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LunchUP: Alex Karner, "Towards meaningful participation: Participatory budgeting and the promise of community control"

LunchUP: Alex Karner, "Towards meaningful participation: Participatory budgeting and the promise of community control"

Alex Karner, PhD
The University of Texas at Austin

Civil rights and environmental justice laws and regulations aim to ensure fair processes and outcomes in regional transportation planning. Despite these requirements, people of color and low income tend to be disproportionately burdened while receiving few benefits. A key factor driving this disconnect is the nature of public involvement; in particular, a near-absence of meaningful public involvement through which affected residents can influence and shape decisions. In this talk, Dr. Karner will discuss his recent research into new models of public involvement within and beyond transportation. This work centers on participatory budgeting (PB)—an innovative approach to allocating public funds in which community residents vote to determine funding levels for projects or project categories. By conceding real decision-making power, PB holds out the promise of achieving transformational outcomes by ensuring that public input will affect decisions made. The talk will cover lessons learned from the highest-budget US PB effort undertaken to date in Fresno, California. The Fresno case demonstrates that implementing PB is only the first step towards achieving more radical and transformational visions of community control and meaningful engagement. Ultimately, PB’s long-term redistributive potential in any locale depends critically upon the broader political context in which it is undertaken. 

These sessions are a response to requests from faculty and students to learn more about what’s going on in the field in an informal environment. We hope this can inspire emergent thoughts and connections that will inform our scholarship. 

Lunch is included, please bring a drink.