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Sharing the Urban Commons – Geographical

The growth of cities is one of the defining challenges of our century. Efficient, compact urban living might relieve environmental pressures, but urban sprawl could add to the climate crisis

Inclusive cities might help billions out of poverty, but divided cities could exacerbate social tensions. The crux is how well cities share their resources, infrastructure, prosperity and opportunities among all their people. In other words, how well and how fairly they share the ‘urban commons’.

First and foremost, cities must recognise that the urban commons is a co-creation of the city’s people, institutions and communities. Genuine sharing cities need to work out how best to support the processes by which urban commons are created and maintained.

Source: Sharing the Urban Commons – Geographical by Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman

Cities are already critical institutions in an emerging era in which economies and societies alike are being reshaped by sharing. While popular discourse argues over whether sharing-economy giants like Airbnb and Uber are really sharing platforms, cities around the world are adding bike-shares, tool-libraries, edible parks and other facilities to their long-standing roles as providers or managers of shared services and infrastructures.

Genuinely smart cities are sharing cities, harnessing smart technologies to social purpose so as to transform city governance around the shared and co-created urban commons

Cities such as Seoul and Amsterdam are at the leading edge of a sharing movement that combines smart tech with goals of social inclusion. They engage proactively with the contemporary commercial sharing economy, yet also support, enable, invest in and procure from civic, communal and charitable sharing organisations. They are making opportunities to provide more efficient services, reduce environmental impacts and support social inclusion by connecting services and platforms across the sharing ecosystem, acting as city sharing hubs.

Sharing cities are also experimenting with regulation and incentives, using policy, planning, taxation, permitting, standard setting and other tools to identify the mix of approaches most appropriate for their situation. In Seoul, Uber has been banned to make space for locally-owned alternatives. In Amsterdam and Berlin, Airbnb rentals are restricted to prevent short-term tourist rentals changing neighbourhoods and depleting the affordable housing stock. Mostly these regulatory approaches are co-produced, with the involvement of users, the sharing platforms, and city officials.

We can also learn from cities that have not embraced the sharing economy. In helping us understand and govern cities as shared spaces and systems, and facilitate inclusive sharing by all citizens, cities such as Medellín, with its approach of urbanismo sociale, have much to offer. Social urbanism seeks to enable inclusion in the shared public realm by investing primarily in low income districts, improving public transit, education and cultural facilities using revenues from the city’s public utilities company and guided by participatory planning and budgeting. Medellín shows the importance of designing for justice and inclusion, of engaging with the hard and soft infrastructures of the urban commons like public spaces and utilities, not only with sharing services and organisations; and above all of sharing power, with democratic models that empower users, protect civil liberties, and provide shared spaces for collective politics.

seoulSeoul is one of many cities pioneering various sharing schemes, such as cycle hire (Image: TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock)

Sharing is nothing new: it’s an evolved human behaviour that dates back millennia. Yet traditional sharing is too often exclusive – focused within families and communities. The modern world demands sharing that is cosmopolitan and inclusive. From sharing our homes with refugees to sharing our atmosphere and climate with nine billion others, humanity needs to share across the boundaries of difference. The experiences of ‘sharing’ cities from Amsterdam to Medellín, and from Berlin to Seoul, reveal how cities working to share their urban commons can offer the best of both worlds – sharing that is inclusive and cosmopolitan; but also civic and communally directed.

We argue that a paradigm of sharing is the best guide for cities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Successful sharing cities will: focus policy and planning interventions on increasing equity and social justice by investing in low-income neighbourhoods, such as with Medellín; practice ‘urban acupuncture’ for example by pedestrianising streets and enabling citizens to express their cultures in public spaces, such as in Copenhagen; intervene to regulate the commercial sharing economy and provide support for affordable alternatives, as per Seoul; encourage participatory budgeting and popular deliberation in the allocation of funding for city projects (as in Porto Alegre); demonstrate the power of reclaiming public spaces and enable citizen participation in the management of city spaces, such as in Bologna with its regulation for the urban commons; and facilitate the emergence of communal and civic sharing projects to meet needs and build capabilities across the city as demonstrated in Amsterdam.

Such cities show how genuinely smart cities are sharing cities, harnessing smart technologies to social purpose so as to transform city governance around the shared and co-created urban commons.

Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman are the authors of Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities, out in March (£17.95, pb).

This was published in the February 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Source: Sharing the Urban Commons – Geographical by Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman

Is This Small City the Future of Democratic Engagement in America? | The Nation

It’s a fine spring Sunday in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and most people in this decidedly pious city in the heart of Amish country are at home or at church celebrating the Sabbath. Even the famous Central Market—with its traditionally dressed vendors, its German delicacies, its Muenster cheeses and cured meats —is closed.

When you’re trying to create a populist political movement from scratch, however, you don’t get a lot of down time. And so Michelle Hines and her partner, Daniel Levin, are out knocking on doors and telling their neighbors about the new grassroots group in town.

