Building Rio, yes indeed

Politicians trip themselves up but democracy moves forward

Periphery activists at the launch of a primer on youth, favelas and drugs, Complexo da Maré

The government limps along, public safety wavers, but a bunch of people are busy chopping wood for the benefit of Rio de Janeiro.

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Casa Fluminense, Meu Rio and more than 30 other groups and organizations took part in the public consultation phase of the city’s draft 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, a phase that ends today (Friday, Sept 29).

They came to the conclusion that more participation is needed! And they’re asking citizens to sign a petition to pressure city officials into opening up to more citizen input. They listed 12 priorities to be delivered to mayor Marcelo Crivella:

  1. Expansion of sewage collection and treatment citywide. Contribution to the Guanabara Bay cleanup;
  2. Public safety for neighborhoods that most need it, not just the South Zone seaside areas;
  3. Publication of the Municipal Plan for Sustainable Urban Transportation (PMUS);
  4. Guaranteed transparency in bus fare calculations;
  5. Delivery of Social Interest Housing in the city center and review of Porto Maravilha;
  6. Transparency and dialogue on areas subject to geological risk and favela upgrades;
  7. Increased full-time schooling, with quality, to 73,7% of public school enrollment by 2020;
  8. A Culture Support Program that operates according to criteria including territorial inequality reduction and the democratization of access to and production of art in the city;
  9. Creation of a Realengo Urban Park and a Serra da Misericórdia Urban Park;
  10. Creation a Municipal Policy for Urban Agriculture;
  11. Expansion of trash recycling with inclusion of trash pickers;
  12. Creation of a site for target monitoring and advances in regional plans.

Young people at the launch of the Agência Redes para a Juventude’s new cycle

Funds are scarce now but it’s almost as if the end of the mega-event lineup has allowed us to focus on what’s really important: public debate, politics. Rethinking roles, values and assumptions.

This will be the new focus for the Agência, which plans to create a network of houses in peripheral areas, where young people can gather and talk about the metropolis.

The activists in the first photo — above — who last month launched a primer on the War on Drugs, started a constant debate in low-income neighborhoods, on the connections between violence and the difficult life experiences of residents, especially black youth. Intense shootouts in Rocinha and its brief military occupation in recent days are merely an particularly impressive example of the spreading savagery in metro Rio.

There is so much uncertainty. Will Rio manage to straighten out its finances, with the Fiscal Recovery Plan signed by the state and federal governments, to lighten the current debt load and open the door to new loans?

At the same time, forward motion. In 2016, Rio was the 11th state to comply with a 2009 federal law, installing an ombudsman in its Public Defender’s office. Today also marks the end of the phase in which a triple list was drawn up, of candidates for the post from 2018 to 2020. By chance, we had exactly three candidates: incumbent Pedro Strozenberg, with long professional experience in the area of human rights; Alan Brum, Complexo do Alemão resident and co-founder of the Instituto Raízes em Movimento; and João Ricardo de Mattos Serafim, nominated by the Vigario Geral favela’s Neighborhood and Friends Association, with union experience.

All three spoke today before 15 social organizations from civil society, which voted so that the Defender’s Office Upper Council, which chooses the next ombudsman on October 20, receives a list of the three in order of preference.

A notable aspect of this election, a new development in the democratic panorama, is the question of representativeness — of whoever occupies the Defenders’ listening post. Favela resident or someone from the formal part of the city? Is listening a compensation for the  lack of listening in the past? When and how will Brazil manage to make reparations for its historic inequalities? These questions are at the heart of today’s turbulent politics, nationwide.

Yes there is movement in Rio: festive occupation of public space in the Port area, revitalized with the Cais do Valongo slave wharf excavation, the removal of the Perimetral overhead highway, warehouse renovations and two new museums

Alexandre Arraes lost his City Council seat as a result of the recent IPTU (real estate tax) vote. Before this, however, he innovated — by bringing METROPOLITAN sanitation and transportation issues into the plenary. Arraes had plans to bring up public safety, too.

