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September 12, 2006


This is an interesting idea; ironic that it should come from the mayor of Milan. It harks back to the city-state structure of renaissance Italy, and that gave us a lot more than the cuckoo clock.

It's indeed a very strong idea. Just a short observation that it also seems to be about "states". States that have actual far reaching legislative power compared to cities that at least in my home country really doesn't have far reaching legislative powers.

Individual states in the EU or the US committing to agreements that can't pass on a union wide level.
All though my impression is that the US is more liberal towards local laws compared to the EU where all local legislation can be deemed "a barrier to EU-wide competition".

The word that crept (well, sprang) into my mind as I was reading your post was "grassroots". Maybe not the same grassroots as we normally mean, but in a sense, it's the same bottom-up thingy.

Peter: indeed that goes back to the city-states and their alliances. Thomas: she talks of cities and regions, not necessarily of states - although my reference to Schwarzenegger may trigger confusion. In many countries states have some leverage, but they still don't have formal foreign-policy powers (including in federalist countries such as the US and Switzerland). What's so compelling in Moratti's idea, I believe, is the very idea that cities, which account for 47% of the world's population (www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf ) despite being devoid of formal powers to enter into international agreements of any sorts (except cultural exchanges and the likes) could take a more active and propositive role, even just by mutually emulating "best practices". The "congestion charge" introduced in London for example is being analyzed and somehow copied in other cities; public transportation designs from Zurich or Lille are also becoming globally-watched examples; in the "Corriere" article, Moratti is mentioned as interested in studying California's greenhouse-gas rules; etc. Stephanie: yes, on a global scale, that's "institutional grassroots".

Most of the most serious environmental advances have been brought about by local action. (Think of air pollution in Tokyo in the 1970s, aerosols in the 1990s in the US..)
One might doubt whether any group larger than a city can act as a catalyst for major changes.

With regard to the environment, the municipality can also translate social action into economic strength. In California, the CA Cleantech group is bringing entrepreneurs together with civic officials in San Francisco to "o create economic growth and environmental sustainability by sparking a clean technology cluster in California." There are huge gains for cleantech companies in the area competing with companies from outside the Bay Area, and huge benefits for the citizens of San Francisco. (www.cacleantech.com).

My argument was simply that the very soft leverage of cities should be compared to the hard leverage of individual states - and that one of the major case stories is California that throughout the last 10-25 years have pioneered many types of legislation that has moved onto to being US united legislation.

The exciting developments are happening to in the context of what I call the local to global dimension. In London today we read of one such initiative - controversial as it may be, it is pretty fascinating. The Mayor of London is in talks with Caracas - the deal? Cheap gas in return for expertise and consultancy on transport and the environment. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/5342298.stm

Thanx. "Local-to-global" seems a good way to describe it, Lucy. There are a few more comments on the Huffington Post's version of this post (I also blog there), pointing for example to New York City starting its own counterterrorism effort following the drop in money it was receiving from the Dept of Homeland security, and to similar commitments among cities in Canada:

It really is all the same.

Bottom-up towards top-down.

Post-filtered instead of prefiltered. Letting a variety of solutions emerge and then post-filtering the most successful one's and implementing them on a nation/union wide level.

I thought this was fascinating, Bruno, as ever. Particularly given the historical context Moratti speaks in. As I note on my blog, the idea has been around in European urban policy at least since the mid-90s, when I worked on EU-funded ventures in Manchester, linking the city with Pistoia, Helsinki, Tilburg, Athens etc, given that they could learn from their shared history and shared problems.


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