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Schools, parks, libraries, public housing? How would you like to spend 2,9M EUR?

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Pawel Adamowicz

For four years now the city of Gdansk has been engaging in a very ambitious local democracy project: a participatory budgeting; a process in which citizens decide to vote where a portion of their tax money can be allocated.
I can't help but think about it in terms of the subsequent step of the administrative reform, one that transforms the system of local government into a more democratic organism. With the specificity of a Polish city, which only 25 years ago underwent a transformation from the centralized planning, GdaƄsk is a good example of an administrative reform in progress.
Participatory budgeting is a practice, which can lead to a systematic, planned and transparent development of a city. It allows the authorities to address the residents not as potential adversaries or clients, whose dissatisfaction could lead to protests or non-election, but as partners in a discussion. Voting will take place 12 - 25 September 2016.
For the first time a common application and voting deadline has been introduced for all three Metropolitan Area cities: Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot.
Traditionally, the projects are divided into the local communities initiatives (total amount of 10 million zlotys) and citywide (2.5 million zlotys). They can be submitted online with the use of one simple application. Each application must be supported by 15 local residents of Gdansk (in the case of citywide project), and all pertaining city projects can be entered. It is worth mentioning at this point that the work has already started on the implementation of 65 projects from last year's participatory budgeting edition, and Gdansk citizens already enjoy the many investments that had been completed in previous years through this initiative.
An example
In the central district of Gdansk it's the district councillors who are the active agents, because they know the needs of their district best. In the photograph they pose for photos on the square, which got its present appearance from the participatory budgeting funds.
2016-03-08-1457446770-9841759-radnisrodmiesciawjakubowski.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-08-1457446770-9841759-radnisrodmiesciawjakubowski.jpg
The district councillors. Photo: W. Jakubowski
Over the years, the small square next to the Saint Barbara church on Long Gardens Street looked more frightening than pleasing to the eye. Finally, in 2013 the district councilors submitted a draft to the participatory budgeting program and ... succeeded. Today, residents stroll the charming alleys, play football on a modern multi-purpose pitch or chess on special tables, and bring the children to the playground. They even installed an open-air gym.
This and similar attractive projects await the citizens in Gdansk in 2016 and beyond, and the process of making decisions in a participatory budgeting program, although long and difficult, has been very successful and well worth the citizens' engagement. With the success of planning and implementation, more and more funds will be successfully transferred to local districts. Thus, the difficult but ever-desirable process of making the local democracy more direct than representative is going forward in Gdansk.

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