portrait photo of Michelle Dennis wearing glasses and a dark top

Dennis Proposes Giving Citizens More Say in How Their Taxes Are Spent

Writing for the National Civic League, UCLA Luskin lecturer Michelle Dennis draws on her decades of experience in local government to advocate for a new democratic mechanism she calls a Participatory Assembly for Budgeting, or PAB. Dennis’ idea would combine two innovations — participatory budgeting and citizens’ assemblies — into a new model that would give citizens a meaningful say in how their tax dollars are spent. In participatory budgeting, community members have a vote on the use of public funds. The citizens’ assembly model involves selecting citizens to represent the diversity of a community, then bringing them together to deliberate and make recommendations on policy decisions. Dennis details her idea in a step-by-step manner and cites clear benefits: increased public trust, a citizen voice in decision-making and services that better match people’s priorities. “A PAB has not yet been implemented by a city,” Dennis concludes. “What city will be the first?”


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