Niagara Falls residents and the Community Development Department team worked together to build the 2017 Community Development Action Plan over the past 4 months. We thank our residents for being part of our 10 public meetings throughout the 16 week public input period and responding to citizen surveys, setting valuable priorities.
Our Community Development Department understands that the citizens who live, work, and play in our city are the true experts on the needs of our neighborhoods. When we increase citizen participation in our annual plans, our plans get stronger. As a result, we are presenting a budget that leverages $2.8 million in United States Department of Housing and Urban Development funds into a $4.9 million action plan focused on neighborhood investment. Our priorities are clear: continue the positive trends of home owner renovations, first time home buyer grants, investments in parks and public spaces, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) and programs that provide activities for our young people.
We are also taking community decision making to the next level with our 2017 Action Plan. For the first time, the proposal includes participatory budgeting (PB): the democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. PB invites taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. This year’s focus will be towards advancing investment in our city’s parks. We will look at the remaining public park improvement recommendations made in the 2012 Parks Master Plan as the starting point. From there, residents brainstorm spending ideas develop proposals based on these ideas, vote on proposals, and the government implements the top projects. Traditionally, governments ask people to come to them, especially when it comes to giving opinions or raising concerns. Echo chambers can form as a result, where only a few voices are heard. We can do better than that.
With PB, we will go directly to the neighborhoods for ideas and project votes, bringing the process to you, and engaging new people in the conversation. We will use technology as a way to make better links and to show our youngest residents that government can speak their language. Time and again we are reminded that our best projects and initiatives start with the public’s ideas not ours. PB is our way of taking that community partnership and trust to the next level.
We invite the public to review the draft 2017 Action Plan at the Carnegie Building (1022 Main Street), both public libraries, online at www.nf-cd.org and to email any questions to 2017ActionPlan@niagarafallsny.gov. We are grateful to Mayor Dyster, City Administrator Melson and the Niagara Falls City Council for participating in this process. As always, our team is most thankful for the privilege of working together with the Niagara Falls community, every day.
[Seth Piccirillo is the Director of Niagara Falls Community Development and a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls]