Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Questions as interpreted by Sue Tilden

1. Description and level and type of city planning

This should be one of the most straightforward things to determine, probably directly from the municipal governments of each city. An effective way to present and compare this information from the various cities would be in the form of charts which indicate departmental structure, linkages, areas of responsibilities, hierarchies of reporting and oversight, comparative size of state / financial resources, sources of funding etc.

Historical information would be useful, in order to establish how long formal planning has existed, its development over time, legal basis for actions, training programs and similar background to the existing situation.

2. Evaluation of planning

In some part, this could involve a “re-doing” of the charts developed above. Modifications could include evaluation and indication of where power really exists, “informal” linkages between entities or outside influences, organization charts of real power structures and so forth.

3. Technical options available to the City

This also means those which the City perceives to have at its disposal? And so will be readily accessible to the municipal staff.

We could try to find out, also, if there are private initiatives being pursued, for profit or not (like the can recycling machines here in Athens, which are owned by a private company and sometimes seen as competition by public recycling installations).

4. Inputs to decisions (budgetary, natural and so forth)

This kind of information would be most tellingly derived from “case studies” of the progress of actual decisions which have taken place (or not) within the City. From this an eventual profile could be developed which would depict specific “decision drivers”, which affect decision-making and action-taking both positively and negatively.

Therefore, we should try to develop a questioning approach which establishes a common inquiry into defined categories of decisions, which could be asked of all the cities, without falling into a too narrow specificity.

5. Problems which have not been resolved

These will be unique to each city. It will be interesting to find out the degree of consensus within each city as to what the problems are and so the questioning should be addressed to as a broad a set of respondents as possible, including surveys of local publications which may be representative of different segments of the population.

6. Value priorities (hierarchy of values, “waterfall” of values)

There will, of course, be an official and a political set of priorities. So, similar to No. 5 above, we will need to develop ways to determine values and aspirations across the entire spectrum of the City’s population. This could be a good opportunity for the involvement of students as opinion canvassers with an actual set of survey questions, if that approach is taken. Any seminars or meetings in the City should try to include a diverse representation of its inhabitants. We’ve already mentioned doing “word searches” of local media in order to identify key concepts or resonances with the City.

I would note that once we got to No. 9, and the means of making cities more livable, we may need to concentrate on identifying commonly held values and commonly held aspirations, concerns and preferences of City residents that cut across personal differences and can form the basis of cohesive actions. This does not have to mean a bland homogenization. We may celebrate manifest diversity, while at the same time focusing on agreement as to ultimate goals.

7. City’s consciousness in comparison to other cities (similarities, differences, competition, or no comparison)

An interesting aspect of the psychology of cities occurs to me here. It can be noted that even radically different inhabitants of a city can come together successfully at certain times: for sporting events, celebrations of so many kinds, and so on. At these times, the people achieve a sense of common ownership of the City. They take on the aspect of Citizen/Member of the City. They become individual parts of a whole which everyone agrees on – for the moment. How can this feeling be expanded to more of the daily life of the City? How can a sense of ownership be increased and enhanced? How can public policy encourage transcendence of the fragmenting influence of individual concerns in order to move toward the realization of common goals?

8. Conceptual solutions existent

I assume this will be solicited from the municipal departments and people in the actual City and that the questions may be straightforward ones.

9. Livable solutions

(Are we continuing to emphasize technological strategies here, in order to make specific recommendations for specific solutions for the tender? Or are other, behavioral, sociological, legal solutions also able to be proposed?)

Livable means a focus on the people living in the City. This should mean that wherever there are people, the scale of the environment, especially the technological elements, should be human scale. A bicycle is the size of a person, car bigger, truck bigger yet, airplane quite large etc. and therefore we can easily see that placing an airport in a neighborhood could not contribute to human scale.

What might not be so obvious is sorting out all the dehumanizing influences which are factors impacting a place. Solutions to such impacts may take the form of legal ordinance specifically addressing them: noise – level regulations, light ordinances for street lighting (based on the newest research), light-plane restrictions to building constructions which determine how much sunlight should be available to surrounding neighbors, or restricts the width of streets and emphasizes pedestrian needs etc. in combination with advance technology which enables measurement or automation of function (such as automatic cameras that photograph the license plates of traffic offenders, who may be disregarding speed or other rules in a certain place).

Unusual linkages, cultural, financial, and technological, can be imagined. A few examples:

(1) The island of Rhodes is called the Island of the Sun, and interestingly, has become a sort of Mecca for Japanese couples who come there to be remarried and then celebrate either a first or second honeymoon. It is also an island that is experiencing increasing impacts from traffic congestion and pollution due to heavy tourism development.

Now it is also known that automotive companies are experiencing difficulties in developing a market for solar cars – considered an environmentally positive product, but people don’t know much about them yet, and have little access to personally evaluate them.

Could it be possible to do a pilot project to provide car rental fleets on Rhodes with (Japanese-made?) solar cars, at subsidized discount rates to tourists (both from Japan and elsewhere), which would hopefully benefit both the pollution level of the island, the car companies (who would in this way put a product into the hands of potential consumers on a “trial” basis of a brief rental), and the world in general, as people would have a chance to try a new technology cheaply? The “Island of the Sun” could forge even greater tourist and commercial ties with the “Land of the Rising Sun”, develop a new advertising basis and help to make itself more livable.

(2) Another alternative technology which could be used to relieve overburdened infrastructure, or provide an amenity where infrastructure development lags is the composting toilet. Incrementally over the years, these have been approved for use

In U.S. National Parks, etc., as an alternative to septic systems or plain outhouses in remote areas off the sewer lines. But they are also suited to use in urban settings, where there is no capacity available for additional septic systems (which in fact create problems in themselves with regard to groundwater pollution, capacity etc.) and, even with sewer hook-up water purification plants can be overworked. I have visited an Eco-House in Washington, D.C. that has a working Clivus-Multrum toilet that functions beautifully in a retrofitted four-story townhouse that also boasted a rooftop vegetable garden and solar heating.

Some cultures will be more amenable to the use of compositing toilets than others; developed in Northern Europe, people there and in the U.S. with an advanced sense of environmental consciousness can accept them – provided the local building inspection departments can be educated and persuaded to allow their installation. Chinese and other Oriental culture groups are historical users of “night soil” for vegetable crop fertilization and might readily accept a more technologically advanced application of the same principle. And even resort developers in remote locations (Greek islands?) could be targeted for possible installations, with proper training of housekeeping and maintenance staff in the simple upkeep required.

Incentives to their use include: education campaigns to explain benefits, re-writing of existing building codes to allow them, installation in public buildings to promote familiarization, subsidized purchase price and dealer incentives, training of installers / demonstrators / educators.

Perhaps the most exciting implementation could occur in a public housing context. It has been proved that effective urban densities can be achieved in one and two story cluster housing type development rather than using high-rise structures. This is also by far the more “livable” solution. Including composting toilets as a building component could relieve some infrastructure requirements and also provide an opportunity to work toward environmental sensitivity in low income groups, as well as reducing individual utility costs.









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