What is the City Charter?

A cartoon woman with glasses explaining "the city charter is the legal document laying out all the essential rules for how our city government works." In response, a man with his back turned says "and we're... reviewing it? Does that mean we can change it?"

Boston’s constitution is called the “City Charter.” The Charter defines how our government is set up, how our budget is made, how elections are run, and the powers our city can exercise.


Question 1 has two main reforms

Reform 1: Include the City Council

Allow Boston City Councilors to better represent our neighborhoods by giving them the tools to amend and improve the Mayor’s budget.

Reform 2: Require Participatory Budgeting

By 2024, create an independent office of Participatory Budgeting to allow Boston residents to propose and vote on parts of our annual budget.


How it works now (Reform 1)
The Mayor proposes a budget and then the City Council can accept or reject it as a whole. However, the Council cannot propose or vote to change any subsections of the budget. If a City Councilor wants to see smaller changes, they have to negotiate with the Mayor behind closed doors, but can’t actually vote.
How it would change (Reform 1)
The Mayor still creates the budget, but a City Councilor could make changes to subsections through a majority vote of the Council.  If the Mayor disagrees, they can still veto and prevent the change, unless the City Council has a super majority vote to override the veto. The Council would not have the power to increase the overall budget, which prevents overspending by the city.
How it works now (Reform 2)
Every year since 2013, Boston’s youth (12-25) have the opportunity to vote on how to spend $1 million of Boston’s budget through “Youth Lead the Change.”  However, adults do not participate and no funds or laws exist to enable participatory budgeting for the whole city.
How it would change (Reform 2)
Boston would form an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting (PB) to help facilitate neighborhood voting on our annual budget. The rules of PB, like how much money we can vote on, must be designed in a City Ordinance by the 2024 budget.

The Participatory Budgeting Process

Design the Process.

A steering committee that represents the communicty creates the rules and engagagment. 

Brainstorm Ideas. 

Through meetings and online tools, residents share and discuss ideas for projects. 

Develop Proposals.

Volunteer “budget delegates” develop the ideas into feasible proposals. 


Residents vote on the proposals that most serve the community’s needs. 


PB is democratic process where community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget

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