Numéro 99 décembre 2005Intercommunalité et intérêt général
The invocation of the public interest by government services, elected representatives at different levels, residents, users, and consuems unions rarely converges on a shared objective. The disputes about the highway between Grenoble and Sisteron shows that public consultation encourages the expression of different visions of the area. Public action is less about telling the general interest than organizing transparent and accessible public debate.
During the Clinton administration, the environmental justice movement born from local struggles againt the creation of polluting facilities near black ghettos, was transformed by new regulations. The equity principle of those struggles can be met also in France in teritorial disputes under the aegis of intercommunal structures.
At the end of the XIX century, the public interest became the main reference of reform-minded mayors. The growth of the urban areas showed the limits of the private system and gave place to new governement services offered on a metropolis scale.
Since fifty years, public authorities have lowered their investment in urban areas. Towns have become patchworks of areas with different statuses.
Since the Town Planning Act of 1947, the regulation of the allocation of land in great Britain has increasingly integrated the diversity of0000 participants in urban areas. Procedures implemented to ensure participation however have limited this diversity.
Recent policies to reduce spatial segregation in the cities of South Africa are driven by two principles : equal access to municipal public services, and the participation of residents in the future of their communities. The negociated creation of new districts between black townships and white residential areas in Johannesburg brings together these two principles in a practical manner. Participatory democracy does not always follow these projects.
In the cities of South Africa, water, electricity, sanitation and waste management services have long been provided by municipal government corporations. Recent mergers of municipalities have forced a difficult coordination of service providers and charges. On the Cape, disputes relating to satndardisation have highlighted the question of equality of investment between areas.
After German reunification, the regional parliaments of Berlin and Brandenburg worked together to coordiante joint development initiatives. Part of this was due to a wish to reduce the difference between the economic attraction of Berlin and the relegation of the Brandenburg hinterland. Mergers of districts encouraged by the legislature were not always consistent with this objective.
Modern urbanisation has extended the spatial foundations of the local political scene. In Europe, intercommunal structures in towns do not offer a new framework for the expression of growing demands for participation in local decision-making. Geografical information, in its various public forms, now contributes to the construction of an image that allows for choice in shared housing.
Traditionally a village responsibility, housing policy emerged several years ago as an intercommunal issue. The objectives of social balance and diversity in towns have led to new provisions for public intervention, the practical effectiveness of which still seems to be limited. An intercommunality that is highly inclusive in political terms results in its partners wishing to go beyond merely indirectly encouraging participation.
The growth in the movement of goods and people across the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg in recent times has forged multiple links between local communities. Through these links, a cross-border public interest is being designed. In this way, the public interest is being decentralised away from central government towards a common territorial good.
The city of Nantes in heavily involved in the movement for intercommunal mergers that empower cities on the Continent and elsewhere. Waste collection authorities are not concerned in the least that this new course will increase competition between services at the expense of the resulting advantages. An unsuccessful strike in 2003 was confirmation of the new power of communities over local services.
The knowledge of people who manage large cities is the poor relation of the science of local power. With an active approach to recruuitment, the new heads of municipal governance are polished coordinators integrated into the republican elite set. Their involvement in local affairs, however, remains suppressed by career considerations.
The tendency of residents in the more comfortable suburbs of Paris to avoid certain public schools is stronger than among residents in less well-to-do areas. Disparities between the social environment and the level of educational facilities, on the other hand, are less marked in outer suburban areas. Rules governing the distribution of state-run schools in an area thus assure a degree of republican equality for students living in less well-to-do areas, while at the same time increasing social competition in more prosperous suburbs.