Participatory Budget

Next Steps Considered After Ward 2 Participatory Budget

After a promising start and some hiccups, the Ward 2 Participatory Budget organizers are planning for process improvements and a rising turnout in the future.

By Saira Peesker
Published September 06, 2013

Ward 2's Participatory Budget process, which saw residents weigh in on ways to spend some of their tax dollars, will become an annual event, says Councillor Jason Farr. But after hiccups that included last-minute poll location changes and late distribution of ballots, improvements to the process will come too, say both the councillor and the organizer behind the project, Norman Kearney.

Ward 2 Participatory Budget poster at Corktown Park (RTH file photo)
Ward 2 Participatory Budget poster at Corktown Park (RTH file photo)

The August 24 and 25 vote came after months of preparatory meetings that identified more than 50 potential uses for $1 million of ward-specific money. A panel of elected neighbourhood representatives narrowed suggestions to a shortlist known as "the compromise" [PDF], which was highlighted separately on the ballot alongside the full list of initiatives.

With just over half of the 1,024 votes cast, the compromise won the day and will result in new gardens, benches and a host of other community projects.

Kearney said that the turnout was expected for the first try, and that the numbers are actually quite favourable when compared to the first participatory vote in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where this style of direct democracy took off.

"I am satisfied by how the vote went, but the vote was simply one moment in a process," he said in an email. "The voting days saw a lot of firsts for Hamilton, if not for all of Canada. The first 14-year-old to vote and the first non-citizen residents to vote on a government-approved process to determine fiscal policy. The first deployment of voting vans to bring the vote to the voters. Those are achievements in their own rights!"

Location Confusion

But there were a few shortfalls as well as achievements. At the start of the first day of voting, Durand residents arrived at Central Presbyterian Church - the location advertised in a flyer delivered to nearby homes - to find no polling station and no signs explaining the lack of one.

While some went home, others - including myself - headed to Queen Victoria School, another previously advertised location, but another false alarm.

A similar situation occurred when people tried to vote at Lister Block.

"Queen Victoria ended up being too expensive (it would have consumed most of our rentals budget). The Ward 2 office had suggested the Lister, but when they heard back from City staff we agreed there were heritage and fire code concerns. And we were working with the Church to provide voting service without interrupting their Sunday worship, but our plans fell through.

"We found alternate locations immediately and advertised them through posters, Twitter, and Facebook on the Wednesday before the vote. The real problem was the delay in getting posters up at the old locations on Saturday morning."

Ideas for Change

On the grander scale, Kearney said his vision for improvement would see:

Farr says his office is consulting with the community before deciding exactly what next year's process will look like.

"Other things I expect we will look at [include] the operational expenses/budget, time-lines, voting day(s) and polling/ballot content (and) voter turn-out," he wrote in an email.

In terms of getting the projects started, Farr said his staff is working with the appropriate departments to confirm the projected budgets for each item. "We will get there."

Ward 2 resident Mike Borrelli said Thursday that he's keen to see how the process evolves, and was impressed Farr was willing to take such a bold step ahead of others in the city.

"I was very impressed with the outcome especially since I thought there would be more growing pains in the first year," said Borrelli, treasurer of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association.

"I think the turnout of over 1,000 people is proof that there is an underlying interest among Hamilton's citizens in increased civic consultation and engagement."

Saira Peesker is an ace reporter who covers politics, business and current events. Her work has appeared on YourHamiltonBiz, OpenFile and CTVNews.ca, among others. When not snooping for scoops, she skates in counter-clockwise circles with Toronto Roller Derby's all-star team, CN Power. You can follow her on Twitter @SairaPeesker.

45 Comments

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 10:43:45

Does anyone know how many people voted for the "compromise" rather than ranking the full slate of 25 projects?

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By Focusin (anonymous) | Posted September 09, 2013 at 13:09:58 in reply to Comment 91805

"...just over half of the 1,024 votes cast..."

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By Wood st (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 10:48:08

I found it interesting that while standing in line to vote the volunteer suggested to the person in front of me to (Just vote for the compromise)

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 11:16:03

Regarding the compromise, a few points to bear in mind:

  1. The compromise was agreed by delegates from all assemblies as their opinion of the best/fairest selection of projects overall for Ward 2 within the budget.

  2. As a matter of principle, every project proposed by the assemblies was listed on the ballot. No project recommended by the assemblies was removed. And there was no limit on how many projects assemblies could propose: some proposed a couple some proposed far more.

  3. Because of point 2 (i.e. every project proposed on the appears and not all assemblies proposed the same number of projects) it makes sense to give voters a "slate" that fits the budget and strikes a good overall balance for whole ward, as decided by the assembly delegates.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 06, 2013 at 11:37:22 in reply to Comment 91807

By no means do I condemn the Ward 2 PB process - it was an excellent start to a practice I hope will become a lot more widely adopted - but I must admit I find the whole compromise approach to be problematic.

Imagine, if you will, the analogy of an election in which voters are asked either to cherry-pick several representatives from an arbitrary collection of candidates or vote at one stroke for a vetted political party. The outcome of that election is pretty easy to predict.

