North York’s Bayview Village neighbourhood is set to get a number of park and public space improvements, but it’s not happening by a top-down City of Toronto staff decision or community council vote. This time, local residents voted for what they wanted, and they have to live with the results.
It’s called participatory budgeting and it is something local city councillor Shelley Carroll has been a proponent of for years, although it hasn’t found much traction in other areas of the city.
“Local residents are the experts on their neighbourhood, and participatory budgeting gives them the power to choose how to spend money in their own community. Not only does this produce deeply impactful projects for residents of all ages, it also gets people more invested in their neighbourhoods and builds a deeper understanding of how municipal government works,” Coun. Carroll said.
She has just unveiled the results of the Bayview Village Participatory Budget (PB) process, following months of discussions, numerous meetings, extensive consultations and 396 votes cast during a three-day period, and the winning projects have been announced. Some of the winners include fitness equipment at Clarinda Park, Bayview village street signs, benches at Elkhorn Park and a historical plaque at Thomas Clarke House.
The new and improved spaces will be crucial in cultivating community recreation, engagement and identity.
Coun. Carroll’s dedication to participatory budgeting is not a new endeavour. Having successfully championed a three-year pilot project in the former Ward 33, resulting in 14 resident-chosen capital projects, she continues to spearhead PB independently in her current role. She said it doesn’t just help the residents feel more engaged and part of a community, it informs her outlook as well.
“As a city councillor, this process also teaches me and our city staff more about exactly what our local communities need so that we can work to best serve them. It really is a win-win all around,” she said.
Her commitment to the proven model of direct democracy persists, and she is actively exploring avenues to ensure that the community’s voice continues to shape the allocation of city funds.