by Laurent GUERBY
Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 06:57:04 AM EST
Since we now have to talk about things that do work, how about reading Curitiba: A Global Model For Development:
The first time I went there, I had never heard of Curitiba. I had no idea that its bus system was the best on Earth or that a municipal shepherd and his flock of 30 sheep trimmed the grass in its vast parks. It was just a midsize Brazilian city where an airline schedule forced me to spend the night midway through a long South American reporting trip. I reached my hotel, took a nap, and then went out in the early evening for a walk--warily, because I had just come from crime-soaked Rio. [...]
"It was a horrible risk-he could easily have been fired," said Oswaldo Alves, who helped with the work. But by midday Monday, the same storeowners who had been threatening legal action were petitioning the mayor to extend the mall. The next weekend, when offended members of the local automobile club threatened to "reclaim" the street by driving their cars down it, Lerner didn't call out the police. Instead, he had city workers lay down strips of paper the length of the mall. When the auto club arrived, its members found dozens of children sitting in the former street painting pictures. The transformation of Curitiba had begun.
Cheapness is one of the three cardinal dictates of Curitiban planning. Many of the city's buildings are "recycled." The planning headquarters is in an old furniture factory; the gunpowder depot became a furniture factory; a glue plant was turned into the children's center. An old trolley stationed on the Rua Quinze has become a free babysitting center where shoppers can park their kids for a few hours. The city's parks provide the best example of brilliance on the cheap. When Lerner took office for the first time in 1971, the only park in Curitiba was smack downtown - the Passeio Publico, a cozy zoo and playground with a moat for paddleboats and a canopy of old and beautiful ipé trees, which blossom blue in the spring. "In that first term, we wanted to develop a lot of squares and plazas," recalls Alves. "We picked one plot, we built a lot of walls, and we planted a lot of trees. And then we realized this was very expensive."
Promoted and extra quote added by Colman