Redefining urban citizenship when migrants and refugees are the norm
A Habitat III forum in Mannheim, Germany, called for a strengthened role for local authorities in deciding on policy and response around these issues.
MANNHEIM, Germany — The world is currently seeing record levels of displacement, with some 60 million refugees having been forced to flee their homes due to poverty or violence, according to the United Nations. Many of those people prefer to live, or will end up, in cities.
For Habitat III, this year’s major U. N. conference on urbanization, this has become a highly controversial subject. After all, the conference — slated to take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October — will aim to draw up a “New Urban Agenda”, which will seek to pave the way for development in cities over the coming two decades. With more and more people and policymakers concerned with issues of migration, it is inevitable that this background will impact on discussions over what the city of the urban future should look like.
More than 20 events have occurred recently in Stockholm, New York, Paris, Barcelona, Geneva and other cities in order to look for solutions on how cities can integrate new migrants without losing their own identity. These culminated last week in an Urban Thinkers Campus — a series of more than two-dozen thematic global events, organized by the World Urban Campaign, aimed at coordinating stakeholder input for the drafting of the New Urban Agenda.
This capstone event took place in Mannheim, Germany, entitled “Urban Citizenship in a Nomadic World”. The campus, on 17-19 February, resulted in the Mannheim Manifesto, a document that calls for mayors to have a greater say in such issues, on the grounds that they have the most direct contact with urban citizens and best understand their needs.
“The crucial contribution we wish to make is that the concept of the ‘common good’ and ‘justice’ must be highlighted as overarching themes,” an early draft of the manifesto states. (See below for a full copy of the draft. A final version of the outcome document is slated to be released later this week.)
“Our central concern has been to ask ourselves honestly why these worthy objectives have not been met and why so many cities can sometimes disappoint often creating unhappiness and distress,” the manifesto notes. “We believe it is necessary to re-affirm that cities at their best are open and this openness makes them cradles of civilization. Openness is the key to successful city making that is vigorous, fair, transparent, diverse and accessible.”
The manifesto also directly addresses the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe and other countries, couching the issue in the need to rethink urban citizenship.
“This civic conception of openness is not universally accepted and there are increasingly negative reactions across the globe,” the document states. “In the fast and relentless dynamic of urban change with its disruptive economic forces that create a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, the alternative has been to appeal to a politics of fear, hatred and exclusion. Our response must be not to demonise but to understand and engage with these people based on our constructive alternative of openness and hope.”
As with all Urban Thinkers Campuses, the outcome document for the Mannheim event will eventually be offered as formal input to the drafting of the New Urban Agenda.
‘Citizens of tomorrow’
Mannheim is a city of 330,000 people, and it can look back on a long history of dealing with migration issues. Religiously persecuted Huguenots from France, Dutch merchants and Jewish lawyers found a new home here during the 18th and 19th centuries, and since then have promoted the city’s economic and cultural development.
“The crucial contribution we wish to make is that the concept of the ‘common good’ and ‘justice’ must be highlighted as overarching themes.”
Mannheim Manifesto (draft)
Urban Thinkers Campus recommendations
Today, Mannheim prides itself on its tolerant and cosmopolitan citizenship. However, the city where Carl Benz invented the automobile in 1885 is currently experiencing a wave of immigration to a level previously unknown. Inevitably, that is presenting a major logistical and political challenge.
“Globalization, digitalization and climate change will profoundly change our cities, and the question will be which cities will be able to find convincing answers and solutions” to such challenges, Mannheim Mayor Peter Kurz said at the campus. “A large number of today’s refugees will be the citizens of tomorrow. The success of the integration of these people is crucial for the social and economic future of our city.”
Since 2010, some 11,000 people have migrated to Mannheim from Bulgaria and Romania in search of work and prosperity. Currently, refugees arriving in Mannheim are coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Gambia. For the more than 12,000 people from these countries, the Mannheim municipality has had to quickly figure out how and where they can stay, be registered, be clothed, and receive medical care and language instruction.
Several migrants and refugees took part in the Mannheim campus to describe their experiences and to explain their hopes for their new lives in Germany. Many spoke first of why they were forced to flee their homes in the first place. “The Taliban came into our city and killed some neighbours. No, my family is not going to go back,” said Ghafar Nurzaei, 17, of Afghanistan.