I appreciate that the compromise was given a lot of careful thought and was put together with the active participation of the ward 2 neighbourhood associations, but the way it was presented to voters made it all but a foregone conclusion and IMHO somewhat undercut the democratic spirit of the budget vote.

My suggestion for next year is to consider refraining from preselecting a slate and just letting voters individually decide which projects to fund. It would be interesting to see what gets funded if people are not being directed.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-09-06 11:38:25

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 12:43:59 in reply to Comment 91808

I agree that the slate is likely to win, but even the assemblies themselves did some pre-selection: not every single project suggested during the assembly meetings made it onto the assembly's list of proposals.

So the current system has a two-stage rather than single-stage selection process (and each stage is democratic), but the second stage doesn't actually eliminate any proposals from the first round. It just tries to come up with a slate that makes sense for the whole ward since the individual assemblies didn't necessarily take into account what was being proposed by the others.

Another possibility would be to give each assembly a limit on the number of proposals they can submit.

One important clarification: the neighbourhood associations had absolutely no role in either the assemblies or the compromise.

The only role they had was in nominating some members of the planning committee that drew up the by-laws for the whole process. The compromise was agreed by delegates elected by each of the assemblies, which don't necessarily correspond with particular neighbourhoods. There was no input from neighbourhood associations.

I guess I still think it makes sense to have the assembly delegates sit down and try to come up with a list that makes sense for the whole ward after the assemblies have made their separate proposals. For example, some proposals might naturally work well together, some might work at cross-purposes and some assemblies might put forward so many proposals they would dominate the entire ballot.

There is also a danger that a ballot with, say, 100 proposals would just be too complicated and difficult to vote on.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 12:18:47 in reply to Comment 91808

"I appreciate that the compromise was given a lot of careful thought and was put together with the active participation of the ward 2 neighbourhood associations, but the way it was presented to voters made it all but a foregone conclusion and IMHO somewhat undercut the democratic spirit of the budget vote. My suggestion for next year is to consider refraining from preselecting a slate and just letting voters individually decide which projects to fund. It would be interesting to see what gets funded if people are not being directed."

Agreed, absolutely. As encouraging as the PB session was, it was also part of an ongoing experiment, and as such bears scrutiny and constructive criticism.

There are about 33,000 residents of Ward 2 above age 14 and eligible to vote in the PB process. I would hazard to guess that only a fraction of those are active members of a neighbourhood association. Of those that are NA members, how many participated in any meaningful way with a delegate assembly's selection process?

Absent that, how many voters were able to make an informed choice based on the thumbnail sketch provided on the ballot, and how many simply defaulted to the compromise?

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By J (registered) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 19:10:59 in reply to Comment 91810

this process is so overcomplicated.

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 12:51:00

Jason Farr said " People, I will leave it to you to budget the area rating fund" (paraphrasing)

The People voted.

Cannon Street Complete Street Ward 2 was not ratified by the people to be budgeted from Ward 2 Area Rating.

Jason Farr takes it to GIC, where they agree to spend Area Rating on Complete Streets.

What is the point of Participatory budgeting, if elected officials just override the will of the people?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 12:57:24 in reply to Comment 91812

"That the implementation of a bi-directional bike lane pilot project on Cannon Street be funded from the from the area rating capital reserves, along with
appropriate sources to be identified by Public Works."

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/DB34EB93-DB27-4432-BB26-2F697EB39D53/0/Sep059_2__Motion__BiDirectional_Bike_Lanes_Pilot_Project__Farr_.pdf

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 13:03:39 in reply to Comment 91814

It was amended after McHattie suggested running it to Queen ST. That was nixed and Tom Jackson wanted assurances this wouldn't come out of his budget, so his amendment, which was voted on yes, specified wards 1,2,3.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 12:55:03

This is not what I would deem as direct democracy, period.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 13:55:39

Another option would be not to produce a compromise slate of projects, but to provide feedback to the assemblies about what the other proposals are to allow them the chance to harmonize and find synergies. This inter-comparison could be done at a ward-wide assembly open to anyone to participate in. Each individual assembly could then vote on whether to adopt the recommended changes, or stick with their original proposals.

There wouldn't be a slate, but there would be a two-stage process that would enable the assemblies to come up with a cohesive set of proposals. The proposals (perhaps limited in total number or total budget) could then be voted on individually. Again, I do think there is a danger in having a ballot so long and complicated that most voters would not be bothered to go through it all...

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By kathy (registered) | Posted September 07, 2013 at 11:51:36 in reply to Comment 91819

Totally agree with the above. Many voters stated the Ballot was too complicated and many were not aware that the sample ballot was a "sample" Perhaps when the review is complete our councillor may decide to implement a more centralized model of this process,

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 15:56:04

Good suggestions, Nicholas and Ryan. FYI, most of the governance reps from the assembly still need to be elected. This project is still evolving and there is plenty of opportunity for citizens to tweak the process.

