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The Cities This Week: Edition 39




Thousands protest against NSA mass surveillance in Washington D.C. (Source: PCWorld)

Thousands protest against NSA mass surveillance in Washington D.C. (Source: PCWorld)

JOHANNESBURG

“Informal traders and foreign business owners in Johannesburg have joined forces to rally against the city’s clean-up campaign. Several raids have taken place in the city centre over the past two weeks. Officials said they’ve been ordered to look for and confiscate any counterfeit and illegal goods, but the traders claimed the raids were a cover for other criminal activities. Scenes like an assault on a foreign shopkeeper two weeks ago had informal traders and business owners seeing red. Foreign business owners have since joined forces with local traders in a bid to tackle corrupt officials. They claim the raids are a front for criminal activity. “We are being evicted so that they can clean the city of the poor for the rich. They want Johannesburg to look like all the suburbs,” said Workers’ and Socialist Party member Mametlwe Sebie. It looks like the battle of the CBD has just begun. Metro police say they have a mandate to clean up the streets, but traders say they will continue operating – with or without permission.” – eNCA

SAO PAULO

“Demonstrators protesting against São Paulo bus fares vandalised turnstiles and ATMs and set buses on fire at the city’s main station, after a peaceful protest turned violent. The protests, organised by the group Movimento Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement) gathered outside the city’s municipal theatre and marched to the bus station on Friday night. At least one police officer was injured in the ensuing clashes, which saw activists setting off fire extinguishers and spray painting slogans on the terminal. Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from São Paulo, said demonstrators were calling for better public transport and a drop to zero of all the bus fares in the city. Movimento Passe Livre has been demonstrating against São Paulo bus fares since 2004, but the protests have grown since June, when a wave of demonstrations against the high cost of living spread around Brazil during the Confederations Cup. “As long as transportation is managed according to the interests of businessman and not those of the public who uses it on a daily basis, we will remain on the streets fighting,” said protester Marcelo Hotimsky.” – Al Jazeera

WASHINGTON D.C.

“Thousands of protesters have marched on the Capitol Hill in Washington to protest against the US government’s online surveillance programmes seen as encroaching on private life. Saturday’s protest comes amid a widening scandal revealing sweeping US surveillance on the communications of ordinary citizens and global leaders that has sparked outrage worldwide. Estimates varied on the size of the march, with organisers saying more than 2,000 attended. US Capitol Police said they do not typically provide estimates on the size of demonstrations. The Protesters have been urging Congress to reform the legal framework supporting the National Security Agency’s secretive online data gathering since the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of classified information about the programmes that are designed to gather intelligence about potential foreign threats. People carried signs reading: “Stop Mass Spying,” “Thank you, Edward Snowden” and “Unplug Big Brother” as they gathered at the foot of the Capitol to demonstrate against the online surveillance.” – Al Jazeera

CAPE TOWN

“The International Polar Foundation plans to build a Climate Experience Centre at Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront from the beginning of 2014 that will cost an estimated R300m. This was announced on Friday when a high-powered Belgian delegation headed by Princess Astrid, sister of Belgian King Philippe, were hosted aboard the state-of-the-art polar research vessel, the SA Agulhas II. The South African delegation, led by chairperson of Parliament’s environmental committee Johnny de Lange took the opportunity to showcase the vessel and its capabilities with the idea of the Belgian government sharing in the costs of the annual polar resupply missions undertaken by it. The foundation’s South African director Michel de Wouters said building the centre was expected to start by the middle of 2014 and be completed by 2015.” – BDLive

LONDON

“Treasury minister Danny Alexander has said he is “very confident” the HS2 high-speed rail project will be delivered within its £42.6bn budget. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the government was using the “same techniques” to ensure efficiency as for the 2012 London Olympics. Supporters say the plan to link London to Manchester and Leeds will reduce journey times and boost growth. But Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman said costs had to be monitored. The aim is to get trains running as fast as 250mph (400km/h) between London and Birmingham from 2026, with branches to Manchester and Leeds via Sheffield planned for 2033. The estimated cost of the project has risen from £34.2bn to £42.6bn – plus £7.5bn for rolling stock.” -BBC News

LAGOS

“A walk along the two kilometres of light rail that Lagos authorities have managed to build in three years gives a sense of how hard it is to impose order on one of Africa’s most chaotic cities. From either side of the concrete structure – no track has yet been laid – the crowded slums and highways of Nigeria’s lagoon-side commercial hub teem with activity. Its trademark yellow buses overtake, undertake and force their way down impossibly narrow side streets, where women stir pots next to canals clogged with rubbish. With between 15 million and 21 million people – the upper estimate is the official one, though no one really knows – and generating a third of GDP for Africa’s second biggest economy, Lagos has become almost as alluring to yield-hungry investors as it is to the 4,000 or so economic migrants who turn up each day. Violent crime, mushrooming slums, police extortion and widespread fraud have often held investment back, but in the past decade, authorities have started trying to tackle some of the obstacles, especially maddening traffic bottlenecks. “Just keeping Lagos roads moving without rail, pushing that kind of tonnage just through our road network, now that’s the eighth wonder of the world,” says Governor Babtunde Fashola.” – Reuters

DETROIT

“After nearly five years of planning, a large-scale attempt to turn a big chunk of Detroit into an urban forest is now underway. The purchase of more than 1,500 vacant city-owned lots on the city’s lower east side – a total of more than 140 acres – got final approval from Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder last week. The buyer is Hantz Farms, and it’s a venture of financier John Hantz, who lives in the nearby Indian Village neighborhood. Indian Village is an affluent enclave of manor-scale historic homes, but much of the surrounding area is blighted. Hantz Farms will pay more than $500,000 for the land, which consists of non-contiguous parcels in an area where occupied homes are increasingly surrounding by abandoned properties. The company has committed to clearing 50 derelict structures, cleaning up the garbage dumped across the neighborhood, planting 15,000 trees, and mowing regularly. Planting of the hardwoods will begin in earnest next fall, and the urban forest will be called Hantz Woodlands.” – Atlantic Cities

LOS ANGELES

“Los Angeles is about to get a spate of new cultural spaces, including one designed by Edwin Chan, who, after more than 25 years working with Frank Gehry (most recently as a design partner) left last year to start his own firm, EC3. One of Chan’s first post-Gehry projects is Chalet Hollywood, a kind of artists’ salon that is expected to open this fall and close after a year of operation. Unlike the Guggenheim Bilbao, Gehry’s sprawling metal masterwork for which Chan was project designer, Chalet Hollywood is a small space outfitted mostly in wood, to suggest an alpine lodge, and reached through the back door of an existing gallery called LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) on Hollywood Boulevard. Chan is collaborating with the artist Piero Golia on the new space, which will operate as a private members’ club, open at night. The project received a grant from Chicago’s Graham Foundation and will be, according to the foundation’s website, a descendent of Gertrude Stein’s Paris apartment and Andy Warhol’s Factory.” – Architectural Record

DALLAS

“After spending a few hours in an ironically closed-door meeting with the city council yesterday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings emerged with the results of his investigation into the city’s back-room summer crackdown on the car service Uber. At issue is both the city’s use of vice cops to issue 61 citations to 31 Uber-using taxi and limo drivers, and the slipping of an anti-Uber ordinance onto the council’s consent agenda, usually reserved for non-controversial items. Rather remarkably, the Uber issue has become a fairly major political contretemps in the Big D. Rawlings is eager to put it all behind the city. First, his verdict: No one in Dallas did anything illegal when it came to cracking down on Uber, Rawlings concluded, but the whole situation was still “highly disappointing.”” – NextCity.org

 

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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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