Cape Town Stadium: Accessible vs. Transparent
About a week ago, through an online news article, it came to my attention that City Council had "voted in favour of setting up a municipal entity to manage the venue". The decision itself did not come as much of a surprise, but what was annoying, was that it was so difficult to find relevant document.
After reading the article, I thought it best to update myself and try again to find the document, since previous attempts had been fruitless. I knew that the decision was made on a Wednesday, during the Council Meeting of 29 January 2014, but that was about it. One would assume that a search for "Cape Town", "Stadium" or "Cape Town Stadium" would lead me to the exact document, somewhere in the long list of Council documents, which likely included the extension to the roof edge of a luxury home in Camps Bay.
After many minutes of looking including ruling out any entries related to "proposed leases" and any "annexures" – which are just attachments to decisions – I finally found the correct document. It was labelled:
C29/01/14 [ITEM 48] – CONCLUSION OF THE PROCESS IN TERMS OF SECTION 78 OFTHE LOCAL GOVERNMENT – ETC
Yes. Neither "Cape Town" nor "Stadium" in the title. Although the full title once the document was found is:
CONCLUSION OF THE PROCESS IN TERMS OF SECTION 78 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT: MUNICIPAL SYSTEMS ACT, ACT 32 OF 2000, TO DECIDE ON THE MOST APPROPRIATE GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT MODEL FOR THE CAPE TOWN STADIUM AND GREEN POINT URBAN PARK
Which begs the question? Where is the line between accessibility and transparency? Yes, legal requirements are set in place, and we should be grateful to have all Council and Sub-Council meeting documents uploaded online – even when several other South African cities have yet to achieve this – but in these modern times, surely searching and accessing documents of an extremely topical nature should not be reduced to the first twenty-or-so letters related to the title of the decision?
Again, our position statement on the Cape Town Stadium Business Plan was not opposed to this decision, and in fact supported it, but it would be reasonable to expect that a decision related to such a long and detailed process would also receive similar attention. Or if not, why not?
The proposed mixed-management model: Future Cape Town supports this, provided a formal knowledge sharing mechanism is set up with existing public-private and municipal entities, in light of the benefits of avoiding the stringent conditions of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Read the full position statement here (PDF)
By any means, the public participation process surrounding the business plan was moderately successful. Our recently released infographic on public participation in Cape Town , which compared the amount of participants across some past public processes, showed that 145 participants commented on the Cape Town Stadium Business Plan, with 95 supporting the findings of the business plan and 30 proposing the demolition of the stadium. (Another 2 proposed lawsuits against FIFA)
But surely there is a balance between make information available and the public actually taking it in and responding. Or does the development of a culture of active citizenship in the built environment space require a longer time period to develop and mature?
During a recent walking tour, as part of our World Design Capital, Cape Town 2014 project as a year-round event, a large proportion of the 30 participants who took part in the tour – of which one can assume most have an interest in the urban development of Cape Town – were unaware of what the CTICC expansion would look like. The expansion and all the details have made the headline several times, and I am certain that the initial renders of its conceptual design have graced the front pages of many local papers. How far then should local government or even a municipal entity go to ensure a reasonable level of public awareness about a project?
Gathering public input often depends on the whether public input is really wanted, beyond the traditional tick-boxing of media channels to make sure all regulatory and legal requirements are met. The bottom right corner of Page 7, the last time I recall, rarely captured the public imagination, and this is where you would find anything from a call for comments on a new parking policy to decisions related to the planning of a major new public building.
One of our research and WDC2014 projects, the Your City Idea installation, in a period of about 6 hours in a public space, whether on Church Square or Observatory Main Road, collects between 170 and 200 votes from the public, including a moment for discussion and conversation with each participant around the particular topic. What if an installation of this nature made its way across the city in a week? Would the number of public participation participants grown exponentially, and what would a partnership of this nature look like, in light of the associated cost? The participants in the lauded and largely successful Name Your Hood process in Gugulethu, to rename/remove the NY (Native Yards) street designations, yielded 4,300 suggestions for new street names, and the project and its processes continue to improve.
Surely, a topic like Cape Town Stadium, with its financial and political implications – and the ongoing surrounding debate – is worthy of a dedicated sub-section at the City of Cape Town website. It is after all the largest strategic asset operated by the City.
Transparency in government is essential, and in the Cape Town Stadium case, this is not the question, but pursuing accessibility as an equally important part of a vibrant democracy depends less on the systems and technology in place, and more on those who are tasked with ensuring this is important. I think we all have a part to play.
Download the documents related to the Cape Town Stadium operating model below.