As to NA involvement, it was mostly preliminary in the form of facilitation. The BNA members I know were pretty eager to pitch projects, but didn't have extra time for the compromise table.

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By Ward 2 resident (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 18:17:56

As a resident of ward two, I first want to commend all involved in taking on the bold Ward 2 Participatory Budget process challenge. That being said, I do agree with Ryan and others who have provided comments related to the compromise list.
I attended all Wednesday night sessions except the first one and was on the listserv. To my surprise, I did not realize there was a group meeting to develop this compromise list. I thought there was going to be a large group meeting of ward 2 residents to discuss the proposals after the city staff review. Once I saw the voting form, I knew the compromise list would win. It was not clear at the time (Nicholas has explained it above) the process for deciding this list. In addition to the compromise list, I was surprised to see projects on the list that did not meet the criteria outlined at the various Wednesday night meetings. I thought the project had to be a one-time funded item and that hiring staff did not meet the criteria. Also, a recreation centre/community centre was not on the table. These items went forward on the list of 56 proposals that were posted on the website. I assumed that after city staff reviewed the projects that these projects would be eliminated from the options. This was not the case. Several projects are not one time funding items nor are shown to be effective strategies for improving neighbourhoods. One example of funding for a short-term solution to a problem was the development of food banks. Now we find ourselves in 2013 with some members of the community very committed to continuing funding of food banks.
For the 2nd go around, I would like
- criteria for funding projects is clear and consistent
- people voting for each items or items can be grouped into categories
- best and promising practices for the improving the neighbourhoods being considered

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2013 at 19:56:34

Grassroots democracy does tend to be messy and complicated, but simplifying it too much would unduly limit the "participatory" aspect.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 07, 2013 at 10:34:04 in reply to Comment 91837

Mal, I agree. We have to remember that as time goes on, even with best of intentions, the possibility of weaknesses in the system leading to potentially shady or corrupt outcomes is very real. Only a solid process will keep everything above-board.

This was the first time around, and there were definitely some mistakes made. But I think people here are gettting too hung up on the compromise option. I was out in a Mobile Voting Station for the weekend of the vote and most people took a LONG time going over the ballot. If they hadn't read it at home and hadn't pre-decided, it could take up to 15 minutes for them to go over all of the options. The people who voted cared about the outcome and most were willing to take some time with it. Also, this year was about outreach. Explaining PB and building awareness was probably the largest amount of time spent over the weekend. Even though people had received the ballot at home and there were stories in the media, face-to-face explanation is sometimes the only way to get the word out. There's a lot of noise in our world. Next year will be better and subsequent years will keep building on the foundation. This is a good thing built at the grassroots level and the organizers did their best. Hopefully everyone with ideas or opinions will come out the meetings to help decide what gets on the ballot for next year. (And I agree that stricter criteria needs to be met on proposals.)

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By Missy2013 (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2013 at 12:09:09

Overall, with noted blips and bumps, this is a positive development for community engagement at the grassroots level. Whole heartedly agree that this initiative expands quickly to other Wards.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 07, 2013 at 13:20:18

The PB funding was supposed to go to one-time infrastructure projects, not provide funding to charities or staff or ongoing projects. I think the charities (like Food4Kids and NGen Youth Centre) got funding because some assembly members suggested them as worthy causes and it was decided not to impose the 'infrastructure only' rule this time.

The problem with providing funding to charities is that there are already many other organizations that provide this sort of funding (e.g. United Way, Hamilton Community Foundation, Ontario government, charitable foundations) but no other way to fund infrastructure. The other problem is that there is then a strong push to continue the funding in the future (as the charitable work relies on the funding), which could tie up an increasingly large portion of the funds in ongoing non-infrastructure projects.

This issue of whether or not PB should become a funding agency for charities or provide operating support for community centres will have to be addressed as it was not supposed to be a valid use.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 07, 2013 at 14:35:20 in reply to Comment 91861

Agreed. I wasn't involved at the organizing stage, and was surprised to see funding for Food4Kids on the ballot. Also, some people are stronger at "selling" their cause or arguing passionately for it. We have to have guidelines for projects to meet funding criteria.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted September 07, 2013 at 21:53:38

Norman M. Kearney, the President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder, and Facilitator of Participatory Budgetting Hamilton, issued the following statement to media at 8:38pm on Saturday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NEXT STEPS FOR PBW2 AND PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING

After a successful round one, Participatory Budgeting Ward 2 (PBW2) is already gearing up for round two. I would like to update you on our current activities and next steps.

Under the Bylaws of PBW2, I officially remain Facilitator until my successor is elected. I have appointed a Transition Team, and delegated to it all my authority under the Bylaws, to organize the transition into round two. At present, the Team is focused on organizing annual general meetings for the eight assemblies.

At their AGMs, each assembly will elect its organizing team for round two. Once elected, the organizing teams will elect a Facilitator and the Transition Team will dissolve.