Hines, a young white woman who works a day job at a local laboratory, ascends the stoop of a gray stone row house and a middle-aged lady in a dressing gown and slippers answers the door.

Hines introduces herself and then asks the crucial question: “What do you think of the political establishment?”

“It sucks!” says the woman at the door, who gives her name as Judy and describes herself as a Republican who didn’t vote in the last election. “It ain’t good, I’ll put it that way.” The woman is open and garrulous, and Hines invites her to the next monthly meeting of the group she represents. It’s called Lancaster Stands Up.

The organization, Hines explains, is a way for people who are sick of the status quo “to come together, to get plugged in.” It’s a polite and strategic description, but there’s plenty more to say.

Founded in the wake of Trump’s victory and led by a 12-person leadership committee, Lancaster Stands Up aims to upend politics-as-usual in this central Pennsylvania city. It wants nothing less than to break the stranglehold of both the Democratic and Republican establishments here and replace them with a progressive multi-racial political force beholden to the people alone. And it is using the tools of long-haul grassroots activism—canvassing, vetting candidates, bird-dogging political foes, forming unlikely alliances, training leaders, convening meetings—to build its constituency.

A crew of young lifelong Lancastrians, some of whom have been organizing together since high school, launched the group on their own, independent of any national organization, last November. Through huge rallies and intimate conversations and more, they are reminding neighbors like Judy that democracy is a practice that must be pursued constantly and in community. There are no off days. There are no off years. When civil society is at stake, it’s campaign time all the time.

After describing her concerns about gentrification and the cost of a movie ticket, after lamenting the fact that “the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer,” Judy, standing on her stoop under the springtime sun, shares her contact information and tells Hines that she’ll try to make the next meeting. She promises to tell her politically active daughter about Lancaster Stands Up, too.

Continue Reading the Artcile: Is This Small City the Future of Democratic Engagement in America? | The Nation By Jimmy Tobias MAY 2, 2017

Photo by Lancaster Stands Up. (Jake Ratner)

The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism : Janet Biehl : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Best known for introducing the idea of ecology to the Left, and for first positing that a liberatory society would also have to be an ecological society, Murray Bookchin, over the course of several decades, developed the basic components of libertarian municipalism – how to create free cities. Written in short, to-the-point chapters, the book presents an introductory overview and sketches the historical and philosophical context in which these ideas are grounded. Substantial material on the practical question of creating and organizing a new municipal movement toward such democratic cities is included.

Source: The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism : Janet Biehl : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Sanctuary City Starts GoFundMe After Gov Cuts Grants – The Daily Beast

Veterans courts and drug-addiction services in Austin, Texas, are being squeezed by the state because the sanctuary city’s sheriff won’t comply with ICE.

In Austin, some courts might have to be crowdfunded.

That’s because the city is what President Donald Trump calls a “sanctuary city”—and it’s facing extraordinary pressure, both political and financial, to join the Trump administration’s mass deportation efforts.

Austin is in Travis County, where its so-called sanctuary policy has already cost it $1.5 million in state funding that would have paid for drug courts, veterans’ courts, and aid to domestic violence victims.

Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other advocates of tougher immigration enforcement urge local police and sheriffs to help ICE in its deportation efforts. But many local law enforcement officials—including including Travis County’s new sheriff, Sally Hernandez—are hesitant, fearing that undocumented immigrants will be less likely to help police track down dangerous criminals if those police are in cahoots with ICE.

When Hernandez announced the county wouldn’t always cooperate with Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott cut state funding to the county.

So the sheriff’s supporters are now crowdfunding to make up for the lost cash—cash that pays for special courts designed to help War on Terror veterans with PTSD and parents with drug addictions. And it’s unlikely to be an anomaly, as Austin has become a national focal point in Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

The UCLG Executive Bureau is meeting in the Spanish capital at the invitation of Mayor Manuela Carmena

The UCLG Executive Bureau is meeting in Mdrid under the invitation of the Mayor Manuela Carmena

On 18 and 19 April, the 2017 edition of the UCLG Executive Bureau will be held, back-to-back with the First World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace, from 19-21 April. The Bureau, which is meeting for the first time following the election of the new Presidency of the organization, will debate the implementation of the decisions adopted by the World Council in Bogotá last October.

As a prelude to the Executive Bureau, on 18 April there was the meetings of the Financial Management Committee and the Committee on Satutry Affairs, a programme of workshops and policy debates on Human Rights in the City and the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both of which are main areas of the UCLG agenda.

Source Article: The UCLG Executive Bureau is meeting in the Spanish capital at the invitation of Mayor Manuela Carmena

Human Rights in the City

The programme for 18 April featured an important slot for the Right to the City in the session organized by the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights and the Municipality of Madrid. Human Rights organizations also took part in the meeting and analised experiences on local policies to guarantee the right to the city.

