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Paris riots (with a big update)

by whataboutbob Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 03:07:39 PM EST

Bumped by Jerome (to keep the existing thread), with substantial new information. Old post below

Update [2005-11-3 12:26:10 by Colman]: More details on the latest rioting from the BBC via Memeorandum.com.

Update [2005-11-3 15:7:39 by Jerome a Paris]: See below for a lot more information.


Acts of urban violence, 2005 (police data)
clockwise, from the largest (red) area: (left is for France, right for the Seine St Denis département, northeast of Paris (see map below)
- car fires
- public equipment fires
- garbage can fires
- violence against firemen, ambulances or police services
- throwing objects
- illegal reunions in building halls
- degradation to urban "furniture" (bus stops, lighting, etc...)
- fights between gangs
- car "rodeos"

As this article makes clear, the violence visible in the past few days is actually little different to what happens every day in the banlieues, with an average 100 cars burnt per night every day this year.

An other article, published last March by Le Monde (probably behind sub. firewall, I'll email to anyone who asks) about the city of Clichy sous bois where this week's events started shows that the problems have several causes: - a degraded housing infrasturcture, with no incentives for the owners to invest or at least maintain the buildings in decent conditions; - a mainly foreign population (often "dropping in" directly from the nearby Roissy airport);

- a lack of integration of the population in the social life of the country, with insufficient public transportation and a lack of local jobs;

- the increasing stigma of coming from identified "ghettos" makes it a vicious circle.

But the cité has not been completely abandoned. Identified as one of the worst cases of the 50s housing, it now benefits from a significant (EUR 300 M) plan to demolish the old housing and rebuild smaller, cosier buildings. The associations are trying to get more money invested in "socialisation" infrasturcture: child care, schools, and local police.

The theme of local police comes up a lot. This was one of the reforms under Jospin in the late 90s, which seemed to be working, but was eliminated by Sarkozy in 2002 as part of his "zero tolerance" policy. relations between kids and the police are marked by mistrust and confrontation, especially if the kids are not white. The recent declarations by Sarkozy, indiscriminately calling the trouble makers "scum" ("racaille" is actually even worse than that in French) and calling again for "zero tolerance" have certainly inflamed things (some kids now talk about continuing until Sarkozy resigns).

Which brings us to the political context, dominated by the rivalry between Sarkozy on one side, and Villepin/Chirac on the other. For the past few days, Chirac and Villepin were happy to let things degenerate as it put Sarkozy in a bad light (he has been pretty univerally criticised for his needlessly provocative taunts), but the continued climate of violence has put the spotlight back on the government - and its divisions. Chirac and Villepin show that they are inefficient, they let ministers criticise one another (Azouz Bezag, who is Minister for integration, and grew up in one of the cités, has been criticising Sarkozy harshly in the past few days) and they provide a more general insight on the cluelessness of the French elites today viz. the banlieues. Worse, when Villepin went to see the right wing group in Parliament, he saw that a majority of them seem to lean towards Sarkozy's brand of toughness.

As far as I can tell, the main issues are:

- first of all, the exclusion from the work market. The young and the immigrants (and especially their children) have borne a disproportionate share of the unemployment, which itself has been France's chosen way to deal with globalisation, by protecting the integrated middle class and making it hard to join them. They are left with the unstable, low paying jobs or nothing, and they are not helped by discrimination, which certainly exists against them (for jobs, to get housing, etc...);

- second, the slow degradation of the housing stock. Insufficient investment, a vicious cycle of degradation and escape by those that could have made some of these places shameful for a country like France;

- the concentration of poor and foreign populations makes it impossible for the education system to give their kids a real chance to get out of this spiral, even with the extra help allocated to most of these schools - the problems simply pile on, good teachers are reluctant to work there, and the kids cannot escape.

Communautarism, and religion, have thrived in these places, as a way to organise life, and to provide simple solutions to these intractable problems, but it is hard to say that it is the cause of the problems. The "big brothers play a useful role to defuse tensions and calm down the more excitable youngsters, and are seen as allies by local authorities, for the most part. Religion thrives on poverty, but is not the root cause.

