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Innovation in Growing Cities to Prevent Social Exclusion

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As of 2007, the world became a majority urban place. The largest movements of people in human history are occurring right now, as vast populations relocate to urban and semi-urban areas in pursuit of a better quality of life, or because life has become intolerable where they currently live.

A new book launched during this year’s World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil highlights ways in which people across the South are shaping how their cities evolve, insisting that they will not accept social exclusion and demanding a “right to the city.”

“A lot of social initiatives based on the right to the city are coming from these ‘new cities of the South,’ said one of the book’s editors, Charlotte Mathivet of Habitat International Coalition in Santiago, Chile. “The book highlights original social initiatives: protests and organizing of the urban poor, such as the pavement dwellers’ movements in Mumbai, India where people with nothing, living on the pavements of a very big city, organize themselves to struggle for their collective rights, just as the park dwellers did in Osaka, Japan.”

This first edition of Cities for All: Proposals and Experiences towards the Right to the City, comes in three languages – English (http://www.hic-net.org/document.php?pid=3399) , Spanish ( http://www.hic-net.org/document.php?pid=3400) and Portuguese (http://www.hic-net.org/document.php?pid=3401) – is intended to inspire people to tackle positively this fast-changing urban world.

The book’s chapters span an eclectic mix of topics, from democracy in the world’s future cities to experiences in Africa’s cities, to how the 2008 Beijing Olympics affected the metropolis, to ways of involving children in urban planning.

One innovative case study included in the book is the children’s workshops in Santiago, Chile, which aim to make a more child-friendly city by including children in the planning process.

One example of the success of a child-friendly approach has been the work of the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa (http://www.pps.org/epenalosa-2/) . As mayor of the city of over 6.6 million people from 1998 to 2001, he put children to the fore in planning.

“In Bogotá, our goal was to make a city for all the children,” he told Yes! magazine. “The measure of a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely go anywhere. If a city is good for children, it will be good for everybody else. Over the last 80 years we have been making cities much more for cars’ mobility than for children’s happiness.”

His term in office saw the establishment or refurbishing of 1,200 parks and playgrounds, the building of three large and 10 neighbourhood libraries and the opening of 100 nurseries for children under five. He also oversaw the creation of 300 kilometres of bike lanes, the largest such network in the developing world, created the world’s longest pedestrian street, at 17 kilometres, and turned land earmarked for an eight-lane highway into a 45 kilometre green belt path.

Cities for All’s publisher, Habitat International Coalition (HIC) (www.hic-net.org) , says it focuses on the link between “human habitat, human rights, and dignity, together with people’s demands, capabilities, and aspirations for freedom and solidarity.”

The group works towards the creation of a theoretical and practical framework for what it calls a “right to the city.”

The cities of Africa and Asia are growing by a million people a week. If current trends continue, megacities and sprawling slums will be the hallmarks of this majority urban world. Currently in sub-Saharan Africa, 72 percent of the population lives in slum conditions. And by 2015, there will be 332 million slum-dwellers in Africa, with slums growing at twice the speed of cities.

“The consequences have produced a deeper gap between the city and countryside and also within the city between the rich and poor,” said Mathivet.

“We must think of the right to the city as a lively alternative proposal,” Mathivet said, “a banner under which social movements, academics, and social organizations are struggling against the perverse effects of neo-liberalism in cities such as the privatization of land, public spaces and services, land speculation, gentrification, forced evictions, segregation, and exclusion.”

Resources

1) Model Village India: Drawing on self-organizing methods used in India since 1200 BC, the Model Village India is based around India’s democratic system of Panchayats: a village assembly of people stemming back to pre-colonial times. Website: www.modelvillageindia.org.in

2) More Urban, Less Poor: The first textbook to explore urban development and management and challenge the notion unplanned shanty towns without basic services are the inevitable consequence of urbanization. Website:www.earthscan.co.uk

3) Building and Social Housing Foundation: The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) is an independent research organisation that promotes sustainable development and innovation in housing through collaborative research and knowledge transfer. Website: http://www.bshf.org

4) World Social Forum Dakar, Senegal 2011. Website:www.worldsocialforum.info

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“Cities for All, recently published by Habitat International Coalition, draws together thinkers and innovators in a compilation of case studies addressing the challenges of inclusive cities in the global South. The book seeks to articulate experiences of South-South cooperation and enhance the links between different regions. David South interviews the co-editor, Charlotte Mathivet.”

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Will The Megacity Mean Mega-Privatization?

Annex Gleaner (Toronto, Canada), March 1997

As the provincial government tries to shoehorn six municipalities into one megacity, opponents of the plan worry that one of the results of amalgamation will be widespread privatization of public services.

References to contracting out and tendering municipal services in order to achieve savings run through the provincial government’s much-maligned report supporting a megacity, produced by consultants KPMG.

Many observers feel the new city will have no choice, while others argue privatization won’t be nearly as extensive as some fear. Still others think it is far from a foregone conclusion that a future amalgamated council will push privatization.

