sports and music equipment.
The funded projects will be implemented over the next 18 months.
With files from Doug Kerr