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The Mayor of Alphaville | Here Comes Haddad

Fernando Haddad takes office as São Paulo’s mayor after Xmas and New Years.

What is he planning? The petista’s online campaign laid out a detailed and ambitious program of government.

Now, however, the horse trading commences, and as usual, the Estado de S. Paulo — a paper notable for its consistent holding the power elites to their promises — takes a serious approach to the newsmaker interview, such as following from  yesterday.

After winning the October elections with 3,387,720 votes, mayor-elect Fernando Haddad (PT), 49, is already overwhelmed with work. Two weeks before being sworn in as mayor of the largest metropolis of the Southern Hemisphere, he needs time to select his team, consolidate a majority in the city legislature and propose solutions that will make the life of the city easier.

In his first interview with the Estado de S. Paulo after selecting his team of 26 secretaries, the mayor gave the paper a tightly scheduled 30 minutes. Outside, other reporters waited their turn.  “Will you give other interviews besides this one?” his aides asked him.

A USP law school graduate with a post-graduate degree in Economics and Philosoph, Haddad enjoysthinking big.  He shied away from questions about the measures to be taken in his first few days in office, such as changing bus fares and proposing a new model for the Nova Luz project.

He said that we would return a degree of autonomy to the 31 subprefectures, which will be able to run their own independent projects. Citing venerable urban planning experts, he explained how  he intends to guide urban development along the course of the Tietê River

And he revealed a fascination with urban renewal projects in Rio, such as Porto Maravilha. Haddad believe the citizenry of the city of São Paulo needs a boost to its self-confidence of the same type the citiziens of Rio experienced.

What will be your first act after sitting behind the mayor’s desk?

I will organize management advisory boards in order to give the government some rational order. We will reorganize the 26 city secretariates, except for those forming part of the cabinet, such as Finance and Governance. The rest will be divided into specialized chambers dealing with citizenship issues and social, urban and administrative development.  There will be four of these, organized in such a way as to share information and optimize joint actions.

And the daily life of the São Paulo citizen? What do you propose to do for them?

I will start looking for real estate where we can build the three hospitals and 172 day care centers we promised during the campaign.

Flooding looks to be a challenge. Do you have an emergency plan for this?

We will create a contingency plan. I have already named three city secretaries, which will begin work on January 2: Urban Security, which include Civil Defense; Services, which includes street sweeping, and the subprefectures.

Last January, a police operation was rolled out in “Crack City.” But the neighborhood remains degraded. Do you plan to change Mayor Kassab’s Nova Luz project?

This project has evolved in the search for a better way to carry it out.  I have one reservation, however: The current plan assigns the power of expropriation to a private-sector partner. It is difficult, I believe, to find partners in what is, from a legal point of view, a high-risk venture.  Note how Porto Maravilha  — a urban renewal project at Rio’s port facility — does not provide for this.

So how do we adopt that model here in São Paulo?

We are working on a concept that involves both banks of the Tietê River.  We plan to consider one or two urban renewal projects there. We could just taeke Operation Tietê or we could also take on Lapa-Brás.

These are two key projects that will significantly improve the equilibrium of the city.  My understanding is that this is a more structural project because it will contribute to the renewal of the downtown areas, given that the Tietê passes through several downtown areas.

These two public works projects would restructure the city in a way already imagined by Saturnino de Brito, the Rio engineer who worked on São Paulo urban planning in the 1920s, proposing to use the rivers as key reference points.

In São Paulo, we did exactly the opposite over the last 80 years as we expanded toward the Pinheiros River, destroying everything that lay in our path.

Recovering the city’s rivers appears to be a major aspiration of yours.

I say with all sincerity that I dream of a city that incorporates its rivers as  so many other cities around the world do. We need to generate momentum for this project in our very first year in office.

You have spoken of burying Eletropaulo high tension wires and building an avenue for the Northern Zone similar to the Av. Faria Lima.  How do you propose to do this?

Starting with the southern bank of the Tietê, we have Marquês de São Vicente Avenue, which is well-built. On the other bank, we don’t have this. This other side is important because traffic would flow into the downtown area.  With that, we could organize a better maintained, less degraded urban space.

Many city residents complain that the city lacks maintenance. How will you reverse this impression?

It is important that we return power and autonomy to the subprefectures. I will return to them their ability to realize works on a smaller scale.  The subprefectures were deprived of their function and as things stand there is no budget for their activities.

Will you make changes in street sweeping and garbage collection? What do you think of the additional R$ 360 million added to this year’s contract by the Kassab government?

That number has grown too much. I am going to have to demand quality in the execution of these contracts, quality in keeping with the budget allocated. City Hall must learn to deal with this contract, extracting the maximum possible value for the city.

Will you continue Operation Delegada — in which state military police work for City Hall during their free time?

I have already sat down with the commandant of the PM. We are going to maintain the program, but the scope of it needs changes.

So it will not be confined to action against street vendors?

Yes, current policy is somewhat fixated on that problem, but we estimate  that other areas could be helped by this policy.  For example, if a health clinic lacks a doctor because of a threat to safety, a police officer could be assigned to protect the residents and their right to medical treatment. Operation Delegada might be one such solution.

The Kassab years have been marked by a policy of restrictions. Will you maintain these?

I don’t intend to abandon control. The laws must be upheld. This has to be a public priority from day one. But the city administration also has the duty of verifying what can be done to improve the city and its functions. This is not a question of a soft versus a hard approach.

You were one of the authors of the CEUs — the Unified Educational Centers.  Will you resume the program?

Yes, we have promised 20 new units.

What is the best and the worst of São Paulo ?

São Paulo is a peerless and seductive city, a cultural and academic center and cuisine representing 55 countries in the world.  But it needs to function better.

Who was the best mayor the city ever had?

Marta Suplicy.

What legacy do you hope to leave?

Human beings operate in terms of hopes and expectations. Those who live here want to know whether the city will be better 10 years from now, that it will be worth the effort.

Is it a bit like what the Rio resident feels today? Is it a problem of self-esteem?

Yes, exactly. No one imagines that we will sort out everything in four years, but São Paulo still needs to recover that feeling of pride.  The city needs a new direction.

Sambodia City Hall often reminds me of the Rolling Stones song “Dead Flowers” —

Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave


Scraggly, dying newly planted trees like the above strike me as an apt symbol of the marketing-driven Potemkin village the city has become.

How like the Brazilians to adopt Alphaville as their symbol of futurist, centrally planned utopia — a dystopia, in Godard’s film, I think you will agree.