The Council Ways and Means Committee voted by a 3-1 margin to give a favorable recommendation to the proposal that would grant a $1 million appropriation to the Everett Youth Initiative Council at its meeting Monday night.
The measure will go before the full City Council for a vote at its Monday, June 12 meeting.
Councillors John Hanlon, Darren Costa, and Vivian Nguyen voted in favor while Councillor-at-Large Stephanie Smith voted against the proposal that would fund the students’ choices for citywide projects.
“I fully support the Youth Council and all the effort they have put into the participatory budget process to determine a list of ideas for spending the $1 million that Mayor and the City Council have allocated from the ARPA funds,” said Smith. “However, I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence and upholding my responsibilities to the taxpayers by approving a blank check for $1 million with no estimates to how they will spend the money. Until the Council is provided with the anticipated costs per project, similar to the budget process we just went through for the entire city operating budget, I cannot vote in favor of the appropriation.”
Before Monday’s vote, it is expected that Smith will try to convince her colleagues to follow her lead and seek more information about the cost of the respective projects for which the $1 million will be targeted. When Everett High School students return for the new school year, they will vote on the city-oriented projects that they would like to see funded and implemented.
“I hope my colleagues do their due diligence and their responsibilities to the taxpayers, because we don’t give away money to anyone. I don’t know why we would start doing it now.”
Ward 2 City Councilor Stephanie Martins, an adviser to the Youth Initiative Council (School Committee member Samantha Lambert is the other adviser), said she understands Smith’s concerns.
“Councilor Smith has a track record of being extremely fiscally responsible and she does want to only vote on things that already have a known price, but at this time it’s not possible for the students to know the price, because they don’t know which of the projects will be voted on – they have to wait until the voting happens in September,” said Martins.
Martins said Everett is following the participatory budgeting process that the cities of Cambridge and Somerville employ.
Martins said in Everett 15 projects were selected out of the 500 ideas that the Everett Youth Initiative Council received from residents.
“Out of the 15 projects, the projects that receive the most votes by the students, will be funded,” said Martins. “There are projects such as refillable water stations at the parks, public WiFi at the parks, the purchase of air conditioners for housing, financing LGBTQIA spaces, replacing street lighting with solar-powered lights, the addition of trash barrels to the streets, and creating little library stations for the dispensing of personal hygiene items. A lot of the projects are great in their different ways.”