Today I spent the afternoon at Fearless Cities Brussels. I only had limited time to spend there; @mariacoenen also wanted to be there, but she had a glitch and could not come. So, I could only attend one workshop. I chose one called The city as a common. Claiming for a mixed and inclusive public space. The main people running it come from Commons Josaphat. Here is what I learned:
- There is a company called SAU (Urban Development Corporation), whose main shareholder is the Brussels Region. This company holds the property rights for a substantial share of Brussels’ surface, and specifically the whole canal area (including Josaphat). Its mission is to “implement development plans in the strategic areas”.
- SAU is developing strategic areas that involve most municipalities in the Brussels region. No one knows what they are cooking. In the case of Josaphat, there is something called “competitive dialogue” between SAU and real estate developers that is kept confidential. Commons Josaphat was considered “too radical” by SAU to participate to this dialogue.
- The development plans for several strategic zones, including Josaphat, are expected to enter a phase of public review starting in late 2018. This creates a window for citizens to have their say.
- Problem: according to Josaphat Commons folks in the room, this is the classic rigged process, where citizens will receive dossiers of thousands of pages and be given a few days to make their observations. Real estate developers will be super-prepared as they push a program of privatization, luxury apartments etc. etc. So, they will get what they want and claim to have been democratic, inclusive, etc.
In this context, we discussed the possibility of crowdfunding for “civic scholarships” to allocate to journalists, researchers, and maybe even lawyers for investigating the plans that are being prepared by SAU and its partners, and how citizens could respond. Of course, the advantage of crowdfunding is that it creates communication around the project at the same time as it collects money to fund it.
As a proud Bruxellois, I would gladly donate to such a crowdfunding campaign. I am not sure how I and Edgeryders could contribute to organizing it… I don’t have the comm skills. Maybe @mariacoenen has some ideas.
I left my contact info with the Commons Josaphat group, led by Hanne Van Reusel.
I did not meet @anncassano though… shame! Where were you, Ann? How can we get in touch?