Now that they have arrived in Germany, what is particularly important to new migrants and refugees? First and foremost, multiple refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria noted that they want to find work immediately and also to learn German.
Others noted a newfound social freedom that they hadn’t experienced back home, especially those coming from marginalized communities. “In Germany, nobody asks me, ‘Why are you Christian?’ That is the most important point in my life,” said Poulina Fuaad Sheba, 29, of Iraq.
In Mannheim, responding to such needs has been achieved in a relatively well-organized fashion, in part thanks to the presence of several former U. S. military barracks that had stood empty in Mannheim following the withdrawal of the U. S. Army a few years ago. Success has also been possible due to the many people from Mannheim who have volunteered to help.
Still, these issues remain a significant challenge for Mannheim, as they do for other communities in Germany and beyond. Last year, over a million people migrated to Germany, and the nation bears the brunt of further immigration from conflict areas of the Middle East, particularly as neighbouring European countries have not taken in migrants and refugees at the same rate as Germany. How many of these additional migrants will be allowed to remain in Mannheim has not yet been decided.
For the organizers of the Urban Thinkers Campus, Mannheim was also an interesting choice given that it is the centre of the Rhein-Neckar metropolis. “Mannheim became a kind of research laboratory,” said Christine Auclair, the World Urban Campaign’s lead figure on the campuses. “Therein is the actual innovation: the bringing to the table of very different urban stakeholders, new immigrants, including refugees, to foster a diverse and open debate.”
The campus saw the participation of around 480 participants. The Mannheim event is the only one of the Urban Thinkers Campuses to look at the issue of immigration and urban citizenship. “The huge immigration movement to Germany led to an extraordinary situation that definitely needs to be addressed at the communal level,” Auclair said.
Participants thus focused on working out how cities could offer cultural and social opportunities for all socioeconomic and age groups. They also dealt with the question of how new residents can contribute to an emerging economy.
A majority of the participants emphasized the necessity of a wider participation of citizens. “We need a change of policy from the top, towards greater participation from the bottom,” said city researcher Charles Landry, who guided the campus attendees.
Participants also advocated that those living in cities should be granted their own “citizenship”, with all rights and responsibilities — regardless of their status. “People want to be a part of a city, and not only live in it,” said Benjamin Barber, a political scientist and former adviser to U. S. President Bill Clinton.
The Mannheim Manifesto focuses particularly on this idea of rethinking urban citizenship.
“People want to belong to a city, not just to live in one. Cities need the right to assign urban citizenship to all residents regardless of their status … Residence in the city should confer full membership and rights,” the draft manifesto notes. “Such expressions of civic generosity provide the means for genuine participation in decision making and city life. It strengthens a sense of belonging and will be reciprocated by loyalty, commitment and engagement.”
More and more people are today looking at the new global discussion around cities as an important tool with which to deal with longstanding concerns. At the beginning of the Mannheim campus, Barber described his proposal for a Global Parliament of Mayors, which will convene in September and which had been announced at a news conference two days earlier.
“Cities are the pragmatic problem solvers — they can better solve the [immigration] tasks of the future as compared to countries,” he said in Mannheim.
“The Global Parliament of Mayors will allow cities and their pragmatic, problem-solving mayors to collaborate in enacting common policies and pursuing common action to pressing cross-border issues,” Barber said. “Participating cities will be invited to cooperate on such critical issues as climate change, refugees, pandemic disease, inequality and urban security, problems that other institutions have not always been able to address.”
Draft Mannheim Manifesto
Preamble & Context
The world of cities is changing dramatically and a business as usual approach will not get us where we want to be as we are in the midst of redesigning the world and all its systems - legal, moral and political as well as the economy and our infrastructures for an interdependent and digital age. Its effects will be as powerful as those brought about by the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. This is true for cities and places at all levels of development.
There is thus an urgency to the urban agenda and a new paradigm is required. The crucial question is: ‘will the public interest be put centre-stage’.
