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Commentary By Nicole Gelinas

Why New York City's 'Participatory Democracy' Is a Sham

Cities New York City

Over the weekend, New Yorkers finished voting in “participatory budgeting,” a way to invite residents to decide each year how to spend $1 million or so of their taxpayer money.

“Fake democracy” might be a better term, though. The process creates the illusion of good government rather than the reality of good government.

It started in the Third World in the late 1980s as a way to help poor people with no democratic experience navigate the new world that emerged when Cold War dictatorships ended.

The first project was in 1989 in a poor region of Brazil, less than half a decade after that country had shaken off 21 years of brutal military rule. The idea was to coax people living in the slums of Porto Alegre, with no functional local government, to trust the democratic process by voting for basic services.

It worked: In 1989, only 75 percent of Porto Alegre’s householders had water and sewer connections. But by 1998, after poor slum-dwellers made it clear that they wanted more of the city budget devoted to this investment, the figure rose to 98 percent, according to the World Bank.

New York shook off military rule in 1783, but it didn’t get participatory budgeting until 2011. Four City Council members decided....

Read the entire piece here at the New York Post


Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. Follow her on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post