Visions for Justice: Conversation 4 — Demystifying Budgets

Our fourth conversation in the series focuses on the importance of the budgeting process for a just future. We talked about why the budgeting process is a key point of intervention for justice and how we can ensure our communities have access to the information we need to make our visions for justice a reality.

We were joined by a group of inspiring panelists in the trenches of the budgeting world: Natasha White, a public servant and community leader that works for the City of Boston as a Management Analyst and serves as Leadership Coordinator for Hip Hop Caucus Mass, and Erica Perry, a movement lawyer and community organizer out of Nashville, Tennessee, working as the Partnership Director at Law for Black Lives.

So we asked, what even happens in the budget office? How do public budgets work?

As Natasha explained: budgets are a living document and a plan for how money gets spent, but it’s also a statement of values. Some things simply need to get paid by our local budgets, but whatever is leftover is a conversation on what we are investing into our communities.

Shari emphasized that the money in our local budgets comes from people. The money comes from you. And you have a right to ask questions, get involved, and influence these decisions.

Erica pointed out that on a local, state, and federal level, many of the budgets today still reflect racist, ableist, and transphobic values that are investing heavily in controlling and containing our communities. Many of these public budgets are heavily invested in prison and police surveillance, and nowhere near those levels when it comes to investing in education, housing, and healthcare. This is especially true for communities that are marginalized, Black communities, immigrant communities, folks who have disabilities, queer and trans folks.

“Our job is to infuse and give our communities the tools they need to participate in democracy,” Erica emphasized, “to practice participatory democracy, to take our money back, to put it in the hands of people who are most impacted…”

There’s a real opportunity for things to change, to do things different, to reimagine and tap into our collective power to do that.

“How do we start doing some healing work? Restoring things. Understanding that we’re trying to correct wrong,” Natasha said, speaking to the opportunity of reconciliation in this watershed moment.

Erica explained that “a lot of the work is giving tools to folks’ hands, demystifying the process.” She encouraged people to start asking questions, start asking your city councilor or your assembly person. “Go to the talk. It’s there for you. You pay into it because you pay taxes, therefore you have an impact. And it impacts you, so you have a right to do so.”

Political education and popular education is important and needs to be accessible for all people. We’re making it happen all throughout the country.

Tune into the full conversation to learn more about how the budget process works, victories & hardships happening all around, lessons learned, and how you can get involved.

If you found this conversation interesting, there’s more! Join us every other Wednesday at 7pm ET / 4 pm PT for an intentional and cross-movement conversation series about how we can meet the demands for justice in this moment, how participatory practices bring us closer to radically different realities, and how we can grow and build together.

Other resources you can check out:

Originally published Participatory Budgeting Project: Source

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