We, the 480 participants, gathered in Mannheim to explore ‘Urban Citizenship in a Nomadic World’ as part of UN Habitat’s Urban Thinkers Campus process wish to express our gratitude to the World Urban Campaign for giving us the opportunity to be the sole German city taking part out of 26 cities across the world.
Our work is intended to shape ‘The New Urban Agenda’ to be adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III, Quito, Ecuador, 17-20 October 2016).
The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a landmark document that, across its goals and targets, clearly reflects how cities will be crucial to achieving its aims. More specifically it has a dedicated target namely Goal 11 to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
The Mannheim assembly in all its diversity and representing a high range of interest groups endorsed these goals and those additional principles and aims of ‘The City We Need’ campaign including for cities to be: healthy, regenerative, affordable, equitable, economically vibrant, walkable, well-designed, well-managed at a metropolitan level and crucially distinctive. The crucial contribution we wish to make is that the concept of the ‘common good’ and ‘justice’ must be highlighted as overarching themes.
Our central concern has been to ask ourselves honestly why these worthy objectives have not been met and why so many cities can sometimes disappoint often creating unhappiness and distress. What are the obstacles to achieving the public purposes of the city? Where are the good solutions?
We believe it is necessary to re-affirm that cities at their best are open and this openness makes them cradles of civilization. Openness is the key to successful city making that is vigorous, fair, transparent, diverse and accessible. This entails being against discrimination of all kinds (religious beliefs, racism, gender, disability, ageism, sexual and gender identity). It is the lively democratic, humanistic and secular city that creates the rules of engagement for people to share and live together within their differences and diversity. This allows people, organizations and cities to harness their collective imagination.
This civic conception of openness is not universally accepted and there are increasingly negative reactions across the globe. In the fast and relentless dynamic of urban change with its disruptive economic forces that create a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, the alternative has been to appeal to a politics of fear, hatred and exclusion. Our response must be not to demonise but to understand and engage with these people based on our constructive alternative of openness and hope.
The new norm is nomadic, there is mobility and not only for people, but for capital, for jobs, for commodities, for information, for ideas. In the new interdependent world, people move within and across countries in search of a better life – never more than today. The vast flows of refugees we are witnessing will remain a permanent feature over the next decades and already seriously affects over 30 countries globally in the North and the South. More than 60 million refugees and some estimate up to a billion other people are in motion. This creates challenges for arrival as well as departure cities. There are also frenzied finance movements, and companies and factories on the move in search of cheap labour and markets. In this digital age, these forces contribute to the ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ phenomenon changing how we interact with space, place and time.
In deliberating these urgent issues at our Urban Thinkers Campus in Mannheim we focused on constructive responses to the dilemmas of diversity, inclusion, integration and intercultural understanding as well as those of economic and financial disruption. Mannheim with its long experience of diversity sees itself as a city of welcome and refuge with something special to offer to the wider world.
Here are the main themes that emerged from our Urban Thinkers Campus:
Major messages & themes
The participatory imperative: There is an increased demand for people to be shapers, makers and co-creators of their destiny and that of their evolving city. There is a tension between the old top down structures of governance and emerging bottom up people-centred approaches. The empowerment agenda is rooted in democratic forces that represent a liveable civic society. A shift is required from a controlling to an enabling and facilitating administration if the value of collective community intelligence is to be taken seriously.
Urban citizenship redefined: People want to belong to a city not just to live in one. Cities need the right to assign urban citizenship to all residents regardless of their status (as does New York with its urban identity cards for undocumented workers). Residence in the city should confer full membership and rights. Such expressions of civic generosity provide the means for genuine participation in decision making and city life. It strengthens a sense of belonging and will be reciprocated by loyalty, commitment and engagement.
The city as global actor: Cities are agents of action and change in the new interdependent world, but to be fully effective they need to co-operate across borders in networks like UN-Habitat, C40, Climate Cities, ICLEI and UCLG. To be truly effective in addressing global problems the balance between city and state needs to be re-assessed. They also require a new collaborative mechanism such as a governance association embodying the so-called ‘rights of the city and citizens’.
Such a new governance association should and can contribute to and reinforce the role of national governments and international organizations like the UN in addressing global challenges. Whilst governments retain formal authority, cities bring legitimacy and democratic participation to the table.
