The Cities This Week: Edition 59

Rio: The armoured vehicles moved into the Mare slum at dawn. Photo: AP

Rio de Janeiro: The armoured vehicles moved into the Mare slum at dawn. Photo: AP


“Paris looked set to elect its first female mayor on Sunday night, but the victory for socialist Anne Hidalgo was an isolated piece of good news for President François Hollande’s embattled party. The exit polls showed that Spanish-born Hidalgo, 54, was estimated to have won, with 55% of the vote, well ahead of her centre-right rival Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. If her victory is confirmed in a final count Hidalgo will succeed the popular Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who has run the city since 2001. Last year she told the Guardian that running Paris was “the best elected job that exists”. But her probable triumph was a rare moment for celebration in what was a dismal evening for Hollande, whose popularity was already at rock bottom even before Sunday’s vote, and his Socialist (PS) government.” – The Guardian


“Brazilian security forces have moved into a slum near Rio airport, as part of efforts to drive out drugs gangs before this year’s football World Cup. The vast Mare favela is considered to be one of the most dangerous drug-trafficking areas in the city. Authorities have been carrying out a slum “pacification” programme aimed at making the city – which also hosts the 2016 Olympics – safer. Large quantities of weapons were reportedly seized in Sunday’s raid. It began before dawn, when more than 1,000 police backed by soldiers and armoured vehicles took up position in Mare, one of Rio largest shantytowns. The area – close to Rio’s international airport – is home to about 130,000 residents. The authorities said the whole area was occupied within 15 minutes. But in the afternoon, clashes erupted between rival groups and a 15 year-old boy was killed. Residents said the unrest started with teenagers hurling stones at each other but ended in a shoot-out. At least another three people were injured and taken to a hospital nearby.” – BBC News


“Tourists who lean against the wind as they cross the Golden Gate Bridge may miss the slow-moving woman without a purse or the solo man without a camera or running shoes. Last year was a record: 46 people plunged to their deaths from the majestic orange bridge. Bridge workers stopped 118 others. That is a suicide or an attempt almost every other day at what is the most popular suicide spot in the nation, and among the most popular in the world. Unlike the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate lacks a suicide barrier. For 60 years, the directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, reflecting the live-and-let-live ethos that animates this city, never agreed to build a barrier. Now, with the numbers of suicides rising — the country has more annually than traffic fatalities — and the ages of those jumping here declining, they are moving forward.” – The New York Times


“Ana Botella, mayor of Spain’s capital city, wants to “regulate” the right to hold public demonstrations in the centre of Madrid in the wake of police clashes with protesters after last weekend’s “March for Dignity”. Botella spoke at a press conference on Wednesday after the weekly meeting of her regional government. “The right to demonstrate can and must be regulated,” she stated. Botella, of the right-wing PP (Popular Party) which also controls Spain’s national government, went on to say that she had formally requested a meeting with the government’s delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, to demand “a series of specially protected spaces”, where protests would be banned. She said that her goal was to protect areas of historical interest and major tourist attractions. Cifuentes already has the power to change the planned route of demonstrations, but Botella wants to take things a step further and “make a pact” with organizers to move protests out of the city centre completely “then make them comply”. She refused to say where she felt protests should be moved to if they are banned from the city centre.” – The Local


“Patrick Cannon, the mayor of Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, was charged with taking bribes in an FBI sting in which agents posed as investors and real estate developers. Cannon, 47, a Democrat, resigned yesterday as mayor of the city of 775,000 that’s home to Bank of America Corp. (BAC) He is accused of soliciting and accepting more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets and other items of value in meetings with at least seven undercover agents pretending to explore projects in Charlotte, federal prosecutors said in a statement. The five payments Cannon allegedly took included $20,000 in cash delivered last month to the mayor’s office.” – Bloomberg