“Who knows if the council will have an interest in privatization?” says a senior bureaucrat at the City of Toronto, who did not want to go on record. “People are running around saying they will privatize everything, but who knows what the political make-up will be of the new council? They are assuming there will always be savings to be had from privatization – that doesn’t automatically follow. The financial pressures on the megacity can’t be avoided by privatization.”

Among the six current Metro municipalities, it is Etobicoke that has most fully embraced contracting out. The City of Etobicoke’s experiments with contracting out – 60 per cent of public works contracts are performed by private-sector companies – calls into question the estimates of substantial savings being bandied about by the provincial government.

According to the senior bureaucrat in charge of running that city, acting city manager and commissioner of public works Tom Denes, contracting out isn’t the tax-saving nirvana some believe.

“I think we are finding in contracting out,” says Denes, “that the higher the skills of the workforce, the less sense it makes to contract out. For example, it would be very expensive to contract out water treatment.”

Denes says the city’s pride and joy is its privatized garbage collection handled by Waste Management Inc. and BFI. The WMI contract is worth $6 million a year, down from the $7.5 million a year it was costing to publicly run garbage collection. The price is fixed for five years, when it must be negotiated again. While the city made $1.9 million selling its old trucks, councillors set up a $4 million fund so Etobicoke could go back to collecting garbage itself if private companies tried to gouge the city.

Denes, who has been meeting with counterparts at other cities and the provincial government, believes the new Toronto will be divided up into several districts which private garbage collectors will have to compete for.

“Based on what I know, if you were to divide the city up into waste contracts, it would be at least four areas,” claims Denes. “No company can handle the whole city. You just can’t find a company that could handle a megacity. It would become a monopoly.”

Denes thinks the likely suspects for contracting out would be any manual labour work and the TTC. He thinks a megacity would be mistaken to contract out skilled work like surveying, arguing that skilled workers would use their desirability to their advantage and charge high consulting fees.

“The US cities have all gone through these exercises. They are in fact contracting services back in,” says Denes.

While the Tories have been slipperier than a scoop of ice cream about their specific privatization plans, one thing is clear: An essential element of the Tory economic vision is a greater role for the private sector in delivering public services. The $100,000 KPMG report plays to this, making it clear contracting out is a key means to saving money in the new megacity. The report claims between $28 million and $43 million per year could be saved from contracting out computer operations and some management; between $38.5 million and $68 million by contracting out fraud investigations; between $29.6 million and $54.5 million by contracting out road and electrical maintenance, snow removal and data collection; between $21 million and $39.4 million by contracting out garbage pick-up and processing.

The report also offers this proviso: “There is no such thing as automatic, cost-free savings from organizational change. The implementation process must be tightly managed to produce the savings suggested here.”

Ron Moreau is the administrator for Local 43 of the Metro Toronto Civic Employees Union, which represents over 3,000 public works workers and ambulance drivers at Metro.

“How will the megacity and municipalities cope with pressure from the public to hold the line on taxes? Where will councils find the difference between spending and revenues?” asks Moreau. “The level of service will suffer. When you contract out, public policy is held hostage by private enterpise.”

Moreau threatens that labour will play hardball with the new city. Most of the contracts for Moreau’s members run out on Dec. 31 of this year.

“Assuming the government doesn’t tamper with the labour legislation on our books, the unions can be organized into two large locals, one clerical/technical, the other outside workers. They would have effective bargaining clout.”

One major player looking for government contracts in a megacity will be Laidlaw Inc. While the company recently sold its garbage collection operations to an American firm, USA Waste, it still has interests in operating school buses and ambulances. Laidlaw is a heavy contributor to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, according to records kept by the Commission on Election Financing. Laidlaw has also made an influential new friend: in January, it hired former Metro chief administrative officer Bob Richards as its vice-president.

Ward 13 city councillor John Adams is definitely in the privatization-if-necessary-but-not-necessarily-privatization camp. “I don’t see everything being contracted out, but more stuff being put out for competitive bids.”

Adams thinks contracting out could be a good tactic to help modernize garbage collection, for example. He points to the City of Toronto’s deal with WMI to collect garbage at apartment buildings. In that deal, costs were reduced by $2.5 million over a five-year contract, and the crews on trucks were reduced from two to one. Instead of an extra crew member, closed-circuit television cameras were installed on trucks to speed up pick-up. Adams points out the crews are still unionized, but instead of CUPE it is the Teamsters.

“The way we pick up garbage from households is back-breakingly stupid. I think we need to rethink how we do it, to use machines more than people’s backs.”

But Adams doesn’t believe a megacity is a money-saver. “There will be a leveling up of wages. How long will two firefighters work side-by-side for different salaries? You can bet the union will negotiate an increase at the first opportunity.”

Adams thinks a megacity will be more prone to the slick lobbying efforts of companies like Laidlaw because councillors will be dependent on political parties to get elected. “The provincial government will contract out municipal government to Laidlaw,” he says sarcastically.

More on megacities:

African Megacity Makeovers Tackle Rising Populations

Artists Fear Indifference From Megacity

Cities For All Shows How The World’s Poor Are Building Ties Across The Global South

Global South’s Rising Megacities Challenge Idea of Urban Living

Safety At Stake

Southern Innovator Issue 4

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