The right to resources: The new responsibility of cities to contribute to the solution of global problems requires both the jurisdictional authority and material resources to realize its obligations. As the source of 80% of global GDP and preponderance of tax revenues for the state, the city has the right to resources adequate to this responsibility. Otherwise without such access to resources the demands on the cities become ‘unfunded mandates’ – a downloading of political responsibilities to municipal government without funding.
The listening city and diversity as reality: Cities are democratic sites of listening, contestation and diversity not just in aspiration, but as their reality. We live with diversities and must acknowledge the intractability of conflicts and interests that must be negotiated by words not force. Diversities include: ideas and opinions, ways of living, identity measures, economic conditions, state of health and age among many others and the listening city takes their full measure.
Obstacles to the ‘City We Need’: Underlying the many obstacles to ‘The City We Need’ is power, inequality, monopoly and dominance. Unless these potent issues are tackled head on it is unlikely that the aspirations and principles promulgated here will be realized.
The spirit of Mannheim
People demand more from their city and as citizens they want a rich register of experience as well as a laboratory of democracy and community living. This is expressed in seven deep yearnings and expectations. They want their city to be:
· A place of anchorage and distinctiveness where they feel a sense of belonging. Here the familiar, traditions and heritage makes the place feel like home generating a sense of the known and comforting and within this, newcomers are equally welcome. This place celebrates where it comes from, but is confident in where it is going.
· A place of possibility, options, choices and ‘can do’. Somewhere that is open minded, encourages curiosity and which provides choices and opportunities in differing phases of life and for people of all backgrounds.
· A place of connections internally and to the wider world, where a sense of community and mutual support is strong, where family and friends are easily reached in accessible centres and neighbourhoods. This place is locally bonded in its diversities yet at ease with the global and it encourages seamless connectivity from the physical to the virtual.
· A place to learn and self-improve for all with many possibilities from the informal to the formal, a place where ladders of opportunity are provided, a discussion culture is vibrant and things are thought about afresh. A place where young people feel recognized as full participants in the life of the city.
· A place of inspiration whether cultural or spiritual: Somewhere with a visionary feel, where gestures of civic generosity feed aspiration and a sense of well-being.
· A place which adds values and value simultaneously in any major initiative it undertakes and whose economic drive is framed by an ethical value base.
· A place where the rule of law is the condition of common life, but where the rules are subject constant scrutiny and innovation.
Elaboration of the Mannheim Manifesto
Here we give a more detailed flavour of how our Mannheim themes emerged within the nine workshop sessions. The full documentation will include all the summaries, protocols, bullet points and detailed suggestions of all the workshops in a comprehensive fashion.
Good city making is always work in progress as Harald Welzer reminded us stating that social life is never about fixed and permanent solutions and more concerned with coping with conflicts that are continually negotiated. He noted “cities are the coping forms of dealing with heterogeneity…. they are the social forms of living together’. This in itself is the democratic process.
He and other keynotes speakers and the participants argued too that the attempt at a neo-liberal consensus had failed as it downgrades the public interest privileging the few against the wishes of the many. In so doing it has increased inequality and the divides between rich and poor which will come back to haunt us if not addressed – remember Oxfam’s report Richard Stanton said: “The top 1% of the global rich own 99% of wealth”.
Participatory governance: Participation, participation, participation was a mantra that ran throughout the Campus and it was emphasized that this is easy to say and difficult to do. It is not as simple as saying ‘let’s go from top down to bottom up’. Prof. Römmele noted the myriad ways and techniques of being more participative and involving and how we need to learn the art of collective conversation and apply emotional intelligence to get the most from participation. Just as more authority driven regimes can misuse power it can also happen from below.
The process of institutionalization was seen as often far too strong and a major obstacle to creating an adaptive, responsive and more innovative city. One that especially gives space to the young to make their views heard – a point Anna Lisa Boni, general secretary of Eurocities stressed noting how this was a central challenge to enabling cities to be more resilient.
Some noted that the rise of a new type of politics such as the Five Star Movement in Italy, Podemos in Spain or the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in Britain and indeed the far-right reactions too all reflect a tiredness with conventional politics that seems to have lost the connection to citizens and their needs and views.