::

original post by whataboutbob

Having only heard a little about this, and nothing here yet...thought it important to post this: Chirac seeks to calm Paris riots

French President Jacques Chirac warned of a "dangerous situation" and called for calm after six nights of riots in suburbs in the north-east of Paris.(...)

Unrest flared in Clichy after two teenage boys were electrocuted on Thursday at an electricity sub-station. Local people insist they were fleeing from police and scrambled in to hide. Police say they were not chasing the boys. An official investigation is under way. Clichy saw five successive nights of confrontation between police and young people from the mainly north African Muslim communities in the north-eastern suburb. Unemployment and social problems are rife in many of France's poorer suburban areas.

The more disquieting thing to me is, IF I understand it correctly, that it seems like Sarkozy is trying to use this whole unrest for political purposes (ie., to look tough and play on racial fears), when the approach should be to, as Chirac put it: ""Apply the law  in a spirit of dialogue and respect". Do I have this right, or am I off here?

Update [2005-11-3 12:26:10 by Colman]: More details on the latest rioting from the BBC via Memeorandum.com.

Display:
Earlier today, I wrote this:


he underlying facts are horribly polluted by the quasi-open war between Sarkozy (who as Minister for the Interior has been taking an extremely aggressive and tough talking stance on this) and Villepin (who has been, like Chirac, remarkably silent in the past few days). The continued rioting seems to be a reaction to Sarkozy's over the top statements (of the "we'll come and get you, you fucking hoodlums" kind), but again, I can't tell for sure.

What I have read and watched since confirms this:

  • Sarkozy steps up the lepenist rhetoric (this time, he talked about the "racaille" which could be loosely translated as hoodlums/scum), which triggers more violence;

  • the rest of the government (i.e. the Villepin/Chirac faction) is happy to let the situation go bad because it makes Sarkozy and his tough "zero tolerance" discourse sound nasty and inappropriate (especially as it seems that a lot of the underlying problem comes from really bad relations between young kids and the police, coming from lack of trust on either side, but exacerbated by color-driven petty controls. It appears that the two kids that got killed in an electric transformer were simply fleeing from a banal police id control and may not even have committed any crime, as originally claimed)

  • Sarkozy looks bad, but the situation goes worse, and sniping within the government ends up making the government look pretty bad too

  • thus Villepin and Chirac finally stepping in.

Of course, the narrative above has little to do with the underlying situation, but that's the games politicians play, and Sarkozy and Chirac are opportunists of the worst kind. Can you imagine another 18 months of this at the top of the State? Not much good can come of that for France - or its neighbors in Europe.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 05:47:27 PM EST
Inspector Sarkozy's message to the citizens of Clichy

 Je sais que tu te demandes si j'ai tiré six coups ou seulement cinq. Tu sais, pour dire vrai, dans l'ardeur de la bagarre, j'ai un peu perdu le compte. Mais avec ce .44 Magnum, le plus puissant revolver du monde à te faire éclater la tête, la seule question à te poser, c'est de savoir si c'est ton jour de chance. Alors, fumier, c'est ton jour de chance aujourd'hui ?

Worked for Reagan.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 10:50:57 PM EST
1.  Seven, yes, seven days of riots in France, and no reporting about it, especially in the US media, until recently.  

Yet, a small riot in New Orleans, if any, got all the headlines in the so-called mainssteam media.

2.  Is anyone calling for Chirac to resign?  

How come all the leftist/liberal/socialists were calling for George W. Bush to resign over a natural disaster?

by ilg37c on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 12:00:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't think filling FEMA with incompetent flunkies was a natural disaster. But you are doing a hell of a job, M. Sarkozy.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 08:46:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of course.  Perhaps one of the largest natural disasters that the US has ever faced.  Odd, isn't it ?, that FEMA has been so competent in handling natural disasters for at least 10 years, hundreds of hurricanes for example; odd isn't it that the recent very damaging Florida hurricanes were well handled by the "incompetent flunkies at FEMA" whom you call a natural disaster.

Odder still that all of these other local governments, other than New Orleans, and Louisiana, seemed to understand that NO had the role of first responder, and LA the first backup role.

