This week the Hopper trolley begins its circuit through downtown Greensboro, offering free rides up and down the Elm Street strip Thursdays through Sundays, from noon until midnight, 10 p.m. on Sundays.
The Hopper is paid for with some of Greensboro’s American Rescue Plan dollars — they got $59.4 million that needs to be spent by the end of 2026 — with the gap filled by $90,000 worth of the city’s participatory budgeting coffers.
Participatory budgeting is — or was — a process in which the city allocated $500,000, less than 1 percent of the $751.3 million budget, towards projects for each of the five districts, voted on directly by citizens of Greensboro. It has been in effect since 2014, when council first approved it and TCB gave it our official endorsement.
But last week, on the cusp of what may be PB’s greatest project yet, city leaders have “delayed” the program, saying in an email, “the future of the program is under evaluation.” Aside from the ‘Hopper, the rest of the Cycle 4 projects were left out of the city budget.
That means no new seats at bus stops citywide, no improvements to the Glenwood Community Center in District 1 ($7,000) or at Smith Community Park in District 2 ($30,000). No money for kayaks at Lake Brandt in District 3 ($25,000) or a shelter in District 4’s Sunset Hills Park ($66,000) or a solar charging station at Griffin Rec Center in District 5 ($30,000). More than 20 projects in all will not be funded this year, most of them less than $35,000 each and all of them approved by voters in all five districts.
In a year when the city budget increased by more than $72 million, and which also raised property taxes in the city, participatory budgeting was cut in order to pay for raises for cops, according to City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba.
This is more than just a bait-and switch — this is a breach of contract between elected officials and voters, this is a fast-shuffle that screws the people out of the very tiny piece of the budget that they controlled; this is betrayal.
And maybe they won’t be paying for these things right now, but if fans of participatory budgeting vote at the polls like they did on the PB process, they might be paying for it come election time if participatory budgeting is not reinstated.
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