The Urban Thinkers session “Reinventing Governance and Evaluation for the New Urban Age” led by Alexander Heichlinger and Christian Hübel undertook an interesting survey on the pre-conditions for Good Governance (see attached). This reinforced many of the discussions and conclusions emerging from the other sessions, such as that on Identity/Integration/Democracy. The most important conclusion with the highest vote reached was ‘a move towards more participatory governance’. The next highest vote was for ’strong strategies and long-term visions’. Taking into account also other sessions, the interpretation was that cities need to know where they are going but also to ‘walk the talk’. The third strongest vote was for ’creative, transparent and involving communication’ and here the imaginative use for social media was stressed. The danger is that the political system will lose the millennial generation if it does not learn to speak in their language.
The facilitator stressed how this result reflected a changing mood over the last five years since previously issues like ‘sound performance control’ or ‘intelligent IT solutions’ had been far higher up the rankings.
The city as an actor: Most sessions and several keynotes touched upon the role and powers of the city and highlighted a growing crisis of legitimate authority within national governments that has emerged, expressed, for instance, by declining voting figures. This loss of esteem hinders the ability of governments to make the difficult decisions to deal successfully with deep global problems affecting us all. The transformational nature of the necessary, bold decisions requires legitimacy since they directly affect the daily lives of most people and therefore will only be accepted by citizens if they are felt to be legitimate.
For this reason a re-alignment of relations between city and state has been in the offing for the last decade and this is because city leaders are closer to their citizens than national leaders. With vision they have a greater capacity than national governments to build a consensus around common purposes and a collective response to shared problems. They have more legitimacy to speak for their people, but they have little authority or power on the national or global stage. They do not have the authority to create the necessary incentives and regulations regime to allow them to act forcefully in implementing solutions.
The nation state is essential in an interconnected world to negotiate the global rules systems and broader national frameworks within which cities operate. This ensures cities have a common legal platform within which to operate.
Urban citizenship redefined: Dirk Gerhardt quotes the campus keynote speaker Benjamin Barber, the author of ‘If mayors ruled the world’: “The politics of the city have a very different character to the ideological politics of the nation. The politics of the city are about making things work - you’ve got to pick up the garbage, you’ve to keep the hospitals open, it doesn’t matter if the immigrants are legal or illegal - they have children who get sick and who have to go, to school, they ride buses, they drive cars. If you asked a mayor, ‘Do you think immigrants should be allowed in or not?’ they’d say ‘it’s a completely moot question. They are here.” Clearly the campus agreed and stressed a stronger role for cities, but Dirk reminded us of the urban counter-examples, such as Rovato in Italy banning non-Christians from coming closer than 15metres to Catholic places of prayer. How this is enforced would be interesting to know. Or how Bornheim in Germany temporarily banned male asylum claimants from the public swimming pool as have other cities across Europe.
Richard Stanton in his keynote stressed that “integration means ‘making whole’……. “It means equal access for all the city’s residents to all the spheres of activity which together enable it to develop and flourish….. this city cannot afford exceptions. Exceptions segment, fracture, dis-integrate. Integration will not be ‘for’ migrants, but it will tackle their exclusion. He further added: “equal access to all realms of city life must apply to all, wherever they came from and whichever status the central state gave them……..de facto urban citizenship should be available to everyone who comes to live in them. Also he notes: “growing awareness of migration and its hardships is stimulating new levels and forms of activism in ‘host’ communities. Recent research…. suggests the movement to welcome and support refugees is drawing in previously less-active citizens from non-migrant population.” Richard highlighted this beautifully. The English Defence League (EDL) a far right anti-immigration organization which was promoting incendiary views on the web. Then a new organization called English Disco Lovers (EDL) set up and that holds positive events about refugees and immigration subverted the other EDL and its ranking on Google as very soon over 70,000 people became members. This squashed their presence on the web.