Let's remember that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was created only in 1979. It was formed to coordinate and focus federal response to major disasters - to "assist" local and state governments.

Common sense suggests that local and state governments are best able to prepare and plan for local disasters.

Is a Washington bureaucrat better suited to prepare for an earthquake in San Francisco, a hurricane in Florida, or a terrorist act in New York?

After the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center, no one suggested that the Bush administration should have been responsible for New York's disaster response or that federal agents should have been involved in the rescue of those trapped in the buildings.

Last year, four major hurricanes slammed into Florida. Governor Jeb Bush led the disaster response and did a remarkable job, with nothing happening like what we have seen in New Orleans.

The primary response in disasters has always come from local communities and state governments.

 First responders and the manpower to deal with emergencies come from local communities: police, fire and medical. Under our federal system, these local departments answer to local authorities, not those in Washington. These first responders are not even under federal control, nor do they have to follow federal orders.

In addition to local responders, every state in the Union has a National Guard.

 State National Guards answer first to the governor of each state, not to the president. The National Guard exists not to defend one state from an invasion by another state, but primarily for emergencies like the one we have witnessed in New Orleans and in other areas impacted by Katrina. (See: http://www.arng.army.mil/about_us/organization/command_structure.asp)

Newsmax.com

You might check this article out as it lays out the disaster responsibilities from NO's and LA's own disaster plans in some detail.  Here is just a snippet:
The plan makes it evident that New Orleans knew that evacuation of the civilian population was the primary responsibility of the city - not the federal government.

The city plan acknowledges its responsibility in the document:

As established by the City of New Orleans Charter, the government has jurisdiction and responsibility in disaster response. City government shall coordinate its efforts through the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The city document also makes clear that decisions involving a proper and orderly evacuation lie with the governor, mayor and local authorities. Nowhere is the president or federal government even mentioned

While I think it is fair to criticize FEMA for errors made in what was probably the countries largest natural disaster, and they need upgrading of their capabilities as Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida said after Hurricane Wilma;

 Although Bush said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had done a good job coordinating the immediate response when four hurricanes hit Florida last year, he criticized FEMA's actions during recovery.

 He cited the agency's "bureaucratic slowness" in securing long-term housing and loans, debris removal and reimbursement.

But to put the entire blame on them is totally illogical given the track record of FEMA when they work with competent state and local authorities.  Why wouldn't the incompetent flunkies have failed in all of these other disasters?  Why don't you even mention the failure of NO and LA?
by wchurchill on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 06:36:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure if you're aware, but you're repeating right-wing propaganda and Newsmax is not a credible source.

FEMA had little respect as an agency until Clinton revamped it in the 90's and turned it into one of the most highly respected government agencies under the management of James Watt.  This is probably the reason for its good performance in the last 10 years.

Under the current administration, however, things have changed for the worse.  FEMA's incompetence has been on display prior to Katrina, but the previous few disasters, notably in Florida where folks are still living in tents, were not as nationally noticed.

Certainly, some things were done wrong on a local level during Katrina.  However, the Federal government was responsible for handling the disaster before the hurricane even reached land.  Cat 3 automatically means the Feds are responsible in the same way a 7.0 earthquake triggers this.  Also, the papers were all signed beforehand as a formality.

Not only did the Federal government completely bungle things, but there is some evidence to suggest that some of this was intentional, to "prove" their philosophy that "big" government shouldn't be depended upon.  

The responsibility for the magnitude of the tragedy, for the lack of rescue and supplies afterwards, lies squarely with FEMA and I, for one, will not be forgiving them for it.  Nor should any of us let them get away with the lies and obfuscation being propagated by the likes of Newsmax.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 07:43:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
correction -- James Witt, not "Watt."  Sorry, I was going from memory.  Here's the wikipedia entry on FEMA for a more complete history.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 07:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
right wing site.  and right after I hit the post button, i wished that i had not, because this thread should really focus on understanding the issues in paris.  and in addition, I'm certain there is blame to share on Katrina, and it would be better to wait for this Congressional report, and use that as a basis to evaluate the performance of all 3 levels of government that had responsiblity.
by wchurchill on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 10:34:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had that exact thought when I hit post!  I don't know how a big, written rant can be claimed to have been impulsive, but somehow it is when I get caught up in things.

