CITICHAT 44/2007: Neil Fraser's Weekly Easiread

You will have noted that, after much focusing on the Inner City Regeneration Charter at the end of last year and the beginning of this, I have been remarkably restrained in making any further observations. This is because most of what has been happening since the Inner City Summit in May 2007 has been within the City Council and little was made available to report on.
This all changed on Wednesday of this week, however, when the first meeting of the Inner City Charter Partnership Forum was held. The ICCPF will form the platform off which the regeneration efforts of the City will be placed, reviewed, reported and commented on, added to and, most important, measured and monitored.
 But let’s back up a little and review the process that had taken place leading to Wedneday’s session. The second  term of the Executive Mayor, Cllr. Amos Masondo, began in late 2005 and ran into a great deal of criticism relative to the Inner City because of a number of actions that marked the start of his second term: (i) the Inner City no longer would feature as one of his priority issues (ii) the position of an MMC (member of the mayoral committee) responsible for the inner city would be dispensed with and this responsibility placed under the Planning Department which would be expanded to include the responsibility for Urban Management, (iii) in reducing the numbers of municipal regions, the inner city would be amalgamated with another region creating a new super region, Region F, and, (iv) the Inner City Section 79 Committee as constituted was replaced with a political oversight committee.

In one fell swoop, all the positives that he had been responsible for and associated with through his first term of office 9except (iv)) appeared to have been swept away. Almost exactly a year ago I wrote, Citichat 44/2006,
Over the past few months I have expressed concern that our urban regeneration process appeared to be running out of steam. In fact, some recent figures that I have been researching, clearly show that the rate of investment in the inner city declined in 2006 when compared to 2005 and the years immediately prior to 2005”.
The Executive Mayor, on the 13th of November  2006, reacted to the concerns many of us were expressing by announcing a programme and process to ‘refocus and re-energise interventions and initiatives around the regeneration of the Inner City’ – this would be driven through an Inner City Regeneration Charter and Summit process. The inner city might be off the priority list as such, and all the other machinations might appear to be supporting this belief, but the conclusion that the Inner City was no longer of paramount importance to the City Council  was simply not true, said the Mayor. In fact it was an opportunity to introduce a far more meaningful process that would he would lead himself.
The process started within weeks of the Executive Mayor’s announcement, the first phase lasting until May 2007. A series of twenty-four intensive workshops was held over this period, four each on six specific clusters or individual themes: Urban Management, Safety and Security; Social Development; Housing Development, Transportation, Economic Development and Public Spaces, Arts, Culture and Heritage. The four workshops were structured, via interaction with the private sector and civil society, from highlighting the problems through to identifying possible solutions and action to be taken. In parallel, various appropriate research studies were undertaken and a new Spatial Development Framework embarked upon. A draft document was developed which was called the “Inner City Charter” and which encapsulated the critical issues identified by stakeholders at the workshops, provided a statement of the desired outcomes in relation to the issues, and set out a number of measurable commitments to be achieved during the balance of the Executive Mayor’s term of office.

The first draft of the Charter document was released at an Inner City Summit convened by the Executive Mayor on 5 May 2007. Following comments received, the draft was adjusted and the final Charter document was approved by the Mayoral Committee on the 19th July 2007.

 In terms of the draft document, the institutional and capacity development arrangements for implementation would be addressed following the Summit as would the establishment of  “A Charter Partnership Forum that will work to expand and deepen the partnership between the City, business, civil society and other spheres of government, and which will enable external stakeholders to closely monitor the implementation of Charter commitments.”
 Wednesday’s meeting launched the latter. The session was well attended by relevant councilors and council officials, Provincial Government, representatives of business, formal and informal, NPOs, Institutions of Higher Learning (never been sure why that label is given them it’s like the meaningless ‘captains of industry’) etc etc.

 The final combination or construction of the Forum has not yet been agreed (for instance Heritage related organizations were left off the suggested list of ‘members’)  but basically the Forum seeks to be representative of the relevant public and private sectors and civil society. It is ‘the participatory structure of the Inner City Regeneration Charter’; a mechanism for community participation as envisaged in national legislation; but is not a decision making body, it may make recommendations, and is not to supplant the political oversight role of the newly constituted Inner City Section 79 Committee. Its role is to champion the inner city; monitor and evaluate overall progress on action plans set out in the Charter; provide a forum for stakeholders to raise issues of concern and propose remedial action and enable all stakeholders to formulate strategies for problem solving. It will be convened by the Executive Mayor on a quarterly basis throughout the balance of his term of office.

