The Cities This Week: Edition 52

Thousands of Londoners were affected by the Tube strikes this past week. Source: Lucy Tobin/ Evening Standard

Thousands of Londoners were affected by the Tube strikes this past week. Source: Lucy Tobin/ Evening Standard


Union leader Bob Crow has apologised to London commuters over last week’s Tube strike but said a second strike “is on” for Tuesday night. Mr Crow said Transport for London (TfL) had to “move its position” to avoid a second strike, claiming a lack of consultation on future Tube plans. The network was thrown into chaos for 48 hours after members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) walked out on Tuesday night for the first 48-hour strike. Normal services resumed on Friday. Strike action took place over plans to close all Tube ticket offices and cut jobs. Transport for London (TfL) has said its proposals, which would lead to almost 1,000 job losses, would save £50m a year.” – BBC News


“Aid workers have returned to the besieged central Syrian city of Homs, a day after trucks carrying supplies came under fire, evacuating civilians and delivering food and medicine. More than 600 civilians have been evacuated from the Old City since Friday, with the majority coming out on Sunday. But the process has not been without danger. Activists told Al Jazeera that shelling struck civilians who were preparing to be evacuated in the district of Al Qarabis on Sunday. Several people were said to have been killed and a number of others injured as a result of the incident. Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have prevented the entry of food and medical aid into parts of Homs for more than a year.” – AlJazeera


“When Bob Filner resigned as mayor last summer amid a sexual harassment scandal, Democrats openly fretted over losing the first liberal in decades elected to run this city, long a Republican bastion on the southern edge of the state. Now as voters prepare to elect Mr. Filner’s successor on Tuesday, the city is engaged in a fierce ideological battle: Will it elect David Alvarez, a Democrat and first-term city councilor who is championing a minimum-wage increase, or Kevin Faulconer, a Republican councilor who argues that the city must keep pensions down and attract new businesses? The mayor’s race in San Diego, the nation’s eighth-largest city, is in many ways a fight for its political soul. For years, residents here have picked moderate Republicans who have the backing of city developers, transforming downtown into a model of urban redevelopment with bustling, pedestrian-friendly streets that have become prime tourist attractions. But many Democrats argue that the powerful, business-focused elite have neglected and ignored working-class neighborhoods outside the city’s center, creating a sprawling urban area divided sharply by class.” – The New York Times


“As the sport got under way in earnest in Sochi on Saturday, and the first medals were won, the tide of public opinion in Russia and the world began to turn, slowly. The Sochi Olympics have been tainted by myriad controversies during the buildup – from gay rights to corruption – and many expected the Games themselves to be similarly disastrous, with concerns about the intrusiveness of security, the absence of fans and shoddy construction work. But over the course of the week, culminating in the sublime opening ceremony on Friday night and the first action on the slopes and the rink, the mood turned from a backlash against Vladimir Putin’s grandiose Olympic vision to something of a backlash against the backlash.” – The Guardian


Hundreds of people in Brazil have clashed with police during a protest against increased fares for public transport. Commuters were caught up in the violence at Rio de Janeiro’s Central Station during rush hour. Riot police fired tear gas and tried to disperse the crowd, while activists hurled stones and petrol bombs. Last year, similar protests grew into a nationwide movement against corruption and excessive spending ahead of the football World Cup, which Brazil will host in June and July. Those protests began at the end of May 2013 in Sao Paulo, when the local authorities announced ticket prices would rise. The fare increase was revoked after weeks of protests, with the federal government helping the state and municipal authorities to foot the bill.” – BBC News


“New homeownership and  business opportunities have opened in Lagos for first time home buyers and property developers, as the Lagos State government , Monday, flagged off its Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (LagosHOMS),  announcing its intention to buy off houses from private estate developers and put same on the market for tenants desiring to own homes. Beginning from March 4 this year, 200 families who will  apply for the scheme and succeed, will get their own homes under the scheme which offers 10 years of loan repayment tenor and 9.5 percent interest rate, making it truly a mortgage scheme that reflects global best practices. At the flag-off ceremony that was well attended by housing industry stakeholders, Babatunde Fashola, the state governor, stressed that after three years of debates and disagreements, government has resolved that the scheme is for first time home owners.” – Business Day


“Just a day after hundreds marched through Cape Town in a service delivery protest, police were pelted with stones by residents of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, who also burned tyres and blocked roads with rubble in a violent protest over housing. Hundreds of protesters blocked the road leading into the village with burning tree stumps, rubble and tyres and had a stand-off with police, who were attacked with stones. The Sir Lowry’s Pass Village protest followed on the heels of a major political protest march held by the ANC yesterday, during which activists also demanded “proper” housing.” – IOL


“Mpho Parks Tau has a lot on his mind. As mayor of South Africa’s largest city, he is responsible for an area of 2,000 square kilometres – and Johannesburg’s current population of 4.4 million is expected to increase by a further 50% by 2040. Tau is concerned about the slow progress in bringing about social equality in the aftermath of apartheid. He is concerned about tax collection, crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, income inequality, and crime. He is trying to cut CO2 emissions by 1.6m tonnes by 2020. And this week, he has had to entertain a diverse collection of fellow mayors from some of the world’s leading cities. Tau’s ideas about the role of a modern, big city mayor have come under particular scrutiny as Johannesburg has played host to the C40 cities mayors’ summit, a meeting of some of the world’s megacities to discuss the unique challenges – especially climate change – that urban areas face.” – The Guardian