Sorry for taking the thread off topic.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 10:56:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how a big, written rant can be claimed to have been impulsive, but somehow it is when I get caught up in things.
boy is this a true statement.  and it was me that took the thread off topic, not you.  but the way you put that made me smile and laugh, because it was like you were that little voice in the back of my mind.  thanks
by wchurchill on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 12:05:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno, subtle things like the Brownie emails recently released may have biased me, but I suppose I'm just sensitive to you know gross dereliction of duty and crap work. Odd how it is that the it's never Bush's fault or the fault of people he appoints.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 10:16:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
fran's stories today, + NY Times and stories now breaking in the US, and comments under European Breakfast.  Maybe we could consolidate threads, comments on this somehow.
by wchurchill on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 02:59:11 AM EST
LeMonde's third headline is "Les violences dans les banlieues relancent le débat sur la police de proximité"

"Violence in the surburb questions Suburb's Police's efficiency"

Pardon my english.

Who are the kidding? Theose people are torching cars throughout the Paris region, while every politician tries to get most political capital out of the situation.
The BBC talks about "riots", not "echaufourre" [incidents].
French newspaper have problem: they don't even expect the government to behave in any other way that it is right now.
As jerome says, nothing good is too be expected of them. Problem is, it may be so until 2012 if the Duke of Sarko is elected.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 09:31:20 AM EST
The "police de proximité" (neighborood police) was put in place under the Jospin government and was eliminated by Sarkozy in 2002 during his first stint as minister for the interior. It was generally considered to be a successful reform (to have the police de proximité) as the police officers knew their neighborood and were less confrontational with the kids, and there was more communication.

But in 2002, Sarkozy cut funding for Seine Saint Denis to send police to Western Paris (i.e. the posh suburbs) which already had more policer per inhabitant and lower crime rates...

Sarkozy is a catastrophe.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 09:56:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Les violences dans les banlieues relancent le débat sur la police de proximité"

"Violence in the surburb questions Suburb's Police's efficiency"

Nothing about "efficiency" in the French original, is there? I would translate

"Violent incidents in the suburbs reignite the debate on proximity police."

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 10:27:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do not translate what you think the sentence means to avoid scratching your head. Lesson learned, thanks.

The french newspaper Liberation now uses the word "emeutes"[riots]. I still think that in France the importance of what has happened will be downplayed. First on the problems themselves, as no one will dare tell the extent of the violence that has spread.
Second, on why the current administration can't focus on problems at hand; they will not face to failure of politics as a job for the french elite. Politics in France are a way to make a living: while at some point it was believed to be a good things [remnants of the french aristocracy?] it may be time to question the permanent conflict of interest that this conception creates

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 12:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, actually, you have to translate what you think the sentence means. For instance:
*La violence would be "violence", but what to make of the plural les violences? Hence the "incidents".
*relancer also poses problems with literal translation, as does police de proximité: Jérôme's "neighbourhood police" is best.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 01:34:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the term for the concept in English or at least American. Literal translation can sometimes lead one astray.
by MarekNYC on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 12:00:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, Sarkozy's inflammatory rhetoric eggs on the rioters (or so some of them claim fairly credibly) and yes, there are probably some policing techniques that are more effective than others although the "Police Nationale" is a pretty unwieldy, one size fits all, type of an organization with no connection or responsibility to local authorities such as mayors.  The right wing's political maneuvering around the issue is disgusting while the left's relative restraint is a pleasant surprise.
Nevertheless, I think the real question is why have French institutions and the social model failed so badly over the past decades, under left and right wing governments, in dealing with the "banlieue" issues and where do we go from here?
by Guillaume on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 11:50:18 AM EST
I am just crossposting my comments made under Fran's articles, becaused I think it would be good to focus a thread on this issue.  (Sorry if this is against policy).

There has been little coverage in the American press until today's NY Times article.

