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Government / Local politics

Paris is letting residents decide how it spends 5 per cent of its budget

Last month, around 41,000 Parisians voted in the city’s first “participatory budget” referendum, using an online poll to choose their favourite of 15 community projects. This week, the nine winning measures were announced; between them, they’ll get €20m from the city’s 2015 budget.

The system is the pet project of mayor Anne Hidalgo, who came to office in March. Hidalgo is already winning approval for measures aimed at easing the city’s housing crisis, and for her hard line on council members living in city-owned homes. She said that she had pushed the participatory budget idea because she wanted to give Parisians a voice: “Democracy is not only a word in the dictionary”. The system is set to continue for her entire term, so until 2020, at least.

Most of the winning projects for 2015 are environment-focussed: walls covered in greenery, gardens in schools, mobile rubbish collection points. Another winning proposal will involve converting abandoned areas near the ring road into exhibition spaces and live music venues.

However, while the city’s population did get to vote on the measures, only around 2 per cent of them bothered. What’s more, the ideas themselves didn’t come from the public, but from within City hall.

As one resident told The Guardian: “Are all of these projects really important to Parisians? Some of them are downright ridiculous, nothing but Anne Hidalgo’s pet projects that fail to address real problems.”

He’d be delighted, at least, that proposals for popup swimming pools and giant screens across the city failed to make it through the voting. 
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