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Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America, Hollie Russon Gilman

Reviewed by Gary A. Mattson



A critical issue among public finance scholars has been who decides how city services are funded and allocated. Today, the political environment of budgeting is not merely the milieu of the budget analyst or the local official. Rather, budgeting is the lifeblood of city governance by acting as the blueprint that indicates priorities for the scope and delivery of public services. Typically, tensions arise because there are different levels of social and economic benefits to be gained by each participating stakeholder. Irene Rubin asserts in her classic study The Politics of Public Budgeting that the multiplicity of policy actors ensures that there are different and often clashing objectives pertaining to how tax dollars are spent.

The typical focus on budgeting has been the involvement of technical aspects of taxing and spending priorities by public officials. Yet as city fiscal stress has become more prominent, the public acceptance of the provisioning of an optimal threshold of city services has become a critical component of the local budgetary process. It is from this perspective that Hollie Russon Gilman offers a refreshing alternative to most budgetary texts. City budgets are built around values in which certain priorities are articulated and manifested by the details of dollar allocations. Accordingly, Gilman asserts that rather than presume that

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