From left are Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez, LA Civil Rights Participatory Budgeting Coordinator Allison Wilhite, LA Civil Rights Executive Director Capri Maddox, and Councilmember Tim McOsker. (Courtesy photo)

City and community leaders held a Get Out The Vote kickoff in Watts on March 31, for L.A. REPAIR, the City’s first and California’s largest participatory budgeting program, created by the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department (LA Civil Rights).

Hundreds of ideas were submitted by community members last fall, and now, residents, students and workers over the age of 15 in the Boyle Heights, Mission Hills-Panorama City-North Hills, and Southeast LA REPAIR Zones will decide how roughly $3 million of the City budget will be spent to benefit their communities.

“For too long, disadvantaged communities of color have had to fight for equitable allocation in city budgets,” said Councilmember Tim McOsker.

“No one knows better than those community members what services and programs will improve lives and neighborhoods, so it is imperative to have their input on where they want to see funds allocated. Today we’re giving deserving Angelenos a true, democratic, say over city funding.”

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“If we want to solve the biggest crises facing our communities, we need to give a voice to the people who are dealing with these issues every day,” said Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez. “This landmark program should serve as a model for how we allocate resources to benefit our city and stop our decades-long neglect of working class communities of color.”

“Participatory budgeting gives real people real power over real money,” said LA Civil Rights Department Executive Director Capri Maddox. “For the first time, historically marginalized people in Los Angeles are deciding how City dollars are spent, giving them the power to address long-standing issues in their communities. This is just one way LA Civil Rights is addressing a legacy of institutional racism and discrimination in Los Angeles.”

Proposals being voted on range from rental assistance to environmental improvements to programs for youth and seniors. Following the idea collection phase last fall, community-based organizations in each REPAIR Zone submitted proposals for how they would turn these ideas into reality using City funds. Anyone who lives, works, studies or is the guardian of a student in the Boyle Heights, Mission Hills-Panorama City-North Hills, and Southeast LA REPAIR Zones can vote for their favorite proposal at now through April 30, 2023.

L.A. REPAIR, which stands for Los Angeles Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgment of Institutional Racism, will allocate approximately $8.5 million over nine REPAIR Zones, which include formerly redlined neighborhoods and communities that the LA Civil Rights Department identified as having the highest poverty, pollution, COVID-19 mortality rates, and lack of home Internet access in the city. According to an LA Civil Rights report, all nine REPAIR zones have a population that is at least 87% people of color, and represent more than half of all Angelenos living in poverty.

Following the vote in the first three Zones, the participatory budgeting process will begin in the next six REPAIR Zones: Arleta-Pacoima, Skid Row, South LA, Westlake, West Adams-Leimert Park-Baldwin Village, Wilmington + Harbor Gateway Zones. The LA Civil Rights Department is also inviting community members of these six Zones to apply to serve on their Advisory Committee. Interested community members can learn more here.

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process first established in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989. Since then, the community-led budgeting process has been implemented in New York City, Oakland, and thousands of other cities worldwide. L.A. REPAIR Participatory Budgeting was created to deepen democracy, expand transparency, emphasize public ownership of government resources and build stronger communities.

The LA Civil Rights Department is leading the L.A. REPAIR Participatory Budgeting program with support from the Participatory Budgeting Project.