Patric Braouzec, President of Plainne Commune and CISDP introduced the session underlining the role of the Committee, comprised by cities committed with the Right to the City.

The session continued with different examples showcased by mayors: Pam Mcconell, Deputy Mayor of Toronto, explained how Toronto has implemented a full programme to guarantee the Right to the City to the migrant population called: “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Rosario Ortiz, Director for the protection of Human Rights in the city of Mexico, said that both, political will and the existence of resources, are two key elements to guarantee the Right to the City. Third Deputy Mayor of the city of Madrid, Mauricio Valiente, underlined the importance of decentralization and local resources to guarantee human rights to citizens. The session followed with a debate between the institutions and civil society on how local governments and territories, together with the civil society can stimulate citizen participation.

How to localize the SDGs: learning among cities  

The local and global sustainable development agendas will be shaped by the knowledge of local and regional governments, which is based on the local reality and on communities’ practical experiences. That’s why UCLG is promoting a debate on localization.

On 18 April, a workshop was held on “Localizing the SDGs” to share a set of learning tools with representatives of cities and associations of local and regional governments interested in supporting the “localization” of the 2030 Agenda. The event was organized jointly by UCLG, the City of Madrid, UCCI, Platforma, the Province of Barcelona, UNDP and UN-Habitat.

The session provided a ‘train the trainer’ educational opportunity; it was open to politicians and experts from local and regional governments, their associations, programme experts, and networks or organizations active in development programmes.

Representatives from national associations of local and regional governments took part in this session, which focused on the learning module on localizing the SDGs

The learning module, provides UCLG members and partners with practical material to support the promotion, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, thereby encouraging greater mobilization and interactive work among local governments.

Local and regional governments facing the challenge of SDG localization

In the framework of the UCLG Executive Bureau meetings, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), with support of Platforma have organized a political debate to analyse how all SDGs have a local dimension that is essential to their achievements.

© Javier González de Chávez – FEMP

The institutional welcoming was carried by Carlos Martínez Minguez, Mayor of Soria, Fernando García Casas, Secretary of State for International Cooperation and for Latinoamerica and Mpho Parks Tau, UCLG President.

Fernando García Casas argued that subnational governments and states “need to sail and pull together in face of the new challenges ahead”. García Casas added that “many of the actions to achieve the SDGs are taking place at subnational level, in particular, at local level, this is why municipalities have to be involved”.

UCLG President, Parks Tau, introduced the UCLG narrative on localization: “for us,  localization is a bottom-up and a political process. The achievement of the SDGs and the Habitat III Agenda must be based on local priorities and resources. That’s why local democracy and local leadership are that important for localization”.

Parks Tau added that the political dimension of localization is as important as the technical one and that UCLG will continue working with national associations of local governments to achieve increase recognition of our constituency.

[Read the Communiqué of the FEMP]

The two following discussion tables included mayors’ experiences on the different policies implemented to achieve the SDGs. The debate highlighted that localization should enable us to learn from implementation, adjust targets and refine the necessary global frameworks with a view to achieving the visions that the international community has defined together.

Participants agreed that local and regional governments are policy-makers and the best level of government to link the global agendas to our communities putting the focus on participatory democracy and making citizens part of the implementation.

For more info:

Follow the hahtag #UCLGMeets

Visit our album in Flickr

See our Storify

Photos by Javier González de Chávez – FEMP

Source: The UCLG Executive Bureau is meeting in the Spanish capital at the invitation of Mayor Manuela Carmena


Are cities on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030? | Citiscope

We are now almost halfway through the first 1,000 days of implementation of the landmark Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global framework that seeks to eradicate poverty, combat climate change, and promote peaceful and inclusive societies — all by 2030.

In countries around the world, we’ve started to see burgeoning progress on implementation at the national and, to a lesser extent, local levels. But it has become increasingly clear that real action needs to be stepped up if we are going to set the solid foundations needed to meet these ambitious goals by the end of the next decade.

Article: Are cities on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030? | Citiscope by PAULA LUCCI APRIL 19, 2017

What’s taking place in cities is of particular and increasing interest for many. After all, with more than half of the population globally living in urban areas and this figure set to increase, largely driven by urbanization in developing countries, the SDGs won’t be achieved without active involvement from cities.

But with work on implementing the SDGs at the city level still in its early stages, we know very little about several basic questions: How feasible is the achievement of this agenda for cities around the world? Under current trends, how likely is it that cities will achieve these goals by 2030 — and what level of effort will be required?

[See: Cities turn to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals]

At ODI, we made a first attempt to answer these questions by running a series of projections for eight selected SDG targets for 20 cities in the developing world. These eight targets were: child mortality, nutrition, secondary education, employment (disaggregated by female/male employment), access to energy, access to water, access to sanitation and access to housing (using both quality of flooring and overcrowding as indicators).