The assemblies will also elect a representative to the Governance Committee, which is responsible for reviewing and, from time to time, recommending changes to the Bylaws of PBW2. The Bylaws, which were enacted under the authority of the PBW2 Planning Committee, establish the structure and rules of PBW2. The Committee was co-chaired by the Councillor or his designate. Under the Bylaws, the day-to-day operation and administration of PBW2 is determined through policy by the Participatory Budgeting Office (PBO), which consists of the organizing teams and the Facilitator.

Through the Facilitator, the PBO works closely with the Councillor and City staff to ensure that the resident-led PBW2 articulates with Council and City administration. It is important that all parties respect the authority of residents to adjust the structure and rules of PBW2 through the established process. This process was entrenched in the terms of reference of the PBW2 Planning Committee, which were published by the Ward 2 Office on September 6, 2012: “...all authority over the structure and rules of PBW2 will transfer to the budget assemblies.” It is also important that all parties, including the Ward 2 Office, be consulted by the Governance Committee and the PBO on how to improve PBW2 for round two.

Finally, ongoing operations funding from the Ward 2 Office is vital for a robust and sustainable PBW2. In a letter listing conditions for their support, six of the founding partners in PBW2 – the neighbourhood associations of Ward 2 – called on the Ward 2 Office to “provide sufficient resources to support PBW2”. With an operating budget of $50,000 and a capital budget of $1 million, PBW2 operates at a lean 4.8% of its total funding – a rate that is well-below the administrative costs of the most efficient charities. The operating budget was jointly drafted and revised from time to time by the PBO and the Ward 2 Office – a collaborative approach that should be repeated.

Going forward, Lee McIlmoyle will be speaking on behalf of the PBO. Lee was elected Chair by his colleagues on the Transition Team at its inaugural meeting on Saturday, August 31, 2013. Assisting Lee is Dave Stephens, who was elected Vice-Chair.

The Transition Team is a seasoned and well-rounded group, and I have complete confidence in its ability to set PBW2 up for success in round two. Following is the membership of the Transition Team:

  • Lee McIlmoyle (Chair), past organizer for the Stinson Assembly and Poll Supervisor for the 2013 Vote;

  • Dave Stephens (Vice-Chair), past participant and member of the PBW2 Planning Committee representing the North End;

  • Tom Allen, past organizer for the Durand North Assembly;

  • Mike Borrelli, past member of the PBW2 Planning Committee representing Beasley;

  • Shamso Elmi, past organizer for the Central Assembly and Deputy Returning Officer for the 2013 Vote;

  • Kathy Hagan, past participant and Deputy Returning Officer for the 2013 Vote;

  • Dawn McIlmoyle, past organizer for the Stinson Assembly and Poll Supervisor for the 2013 Vote;

  • Norm Pase, past organizer for the Corktown Assembly and Poll Supervisor for the 2013 Vote; and,

  • Lisa Wang, past interpreter for the Durand North Assembly.

Over the coming weeks, I will be consulting with participants, volunteers, the Ward 2 Office, and City staff in order to prepare my report on the first round of PBW2 and recommendations for round two. I am also convening a steering committee to bring participatory budgeting citywide, and I look forward to sharing further details about this exciting next step soon. If you or someone you know is interested in bringing the PB movement citywide, please contact me at nkearney@pbhamont.ca. Finally, I will be presenting an academic paper at a conference at Aarhus University in Denmark this November on our innovative work here in Hamilton. I look forward to sharing my paper and my findings at the conference with you, as well.

Please do not hesitate to contact me about PB in general, but please direct all inquiries specific to PBW2 to Lee McIlmoyle and the Transition Team. Lee can be reached at lee@pbhamont.ca.

Best wishes,

Norman M. Kearney Founder, Participatory Budgeting Hamilton

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By Tara (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 18:15:38 in reply to Comment 91870

Joey, why the sarcasm? You obviously have a personal problem with Norman, so why not discuss it in private instead of taking such silly shots at him.

Your tweets around the voting days have not gone unnoticed. Obviously your issues with Norman go back to Mac day as many involved back then know very well.

Given you current popularity should you not be careful with your sarcastic 'title' calling which you have done twice here already. What do you get out of such silliness or are you trying to say something to the people here, but cannot get yourself to say it?

Please do not create a condition where people are forced to dig into the past to understand your strange behaviour here.

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By JackBNimble (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 00:12:36

I hope they simplify the process and go with something more like Ward 1 is doing. If you have to spend so much time explaining a process, the process is probably broken to begin with.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 00:24:42 in reply to Comment 91873

"Simpler" doesn't mean better. Does every idea submitted for Ward 1 PB land on the ballot. There could be thousands to sift through. The process for PBW2 was set up as modelled by other cities throughout the world and is well-thought out to be completely democratic and decided by RESIDENTS, not by politicians. The criticism here and by others (possibly from other wards whose councillors didn't take the time and energy to set up their PB this way), is getting a little irritating. Maintaining unbiased democracy in the system is the purpose of the "complications" in the PBW2 process (i.e. assemblies, representatives, ballots, etc.)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 07:44:18 in reply to Comment 91874

Not all ideas submitted end up on the ward 1 budget. There is a committee that goes through the submissions to eliminate things that are crazy, illegal, or don't meet the criteria of one-time capital investments such as food4kids. A nutrition program for school kids made it through last time, but that won't happen again. At least I hope not.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 10:47:36 in reply to Comment 91880

@highwater

The President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder, and Facilitator of Participatory Budgeting Hamilton was told by City staff that some of those items cannot be funded using area-rating infrastructure funding.

