This April is Vote Month for the first cycle of the LA REPAIR participatory budgeting process. Three of our staff members, Edna, Michael, and Robbie, had the opportunity a few weeks ago to help get out the vote in Los Angeles and meet some of the community leaders on the ground powering this community-led process.
What is L.A. REPAIR?
L.A. REPAIR is a pilot participatory budgeting process in the City of Los Angeles that will distribute about $8.5 million directly to nine neighborhoods, called REPAIR Zones. Zones were designated based on a combination of social, economic, and environmental data that identified these neighborhoods as underserved and greatly impacted by historic and structural racism, including residential redlining.
The city initiated its first ever participatory budgeting process in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit low-income communities of color the worst across Los Angeles. In response to this health emergency and years of systemic racism and underinvestment in these communities, city leaders allocated $8.5M dollars towards implementation of LA REPAIR, which stands for Los Angeles Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgment of Institutional Racism.
By directly putting decision-making power over $8.5 million dollars in the hands of historically marginalized communities across the city, the goal of this PB process is “to reckon with this inequity, and give every neighborhood a seat at the table.” Read more about it on the process website.
Meet Candy in Southeast LA
It was a windy day when we visited Candy, a long time resident of Southeast LA, at her sidewalk voting station. The Southeast LA zone includes the neighborhoods like South Park, Central Alameda, Avalon Gardens, and Watts. Between conversations with passers-by inviting them to vote, she shared what brought her to this participatory movement work from day to day involvement with LA Metropolitan Churches (LAM).
Candy grew up in Compton, an area further south in LA. She shared with a laugh that if you didn’t vote, her grandma wouldn’t even let you in the house. Today, she is continuing her family’s mission to organize for justice by encouraging others to participate and vote on the issues that matter to them.
She is driven by the examples of her grandmother and mother, both incredible lifelong civic activists, and her lived experience as a Southeast LA community member and disabled person. She explained how essential this work of fighting for racial, social, and economic justice is for her communities and all of us to make things better and begin to address legacies of violence, dehumanization, and disinvestment.
Her passion for this democracy work is evident as she chats with people and keeps it real with them about what makes this participatory budgeting process different from government as usual. As she tells one person who stops to learn more, participatory budgeting is a community-led decision-making process that gives community members real power over real money to decide on the issues that impact them.
What makes this PB process special?
In addition to putting decision-making power over about $8.5 million dollars of the City budget in the hands of historically marginalized communities across the city, the LA REPAIR process is unique in how that money is being spent.
Rather than funding capital projects (such as new buildings, road renovation, and so on), these funds will be used to support programs by community partners that will directly benefit the community. For example, projects in Candy’s zone of Southeast LA include a mobile street medicine program, mental health services for low-income and unhoused individuals and families, and a youth empowerment program. Read the full ballots with all the projects for each zone here.
Where did the project ideas on the ballot come from?
The PB process is guided by the Steering Committee, a body of 17 community members representing the nine REPAIR zones that set the rules, laid the groundwork, and reviewed and agreed on the program proposals. Proposals were submitted by local organizations in each zone during the Idea Collection phase of the PB cycle.
Now, as community members in each of the three zones (Boyle Heights, Southeast LA, and Mission Hills-Panorama City-North Hills) get out and vote, each zone has their own unique ballot filled with ideas that will directly benefit and resource their local community. Six other REPAIR zones will get their chance to do PB later this year during the second cycle.
Meet Stephanie, Ellsworth, and Wendy
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of effort to get the word out and connect with people from across Los Angeles to invite them to participate in this civic process.
When we joined Stephanie, Ellsworth, and Wendy at the Mid-Valley Regional Library in North Hills, the voting event was in full swing, with a bustling room of residents, volunteers, and idea proposers chatting and filling out their ballots. As Advisory Committee Members for the Mission Hills-Panorama City-North Hills zone, the three of them were excited to meet up in person and talk to community members about PB.
They got involved in PB through local civic organizations such as their community councils and shared with us how their common goal of building trust across the community brought them to LA REPAIR. With so many moving parts and people across their very different micro-communities of Mission Hills, Panorama City, and North Hills, they took the chance to exchange their favorite outreach tactics and brainstorm new ways to get out the vote during April.
In addition to Advisory Committee members like Stephanie, Ellsworth, and Wendy who support PB outreach and implementation in their zone, Community Engagement Partner organizations like Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches also play a key role in bringing people into the process to participate.
The whole room cheered as each community member submitted their ballot, and the trio put their heads together to plan a string of other upcoming voting events to make sure that as many people as possible got the chance to weigh in on all the amazing proposals on the ballot by the end of the month.
How can you support or participate?
If you live in one of the three LA REPAIR zones currently in the voting process this month, vote! Then, tell your family, friends, and neighbors about this outstanding opportunity to directly decide on programming that can benefit your community.
A wide array of community members are encouraged to participate! According to the LA REPAIR website, “in order to be eligible to vote, you must be 15+ years old and live, work, study, or be the guardian of a student in the REPAIR Zone. You will be asked on your ballot to write the name, address or intersection of either your residence, job, or school located in the REPAIR Zone to confirm your eligibility, and to attest that you will only vote once.” Your legal status is not a consideration.
The voting period is open until April 30.
Share our GOTV video posts (with Candy on Twitter and with Stephanie, Ellsworth, and Wendy on Instagram) with folx you know across LA, and let them know about this chance to practice participatory democracy together.