The 20 cities all had Demographic and Health Survey data representative at the city level. Of these, 14 were in Africa, four were in Asia, and two were in Latin America and the Caribbean. (The full report is available here.)

Here is what we found.

The good

First, the good news. On current trends, by 2030 most cities in our study would be halfway or more to achieving at least four of the eight targets we selected. These include: child mortality, universal access to secondary education, universal access to energy, and full and productive employment (for male employment only; it’s a different story for female employment, as discussed below), and access to adequate housing based on quality of flooring. With continued efforts, these targets could be achieved.

The bad

At the same time, the majority of cities in our sample also will require rates of progress more than twice as fast as we’ve seen in the past if they are to meet the other half of the selected targets by 2030. Here the concerns are around aspirations to end child malnutrition, to achieve universal access to drinking water, adequate sanitation, full and productive employment for females, and access to adequate housing (based on overcrowding statistics). Only revamped endeavours and prioritization of policy in these areas could help to adequately accelerate progress for these targets.

[See: How Baltimore is using the Sustainable Development Goals to make a more just city]

The ugly

More worryingly, a minority of African cities in our sample fall under what we called the “reversal” category. This means that cities need to change the direction of current trends if the targets stand a chance of being achieved. Six of these cities — Brazzaville, Ouagadougou, Bamako, Conakry, Nairobi and Maputo — require reversals of trends for the housing target. Harare and Abidjan require reversals for the target on ending child malnutrition, while Nairobi falls under this category for the water target.

Capacity — and data, data, data

So, what needs to happen next? From this first analysis, we extracted two broad lessons.

1. Strengthen local government’s capacities

It has been said many times, but it can’t be stressed enough: If cities are going to meet the SDGs, central governments and donors will need to work to strengthen local governments’ capacities. In many developing countries with growing urban populations, particularly in Africa, local governments’ limited capacities and lack of resources remain huge challenges. Unless this changes, these city officials will be unable to deliver basic services for their growing populations — as the results of our projections show.

[See: Explainer: The challenges of measuring cities’ progress on the Sustainable Development Goals]

In this case, strengthening capacity means training and attracting qualified local officials. It also means that central governments need to devolve the powers and finance required for local governments to deliver on the SDGs. And donors need to get better at supporting rapidly growing cities in the developing world.

2. Improve the data available

While running these projections, we came up against several data limitations that constrained the targets we could monitor. It is clear that good data is the only way for governments to inform policies and for citizens to hold them to account. It may seem too technical, but without facts, particularly at a time when they are politically so contested, it is nearly impossible to inform the long-term planning we need to make our cities more inclusive and sustainable.

“It has been said many times, but it can’t be stressed enough: If cities are going to meet the SDGs, central governments and donors will need to work to strengthen local governments’ capacities.”

Here are four key actions that can be taken to improve the data available to local authorities and to inform policymaking around sustainable urban development. Some of these prescriptions are fairly straightforward and can be slotted into pre-existing statistical structures, while others will need more time and money to be realized. Either way, doing so is a worthy investment.

Achieve quick wins by tweaking existing surveys: Some data improvements could be easily achieved. For example, questions can be added to existing surveys to get a more nuanced picture of the quality, accessibility and affordability of basic services in dense urban settlements. It is also important that big national and international household surveys are representative at the city level.

[See: If cities are to ‘leave no one behind’, disaggregated data is invaluable]

Gather data for marginalized communities: Disaggregation beyond the city level often was not possible for the cities for which we had data; this is particularly problematic when addressing intra-city inequalities. To tackle the deprivations of marginalized groups such as slum dwellers, we need to better understand their specific needs.

Surveys could, for instance, oversample these groups, or slum-specific censuses could be conducted. A specific geographical variable for slum settlements could be added to an existing census so that the data could be easily analyzed for these deprived neighbourhoods. Further data on slums — for instance, citizen-generated — could fill critical gaps about the quality of services in these poor neighbourhoods.

Improve data-sharing: Monitoring and reporting on the SDGs will require not only improving statistical capacity within existing structures of data production in the country and the city, but also strengthening national and subnational coordination and arrangements for data-sharing between government agencies. Interestingly, the Netherlands is experimenting with urban data centres, having national and local experts working together on the sharing and production of data.

[See: Can we actually agree on indicators to measure urban development?]

Invest in open data platforms: Finally, data on SDG performance needs to be made open to the public. For instance, improving data accessibility through open data portals could help citizens hold governments to account. Ultimately, this is where the power of global agendas such as the SDGs can be found.

Next year will provide a window of opportunity to strengthen cities engagement with SDG implementation. Governments produce voluntary reports at the United Nations on SDGs progress, and in 2018 they will report on Goal 11, on cities. This poses a great opportunity and milestone for cities to take the lead, revamp their commitment to this agenda, produce their own progress reports and share their experiences through city networks.

You can access the full “Projecting Progress: Are Cities on Track to Achieve the SDGs by 2030?” report here.