Councillor Farr does not have the power to change the bylaw that governs area-rating funds.

Nonetheless, these projects were on the ballot and now PB in Ward 2 is violating the bylaw; with all the consequences that flow from this. (Don't expect a quick answer as City legal staff are likely involved)

PBW2 started as a simple community initiative, and then morphed into a large much more complex project with many complex bylaws, processes, and the requirement for dozens of hours to submit an idea.

Now that the project has transformed such that it requires payment to a consultant, in addition to the facilitator to coordinate "Participatory Budgeting in Hamilton", City procurement processes may require the Councillor to follow more policies in determining who the consultant.

This means certain level of qualification is required, that previous successful projects be submitted for reference, and that numerous other policies regarding Boards and incorporation be met.

The City cannot cut a cheque for a $100,000 (10% of Ward 2's PB budget for example) without the safeguards required by law and policy (incorporation, Board, proven successful track-record, no or few violations of City policies in the past, a record of following city procurement policy, obeying area-rating bylaw, etc).

With that, PBW2 (which may have to be renamed if the trademark is not owned by Councillor Farr) may be assisted by a different consultant/incorporated body that could charge a smaller administrative fee with a longer history of this kind of work than the President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder, and Facilitator of Participatory Budgeting Hamilton (which is to be incorporated, but is not yet).

As the process at City Hall of reviewing PBW2, determining how to handle projects that were on the ballot and past that violate the bylaw, and the process of deciding the consultant (if needed) for next year could be underway, we don't know what the new requirements by law may be.

I note that Councillor Farr was not quoted in the statement that was issued Saturday night, and Councillor Farr has issued no statement of his own.

If there is a process underway for determining next year's consultant for PBW2, Councillor Farr may not be allowed to comment until the procurement process is complete.

The Centre for Community Study (CCS), having successfully conducted two PB processes in Ward 1 would be the leading bidder in this process based upon qualifications, lower administrative costs, track record, incorporated structure, and being one of the qualified consultants already screened in past processes.

There are numerous other corporations, including some for-profit consultants, with experience in PB that have met all the requirements of law. The City does a call for consultants on a regular basis. Depending on the complexities of the changed PB process in Ward 2, Farr may bound to use consultants that have been met this process or engage in a new full competitive process.

In short, Participatory Budgeting will continue in Ward 2. The consultant company, if there is one at all, may not be the "Participatory Budgeting Hamilton".

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By Tara (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 18:30:32 in reply to Comment 91884

Need I say more Joey. You have outdone yourself here with this sloppy, unsubstantiated comment.

Well all I can say is you are way off-field on facts with this and have allowed your personal differences with Norman from the Mac days to spill over in such a public way.

You have also very seriously compromised your journalistic integrity with such blatant misinformation to the public, that it will be a task for you to try and spin this to crawl out of the hole you have just dug yourself into.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 09, 2013 at 07:43:52 in reply to Comment 91898

Interesting insight. I did wonder why the comments and tweets were so toxic. My thought: If you live in Ward 2, participate in the process to change it or improve it. If you don't live in Ward 2, then why does it affect your life?

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 10:29:35

I'm a Ward 2 resident. And a member of the Durand Neighbourhood Association. And a proud voter in the PBW2 process. I loved the opportunity to vote on items that actually had dollar numbers beside them and for which there was actual funding. Not pie-in-the-sky planning, but implementable, citizen-selected, publicly funded ideas. Loved it.

Let me add, that having done a ton of process improvement work over the years in many countries, my belief is that the PWB2 process, like any new process, can benefit from review and enhancement. As much as I support it fully, it's overly and needlessly complex and bureaucratic in my opinion. I'm not suggesting an unfocused free-for-all next time, but there are some improvements that need to be considered, not just for next time in Ward 2, but improvements that make the process transferrable to and sustainable in all other Wards, no matter whether there is area rating money or not. Simply put, it doesn't need to (and I would add mustn't) be so complicated in the future, including building and managing and resourcing parallel structures to already existing neighbourhood-based citizen structures. I agree with fmurray that it must be genuinely democratic and not based on actual or perceived manipulation by sitting Councillors. In fact, I would go so far as to say that 5 years from now, PB should be running independently of Councillor control or influence, but benefiting from Councillor support and leadership. There's a big difference between the two, of course. Let me be quick to add that I think Jason Farr and Brian McHattie really did focus on support and leadership. I think PB was a huge example of positive, citizen-based changes that are happening in Hamilton.

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By kathy (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 20:54:41 in reply to Comment 91883

Well said. I will add that these councillors are to be commended for their vision. We look forward now to PBW 2014

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 10:56:31 in reply to Comment 91883

What are your thoughts on the PB process in Ward 1 Graham?