 One concern expressed on a number of occasions throughout the pre-Summit period, that of the Council being player and referee, was again raised at the Forum. There is however a proposal by Council that Quarterly Reports on progress against the Inner City Regeneration Charter commitments will be commissioned from a “neutral and independent specialist tasked with assembling evidence of the progress achieved.”    

 In the absence of the appointment of a ‘neutral and independent specialist’ Yael Horowitz, the Inner City Programme Manager, provided a brief initial report on progress to date which reflects that the Charter Commitments for July to September were generally met, on track or are ongoing with a few delays to specific projects for plausible reasons. However, the list of Charter Commitments to be achieved by the end of December is substantial, too considerable to quote here, and will require a great deal of determined and focused effort. The latter must be of concern as the structure adopted by Council to date has largely produced a silo mentality and approach. In an effort to overcome this, a Multi Disciplinary Task (MDTT) team “meets regularly to co-ordinate, integrate, manage and monitor service delivery activities of all Municipal Owned Entities and Core Departments that operate in the Region.” This MDTT “includes senior officials in the region and/or head office, who are delegated to take decisions on service delivery issues.”  

Jumping ahead from December commitments, those for the end of June 2008, provide a more macro picture of what the city is targeting to achieve, ie

  • Sustained urban management throughout the Inner City area
  • A Public Environment Upgrade to Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville (here tenders have already been called for design etc. and various professional teams have been appointed and on-the-ground interventions by the JDA are due to commence shortly.
  • CID and NID coherent programme of support to three initiatives should be completed
  • A Housing Action Plan should have been adopted
  • A new and innovative approach to ‘Bad Buildings’ should be in place
  • Support for the really stressed Sectional Title sector should be in place and a 
  • Reconfigured Better Buildings Programme launched
  • Informal Trading and Linear Markets must be up and running and there is a large programme to be well advanced in
  • Community and Social Development    

 The Mayoral Committee approved an allocation of R300 million for inner city capex for the current year (ie will have to be spent by end June 2008) and this is being spent as follows:

  • Housing (a mix of emergency shelter, transitional accommodation and other ) amounting to R107 million.
  • Public Environment Upgrade particularly for the Hillbrow, Berea Yeoville upgrade R171.5 million and,
  • Capital for Pikitup mechanical improvements and upgrading of pounds R21.5 million.

 Of the R100 million approved for the Urban Management & Operational Budget, R19,6 million had been spent to the end of September ie in the first quarter. 

 I liked:

-      Yael’s acknowledgment that were was a need to develop ‘real new programmes’ to deal with the social support and open space that will be required to meet the City’s proposed 50 to 75 000 new housing units over the next seven or eight years and

-      the Executive Mayor’s comments in relation to a question on occupied buildings “there will be no incentive offered by Council for illegal activities and illegally occupying buildings” as well as

-      his answer to comment on the slowness of Council often merely through bureaucratic requirements thrust on them “we have  a need for speed and action and nothing should be  delayed because of lack of leadership”.

 I didn’t like:

-     the clear absence of so many Executive Directors and CEOs of Council Departments and entities. This does not bode well for the commitment that will be needed to achieve Charter goals. We will achieve so much more as a team rather than a group of people more interested in their personal ‘scorecards’ than in the interests of the inner city.

-     And then I did have a sinking feeling when I saw the new Newtown Toilet Accommodation being prominently featured on the “scene-setter video” after hearing last week that they are now only opened a couple of times a week because “no-one was given operational budget” I trust that this approach won’t dog our efforts!

-     Maybe it’s also time that we did away with rah-rah videos at the start of a process (it did admittedly include a little bit of bad mixed with the good)  and focus on really celebrating our final achievements.

All in all, however, an uplifting start to a process that is full of promise and will make a substantial difference over the next few, critical, years.

Cheers, neil

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