Article: Are cities on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030? | Citiscope by PAULA LUCCI APRIL 19, 2017

Citiscope is a nonprofit news outlet that covers innovations in cities around the world. More at Citiscope. org.”

Mayors lead the global debate on the development of cities for peace

Local leaders from around the world met with civil society in Madrid to address urban violence and alternatives for peaceful coexistence

The World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace opened its doors in Madrid from 19 to 21 April. The Forum, held at La N@ve exhibition centre in the Villaverde district, brought together local leaders, UN agencies, international networks, the academic world, NGOs and civil society to launch a process of debate and reflection on how to create urban environments capable of eliminating violence in all its forms.

Source: Mayors lead the global debate on the development of cities for peace

The Forum was announced at the UCLG World Council in Paris in December 2015, immediately after the attacks on the French capital in November of that year. The announcement represented the determination of the Mayors of Madrid and Paris, Manuela Carmena and Anne Hidalgo, to promote the values of peace in cities.

As Manuela Carmena stated at the opening of the Forum, “this Forum is place to gather ideas and actors that create peace.” Carmena added that “local authorities can teach how to resolve conflict and violence”. In light of this, the round tables, plenary sessions and exchanges included authorities from cities and territories of all sizes.

UCLG President Parks Tau also participated in the plenary session on peaceful cities, where he stressed that forums like these, which promote cooperation among cities and global leadership, are what networks such as UCLG are all about. In his words, the World Organization “is about local leaders putting our priorities on the global agenda and coming together to share perspectives and find solutions” to challenges such as the construction of peace. Parks Tau also congratulated the Mayors of Madrid and Paris for the initiative of the Forum.

Anne Hidalgo thanked the associations and networks of local governments like UCLG that lead these initiatives that enable exchanges between local authorities and civil society.

Por su parte, Anne Hidalgo agradecía a las asociaciones y redes de gobiernos locales como CGLU que lideran estas iniciativas, que permiten un encuentro entre autoridades locales y sociedad civil.

UCLG was a member Forum’s organizing committee, together with the City Councils of Madrid, Paris and Barcelona; the Mayors for Peace network; the International Association of Educating Cities; UN-Habitat; the World Health Organization (WHO); the city network Metropolis; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities (UCCI); the Spanish Association of Research for Peace (AIPAZ); the Madrid NGDO Network; and the Madrid Federation of Regional Neighbourhood Associations (FRAVM).

Violence affects the whole of society and, in this regard, the meeting in Madrid intended to open up dialogue and participation beyond these institutions to the communities in which conflict develops and is endured.

UCLG also had a stand dedicated to promoting peace, innovation and culture, which also acted as a hub for presentations dedicated to the UCLG awards.

UCLG also had a stand dedicated to promoting peace, innovation and culture, which also acted as a hub for presentations dedicated to the UCLG awards.

Further, the sessions organized within the framework of the Forum saw the participation of numerous local leaders who shared the experiences and realities of their cities, defending Mayor Carmena’s view that local authorities can teach how to resolve conflict and violence

For more information:

Read the Madrid Commitment to Peaceful Cities

Visit the Forum website:

Follow the hashtag #UCLGMeets

See our Storify

Visit our album in Flickr

Feature Photo by World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace opened via Flickr

Tennessee Bills Send Message on Municipal Broadband

In a world increasingly reliant on high-speed internet for all facets of life, about 34 percent of Tennesseans lack broadband access. Two state bills were considered this year to remedy that. One would’ve allowed city-owned high-speed internet infrastructure to expand at no cost to residents. Another outlined an offer of $45 million in subsidies to private internet service providers to build the same infrastructure. Only the latter passed.

Chattanooga is the municipal broadband poster child. In 2010, the city became a rarity on two fronts. Electric Power Board (EPB), the city utility, built its own internet network, and Chattanooga became the first city in the U.S. to provide a 1 gigabit connection. Though that’s already hundreds of times faster than average American broadband speeds, EPB upped its game in 2015 by launching the world’s first 10-gigabit network.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke credits the municipal broadband network with spurring an economic recovery. Schools and businesses get extremely fast internet. Residents pay $70 a month for 1-gigabit internet at home (less than what many people in the U.S. pay for slower internet in other cities). And, as is often the case with city-owned utilities, EPB offers low-income residents deeply discounted broadband.

Source Article: Tennessee Bills Send Message on Municipal Broadband | Next City BY JOSH COHEN | APRIL 20, 2017

Unsurprisingly, surrounding towns and suburbs want access to that network. EPB wants to expand as well. But they cannot. A state law pushed by private telecom companies prohibits public utilities with broadband networks from expanding beyond city limits. The Federal Communications Commission overturned that law in 2015, but an appellate court reversed the FCC’s ruling, meaning the law still stands.

