UPDATED: December 13, 2017 at 9:25 p.m.
Cambridge will allocate $867,000 towards seven voter-proposed projects, including initiatives to provide hygiene kits for the homeless, plant 100 trees in Cambridge, and increase pedestrian safety in streets with flashing crosswalks.
According to Michelle Monsegur, a budget analyst for the city, 6,778 people voted for 20 proposed ideas on the Cambridge’s Participatory Budgeting Department's ballot, a 43 percent increase in participation from last year. Anyone age 12 or older—regardless of their immigration or citizenship status—may vote on the participatory budget, Monsegur added.
This year marks the fourth time the participatory budget has run in Cambridge.
A proposal looking to plant 100 trees in Cambridge garnered the most votes, and the City will allocate $141,000 to plant trees in crowded areas. Voters also approved initiatives looking to provide “resource kits” with socks, toiletries, and feminine hygiene products for Cambridge’s homeless population. The other initiatives include building flashing crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety, installing more water fountains in Cambridge public parks, buying new musical instruments for students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, building “moss walls” to combat air pollution in congested areas, and upgrading the Gately Youth Center.
Phoebe C. West ’17, a Cambridge native and an intern with Cambridge Participatory Budget since May, said that projects for trees have also been popular in previous years.
“People here really like trees,” West said.
West also said that one of the participatory budget’s largest goals is to get young people, especially 18-24 year olds, involved in the work of city government. Her outreach team included volunteer Will H. MacArthur ’20, and together, they tabled for the budget in several House dining halls. MacArthur, also a native Cantabrigian and a former candidate for the Cambridge School Committee, said when he was tabling at Harvard, many students were surprised that they were able to cast ballots for the participatory budget.
“A lot of Harvard students thought they couldn’t participate,” MacArthur said. “When really, all that we ask of them is to be at least a part-time resident of Cambridge, which all Harvard students are.”
Voting period for the participatory budget ran between December 2-8, which coincided with the College’s reading period. West said that this posed difficulties for her student outreach.
“Harvard has been a hard place to tap into because of reading week,” West said. “We sent out a lot of emails, and did what we could.”
Monsegur also emphasized the importance of increasing youth representation in local politics, especially through the participatory budget.
“We had a lot of sixth and seventh graders this year, as well as a bunch of people in high schools, because we were able to get them to vote in their homerooms,” Monsegur said. “From a young age, you know you have a voice in the city.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: December 13, 2017
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote to Phoebe C. West ’17. In fact, that quote was said by Michelle Monsegur.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.
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