By: Donna Nadeem
Students may have a say in how the municipal budget is spent, with the latest participatory budgeting initiative.
Forward One is a municipal project where citizens of Ward 1 may vote for a new project to invest money in. Ward 1 was the first Hamilton region to adopt this method of a participatory budgeting to help engage community members in government decisions that directly impacts their lives.
Every year, residents of Ward 1 have the opportunity to voice their opinions about how the councillor of the ward should spend the $1.5 million annually dedicated to improving infrastructure projects through participatory budgeting.
The Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee is a committee made up of 17 volunteers from Ward 1 who oversee and manage the Forward One process, as well as advise the councillor on how to spend the funds.
The MSU has been encouraging students to look over all of the ideas and vote for the projects that they believe will enhance their neighbourhoods and life in Hamilton.
There are a lot of projects submissions this year, from adding more bike racks and water bottle refilling stations to planting more trees and native plants and the McMaster Students Union encourages students to look over all of the ideas and vote for the projects that they believe will enhance their neighbourhoods and life in Hamilton.
Anyone can submit suggestions for projects they would like to see supported by the Forward One fund. Submissions can be completed online or in person at the Union Market in the McMaster Student Centre, Westdale Library, Locke Street Library and other brick and mortar locations throughout Hamilton.
Residents will be able to vote from March 19 and April 19. The votes are then processed by the PBAC and submitted to the councillor as suggestions, which are taken to council for final approval. After the top voted projects are announced, the appropriate city staff reviews them and an implementation plan is created using the original submissions. As well, all combined or amalgamated ideas that receive funding will be forwarded for implementation with all details of each individual idea submitted.
“The Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee and councillor Aidan Johnson have been very receptive to students feedback on the process in the past two years. They modified the timeline last year to place the submission phase earlier in the academic year to better reach students,” said Stephanie Bertolo, associate vice president (Municipal Affairs).
“The voting period, which started this week, is also at a good time for students since they are still in classes and on campus,” Bertolo added.
“The Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee and councillor Aidan Johnson have been very receptive to students feedback on the process in the past two years.”
Associate vice president
McMaster Students Union
Changes have also been made to the ballot lists and McMaster has been added as one of the communities in Ward 1, making the process more inclusive for those living on campus or identify with being part of the McMaster community rather than the neighbourhoods they live in.
The MSU has been encouraging students to look over all of the ideas and vote for the projects that they believe will enhance their neighbourhoods and life in Hamilton. The last academic year was the first time the Education Team held the Cupcakes and Community Change event, which encouraged students to submit ideas in the Forward One process.
“We held the event again this year, which also had great success. We had the largest number of paper ballots submitted in the Ward!” said Bertolo. “With McMaster being a community on the ballot, we will begin to be able to see how many students are voting.”