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Mayor Walsh announces winning projects of youth-participatory budget vote

June 10, 2015

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

 Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Tuesday announced the winning projects of the Youth Participatory Budgeting Vote. This year’s vote, in which young Bostonians ages 12-25 decided how to allocate $1 million of the City of Boston Capital Budget, is the second time the City has engaged young residents in the budgetary process, and is the first initiative of its kind in the nation.

“We’re involving our youngest and brightest residents in local government, and empowering them to make positive changes in their neighborhoods,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud we were able to continue the process, building on last year’s achievements and enable young people to critically think about how to spend taxpayer dollars in a way that better serves the people. This fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability. They walk away knowing their voices matter.”

Voters were able to select up to four projects on the ballot. Projects were divided into the following categories:

  • Public Safety
  • Parks
  • Health and Wellness
  • Community
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Technology

The projected selected for funding were: expanding the Hubway bicycle system; expanding the City’s Wicked Free Wi-Fi system; installing water bottle refill systems at City parks; and renovations to Boston Latin Academy’s gymnasium.

Young people from across the City were instructed by the Mayor’s Youth Council and other supportive partners on how to create guidelines from the voting process and develop a ballot, which included 10 projects.

"This is a process designed by and for young people,” said Shari Davis, Director of the City’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment. “One big piece of Youth Lead the Change’s success is creating real opportunities for youth participation. We were able to do that by meeting young people where they are, building relationships, and allowing them to be the experts that we know they are in spaces where they are safe and comfortable."

Voting polls were stationed at local train stations, youth centers and school buildings slated for the city-wide vote. Over 2,500 eligible votes came in from Boston’s youngest populations.

Last year, young people voted to fund seven winning projects that enhanced community parks, installed security cameras, granted Boston Public Schools Chromebooks and funded a skateboard feasibility study.

"I've learned a lot! I used to take some of these amenities for granted - like WiFi at school, or different features at parks - but now I know how much thought and work goes into making these things happen,” said Adonis Pitts, a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council. “Spending a million dollars is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work, too."

Youth Lead the Change (YLC) is carried out by the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment, in close collaboration with a steering committee comprised of 26 community and youth serving organizations. The Participatory Budgeting Project facilitates the implementation of participatory budgeting nationwide, and works closely with Youth Lead the Change.

"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,” said Ashish Goel, Professor at Stanford University, who leads theStanford Crowdsourced Democracy Team, which developed the digital voting tool used for voting. “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."  

The winning projects are as follows:

Hubway Extensions

Cost Estimation: $101,600

Hubway, a bicycle sharing transportation system in Boston, helps to provide additional commuting options to local residents. The additional funding will:

  • Expand the Hubway system into more neighborhoods;
  • Increase access to this unique transportation system to thousands of residents who are currently underserved by other means of public transportation; and
  • Provide alternative transit options to those who do not have a driver’s license and/or access to a personal vehicle.

Wicked Free Wifi 2.0

Cost Estimation: $119,000

Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation Technology (DoIT) launched the City’s free Public Wi-Fi in April of 2014. Wicked Free Wi-Fi is available at more than 170 access points within the public wireless network, and this investment aims to increase the number of users across Boston’s neighborhoods. This project will:

  • Provide young people internet in areas that do not have inexpensive or free Wi-Fi options; and
  • Increase internet access in target locations, such as at schools and community centers.

Water Bottle Refill Stations at Parks

Cost Estimation: $260,000

Designated refill stations will help encourage the use of reusable water bottles and reduce negative environmental impacts on Boston’s parks system. This project will:

  • Install water stations in Joe Moakley Park in South Boston, Hynes Field in West Roxbury, Healey Playground in Roslindale, Robert E. Ryan Playground in Dorchester and on the Boston Common
  • Serve those who need to stay hydrated while enjoying Boston parks and partaking in sporting activities
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating fuel needed to package and transport bottled water

Boston Latin Academy Gym Renovations

Cost Estimation: $475,000

The Boston Latin Academy (BLA) gymnasium is intended to serve thousands of BLA students and members of the local community. The gym serves as a safe space for students, and promotes a healthy and active lifestyle within the community. This funding will:

  • Support cosmetic and safety improvements within the gym, such as painting, addressing flooring issues and bleacher repair.

Youth Lead the Change will launch its third year in September with a call for steering committee members. To learn more about Youth Lead the Change, visit youth.boston.gov or contact the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment at 617-635-4202. To see a full listing of all the proposed projects, visit youthleadboston.org.