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The Cities This Week: Edition 33




Thousands of people were camped out at a stadium Saturday to flee the fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels in Zamboanga in the Philippines. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

Thousands of people were camped out at a stadium Saturday to flee the fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels in Zamboanga in the Philippines. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

NEW YORK CITY

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he won’t support a candidate to succeed him and will instead focus on easing the transition to the administration that begins Jan. 1.“I’ve never been a partisan guy,” Bloomberg said during his weekly appearance on WOR radio. “Whoever the voters elect, I want to make sure that person is ready to succeed.” Bloomberg, 71, is nearing the end of 12 years as mayor of the most populous U.S. city, a span in which crime dropped 31 percent and average life expectancy gained three years. He’s been criticized by both city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republican candidate Joseph Lhota, a top aide to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

WARSAW

Tens of thousands of Poles have marched through the capital, Warsaw in the last of four days of protests against proposed labour law changes. The protesters demanded a higher minimum wage, greater job security and the repeal of a law raising the retirement age to 67. Many carried banners calling for Prime Minister Donald Tusk to resign. The ruling centre-right coalition’s popularity has plummeted to its lowest level since Mr Tusk took power in 2007. The rally was one of the largest in Poland in recent years, bringing together people from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Organisers of the march said about 120,000 people participated, while city authorities put the figure at 100,000.

MEXICO CITY

Riot police swept thousands of striking teachers out of the heart of Mexico City on Friday, driving protesters through the streets with tear gas and water cannons in a swift end to the weeks-long occupation of the Zocalo plaza over reforms to the dysfunctional national education system. It was a dramatic reassertion of state authority after weeks of near-constant disruption in the center of one of the world’s largest cities. The teachers have marched through the capital at least 15 times over the last two months, decrying President Enrique Pena Nieto’s plan to break union control of education with a new system of standardized teacher testing that become law on Tuesday. Authorities did not immediately report any injuries. Federal police chief Manuel Mondragon said more than 20 demonstrators were arrested.

BUCHAREST

Thousands marched through Bucharest to protest a controversial plan by a Canadian company to build Europe’s biggest gold mine in Romania. Protesters on Sunday criticized the use of cyanide in the extraction process and accused authorities of trying to sell off Romania’s assets too cheaply. The mine has drawn widespread protests in recent weeks. Supporters say the mine would bring jobs and investment to a deprived area. Last week, Prime Minister Victor Ponta predicted Parliament would reject plans for the Canadian-run mine, sending shares in the company, Gabriel Resources, plummeting by around 50 percent. Ponta went down Sunday into the Rosia Montana mine where 33 miners had been striking this week and persuaded them to end their protest, promising he would send a parliamentary committee to the area.

ZAMBOANGA

Fighting intensified in the embattled southern Philippine city of Zamboanga on Saturday as hopes for a quick cease-fire with Muslim rebels evaporated amid some of the most serious violence to strike the troubled region in years.  The six-day standoff with the rebels in Zamboanga, one of the most vibrant trading cities in the southern Philippines, was believed to have left at least 55 people dead. It has also raised fears of a setback in the government’s efforts, backed by the United States, to calm insurgencies and fight terrorism. The government said most of the dead were rebels holed up in several seaside neighborhoods. Government forces were firing mortar rounds into the area and battling street by street to take areas back from the militants.

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg’s claim of being ‘Africa’s world-class city’ has always been a little contentious, but the current unprotected strike by employees of City Power, which includes allegations of sabotaging the power grid, throws a substantial dollop of fat into the fire. “A world-class African city”, claims the city of Johannesburg’s branding. While raising the question of whether “world-class” and “African” are mutually exclusive, the city’s marketing campaign also invites probing on what it means to be a world-class city. Is it an ambition or a statement of fact? And if it is indeed a statement of fact, what is that essential thing that sets Johannesburg apart?

INDIAN CITIES

Seated in his Delhi office Amitabh Kant says with a tinge of sarcasm: “I am not here to build a mall.” The chief executive of the $100-billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), India’s biggest-ever infrastructure project, is piqued about “some people” saying that the project is “not on the fast track”. In its first phase, DMICDC, which falls under the industry ministry and envisages creating 24 new cities in the country by 2040, will build cities around the high-speed 1,483-km-long dedicated freight corridor (DFC), a fast-progressing railway network funded by the Japanese government. DFC doesn’t face issues with buying land because it will mostly use the land owned by Indian Railways.

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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