Back to top

Boston youth can vote on how $1 million of City budget will be spent

May 27, 2015

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that young Boston residents can cast a vote this week on how to spend a $1,000,000 of the City’s budget. This is made possible through Youth Lead the Change, a project of the Mayor’s Youth Council.

“Boston is fostering young, talented leaders to create change in our communities that will affect their future and generations to come,” said Mayor Walsh.  “This is a chance for all young people in Boston to have their voices heard and share in the opportunity to shape our neighborhoods.”

Throughout the year, Mayor Walsh held youth forums in neighborhoods across Boston to gather ideas on how to make Boston even better. Teens facilitated these meetings and gathered over 1,500 ideas ranging from policy changes to construction projects. Since then, teens have been busy taking those ideas and working with city staff to craft 10 project proposals that are eligible for capital funding.

This is the second year that young people are voting on how city funds should be allocated. Last year, youth voted to renovate Paris Street Park and American Legion Playground, deliver Chromebooks to three public high schools, construct art walls, and fund a skate-park feasibility study. This year, the ballot includes expansion of Wi-Fi in schools and community centers, water bottle refill stations at parks, bike lane installations, and additional Hubway stations in residential neighborhoods.

“My favorite part about Youth Lead the Change is that it’s entirely youth led, entirely your voice. We get to decide which ideas are on the ballot and where that money goes”, says Shihua Wu, a junior at Boston Latin Academy. “Usually adults do that, but it’s very cool that youth get to decide on that.” In addition to the Mayor’s Youth Council, young people from 24 organizations in Boston collaborated to write the rules and manage this process.

"Youth Lead the Change is the nation's best example of true collaboration between young people and city administration," said Pam Jennings of the Participatory Budgeting Project, a nonprofit leading the development of Participatory Budgeting in North America. "Participatory Budgeting empowers our young leaders to understand how government works while giving them the tools to make informed decisions. We are excited to spread the innovations introduced by Youth Lead the Change, to make democracy better for communities around the world."

"Our mission is to scale up collaboration and decision-making. We envision an era in which large communities can deliberate and brainstorm with one another on important issues with the aid of intelligently designed algorithms and digital communication platforms. We are fortunate to partner with the Boston School District. The forward thinking, the willingness to innovate, and the commitment to inclusive democracy that we see from the city and the district has been a great motivator for our team."  Ashish Goel, Professor at Stanford University, who leads the Stanford Crowdsourced Democracy Team which developed the digital voting tool used for voting.

Boston residents between 12 to 25 years old can go to the Youth Lead the Change website to access the online ballot and view ballot locations. Voting is open from May 25 until June 1.  On Friday, May 29, at 5 p.m., a teen Vote festival will be held at the BCYF Tobin Community Center on Friday, May 29, at 5 p.m. Voting results will be announced to the public on June 9, 2015 at City Hall.