Friday, on our Joe Strummer Day segment at 5PM Jon Liedtke, Rockin’ Robbee and I explored the links between Occupy Windsor, in which all of us participated, and poverty and homelessness in Windsor. Being politically powerless and vulnerable to mental illness, addictions and poverty, homeless people are truly disadvantaged. Because being in the park caused us to meet and interact with homeless people, we also came to learn that one bedroom social housing in this city is in short supply (4-5 year waiting list). As well, the earlier struggle this year over the building of a $77 million aquatic centre while poverty and homelessness exist seems obscene.
So the enquiry today on the program is how much say do citizens have in the prioritization of what is needed to meet the needs of people? If neighbourhoods could actually have a direct say in that process what could it look like? In Windsor, city council has initiated neighbourhood councils but few people have high hopes for the current structure which is yet to be determined since only one meeting has occurred so far in some wards.
She has researched and facilitated public participation programs in Venezuela and her hometown of Toronto. In 2009 and 2010 she co-facilitated two participatory evaluations of Toronto Community Housing‘s PB process, working with a team of public housing tenants and staff to research and improve the process. Joanna has also worked with community organizations such as Barrio Nuevo, Manifesto Community Projects, and the Hispanic Development Council.
Our conversation began with a description of participatory budgeting (PB) and the New York based project she is a part of. She described PB as a “new model of democratic participation” rather than a “consultation” with limited involvement by citizens. She described how the PB process traces its roots to Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Also, at the 13:35 minute mark in the audio, we discussed the implications of the PB process for movement building for further involvement of citizens in the exercise of a true democracy – that is having a direct say in the management of our affairs. Getting involved in budget decision-making is a good way to start.