I'm thinking it is more effective. I'm especially impressed they are holding the process online and during the fall when more people can participate.

Further, it doesn't require attending numerous meetings to submit an idea and the voting is flexible.

I don't understand why voting and executive elections in Ward 2 are done during the week with lowest civic engagement due to vacations, back to school, and other activities.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 11:11:37

Joey - Needless to say, I didn't participate in the Ward 1 PB process, but I did look at it online. Honestly, I was impressed with its clarity and ease of use. Also, I've spoken with some Ward 1'ers who did participate and they had very positive things to say.

My comment from above would still stand, however. ALL new processes benefit from review and enhancement. So, I'm sure the Ward 1 PB process can benefit from the same. I think they did modify the process from year one to year two, although I don't know what the enhancements were.

If you can achieve the same goal with 5 steps instead of 15, using fewer resources and less time, and spend less money doing it, and still honestly achieve your stated goals, then you really have to look at making the changes necessary to do that.

I would suggest a sit down between Ward 1 and Ward 2 PB planners and voters and try to learn from both experiences. I pretty sure Jason and Brian would have no problem supporting that kind of dialogue.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 11:42:50 in reply to Comment 91886

Be great to see both Ward 1 and 2 processing operate concurrently and cooperatively.

Having both together, with similar processes, will be the first step towards the goal of many to see participatory budgetting spread citywide.

Plus, the Ward 1 process is designed to get more involvement as the minimum commitment is to submit an idea online and to vote online. It allows enables more involvement.

There is a great thing happening in our community as the latest Hamilton renaissance expands with PB just one component.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 13:43:24

Ward 1's process definitely has the benefit of simplicity and ease of involvement as residents simply submit ideas online to an appointed committee that then reviews them and comes up with a shortlist. Residents then vote online on the shortlist.

This has the advantage that resident involvement is limited to submitting ideas online and voting online.

The drawback is that this is a much less participatory democratic process since the final list of projects is controlled by an appointed committee with no direct resident involvement.

The goal in Ward 2, based on other participatory budget models, was to have the ideas actively debated in assemblies, have the compromise list decided by representatives elected by assemblies, and to put every proposal submitted by the assemblies on the final ballot together with the compromise proposal (rather than eliminating some).

So the basic tradeoff was having a more participatory democratic process at the cost of more complication and more time commitment from residents. Obviously, the more participatory the process is the bigger the time commitment (independently submitting an idea online is quick and easy, but not very participatory as the ideas are then retained or rejected by a non-elected committee). The idea in Ward 2 is that most important democratic part was the participatory part which involved the discussions during the assemblies open to anyone where the proposals could be debated openly.

There is plenty of opportunity to refine the processes in both wards, perhaps making the Ward 1 process more participatory and interactive and simplifying the process in Ward 2.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-09-08 13:58:41

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By Norman Kearney (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 13:57:59

PBW2 is not so much complicated as it is comprehensive. It is also an unfamiliar way of doing things.

For most participants the process is relatively straightforward. If you are simply interested in participating in discussion, then you can come out to the assemblies. There you can also put forth a proposal if you have an idea or if one comes to mind. Down the road you can choose who lobbies for your assembly’s proposals. You get to have a say on the ballot – should there be a compromise option, or not – you get to vote on how your taxes are spent, and then you get to choose your team for next year. You can be as active a participant as you want to be. It’s not complicated. It’s just new (and exciting!).

There is no need for another consultant to run PBW2. The design of PBW2 provides for a Facilitator, who is responsible for coordinating the process. It is important to recognize that I wore many hats over the past year-and-a-half, as Joey has cheekily noted by rambling off my various titles. Founder, PB Hamilton will suffice. But it is true that I was also co-chair of the planning committee and Facilitator of PBW2. Going forward, the planning committee has dissolved, PBW2 can stand on its own feet (and thus does not require a ‘consultant’), and PB Hamilton will be turning its focus citywide under the direction of a Board of Trustees.

We were advised by Finance that Council has the authority to override the Area Rating policy, which it has done on several occasions. In fact, several projects that are ineligible under a strict reading of the Area Rating policy have previously received funding through the Area Rating funds for Ward 2:

- Ward 2 School Nutrition Program ($80K);
- Renew Hamilton Grant; ($20K)
- HWDSB Task Force ($15K);
- Downtown Pop-Up Concert ($6K);
- YWCA – Women’s Transitional Housing Program ($90K);
- 2-Way Streets Study InfoPortal ($7.5K); and,
- Art Gallery of Hamilton Capital Works Feasibility Study ($5K).

As you can see, none of the projects selected through PBW2 are inconsistent with past practice, and there is no need to worry about arduous legal proceedings (let's not get carried away!). Furthermore, as was explained to all participants and especially to participants who submitted proposals, there are three ways to receive funding through PBW2: a City expenditure, a third-party grant, and a reserve. The Youth Centre and the Multicultural Centre proposals are reserves, meaning that although money has been allocated, it cannot be spent until a plan is approved. This is an ordinary two-step budgeting process. Most of the other proposals are City expenditures and the detailed plans will be developed and implemented by staff in consultation with the liaisons for the assemblies (indeed, much of the planning is already done).

