Politics Economy

Groundbreaking ‘Empower Eau Claire’ Will Allow Residents to Directly Vote on City Spending

kick-off meeting for ‘participatory budgeting’ effort will be held Oct. 5

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

The pedestrian bridge in downtown Eau Claire's Phoenix Park.
The pedestrian bridge in downtown Eau Claire's Phoenix Park.

In a first-of-its-kind program in the state of Wisconsin, the city of Eau Claire is handing over a portion of its budget to direct democratic control through an innovative process known as participatory budgeting.

The program, dubbed “Empower Eau Claire,” will help distribute $300,000 in city funds via a public vote next spring. The process will start with a kick-off event on Tuesday, Oct. 5, from 4-7pm at the L.E. Phillips Senior Center, 1616 Bellinger St.

Here’s a brief description from the city:

The process begins this fall by informing the public and recruiting volunteers, then collecting the public’s ideas to develop into real proposals, and finally, selecting the winning projects through a city-wide vote in spring 2022. In each step, residents of Eau Claire can be involved in different ways including: submitting a project to improve the community, refining ideas into concrete proposals to meet program goals, helping to serve or facilitate at events, encouraging others to participate, and most importantly, voting to determine which projects receive funding.

According to the city, “Ideas must be physical projects (no programs or services) that serve the public. This may include equipment, infrastructure, park, land, or building improvements, vehicles, and more.”

The Oct. 5 kick-off event will include 20-minute sessions on how the program works, how to create projects, and how to volunteer, followed by a Q&A session.

Learn more about how you can take part in the process now and in the future at www.eauclairewi.gov/empower or by checking out the flyer below: