Participatory Budgeting

image of three hands raised up to signify a vote with the text Participatory Budgeting Grand Rapids  


Our participatory budgeting initiative is a democratic process that allows residents to help determine how public funds are spent. It gives people real power over public money. Participatory budgeting allows residents to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent.

Here's how the process will unfold over the course of the next year.  

  1. Design the Process: A steering committee that represents the community creates the rules and engagement plan 
  2. Brainstorm Ideas: Through meetings and online tools, residents share and discuss ideas for projects
  3. Develop Proposals: Volunteer "budget delegates" develop the ideas into feasible proposals
  4. Vote: Residents vote on the proposals that most serve the community's needs
  5. Fund Winning Projects: The City funds and implements the winning ideas

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The PB steering committee is a collection of community residents, three from each of the city wards.

First Ward

  • Mallory Patterson
  • Adnoris (Bo) Torres
  • Michael Scholten

Second Ward

  • Doug Booth
  • Lisa Knight
  • Cailin Kelly

Third Ward

  • Kristian Grant
  • LaKiya Thompson-Jenkins
  • Kenneth Hoskins

City Support Staff

The City has assigned staff members to support the steering committee's participatory budgeting process efforts. They'll assist in planning and liaison work with appropriate departments to support and respond to inquiries.

  • Doug Matthews, Manager and Chief Administrative Services Officer
  • Lou Canfield, Chief of Staff
  • Gricelda Estrada, Administrative Secretary
  • Asante Cain, Assistant to the City Manager
  • Laura Olson, Assistant to the Mayor
  • Sharra Poncil, Liability Risk Management Analyst
  • David Green, Communications Department Director
  • Kathi Harris, Community Outreach Specialist

Draft Vision

Through participatory budgeting, we will empower the people of Grand Rapids to make timely, informed decisions that lead to visible and lasting improvements within their neighborhoods. Our work will be guided by the value of equity, with an intentional and transparent process designed to include marginalized voices, people with lived experience, and diverse groups. This process will be structured to remove barriers and build community capacity.

Driving Values

  • Equity
  • Transparency
  • Capacity building

Steering Committee Goals

  • Empower the people (“ownership” and “influence”)
  • Broaden and diversify engagement and participation
  • Meaningful, visible, lasting improvement
  • Sustainable public good
  • Easy and seamless civic engagement
  • Amplify marginalized voices
  • Repeatable, scalable process
  • Build resident leadership capacity
  • Affordable housing and quality education

Steering Committee Values

  • Inclusive
  • Transparent
  • Equitable
  • Resident-driven
  • Democratic
  • Leadership
  • Civic
  • Accessible
  • Sustainable
  • Accountable
  • Results-oriented
  • Proactive
  • Multi-media
  • Empowered
  • Clarity
  • Honesty
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Trust

Project Schedule

The participatory budgeting process takes time to complete. The steering committee helps guide and facilitate the progress of the process. As this is the initial year for the participatory budgeting for the City of Grand Rapids, some of the timeline dates will be added as we work through the process. Peer cities are on 9-12 month timelines but our goal remains to have it be a shorter process. 

Action Responsible Timeline
Form steering committee City Commission June - July
Steering committee orientation Steering Committee and City Staff July 29 - August 12
Steering committee rule adoption  Steering Committee and City Staff September
Plan and conduct initial engagement  Steering Committee and Public October - May
Refine final concepts for vote  Steering Committee and City Staff June - July
Public voting and selection  Steering Committee and Public August
Commission adoption City Commission September - October
 Project implementation Staff and Steering Committee TBD

Review past steering committee meeting minutes and learn about upcoming public engagement meetings on this page.

Steering Committee Minutes and Documents

The participatory budgeting steering committee meetings take place each week. We'll post our meeting minutes and related documents for transparency of our process and discussion. 

Public Engagement Meetings

As we roll out the participatory budgeting process, we'll have opportunities for the public to engage in the process. Check back soon for more details. 

Available Funds

The initial funds for Participatory Budgeting GR are provided for by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA funds have limitations based on federal mandates. The participatory budgeting process follows PBP best practice for municipal budgeting which outlines $1 million per 100,000 in population. The $2 million that Grand Rapids has set aside for participatory budgeting exceeds similar sized cities such as Oakland, CA ($185K per 100K), Durham, NC ($889K per 100K) and Sacramento, CA ($200K per 100K).

The City Commission decided to distribute funds through graduated dispersal of $2 million across the City’s three wards. This allows for investment based in part on the distribution of demographic and economic factors in each Ward. The graduated ward distribution of funds includes:

First Ward

Second Ward

Third Ward 

Project Idea Parameters

The initial funds for Participatory Budgeting GR are provided for by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA funds have limitations based on federal mandates. To help community members understand what can be funded, we've provided guidance on expenditures to align with ARPA requirements. 

  • Infrastructure investments related to water, wastewater and broadband
  • Evidence-based violence reduction strategies
  • Remediation of lead paint or other lead hazards in homes
  • Economic and health impacts of COVID-19 (includes assistance to households, small business and nonprofits)
  • Incentive pay to front-line workers
  • Investments in housing and re-housing
  • Addressing educational disparities
  • Investing in healthy childhood environments 

We need your help!

Participatory Budgeting GR is recruiting volunteers. Become a PB volunteer and help community members develop ideas and get them on the ballot.

If you are interested to become a volunteer, please email to let us know. 

Ongoing Input Apart from Participatory Budgeting

If you want more opportunities to engage and shape how the city spends its funds outside of the participatory budgeting process, get involved with a board or commission. You can apply to serve on one of these boards and commissions or send your ideas to the board via public comment at meetings or via written requests. Click the links below for information on each board or commission.   

Citizen Board/Commission Investment Types Fiscal Year 22 Funding
Mobile GR Commission Citywide Mobility  $18 million
Vital Streets Oversight Commission Street Improvement Projects $30.9 million
Stormwater Oversight Commission  Stormwater Infrastructure $4 million
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board  Parks Infrastructure $14.1 million
Corridor Improvement Authorities, Brownfield AuthorityDDA, etc.  Redevelopment and Neighborhood Improvement

~$43 million