“Tens of thousands of Taiwanese protesters have taken to the streets in Taipei in a bid to pressure President Ma Ying-jeou to retract a controversial trade pact with China. The protesters, many wearing black shirts and headbands reading “defend democracy, retract service trade pact,” crowded the streets leading to the presidential office, despite fresh concessions offered by Ma to further scrutinise agreements with China. “The people cannot accept the government’s reckless decision to sign the service trade pact with China. The government doesn’t listen to the people who demand the pact be retracted,” said protester Ko Hsuan-yu, a 25-year-old graduate student. Security was tight as 3,500 police were deployed in the official presidential neighbourhood.” – AlJazeera


“Believe it or not, Londoners like skyscrapers. While the idea of building tall towers in a historic European city might strike many as like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa, a new survey suggests that Londoners broadly consider the city’s recent rash of high-rise building as a good thing. A poll released this week by think tank New London Architecture showed 45 percent agreeing (against 25 percent disagreeing) that tall buildings such as The Shard, The Gherkin,The Walkie-Talkie and The Cheese Grater had improved the city’s skyline. Developers will be rubbing their hands with glee at the news. Well over 200 new towers are planned for the city in the near future, a change that will reshape the skyline and change the city’s appearance and fabric radically. Look more closely, however, and you notice that this freshly announced enthusiasm is far from unbridled.” – Atlantic Cities


“A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the Lagos State Government to stop collecting toll on the N29billion Ikoyi-Lekki link bridge, describing the act as illegal. No sooner was the judgment delivered than the human rights activist and counsel in the suit, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, mobilised aggrieved Lagosians to block the link bridge, thereby preventing motorists from easy access. THISDAY investigation revealed that this led to chaos as motorists who were looking forward to taking the bridge to their destinations were held up in traffic for hours. It gathered that the stretch of Bourdillon, Alexander, Osborne and other adjoining roads in Ikoyi were completely blocked and chaotic. The presiding judge of the court, Justice Saliu Saidu, while delivering judgment in the suit by Adegboruwa, against the state government over the collection of toll on the bridge, held that from all the documents before the court, the only justification for the toll was the public private partnership law.” – This Day Live


“Cape Town has been named the capital city by the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF’s) Global Earth Hour, city officials said on Friday. Earth Hour is a world-wide movement organised by the WWF, which involves over 7000 cities and towns around the world calling on their residents to switch off all lights for one hour in a bid to save energy. The announcement was made at a ceremony in Canada on Thursday night, the City of Cape Town said in a statement. “This accolade is a prestigious honour that recognises the city’s innovative actions on climate change and its dedication to pursuing the goal of a sustainable urban environment”. The city was selected from among 163 entrants in 14 countries, after an expert jury reviewed the actions and commitments reported on by these cities.” – The Citizen


“Amcu’s revised pay demand of a minimum monthly wage of R12 500 put into effect over four years remains unaffordable, Impala Platinum said on Thursday. “This still represented a pay rise of about 30 percent a year,” said Impala Platinum CEO Terence Goodlace in a statement. “This remains completely unaffordable and will have disastrous consequences for our Rustenburg operations and our employees as it will lead to shaft closures and job losses.” Hundreds of striking mine workers employed in the platinum sector marched to the Impala head offices in Illovo, Johannesburg, earlier in the day to deliver a memorandum of demands. Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa earlier told the mining company’s officials the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union wanted a response by April 5.” – IOL


“Federal investigators will focus on whether a CTA train operator fell asleep at the controls and if an automatic braking system was working properly as they seek to pinpoint the cause of a spectacular crash Monday that left a Blue Line car perched atop an escalator. The operator may have fallen asleep shortly before her train smashed through a “bumping post” at the end of the track at O’Hare International Airport just before 3 a.m., according to a transit union representative. The CTA employee, whose name has not been released, said after the crash that she was tired, said Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308. “I can confirm that she was extremely tired,” Kelly said. “Indications are she might have dozed off.” Other crucial issues that will come under sharp focus in the inquiry include whether the train was speeding as it entered the station at the airport and whether the safety control system was working.” – Chicago Tribune