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Another election: Denver wants you to vote for infrastructure projects

The city has set aside $2 million in capital funds to be devoted to citizen-suggested projects, in a process known as participatory budgeting.

DENVER — The city of Denver is trying a new experiment in direct democracy, asking citizens to vote on how to spend some city funds on projects.

The city has set aside $2 million in capital funds to be devoted to citizen-suggested projects in a process known as participatory budgeting.

Over the last year, committees of citizens have narrowed down nearly 1,000 proposals into 23 choices for how to spend the money. The election opened last week and will run through November 20.

“This is an experiment with direct democracy…it allows residents to really take the lead and be sure that their perspectives and their voices are heard in their communities,” said Kiki Turner, deputy director of communications and public affairs with Denver’s Department of Finance.

People who live in the city of Denver or go to school there are eligible to vote their ballot. The website only asks that users affirm they are a Denver resident.

“An ultimate goal of this program is to really engage with residents who face the highest barriers with civic engagement. Residents who may not have had the capacity or the ability to get involved before,” Turner said. “The steering committee, that group of residents who set the rules, it was really important to them we didn’t make this process harder for our most vulnerable.”

There are four different ballots on which residents can vote. The citywide ballot includes $1 million in projects, including a proposal to buy new shower trailers for people experiencing homelessness or a proposal to build chess boards and create a permanent community space in some city parks.

Kathy Ewing, who was part of the group that narrowed budget proposals, is lobbying for a budget item that would build a community park outside her subsidized living community, Columbine Homes.

“I’m excited about it. I’ve always liked to be part of what’s going on in my community so I can know what’s going on,” Ewing, who goes by Miss Kathy, said.

“We’re going to knock on doors… we’re going to call people on the phone, we’re going to go to stores, we’re going to advertise, we’re going to put it on cars and everything. I’m just so excited. I just can’t wait,” she said.

Turner said about 600 people have voted so far. The city has a goal of getting approximately 3,000 people to vote and will try to meet that goal through community events.

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