Back in December, the City of Cambridge asked its residents to spend $500,000 in what is called a participatory budget. More than 380 ideas flooded in (this is Cambridge) and a 21-member volunteer steering committee as well as 40 volunteer budget delegates narrowed the proposals down to 20. Then more than 2,700 Cantabrigians voted and voila! Instant public works.
The city announced this week it plans to start implementing the following top vote-getters in July. Here they are ranked by cost:
· Public toilet in Central Square: $320,000
As Marc Levy at Cambridge Day points out, the Central Square pit stop will be "likely based on a design such as the Portland Loo, which is being used as the model for a city-funded public toilet being installed in Harvard Square." Two public toilets and counting! A Portland [Ore.] Loo is pictured above.
· 100 new trees and tree wells in low-canopy neighborhoods: $120,000
This one's a no-brainer as trees are not only good for us and Mother Earth, but can be good for property values, too. Half of these trees will go near subsidized housing and in lower-income neighborhoods.
· Free public WiFi in six outdoor locations: $42,000
The hotspots will add to Cambridge's already formidable (by most U.S. cities' standards) free wireless coverage.
· 20 new laptops for the Community Learning Center: $27,000
The center provides free education and services to adult Cantabrigians. Again, a no-brainer if you're in to the whole economic-vibrancy of-a-city thing.
· Eight bike repair stations: $12,000
· Bilingual books for children learning English: $7,000
Some 32 percent of Cambridge households speak a language other than English at home, according to Cambridge Day.
You may have noticed that the amount of the above projects comes to $528,000, which is $28K more than the $500,000 budget. Nevertheless! Bring it.
· City of Cambridge Participatory Budgeting [Cambridge]
· Public Toilet, New Trees, Outdoor Wi-Fi Win Bulk of Participatory Budgeting's $500,000 [Day]
· Higher Boston Property Values Grow on Trees [Curbed Boston]
· Top Free WiFi Spots Around Cambridge [Curbed Boston]