Burning cars as a form of protest is not unusual in the largely immigrant, working-class neighborhoods. Unemployment rates there are 30 percent or more, while the national rate is 10 percent. More than 20,000 cars have been set ablaze in France so far this year, according to a government report cited by the newspaper Le Figaro.
The periodic violence highlights France's failure to integrate immigrants into the country's broader society, a problem that has grown in urgency as the unemployment rate climbs. Most of the country's immigrants are housed in government-subsidized apartments on the outskirts of industrial cities. They benefit from generous welfare programs, but the government's failure to provide jobs has created a sense of disenfranchisement among the young. A highly observant form of Islam has grown popular among the mostly Muslim population.

And just noting from the Guardian above:

Not for the first time, the unrest has highlighted tensions between wealthy big cities and their grim ghettoised banlieues, home to immigrants from the Maghreb and West Africa who have never been fully integrated into French society and have become an underclass for whom hopelessness and discrimination are normal.

I would appreciate any reference to background on these stories, so we have some context for them. I note whataboutbob raising this as an issue yesterday, and a few early questions also arising on the site.   Certainly there was awareness in America about issues with a growing Muslim population, but more around stories about how negative and Fascist La Pen is, and recent stories on banning Muslim headscarves in schools.  Are the above stories accurate on balance?
by wchurchill on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 12:30:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for crossposting here. This morning, I tohught the discussion would go on in the other thread, but it is more logical here.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 02:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wchurchill: just read the Guardian article you're referring to, and yes, their reporting is quite accurate and overall on the mark:

  • accidental death by electrocution of 2 teenagers (from immigrant families) while hiding from the police in a power substation last Thursday. Random ID checks is a common form of harassment of young people by the police in France, especially of young males of North African descent who are the main targets of racism in this country. Sad but true.

  • interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy "Law & Order" posturing, throwing gasoline on the fire by his inflammatory comments (no pun intended), positioning himself for the upcoming 2007 presidential election.

  • minister of social cohesion, Jean-Louis Borloo, acknowledging the overall failure of French society in dealing with its poorest and most marginalized part (saw him on TV this morning).

  • Chirac & de Villepin waking up and realizing that the whole thing is getting out of control and that Sarkozy's "playing with matches" is now threatening to burn their house...

The only silver lining: besides the two kids who were accidentally electrocuted last week, no fatalities or even serious injuries were reported; just property damage; so far...
by Bernard on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 05:08:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The decline and neglect areas may perhaps parallel similar occurences in big cities in the US and the UK. There the force driving this neglect is strucutral.

The parties of the right will naturally focus resources on the richer areas that support them. Leftist parties and policies attempt to ameliorate the situation when they are in office, but the swing voters reside mostly in the middle class and thus the balance of political power militates against the poorer areas.

This effect is most pronounced in large cities because community feeling is always lower across such a large electorate. Once you add in some elements of race and culture clash it gets increasingly difficult.

I often feel that this is one of the unspoken challenges of the coming years for the left. How do we build the sense of community in an increasingly atomised world? It is only with a sense of community that a mandate for "the common good" can be established.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 03:39:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French youths open fire on police

Staff and agencies
Thursday November 3, 2005

French youths fired at police and burned over 300 cars last night as towns around Paris experienced their worst night of violence in a week of urban unrest.

The French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, was involved in a series of crisis meetings today following the clashes between police and immigrant groups in at least 10 poor suburbs, during which youths torched car dealerships, public buses and a school.

Four shots were fired at police and fire officers in four different towns without causing any injuries, said Jean-Francois Cordet, the senior government official for the troubled Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris, where the week of violence has been concentrated. ...

