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Open Budget, Open Process: A Short History of Participatory Budgeting in the US

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A simple twist on the traditional budgeting process has us paying attention to payoffs for transparency. Participatory budgeting (PB) is a political process that lets members of a community vote on how certain budget funds should be allocated. By including the public in decision-making, PB has the potential to be an agent of accountability, helping to demystify city budgets, to turn voters into active contributors and informed monitors of government progress, and to help support efforts for proactive budget disclosure. As it stands today, PB helps communities explore many of these opportunities, and it serves as an important gateway to engagement with local government for a wide variety of residents, especially traditionally-underrepresented groups. It’s a transformative process -- one that may cost governments almost nothing, since it just reallocates existing funds -- and it's a process we’re eager to see explored in more detail as more and more communities hold a magnifying glass to budgetary data.

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Art Hack Day Boston

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A couple of weekends ago, I attended Art Hack Day at Harvard. The event was put on by the Big Bad Lab, where we were proud to provide the data for the event through our APIs It was a pleasure getting to show off python-transparencydata and (ok, I'm biased here) python-sunlight.

The creative juices were really flowing throughout the 3-day hackathon, folks created some amazing projects, such as a vending machine bill acceptor that sucked 100 dollar bills at the same rate money has been spent this election cycle (it was really fast!), political speech karaoke, and a voting booth that just can't accept "no". Some other creative projects included an app that would process tweets from federal Senators and Representatives (twitter IDs found off the Sunlight Congress API), and a bulletin board was covered with flyers featuring (real!) numbers for lobbyists discovered through Influence Explorer.

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