JEFFERSON PARK — Trees and sidewalks were the big winners in the 45th Ward's Participatory Budgeting vote.
For the fourth year in a row, Ald. John Arena (45th) allowed voters to decide how to spend his $1 million discretionary budget.
During the weeklong vote that culminated Saturday, 279 people voted to spend 50.7 percent of the budget on road repair, leaving $491,000 to fund the top four projects selected by voters, Arena's office announced.
The top vote-getter was a plan to replace the hundreds of trees in the 45th Ward that have fallen victim to the emerald ash borer during the past several years. Of the 169 people who voted to fund new trees, a majority voted to spend $243,000 to plant 450 trees, according to the results.
An effort to spend $200,000 to replace sidewalks and curbs throughout the ward that includes Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Forest Glen, Gladstone Park and Old Irving Park won 126 votes and will be funded, Arena's office announced.
Voters also agreed to spend $30,000 to install new lighting in the Milwaukee Avenue viaduct under the Metra Union Pacific tracks, Arena's office announced.
The final project that will be funded is a plan to spend $32,000 to install 14 decorative trash cans throughout the ward, Arena's office announced.
Projects that did not win enough votes to be funded included $60,000 for bicycle lanes on Austin Avenue from Elston Avenue to Northwest Highway.
The turnout in this year's participatory budgeting election hit a record low, dropping approximately 38 percent from the 2015 election. Since Arena first put his discretionary budget up to a vote in 2013, the number of voters has dropped 57 percent.
Arena said he was disappointed that more people didn't vote in the election.
"My staff and I will be discussing in the coming weeks and months what we can do to make voting easier for you in this process," Arena said in a statement. "In the end, participatory budgeting works when people participate, and we'll do our best to make that easier and more meaningful for everyone."
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