Paris’ New “Budget Participatif”

This week voting began in a new Paris initiative: for the first time in the city’s history, residents get to choose how to use 5% of the municipal government’s investment budget. This budget participatif, which will amount to 426 million euros over 6 years, was one of mayor Anne Hidalgo’s campaign promises. It’s happening now.

(A quick video on how it works, in French, is below)

If this sounds like a radical experiment in democracy, know that the choices are not so radical in and of themselves. Residents are given the choice between 15 projects that have already been pre-selected. We vote for our top 5. (Starting next year, the public will be able to set forth their own ideas).

Um, this doesn't need to happen.

Um, this doesn’t need to happen.

Proposals range from pop-up pools (piscines éphémères) to mobile eco-points for sorting waste and recycling.

While the most popular are already logging thousands of votes online, some have only a handful of supporters so far. (The suggestion of temporary teepees along the Seine – so we can celebrate birthdays “like Indians!” – is currently in last place. I am buoyed by my fellow Parisians’ total lack of interest in this proposal).

Pedagogical gardens in schools

Pedagogical gardens in schools

Some projects are pretty cool, though. Vegetal walls to improve air quality, coworking spaces between students and entrepreneurs, revitalizing areas around the périphérique and in quartiers populaires with art. These are leading the pack so far, and again, I’m feeling right in line with the choices here.

Of course, there will always be dissenters. Follow the hashtag #NotreBudget on Twitter and you’ll see people complaining that these projects will only lead to higher local taxes. (And I don’t know. Claims are that the initiative won’t, but maybe a valid concern?)

Best-named project: urban reconquest

Best-named project: urban reconquest

I’m not going to poo-poo any effort that asks us how we want to use government money, though. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having even more of a say. (Ahem, more affordable housing, please!). These may not seem like the most substantive of proposals, but as a big fan of cultural and environmental projects, I’m happy to voice my opinion. It’s cool to get a city’s population participating for reals.

Because, oh yeah, people – I can get in on this! For the first time since living in France I get to vote on something here! Any resident – no matter the age, no matter the nationality – can cast a ballot. Woot!

Voting is open through October 1. Eligible voters can do so at their local mairie or right on the budget participatif website.

What would *you* like to see in Paris?

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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