Read all

by susanhu (susanhuatearthlinkdotnet) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 03:50:49 PM EST
[local police] was eliminated by Sarkozy in 2002 as part of his "zero tolerance" policy. [...] some kids now talk about continuing until Sarkozy resigns
When the government has a policy of "zero tolerance" towards the youth, the youth end up having a zero tolerance policy towards the government.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 03:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The interesting thing is that TV coverage has shown a lot of French (white) citizens being interviewed in the banlieues and saying that it is obvious that the police only stop (to control ids) black or Arab kids, often several times a day. You have patterns of institutionalised humiliation that are shameful. Isolated policemen are targetted, and get scared, so they only go into the cités in force, thus not helping dialogue... it's a vicious circle. The police de proximité was seen as a way to break this, and to some extent it did, but as we know, prevention and dissuasion are not "manly" and tough, and that was dumped by the right.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 04:34:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then the left needs to reach out to these white citizens. I assume these are banlieu residents and as such would be inclined to vote for the right wing on a law and order platform. The left needs to point out that things were getting better before the right came in with their tough-on-crime attitude.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 04:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The DDR was full of those highrises. They became unpopular with the inhabitants after the German unification. Many were torn down, others were changed into decent appartment blocks.

Here is on example of how it looked during 'real' socialism:

http://www.immowelt.de/bauen/PlattenbauSanierung/img/platte_alt_.jpg

And now in a pre-dominantly social democratic society:

http://www.immowelt.de/bauen/PlattenbauSanierung/img/platte_neu_.jpg

Perhaps French local government people should invite some German constructing companies to submit a plan or two.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 05:18:32 PM EST
Great pictures.

When I visited Dresden in 1998 money was pouring in for building renovation. I had recently seen a German film called Das Leben ist eine Baustelle and the impression I got from my trip was Berlin is eine Baustelle.

Anyway, in Dresden there were streets where one side had been improved and was painted in these warm pastel colours, while the opposite side was still gray.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 06:23:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, let's have a bit of history here...

The 5th plan under de Gaulle was powering up social housing (HLM= Habitat à Loyer Moderé), the goals and the stakes were high.

Under Pompidou, no big changes, still a good economy in France and the usual motto "When construction industry goes on, everything goes on" (Quand le bâtiment va, tout va !).

Giscard is president and we have the first petrol crisis...
A high immigration rate, but the big objectives are shifted to the new "villes nouvelles" (middle class residential area), the progress on those "cités ouvrières" ( blue collar districts) was stopped and in most of France, the HLM investments were reduced, the curb was flattening and most of those "social housings" were used by higher income people (in fact those HLM were just as good in quality, in that era, then the "non social" product, and those built in Paris were taken over by white collar administration people (mostly)!

Mitterand first mandate is the breakdown of the social housing investment... The curve starts sloping down, 25% less each year, then 50%... Political funding through most of those building project is catching up with the left. It took almost twenty years to the right to create the model of the funding pump, but the left raise the rates in a few years.
In 1985 the Communist Party rate was about 2% of the building cost (schools mostly) and was considered high (read much too much)... Several years later it would go to 4% for the PS and RPR.

This mess was stopped by a law on party funding... And a general amnesty ! To start up again, this time fully illegal, through big engineering firms that were sharing the loot through architectural contests... The two major firms (one left, one right) are in prison today!
Of course... The beat goes on...! (see the latest trial on Ile de France).

In the meantime, The Communist Party was "killed" by Mitterand and lost most of it's popular strength, most went to Le Pen (extreme right) party... And were anyhow anti-immigration in the beginning!

The social housing "bubble" had shrank so much in all the country, that poor people were thrown out in the streets (Coluche, Abbé Pierre and the "Restos du coeur").

Most Mayors of smaller cities felt as a "plague" the fact to have really low income social housing (In French HLM system, the local mayor has 51% of decision in HLMs of his commune ). Those who relied on industry kept building them (workers) while other stopped, being more uppish residential areas...

Those discrepancies went so far that a new law had to be voted, that would oblige building a quota of HLM or be fined... Today, most prefer to be fined!

It's a full generation between Pompidou and today. The "New Cities" have evolved but the old "Cités" are still mostly as poorly equipped as before, in transportation, in services... And mostly in work!
Those parents are out of work and their kids out of school...

There has been several projects to upgrade those districts but most of those solutions would take a dozen years, as it was not a priority.
Fiscal help was given by the "Zones franches" (free trade areas) and in education by "priority educative centers"... Those labeling were felt as an iron branding of "unter mensch" ! And anyhow most efforts were just peppered...