Arrival & departure city: There is a vast literature on migrants and refugees and how they come into portal cities, one of the best known of which is Doug Saunders ‘Arrival City, which states: “Successful arrival cities create prosperous middle classes; failed arrival cities create poverty and social problems. The key is to see the opportunity of these arrival cities.” The ‘parliament of refugees’ sent three messages from Mannheim, which focused on justice, providing easier means of becoming legal and providing any kind of work opportunity even voluntary in order to help learn the language and to create a sense of purpose. However, the constituent group of officials and politicians stressed a further important insight that the fate and development of departure cities is just as important as that of cities of arrival. This implies a more global consciousness. When handled well with the right support structures there is a diversity dividend that benefits the arrival city, and equally often a deficit for the departure city, since it is mostly the most brave, ambitious or better educated that leave generating a spiral of disadvantage.
The digital age & cities: The digitized city is already with us, but it needs a jointly created vision of where next. Digitization represents a tectonic shift in how cities work and is changing society and social life, culture, levels of connectivity and the economy. It is both liberating and potentially invasive. This digital movement concerns us all and the open data agenda, smart city ideas or evolving collaborative governance models are just some responses to this bigger dynamic unfolding.
The moderators Tom Higham and Oliver Rack stressed that undeniably untold promises and opportunities to improve our quality of life are possible by making life more citizen centric, more local, more convenient or efficient and by creating smart solutions to curtail energy over-use or crafting ingenious ways to enable seamless connectivity.
Yet these positives mesh as with all new technologies with dangers. Here being controlled by algorithms or the ever watchful eye of surveillance or suffering overload of constant data cascading over us and unemployment created by the power of intelligent robots are the most pressing.
Our built environment has been designed for how we lived and worked 50 years ago and more. Place and public space matters as never before in spite of our increased virtual interactions as people need physical place to anchor themselves in. The public realm rises dramatically in importance and as working patterns change gathering places and especially third spaces have renewed relevance.
The redesign of the emergent city needs bigger values that place us humans at the centre. A human perspective should drive technologies rather than technologies shaping our potential. Crucially the innovative impulses unleashed should also seek to solve old problems with new economy possibilities such as addressing inequality or creating quality jobs.
Cities, citizens and the variety of urban leaders have a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild our cities in a different way, including harnessing the capabilities of social media, interactive platforms or open data to deepen democracy and to make it more engaging and responsive to peoples’ desires and needs. Cities need to remain alert to ensure their priorities and values are acknowledged as the digital industrial complex has discovered the city as a major new market.
Collaborative and co-creative ways of working based on openness are key to survive well in this emerging world and it is the same openness Mannheim wishes to offer refugees and newcomers A new paradigm could be to redefine the city as a community of collective intelligence for the common good.
To keep the best of this innovation dynamic and to avoid the pitfalls requires some policy priorities, which include: a MyData agenda to safeguard privacy and allowing people to manage their own data; to be continually alert to balance public and private benefits; to foster a new civic culture that is determined to be co-creative; to create rules and codes for the sensorized city, the city of interactive surfaces and immersive digital environments based on open standards and architectures; to invest in digital literacy so we are capable of understanding what is going on and finally to be alert to the dangers of our lives being controlled by algorithms.
Harnessing youth potential: One of the central messages from the younger cohort present was for cities to create ‘free space’ or ‘space to manoeuvre’ – in essence places with less rules, but with incentives to try things out. This chimes well with the mood of our times whereby many seek to encourage an experimentation culture in the city in order to innovate and respond to change. Just like we expect there to be R&D departments of companies cities need them too and so they need to foster a start-up culture that is often fed by creative economy activities.
The global network of Living Labs was given as an example to allow you to ‘practice a more innovative society in reality’ without stopping you in your tracks when some things inevitably go wrong. These labs can be buildings, streets, neighbourhoods or even the complete city, such as the City of Things project in Antwerp.
There is a long history of special spatial development zones focused on physical regeneration, like the London and Melbourne Docklands Development Authorities, which have preferential planning laws and tax breaks. The message in Mannheim was to take this idea further and to consider how to develop a professionally managed testing culture that requires tools and processes of experimentation to harness community power and especially business creativity of the young which might also focus on social enterprise.
The Spirit of Mannheim: This final manifesto section brought together the discussions and the attitude in the workshops and sessions of the Urban Thinker Campus “Citizenship in a nomadic world”. There is an overlap with further surveys and studies about Mannheim in the last years. Together with the results of the UTC they represent an overarching frame and higher aspiration for ‘The City We Need’.
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