Participatory Budgeting – Does It Have a Future In Davis?

Vallejo Participative Budgeting

by Matt Williams

Recently from the dais Council Member Lucas Frerichs reiterated his impassioned plea for Davis to begin using a budgeting process called Participatory Budgeting.  Nancy Price has issued similar pleas recently here in the Vanguard.  Recently, the Vanguard Editorial Board has reached out to both Lucas and Nancy asking them to submit articles on how Participatory Budgeting could help Davis improve the way we engage the public in the budgeting process.  Hopefully both of them will be stepping forward with their thoughts and suggestions.

So, my ears perked up this morning as I was listening to KXJZ at 7:35 and Pauline Bartolone presented a story called Vallejo Continues Engaging Residents In Budget Process   Here’s LINK to the story:

Here is a separate LINK to the print version as well.

The story begins, “The City of Vallejo has begun its second year of participatory budgeting. The formerly bankrupt city is the first in the nation to implement a city-wide process by which people who live there decide how to spend a small amount of public money.

More than 60 adults shuffled into Glen Cove elementary school Tuesday night to exchange ideas about how the city should spend $2.4 million dollars.

“Are you happy with the way the government is spending your money?,” asks Participatory Budget Steering Committee Chair, Lynda Daniels, to the crowd.

“Do you think you can do it better?,” she asks.

The proposals put forward in assemblies like this one over the next six weeks will be considered over the following nine months and eventually put before voters in October.

City employees provided an orientation, including parameters for the projects. Proposals have to have a public benefit, and be a one-time expenditure.

When the crowd breaks up into small groups, the ideas start flying.

Vallejo Participative Budgeting

Organizers say the participatory budget process is not just about fixing broken infrastructure, it’s about repairing civic relationships.

The relationship with the city is a lot more transparent and so the people have let the government know that ‘Hey, we’ve gained knowledge through this process of participatory budgeting,'” says Lynda Daniels of the steering committee.

“The more knowledge we’ve gained, the more we’re willing to question what goes on and take a part in it,” she says.

Some of last year’s projects are already being implemented. The proposal that got the most votes last year? Fixing potholes. This year the city will spend more money to repair them.

The two graphics below show some of the areas where Vallejo has used Participatory Budgeting, as well as just how actively Vallejo citizens have gotten themselves involved in thebudgeting process since Participatory Budgeting was implemented two years ago. Those two graphics beg the question,“What are the budgeting issues that you would like to be most involved in if you had a voice in Davis budgeting?”

Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Areas
Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Areas
Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Results
Vallejo Participatory Budgeting Results



About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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  1. Nancy Price

    Matt, thank you so much for getting the effort on Participatory Budgeting off to such a good start.
    Another example of PB is the Participatory Budgeting Project in District 3 advanced by Supervisor David Chiu, Pres. of SF’s Board of Supervisors with support from the Officer of the Comptroller and more at and good material on the District 3 website at including excellent flier and ballot.

    Also go to: the national Participatory Budgeting Project at

    Keep watching – more to come.

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