It re-inforced communitarism and illegal traffics. Those "gangs" exist since kindergarten, as most never get out of their district, everyone knows everyone and fighting "cops" is seen as heroic.
Still, most of them are just very frightened kids and thus often quite violent, specially when they can't see a way out.

Cars started to burn at night... They still do, and they will keep burning till we don't find an issue !

The "Karsher" answer is, of course, not the good one ! But it won't be easy to catch up with twenty years of messed up districts, of paranoia, of districts that are ghettos (for both sides). And it is not the politics of either side who will win this battle, as, alas, it goes further then the longest political mandate (5 years).

Some old timers would say that it's the perverse effect of de-centralization... And truly bad social politics from all sides !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 06:43:02 PM EST
Political funding through most of those building project is catching up with the left. It took almost twenty years to the right to create the model of the funding pump, but the left raise the rates in a few years.
In 1985 the Communist Party rate was about 2% of the building cost (schools mostly) and was considered high (read much too much)... Several years later it would go to 4% for the PS and RPR.

This mess was stopped by a law on party funding... And a general amnesty ! To start up again, this time fully illegal, through big engineering firms that were sharing the loot through architectural contests... The two major firms (one left, one right) are in prison today!
Of course... The beat goes on...! (see the latest trial on Ile de France).

Are you saying that the HLM program was basically an illegal source of funding for political parties?

Not that it doesn't make sense, but you cover a lot of ground in your comment and some things are more insinuated than explicitly stated.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 06:54:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, the HLM building programs often included kickbacks for the ruling parties, although I have no specific cases in mind right now.

In Paris intra-muros, getting a HLM was way faster if you had a RPR party card...

About the fines imposed on commune with low HLM rates, it should be noted that Neuilly, the extremely wealthy suburb where Sarkozy was mayor, has 3% of its housing as HLM, whereas the law imposes 20% ...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 07:12:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Every "public" building "was" subjected to tenders, and many (most) of those brought money to funding the different political groups.
Schools, colleges, universities, social housing, etc.
"Private" buildings as offices, housing, etc. don't always go to tender.

In that era, the major contractors would negotiate between themselves on who would get the contract, the others, bidding much too high or much too low... Then on the next project they would take turns.
In those "false" bidding. That would allow for the "true" price to be just 2% over what was anticipated...

Or, when they had to keep the price on the level, there would be some good reasons to find those 2% on the building design, often without the architect knowing (thus the use of the engineering firm whom by law must team with the architect on such public projects)!

2% on a school would mean, for example, to shift aluminium window frames to PVC ones... Or to replace false brick on concrete by grout!

Each part of that comment, of course, could be covered in a diary, but my intention here, was more to give a feedback of the general attitude in time that led to the present situation... Those big trials of those firms were as hot a few years ago then the Fitzgerald's indictments are today in US.

It was less true in rural areas, but worked quite well in the suburbs of big cities. It is not the cause of the diminution of HLM, but points to a very sick way of having a school or an HLM done in a given district.
(today it's more about the "roundabouts")!

Why did the social housing dip in the Mitterand's years, that still remain incomprehensible to me.

In those years I worked on a project (government funded) on public spaces in one of those "burning" districts.
Because of EU funding on schools for music, the "team" (mayor, ministry of equipment, ministry of cities, city hall urbanists) decided for a design of one of those schools... Just in the middle of most gangs boundaries...(those kids wanted a basketball arena, that's what they told me)!
 I asked what sort of music school would it be... A classical one with violins, trumpets, and such.. Behind bars, because... You know, those instruments have a price...!
I replied they should invite me for the burning after the inauguration... And it did burn indeed !
That school, (about 2 million Francs) was not what was needed there... But because they had to show that work was being done on this city, and with somebody's else money, they just did it !

This sort of stupidity has been going along for years... And deep rooted projects were not funded, because of no direct political feedback, or too costly !

In some rare cases some good work has been done and could be followed today...