State Senator Janice Bowling’s bill would’ve changed Tennessee law to allow municipal broadband providers to expand beyond city limits. Tullahoma, a city in Bowling’s district, also has a municipal broadband network. EPB said it could expand its network infrastructure with cash on hand and private loans. But both Bowling’s bill and its companion in the House died in committee.

Instead, the legislature passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, a bill pushed by Governor Bill Haslam. It provides $45 million in tax breaks and grants to private companies such as AT&T and Comcast to build broadband infrastructure in communities that need it.

“I find that infuriating. Chattanooga has not only one of the best networks in the nation, but arguably one of the best on Earth and the state legislature is prohibiting them from serving people just outside of their city boarder,” says Christopher Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

Mitchell says it’s far easier and less risky for a company to expand existing infrastructure than to build a new network from scratch, which is what the private companies can now do. But that argument didn’t outweigh the lobbying strength of the telecom giants.

“It’s a question of how much grassroots effort is needed to overcome telephone and cable lobbying,” Mitchell says. “I had hoped this year we’d see Chattanooga and other municipal broadband cities have enough grassroots power. But they don’t. They need to do more organizing.”

In 2016, State Rep. Kevin Brooks introduced a similar bill to allow Tennessee utilities to expand their internet service. When asked about lobbying efforts against the bill, Brooks told the Times Free Press that the telecom companies had hired 27 lawyers to fight his legislation.

Tennessee’s refusal to remove legal barriers to municipal broadband expansion doesn’t have legal implications for other cities’ attempts to implement the model. But Mitchell worries it’s yet another psychological barrier for cities rightly worried that attempting to build a city-owned internet network will come with serious legal headaches. Comcast sued Chattanooga twice to try to stop EPB from building its gigabit network.

“I think any city’s effort would face that. It’s not just the potential legal barriers, it’s also the message of ‘this will be difficult,’” says Mitchell.

Still, there is strong support for municipal broadband in the U.S. A new survey from Pew Research Center found 70 percent of people think governments should be able to build their own broadband networks if “existing services in the area are either too expensive or not good enough.”

“We’re on the right track,” Mitchell says. “In many ways, I don’t view [municipal broadband] as inevitable in every state, but we’re going to see communities pushing for it more and more.”

Source Article: Tennessee Bills Send Message on Municipal Broadband | Next City BY JOSH COHEN | APRIL 20, 2017

Cities must stop underestimating their need and ability to respond to migration

In October, world leaders gathered in Quito to officially adopt the 20-year road map on sustainable urban development known as the New Urban Agenda. Notably, that document expressly commits to respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons, regardless of their migration status. This statement comes as the U. N.’s refugee agency has pledged to work beyond camps to protect the rights of those seeking protection in urban areas.

While laudable, achieving that aim will mean shifting many of the incentives driving urban politics and planning — processes that often marginalize cities’ most vulnerable, including the displaced. Beyond moral appeals and platitudes, how can we reshape urban politics and institutional processes to promote the positive inclusion of displaced populations in cities?

A first step is to recognize that cities and their leaders are at the centre of a global humanitarian crisis. According to the U. N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR), over 60 percent of the world’s 19.5 million refugees, and 80 percent of the world’s 34 million internally displaced, live in urban areas. More than 7 of every 10 people displaced across or within international borders seek safety and futures in cities.

Yet while debates rage over integration in Europe, North America and Australia, cities outside the wealthy West are where thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — of displaced people first arrive. Amman, Beirut, Gaziantep, Kampala, Peshawar and Nairobi already accommodate many of the displaced from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Congo and Sudan, according to UNHCR, and will host many more. Meanwhile, tourism centres such as Dar es Salaam and Bangkok are becoming increasingly important sanctuaries for those fleeing conflict.

Local authorities already struggling to meet the needs of rapidly growing and diversifying populations often perceive the immediate priorities of citizens and refugees as mutually exclusive. And naturally, citizens come first. However, ignoring the displaced is no solution.

Article originally posted at Cities must stop underestimating their need and ability to respond to migration by C.W. KIHATOL.B. LANDAUA. SARKARR. SANYAL, APRIL 25, 2017

[See: Providing shelter in urban Iraq: Where the displaced meet the poor]

Many urban planners simply wish refugees will go away. But if the past decades teach us anything, it is that displacement is enduring. In many places, refugees are fully part of an expanding urban population, and ignoring them is likely to heighten poverty, marginalization and social fragmentation across cities. Alternatively, recognizing and capitalizing on their presence can promote cohesion and prosperity for all.

Even urban planners and municipal officials who realize the benefits of addressing population displacement must typically overcome institutional systems, political incentives, planning and democratic processes working against them. Because refugee and immigration policy and enforcement are usually national mandates, urban policymakers often underestimate their ability to respond.

