Couples that Participate Together Stay Together: Joni Ricks-Oddie & Keith Oddie’s PB Story

PBP always wants to know what got our members interested in PB! PBP’s Solaire Spellen interviewed Long Beach Budget Delegate Joni Ricks-Oddie to talk about how she and her husband first got involved in participatory budgeting!

Solaire: Joni, tell us about yourself. Where do you live? Where do you work?

Joni: My husband Keith and I are residents of North Long Beach, District 9; Keith has been a resident since 2001, and I moved here at the end of 2012.  I work for UCLA and Keith works for Kaiser Permanente.  I am originally from the Chicago area but Keith is a native of the LA area. We have been married since March of 2013 and are members of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA

Solaire: So, how did you first get involved in PB, and why?

Joni: My husband and I started coming to periodic events and presentations that the council office would notify us of.  We wanted to learn more about our community. We started sharing our ideas at these meetings on how our community could be improved. We thought, who better to assess the needs of an area then the people who live there! We recognized that we had an opinion, we had a voice and our voice mattered. That is when we were asked to be a part of the steering committee for PB in Long Beach

Solaire: What did you end up doing in the PB process? What kinds of roles did you play?

Joni: The district steering committee was involved in organizing, promoting, and facilitating the data collection in the fall. We also attended outreach events to let the public know about the PB and what it means for our community. We attended monthly meeting to develop the details (rules) of how the PB process would be conducted in the 9th District. I volunteered to serve as the secretary for our group.

Keith and I also served as budget delegates. While I was on the Arts, Education and Beautification committee, Keith volunteered for the Parks and Recreation. We took many of the ideas that were collected at the assemblies and did the research to educate ourselves on the projects. After researching the most promising proposals, we split them up among those in our committee and commenced with the task of developing proposals. Keith and I both ended up choosing to oversee projects that did not end up on the ballot, but we felt we learned invaluable amount about the process of creating proposals and the way city agencies operate.

Solaire: What most surprised you about your experience with PB? Have you had any community engagement experiences before? Was PB different?

Joni: My husband and I did not have much community engagement experience before PB.  But my husband had a big surprise at the end of the process. An idea that he submitted as an online idea submission in the fall actually ended up being one of the projects that won!  It really hit home to him that anyone can submit an idea no matter how large or small it maybe to others. It can be championed by a budget delegate, developed into a real fundable proposal, and potentially win just as his did! This PB process really encapsulated the idea that anyone, with the help of community and the strong support of the city officials, can achieve anything in our city.

Solaire: What do you think were the biggest impacts of PB on the community? On you as a person?

Joni: The best part of this experience is the continual exchange of ideas we got to have with other residents. We’ve gotten the opportunity to make some wonderful new connections and friendships with our neighbors. It is amazing to us how much talent and passion is already present in our community!