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Masten residents vote on preferences to fund community projects

With the presidential campaign in full-swing and the New York primary coming up in April, Masten residents voted in a different kind of election over the past week. Rather than voting on political matters, the residents as young as 14 cast their votes on Buffalo’s first ever Participatory Budgeting project. The voting occurred all week and ended Saturday.

The new project originally consisted of roughly 600 ideas identified by primarily Masten residents. That list was eventually narrowed down by the Participatory Budgeting steering committee to the final 21 projects placed on a paper ballot.

Voters got to select the six projects they thought most worth funding among the 21. Once votes are tallied, the top choices totalling no more than $150,000 will be carried out.

Lenaire Herring was among the Masten residents who voted at the Amherst Street NFTA Station Friday. It was just one of several voting sites over the week.

“I just happened to be here,” Herring said.

After filling out a ballot, Herring praised the project, saying the ballot items were ones that will make a difference in the community.

His personal choices, he said, were those including bus shelters and neighborhood library nooks. Herring said he’d like to see more Participatory Budgeting projects in the future.

“They are about the people,” he said.

Taneepha Stokes also voted at the Amherst Station Friday. Her ballot selections included a bus shelter, garbage cages and a tool library.

The results of the ballot will be announced Thursday.

Participatory Budgeting is a national movement that lets citizens directly determine how a slice of their tax dollars is spent. In Buffalo, the mayor and council put $150,000 in a Participatory Budgeting fund. The project was spearheaded by the Clear Air Coalition, which then helped designate delegates and committee members to carry out the project. The Masten District was selected for the project because the committee felt the funds would have more impact if spent in a limited jurisdiction.