Beyond mandates, proactive planners will face colleagues unwilling to address refugees’ needs. The displaced typically are not political constituents — even when they can vote — and resources are simply too scarce to go around. Ironically, the more democratic a city is, the more political leaders may turn away or against the displaced. Participatory planning processes, lauded as empowering long-time marginalized urban dwellers’, can lead to the exclusion of newer urban residents seeking economic opportunity and protection.

[See: Sustaining peace in an urban world]

Even where local democratic participation is open to refugees, the displaced may lack the political security, language or incentive to participate. Elsewhere, they simply cannot compete with more-powerful host communities. Where politics is fragmented or contentious, urban responses that exclude, alienate and exploit refugees are likely to win local favour.

Cities wanting to “leave no one behind” — an overarching goal adopted by the United Nations — must confront these messy politics and institutional practices. But what are the options for mayors or city officials? What pathways exist for city leaders to grow urban economies, expand opportunities for all, provide sustainable and affordable urban services to both host and refugee populations, and protect all who live in cities?

Six recommendations

While there are no easy answers or best practices, here is some of the advice offered at a recent conference of multilateral organizations, municipalities, urban planners and humanitarian organizations working in cities in the Middle East and Africa. (The meeting was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. Citiscope also receives support from the Rockefeller Foundation.)

“Ironically, the more democratic a city is, the more political leaders may turn away or against the displaced. Participatory planning processes, lauded as empowering long-time marginalized urban dwellers’, can lead to the exclusion of newer urban residents seeking economic opportunity and protection.”

Consider the needs of displaced populations across sectoral planning processes: Displacement intersects with everything that cities do. While it might be symbolically and politically tempting for municipalities to “externalize” displaced people to see their needs as requiring the action of others — national government and humanitarian organizations — refugees are consumers, taxpayers, entrepreneurs, labourers, tenants and parents whose everyday activities intersect with multiple sectors and all aspects of urban planning.

[See: Could special economic zones be a win-win for refugees and host countries alike?]

Special refugee programmes may have a place in urban policy, but they run the risk of engendering local hostility and duplicating resources. Instead, cities need to consider human mobility as they formulate sectoral and urban development plans. For an urban planner, it matters not whether the garbage was produced by a refugee or citizen. What matters is how to ensure that the city’s urban services and infrastructure can sustainably meet urban dwellers’ demands without becoming hazardous to the environment and its people.

Make displacement work for you: Even the most humanitarian-minded bureaucrat or official recognizes that displaced populations are not the only people needing help. In many instances, locals may be as or more vulnerable. So how to overcome the politics of helping others while facing severe resource constraints for your own voters?

While we reject the idea that the displaced offer universal or automatic economic benefits, a refugee presence can be economically and politically useful to the community. In many places, the least skilled and most vulnerable refugees head to camps or are unable to move at all. As such, many of those coming to the city are relatively healthy and skilled. In Maputo, for example, central African refugees brought new small-scale trading skills and networks to the previously socialist economy where few had such trading experience.

Whether it is through their contributions to municipal revenues and taxes, entrepreneurship or labour, refugees have skills and human capital that can grow urban economies, create jobs and increase city income streams. In Nairobi, daily trading permits, issued regardless of immigration status, have allowed the city to benefit from refugee traders, many of whom work as street vendors. Ensuring that regulatory frameworks — banking, by-laws, licensing — enable such trade can create jobs and lower commodity costs while providing taxes and levies to municipalities.

[See: ‘Migrants are agents of development’, says U. N. migration chief William Lacy Swing]

Leverage humanitarian development aid: Beyond their own capital, there is a global humanitarian funding regime invested in the rights and welfare of those displaced. The trick for city leaders is getting that funding to work for their city. By working strategically, local authorities can partner with humanitarian organizations, directing their resources to align with local development agendas, while taking ownership of the services delivered.

Channelling refugee assistance toward place- rather than people-based interventions can expand urban services such as water, waste and electricity as well as investment in roads, community parks or clinics in refugee-settled areas in a city. In Lebanon, for example, humanitarian NGOs are increasingly shifting toward area-based approaches and upgrading urban services in neighbourhoods where both host and displaced communities live. Partnering strategically with these organizations could win municipalities political goodwill from their constituencies.

Know thy partners: The partnerships called for to accomplish any of these goals will require a deep understanding of humanitarian and development actors in a city — their priorities, funding cycles and local programmes — on the part of municipal authorities. This implies strengthening research, relationship-building and negotiation skills within and across municipalities. To make human mobility work for cities, municipal actors have to be proactive about identifying appropriate partners, integrating them into their development plans, and co-producing outcomes that are beneficial for all parties. Rejecting aid is sometimes the best option.

Enhance local literacy: Municipalities have to understand the needs of marginalized populations in their cities. Local literacy is particularly critical in cities beyond the wealthy West where large segments of the population live in slums because it easier to access housing and employment. In cities such as Nairobi, Kampala and Peshawar, these sites are often outside the control of local government. Making humanitarian aid work for the city means being able to identify needs, understand land and property markets, and think smartly about how to promote common interests between local and displaced populations. The presence of humanitarian aid may provide support for research that enables this level of local literacy.