In my opinion, the greatest area needing improvement is communication. We need to get the word out in clearer terms, sooner, more often, and more consistently. The first year was about working out a lot of glitches and learning from experience. Now we have that experience and we have a good idea of how to make things run much better. We also have a lot more people who want to make PBW2 thrive! I’m very excited to see how PBW2 grows and improves in round two.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 14:17:07

Norm is absolutely right that Council is free to override the Area Rating policy to fund projects that are not one-off infrastructure items, and has done so numerous times in the past, notably the school nutrition programme funded through Ward 1's process.

I personally believe that it is better to limit proposals to one-off infrastructure projects (sometimes funded from reserves set aside over several cycles) and that the assemblies should be given guidelines on what sort of projects are acceptable. I am particularly uncomfortable with existing charities essentially applying for funding through the PB process. This is another subject that can be discussed when the Ward 2 (and Ward 1) processes are reviewed.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-09-08 14:17:26

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted September 08, 2013 at 14:31:49

Nicholas - I agree.

I suspect success is likely to be found in a newly imagined middle, taking the best of both approaches (Wards 1 & 2) and modifying that result into something that is even more refined, sustainable, and scaleable.

I'm pleased to read that Norman Kearney feels a consultant is not needed to move forward. That's a healthy sign. i agree with that conclusion also as I think citizens in both Wards 1 and 2 have learned enough from their separate (but similar) experiences to be able to successfully combine their learnings.

I trust Brian and Jason will embrace a collaborative approach on this.

As we're all aware, the third component of the city's vision is to be the best place in Canada to engage citizens. For me, this is proof that our politicians and staff are serious about doing more of it. All very exciting. I think all players should feel good about their contribution-to-date.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 16:18:57

Agreed with Nicholas re: limiting proposals to one-off infrastructure projects, and with Norman that the greatest area needing improvement is communication.

About 5% of ward 2 holds a Master’s degree or above, but more than 25% of the ward population lacks even a high school education. In the interests of accessibility, it would be helpful to prioritize simplicity and clarity.

In a fifth of Ward 2 homes, non-official languages are those spoken most often at home. A tenth of the ward is made up of recent immigrants to Canada. I would hope that multi-lingual outreach initiatives and materials would be available for these individuals.

Unemployment and poverty are also markedly higher in Ward 2 than elsewhere in the city. A third of Ward 2 households have incomes of less than $20K annually, more than twice the city-wide average. There is value in actively engaging these residents in community-building exercises, especially as they tend to be marginalized in most conventional political exchanges.

Online voting and flexible options for contributing input and ideas should also be woven into the whole.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 09, 2013 at 11:18:05

I like Norman's characterization of the process as "not so much complicated as comprehensive." Brian's PB process in Ward 1 is indeed simpler, but it's not really all that participatory. Meanwhile Jason's PBW2 process was radically participatory, but not everyone has the time to participate to that extent.

I'd love to see a few more years of these two models operating before much effort was put into developing some synthesized middle-ground. Though we may find the outcomes are very similar, meaningfully engaging and involving citizens is the most important part of PB, and the two models may differ greatly in how they approach this component.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2013 at 09:07:44

The participatory budget process in Ward 1 works like a charm and gives everyone a voice & a stake in the process. Easy to use & transparent. And I have complete faith that the fellow Ward 1 residents serving on the Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee will make informed recommendations to the Councillor that are in the best interests of our neighbourhoods.

Just one question - what safeguards are in place to keep the contact information collected during the participatory budget process from being recycled during re-election campaigns? Could be a no-cost way for incumbents to add to their databases of potential donors and get-out-the-vote volunteers.

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2013 at 12:05:21

A number of interesting suggestions have been made here as to how the PB Poll might be restructured. As I had no hand in the formation of the original bylaws that govern this process at present, I won't speak to points about whether or not the Compromise plan should be abolished, except to say I disagree wholeheartedly.

As for claims that people were encouraged to select the Compromise over their own preferences, I would like to point out that all Polling Supervisors (of which I was one) were trained and instructed not to rush residents, nor to influence their decisions in any fashion, but merely to explain both the ranking process (from 1 to up to 25 out of the 30 proposals present on the ballot could be selected and ranked, in the eventuality that the resident chose more than $1 million worth of proposals) AND the Compromise option, for those that agreed with the fairness of the Compromise ballot, which was carefully presented AFTER the 30 individual proposals, so as not to bias the decision-making process. Anyone who actively promoted the Compromise proposal without explaining the open poll section was not doing it properly. However, during the course of my two days of poll supervision, I actually visited two other polling stations (I was in one of the mobile polling units; Democracy on wheels! A first!), and at no point did I see or hear anyone pushing the Compromise over the open process. In fact, I witnessed at least one notable instance of having to be reminded that the Compromise was being under-represented.

