Paris

Pissoirs and PB

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The phrase participatory budgeting (PB) is widely recognised but perhaps not fully understood – at least not in the way that it’s being practised elsewhere in the world. PB Scotland is hosting a major conference later this month at which some of the US and Canadian experience of PB will be shared. In many other countries, PB is completely normal and has been mainstreamed for years. For instance, Paris commits 5% of its capital spend (£89m) to a participatory process. That’s the equivalent of 45 euros for every citizen – no wonder Parisians engage in such numbers.

By The Guardian

Arnaud Carnet was crossing Paris on his bicycle one day when something strange caught his eye: a dilapidated old urinal stationed at the foot of the high walls of the last operational prison in the city.

This graffitied, ripe-smelling structure was far from a standard street pissoir. Carnet discovered that it was in fact the last remaining 19th-century vespasienne urinal in the city. He decided he needed to save it.

“It no longer conforms to the comfort standards of today,” he says of the urinal (an understatement). “But it’s a piece of heritage and it’s in a terrible state in the middle of the boulevard – it’s not possible to just leave it like that.”

In January, Carnet submitted a proposal to restore the vespasienne to Paris’s participatory budget scheme, which allows residents to vote on how they want the city to spend €100m (£89m) – 5% of its capital budget.

The urinal is “part of the great Parisian history of public sanitation,” he says, though he admits he’s never used it himself. “The participatory budget is an opportunity to give it a second youth.”

Carnet’s project was one of 430 that went to public vote between 6 September and 22 September this year. Sadly for him, the vespasienne was not one of the 11 major projects and 183 smaller propositions that earned enough votes to become reality. Instead, Parisians chose projects that ranged from better recycling facilities to upgraded cycling infrastructure to programmes to help women who are experiencing homelessness. Read the rest of this entry »