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 08:02:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The same goes for Italy. Berlusconi made his first couple of billion euros when Craxi let him build the monstruous public housing projects in Milan. Part of the profits went into the PSI coffers. Rome's projects like Torpingnatara and others were 'developed' by DC cronies. The national market was accurately divided between the PSI and DC, the other coalition parties had only a minor part in it: they were given some ministeries to plunder.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 05:03:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
some of it back, perhaps using some American terms (sorry), to make sure my understanding is correct.

It sounds like the HLM was originally meant as "public housing", and primarily for immigrants.  As funding fell for this area, and the economy took a turn for the worse, the better HLM housing was bought up by the middle class and up.  This meant that the worse HLM areas became kind of "slums".  And there was not really new government money to build more HLM, so there is no longer adequate housing for the immigrants.  Richer areas don't want new HLM because they view it as "too poor", bringing in the wrong kind of people?  so what new housing for the lower class is built,  is built in the lower class areas.  And now, these areas are "slums", filled with first and second generation immigrants, who are poor, dissaffected, high unemployment?

Sorry, but this is a serious attempt to confirm that I am understanding--I wouldn't be surprised if I really missed the point on some of this.

by wchurchill on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 08:15:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HLM = low rent housing.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 10:34:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's  a good summary... :-)
Apart:
These social housings were not specifically conceived for immigrants but for workers of all sorts. The HLM ancestors, the HBM (Habitat Bon Marché) was already there under Napoléon III !

They are definitely not "slums". The older ones built after the war aren't just on par with today's comfort rules (acoustics and thermal rules).

The main problem was more of the urban master plan, modern style, with no "real" streets, but big blocs and towers amid open space supposed to be gardens and children games and parking. Hence a huge "private" space versus the classical public space (the street). The police cars can't easily go in those areas that are not leveled (pseudo gardens with stairs, mounds, trees, etc.)!

In most areas, you have a 300 000 people district facing 30000 people living in little house circa 19th century, often older people in retirement... But those vote, while most of the others don't !
That's why the proposition that immigrants could vote on local elections such as the city hall ones is so important !

Several years ago, a law allowed people living in HLM to buy their flat!
The general idea, was to get rid and privatize many of those buildings, raising money to build new ones... But it mostly complicated things, as some flats were own by some people but not the others in the same building...

Today, Borloo's scheme is to build quickly, very cheap housings! But he's lowering the overall comfort rules (just like after the war). Meaning that the inhabitants will have to heat more in winter, among many other points such as handicapped rules, etc.
Up to now, the buildings standards were the same, and state funded the buildings and the rent...
I'm not very happy with this way of building "cheap"! As it will cost much more in a few years to upgrade those buildings...!

To answer another question, drugs are not really the problem... You have the same dealers in Paris, the usual police chase, and no local flare of violence...
Drugs are the local economy of these districts, just as stolen cars, etc. As in the cartels, it helps whole families in everyday life...! The "Lords" of those gangs are helpful for the locals who, in turn, don't really help the police !

Some authors here have done some analogy with middle-age big village structure. The show of power through fights, the coat of arms of each "house", but also the fact that a young couple (15) just can't manage to be together without all the village knowing it and the "Lords" taking a share of the young girl (or the family shutting up the young girl and protecting her against her will) !

A child of 8 in those districts must know at least 200 names and faces, just to cross those open spaces to go to school, whereas it's urban counterpart never knows more then 50 (and that's a maximum).

Those districts are not urban cities, even if they sometimes look like one. The "anonymity" of the urban dweller doesn't exist... And thus progress is slow!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 05:40:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm wondering -- in all the analysis of the causes, does anyone have any ideas of how drug prohibition may or may not be a contributing factor?  I don't know anything about France's drug laws, and I ask because I've seen these sorts of conditions you're describing up close when I lived in Los Angeles and police brutality and overreaching has been a big factor which the drug prohibition has worsened.

It seems to me that the war on drugs here has been disasterous -- creating a huge black market, increasing the problem, and leading to higher crime and violence.  This, in turn, leads to the tough on crime, zero-tolerance attitudes mentioned.  Things become very cops & robbers, us vs. them, and a sort of hopeless alienation is all but inevitable.

Sorry to hear about this in Paris.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 11:12:13 PM EST


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