Chicago's budgetary system is broken and that tackling a $656 million dollar structural deficit demands not just shared sacrifice but innovation.
Given the fact that there is going to be sacrifice and cuts the entire city should be consulted and that is possible via a participatory budgeting process. It has already proven to be successful in two of Chicago's wards and it decentralizes power while empowering more citizens. This would be the “simplest” route to full disclosure and transparency in the city budgetary process and would mean establishing Community Development Councils in each ward to facilitate the process. These would be composed of community groups, local chambers of commerce, civic organizations and elected officials by neighborhood to break down barriers between wards and improve every area of the city. This would be a true partnership between the Mayor and the city.
It will be impossible to simply switch to participatory budgeting. Until that happens city departments should use Zero-Based Budgeting. Zero-based budgeting requires that as opposed to simply basing budgeting decisions on a previous year’s funding level that each department rebuilds its budget from zero and looks for ways to save the city money. It should be noted that many cities do not engage in this practice but I truly believe that they should.
Budgeting is about securing resources as well as spending them. Community Development Councils will build strong connections between them and state and federal office holders to secure state and federal funding for the city in partnership with the Mayor.