Participatory budgeting, austerity and institutions of democracy: The case of Vallejo, California
Participatory budgeting operates in approximately 1500 cities across the globe. Often these projects are used in attempts to make city government more democratic. The growing popularity of participatory budgeting also reflects scholarly concerns about elite interests dominating policy-making to the extent that democratic institutions principally serve legitimation purposes. This paper examines the implementation and evolution of participatory budgeting in the City of Vallejo, California, following its 2008 chapter 9 bankruptcy. The City of Vallejo introduced participatory budgeting as part of a broader collection of reforms implemented to restructure the city budget and re-legitimate Vallejo’s city government. Participatory budgeting introduced new decision-making processes to the city and directed expenditures into new programs. An evaluation of the reforms and outcomes of Vallejo’s participatory budgeting reveals a picture of mixed success. Although participatory budgeting opened an important part of the city’s budget to democratic deliberation, the process became aligned with entrenched institutional interests. In conclusion the paper reflects on how the institutional structures of urban politics might limit the democratic potential of participatory budgeting.
Davidson, Mark, "Participatory budgeting, austerity and institutions of democracy: The case of Vallejo, California" (2018). Geography. 95.