[See: U. N. summit on migration crisis fails to address front-line role of cities]

Build solidarity: All this calls for municipalities to build solidarity across different levels of government, host and refugee populations, municipal, humanitarian and development actors. In addition to the technical skills required to provide urban services, municipalities need to invest in the “soft” skills of negotiation, relationship building, and winning hearts and minds.

We fully recognize that realizing these principles depends on municipalities’ own legal mandates, financial and decision-making autonomy, which dictate what they can or cannot do in their countries. Yet whatever the levels of decentralization, much of what we suggest is possible with political will and strategic thinking.

As we move toward more urban forms of displacement, the challenge of managing cities will become only more complex. Realizing the New Urban Agenda’s vision of sustainable and just cities demands deliberate action: changing institutional processes and politics towards a more inclusive urban practice.

Article: Cities must stop underestimating their need and ability to respond to migration by C.W. KIHATOL.B. LANDAUA. SARKARR. SANYAL, APRIL 25, 2017

Image byFibonacci Blue

A Sanctuary City for Data Privacy? | CivicHall

The New York City government is looking into ways to enforce stricter data privacy laws in the mold of the recently-scrapped FCC rules governing how internet service providers collect, store, and sell user information. The move sets New York City up to become a sanctuary for citizens looking for a little more privacy online. To start, the city has announced a new privacy policy for the free, public wi-fi kiosks that dot the city, one that clearly states that browsing history will not be stored or sold.

In a Technology Committee hearing on data privacy this Monday afternoon, Council Member James Vacca and other city officials positioned themselves and their work in opposition to the federal government with regard to consumer privacy online. In his opening statement, Vacca described both internet access and privacy as fundamental human rights.

“Lately, digital privacy rights—and countless other rights—have been under attack by the federal government,” Vacca said. “Our City has the opportunity to stand as an example for other cities around the country that are looking to adopt the latest technology, while maintaining residents’ privacy.”

Vacca’s comments were echoed by representatives of the de Blasio administration.

Source: A Sanctuary City for Data Privacy? by

“Before concluding, I’d once again like to reinforce that we share the Council’s concerns about recent actions on the federal level,” said Anne Roest, New York City’s Chief Informatino Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), at the end of her prepared remarks. “As you know, Congress recently passed, and the President signed, legislation that unravels essential protections of Americans’ online privacy. Unfortunately, with the leadership in place in the White House, Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), these kinds of mandates will only become more commonplace. We will continue to monitor these efforts and comment as necessary in collaboration with the CTO’s office, but we also welcome your feedback and suggestions on these crucial matters.”

This is not the first time Roest and her colleagues have positioned themselves in opposition to the Trump administration on this issue. Earlier this month, Roest issued a statement along with Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño on the repeal of federal internet privacy protections, calling the legislation “unconscionable.”

“We are prepared to fight these atrocious invasions of privacy wherever and whenever we can,” reads the statement. “We will continue to implement strict privacy policies for public wi-fi directly provided by the City, such as LinkNYC.”

“This law serves no one except the multi-national corporations that lobbied for it,” they conclude. “It’s clear that the President and congressional Republicans may be willing to put everyday Americans’ personal information up for sale. New York City is not.”

In their statement, Roest and Gamiño announced their intention to create an Internet Health and Human Rights working group.

In the hearing Monday, Roest pointed to the new privacy policy for LinkNYC, the free wi-fi kiosks popping up all over the city, as an example of one of the strongest possible privacy policies for a public wi-fi service.

The vendor that supplies the city with LinkNYC kiosks, CityBridge, updated the LinkNYC privacy policy in March after consumer and privacy advocates drew the public’s attention to gaping holes in the original policy more than a year ago. Roest said that the new policy was written in cooperation with the City and according to their demands.

In addition to enforcing stricter privacy policies for city services like LinkNYC, Gamiño also said that city officials are looking into how they can step in and regulate ISPs.

“We worked with the Council to the Mayor to initiate a comprehensive legal review of the city’s authority to protect New Yorkers’ privacy when connected to the internet,” Gamiño said. “Specifically this review includes an evaluation of the authority the city may have over the privacy policies of internet service providers, how and to what extent the city is exercising this authority currently, and whether the city can expand the exercise of its available authority to achieve at minimum the privacy protections for internet service consumers that Congress and the President have recently repealed.”

New York City is not alone in the effort to step in and fill the gap in privacy protections left by the repeal of the FCC rules. A number of states are rushing to draw up privacy bills to protect their residents, James Willcox reported for Consumer Reports. In New York State, Democratic Senator Timothy Kelly has introduced a bill to prohibit ISPs from selling users’ browsing history or other identifying information to third party companies, and a second bill would require ISPs to keep user data confidential without written consent.

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