Special to the Times
Mayor Michelle Wu last week announced Renato Castelo as the inaugural Director of the Office of Participatory Budgeting. The office, created by an ordinance approved by the City Council in February 2023, will provide the structure necessary to enhance public engagement and direct involvement in the City’s budget. Castelo will begin working in his role on June 20, 2023.
“Renato has a proven track record of engaging communities and working to ensure access to the resources they need to thrive,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I look forward to working with him in his new role as he leads our efforts to establish a process for direct civic engagement that will shape our budget.”
“I’m thrilled to welcome Renato to our team and work with him to ensure our budget process includes Boston residents from across the City,” said Chief Financial Officer Ashley Groffenberger. “I’m confident that his skills and experience will help us establish a fiscally responsible participatory budgeting process that will include resident voices in our budget.”
Castelo has most recently served as Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives in the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA). In his role, he has engaged residents, community organizations, City of Boston staff, the business community, and other relevant stakeholders to develop initiatives that support and empower immigrants to better integrate them into the civic, economic, and social fabric of Boston.
Prior to joining the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, Castelo worked for nonprofit, state government, and private sector institutions. During the past 14 years his work has centered on advancing the rights and opportunities of immigrants and low-income residents through partnerships and coalition building, community engagement and civic education, and leadership development. Originally from Ecuador, Castelo holds a Masters in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He lives in Packard’s Corner, Allston and enjoys biking to City Hall.
“I’m honored by this new opportunity and eager to help advance Mayor Wu’s vision of furthering democratic involvement in the City’s budgeting process,” said incoming Director of the Office of Participatory Budgeting Renato Castelo. “My priority will be to engage and partner with City residents, as well as members of the oversight board and community groups, to create the conditions for people to have a voice in the budgetary decisions that impact their lives.”
The office will work in close partnership with an external oversight board to establish and manage a Participatory Budgeting process that will be an equitable and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents and will create another opportunity for residents to both engage with the City’s annual budget process and to make recommendations for projects to be included in the budget. The office will work across departments and agencies, external organizations, and with communities across Boston to ensure year-round public involvement and engagement in the City’s budgeting.
Working with the office, the external oversight board will be tasked with submitting participatory budgeting project proposals to the Mayor for inclusion in the City’s budget. The board will also assist in the creation of a participatory budgeting rule book, which will outline the policies and procedures for the participatory budgeting process. The board will be composed of nine Boston residents with varied experience and expertise, including community investment and development, public finance, open space, urban planning, community organization and outreach, affordable housing, public education, public health, environmental protection, and historic preservation. The Mayor will appoint five individuals directly to the oversight board, as well as appoint four individuals to the oversight board from a pool of eight applicants provided to the Mayor by the City Council. Board members will have two-year terms.
In the 2021 Municipal Election, Boston’s voters approved a ballot measure to create an Office of Participatory Budgeting charged with furthering public engagement on how the City’s budget is created and how tax dollars are spent. The direct feedback was aimed to empower constituents in working alongside the City, and allowed the City to further evaluate where resources might be most equitable and valuable. More information about the budget is available on boston.gov/budget.