I also like Norman's explanation that the polling process was comprehensive and new. It's a form of democratic ballot not really seen around here before, but then, that's the point. This is what Direct Democracy looks like, folks. Asking for it to be simplified negates the whole point of the exercise. We proved that it could be done. We proved that it works. I witnessed the counting of more than one ballot (during the counting stage, late Sunday night) that was so carefully pre-selected, most likely using the provided sample ballot as a guide, that they managed to get all twenty five of their choices tabulated without running over the million dollar mark. That is proof enough for me that the balloting process was entirely valid.

Any and all necessary tweaks to the polling and balloting processes can and will be reviewed in the coming months, by the incoming PBO and/or Governance Committee, where applicable. No need for some white knight to ride in and show us how to make things better. We will soon have new Assembly Organizers, Liaisons, Governance and Planning Committee Members, and a new Facilitator to oversee all of those things. I honestly believe that any demands that the process be changed or over-simplified at this point are short-sighted, misguided, and premature. I have no problem with reviews and commentary, and I certainly don't object to thoughtful streamlining that makes the process more effective and accessible, so long as participation is not sacrificed in the meantime. PB in Ward 2 has shown us another way to govern. Hamilton has never seen its like before. But there is no reason to believe our city can't learn a new trick every now and then. Hamilton has had a long history of reinventing itself, believe it or not, and this could very well be part of The New Hamilton we've all been talking about over the last year.

Many thanks to Graham Crawford, Mike Borrelli, Kathy, Tara, Ryan McGreal, and Nicholas Kevlahan for your thoughtful commentary, and to Saira Peesker for her insightful article. Looking forward to seeing more such engagement in 2014.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 10, 2013 at 17:55:59 in reply to Comment 91942

Thank you, Lee. I agree wholeheartedly with all of your points.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2013 at 13:20:05

Area Rating Special Capital Re-Investment Policy

POLICY STATEMENT The City of Hamilton annual capital deficit is projected at $195 million (2011$). The Area Rating Special Capital Re-Investment will aid in addressing the required infrastructure investments within the former City of Hamilton which has some of the oldest infrastructure.

PURPOSE The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the Area Rating Special Capital Re-Investment is managed in a transparent and effective manner.

SCOPE This policy applies to the tax shifts that result as a direct result of the phased-in approach to amending the area rating methodology to an “Urban/Rural” model.

DEFINITIONS

“Area Rating Special Capital Re-Investment”

“Council Approval”

“Infrastructure”

“Affected Wards”

“Phase-in” The following terms referenced in this Policy are defined as:

The tax capacity that will be directed in the former City of Hamilton to infrastructure investments as a result of the shift in area rating methodology.

Can be gained through motion, staff report or the budget approval process. Is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a service and facility. The term typically refers to the technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, sewer supply, facilities an so forth, and are deemed essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions. Former City of Hamilton Wards 1 through 8.

The period of 2011-2014, represents the period the tax shift variance will be implemented.

PRINCIPLES The following principles apply to this Policy:

1) Approved Special Capital Re-Investment will be allocated to affected Wards by Council for the purpose of investment in infrastructure projects and/or one-time funding of a principally capital nature to address the infrastructure deficit/shortfall. 2) Ward Councillors, within the affected wards, are provided adequate flexibility to identify infrastructure priorities within their wards for consideration and approval of Council to ensure efficient and effective delivery of programs/services. 3) Funding through the Special Capital Re-Investment should not replace the Tax Supported Capital Budget, although consideration can be made to accelerate projects which may otherwise be deemed unaffordable. 4) Projects must be approved by Council and all potential operating and financial impacts should be identified. 5) Funding can be banked for the purpose of providing funding in whole, or in part, towards a financially significant infrastructure/one-time investment.

TERMS & CONDITIONS

Approval Process

The following outlines various change scenarios and the applicable approval process required:

1) The Special Capital Re-Investment will be allocated equally across the 8 affected Wards (1-8). 2) Projects funded in full or part through the Special Capital Re-Investment must be approved by Council and follow the City of Hamilton’s Procurement Policy. 3) Projects being considered for funding through the Special Capital Re-Investment must include a completed Capital Detail Sheet (see Appendix B of FCS12024) prior to deliberation by Council; and 4) Beyond 2012, projects should be brought forward in conjunction with the annual capital budget process.

This policy was drafted by Financial Planning and Policy, Corporate Services; Council approval pending.

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By kathy (registered) | Posted September 12, 2013 at 21:41:00

I felt the compromise ballot was inclusive and commend all the delegates who spent a lot of volunteer time it was a concerted effort. However, I have some misgivings on the fairness of the ballot. I understand translators were available to explain the ballots to new Canadians but I wonder if they were just told to vote for the compromise? Did the Translators read each option on pages 3 & 4 and "Rank" 25 out of 30 proposals or did they opt for the compromise { 21} proposals? I don't suppose we will really know for sure. I look forward to next years PBW but I pray the buzz word will be simplification.

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