Traditionally, city councils could only legislate on land use and the budget. This changed in 2013, when the federal Supreme Court decided that Brazilian metropolitan areas had to deal with metropolitan issues, Arraes explained to the blog. In 2014 Rio created the Metropolitan Integration Chamber. Unfortunately, it’s limited to diagnostic work and cannot execute policy, because the state assembly, Alerj has yet to pass the law which gives it this capacity. “We have to set up intermunicipal consortia,” Arraes suggests, as long as Alerj stalls.

Former PSDB city councilman Alexandre Arrães at the Parque do Martelo, Humaitá, which he helped create over 15 years ago

As individuals and groups work to make Rio more liveable, we had the closing of an institution that for six years fostered thinking on urban issues here. Last night was the farewell for Columbia University and Rio City Hall’s Stúdio X, a restored house whose light spilled far beyond its Tiradentes Square, downtown. The square changed so much in the last few years, with the removal of its fencing and gates, more public events and the VLT trolley’s arrival!

The building itself remains open, housing the Centro Carioca de Design. Studio X also continues on, as part of a Latin American academic network. Those present last night, including academics, architects and urban planners, swore they’d find a way to keep up the vitality that Studio X brought to Rio.

Could it be that we have more freedom to rethink Rio now, than we had within the limits of the Cabral-Paes years? Time to make it happen —

It helped Rio to shine; end of a cycle, said director Pedro Rivera

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About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Building Rio, yes indeed

  1. shotw2arrows says:

    Julia, it is Thursday, 19 Oct 2017. Today, tomorrow, or next week, the Brazilian Lower House of Congress will vote to annul the charges against President Temer and his alleged co-conspirators. I believe it will be remembered as a great day for corruption and a black day for democracy — in Rio, in Brazil, and even in every nation south of the US. I will not write an essay giving my reasons — that would require perhaps 1000 words.

    Instead, I ask you to give your opinion of this momentous event. I think that whatever your answer be, it will generate controversy among your readers. I hope they will write and give their opinions.

    Thank you for your current blog entry. Before I came to Brazil, I read a short book, Popular Organization and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: A Tale of Two Favelas, by Robert Gay, published in 1994. It details and recognizes the desperate and valiant grass-root attempts within the favelas to obtain social justice. They were fighting for short term goals — a sewer system, for example. And they have partially succeeded. Fewer open sewers run through the favelas today.

    Favela leaders presented petitions, as the group you describe presented petitions. But in a true democracy, the people are sovereign. The manager of a grocery store is sovereign in that store. He does not present petitions to employees. Yes, a good manager listens to employees; he asks questions; he make suggestions. But he gives instructions that things be done. “We must make sure than every customer can easily find the price of very item.”

    Implicit in every instruction is a promise and a threat. If the instruction is carried, the employee will be recognized and rewarded. If the instruction is not carried out, the employee will not be rewarded and he may be sanctioned, the ultimate sanction being termination — firing.

    In a true democracy, the people can reward a representative by voting for her in the next election. The people can sanction an office-holder by voting against him.

    In the People vs Temer case, the people that favor Temer having a fair trial could penalize the deputies that vote against a trial by voting against him. The people could inform deputies that they would vote against them if Temer were not allowed a fair trial.

    I believe polls show that most Brazilians are in favor of a trial. But I don’t hear of any movement to help the people notify their deputies of this.

    Why, Julia, why? Why don’t the NGOs that go into favelas to help people, inform them of the need to vote? Why don’t they inform them of the need TO BECOME INFORMED?!!!

    I admire the people who go into favelas to help. They can see what is happening up close. They can see that when people are struggling to raise and feed their families, all the time dodging bullets, that have little time for learning about government. The people react on a short-term basis. They react emotionally. They burn tires and buses. They shout and throw stones. This is natural.

    What is needed is a calm and rational approach to taking the levers of power into their own responsible hands.

    And that’s what I need. When Temer is confirmed to complete his term, it won’t all be over. The fight will just be starting. The primary goal must be to put people into power in 2018 who are outside the corruption loop. But how can that be since virtually every individual and group in power today is INSIDE the corruption loop? A secondary goal is to bring charges against Temer et al., when they are not covered by the rules against bring elected officials to trial. But, again, how can that be, since almost everybody charged will be covered by that rule?

    These are challenges, Julia, and I hope your blog will be of service to meeting them. Thank you for giving me a chance to have my say.

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