We are fortunate to have a guest posting below by Corinne Tatcher, who has been observing the PB process in Porto Alegre.
“Fogaça: A Cara da Cidade.” I still remember José Fogaça’s campaign slogan for his mayoral bid in 2004. Fogaça: The Face of the City.
Unfortunately, Fogaça has indeed been promoting his own image at the expense of the Participatory Budget since he took office in 2005. Despite having promised to improve upon the PB when elected to City Hall–“keep what’s good and change what isn’t” had been a second slogan of his campaign–so far, he has not lived up to the expectations he created.
The Participatory Budget in Porto Alegre has reached a critical phase in its 18-year life span. Whether for lack of competence or lack of interest, the new administration–the first non-PT administration to lead Porto Alegre since 1989–has relegated the PB to the sidelines of the political playing field. A handful of PB councillors have become so frustrated by the administration’s lack of follow through that they have resigned from the PB Council and joined a movement they’ve deemed Basta ao Desmonte do OP–Stop the PB’s Dismantling. Others who are continuing to participate expressed their frustration at a recent Council meeting held on 9 January 2007.
At the meeting, a discussion surfaced about the decline in PB’s image in Porto Alegre. Complaints were raised that the government was not including the PB logo on new public works that were decided upon through the mechanism of the PB as had been done in the past, and that fewer people were participating in the PB each year. In order to keep the PB image alive, a councillor from the Northeast region suggested printing t-shirts with the PB’s logo for distribution throughout the regions, an idea that many supported until a second councillor took the floor and pointed out that by promoting the image of the PB, the councillors would be providing free publicity for the Fogaça administration; they would be promoting a program that is no longer functioning, that is no longer respected, but that the administration nonetheless continues to point to as an indicator of its “inclusive” nature.
Following this observation, a third councillor took the floor and encouraged the councillors to issue an ultimatum to Fogaça: either he show up for a meeting with the councillors or the councillors go on strike. He argued that there’s no sense in continuing with the formalities of the PB when it takes up so much valuable time from the coucillors but the government is not reciprocating with results. Although the Council appeared to be in general agreement that such an action would be worthwhile, a formal vote was delayed until the following week, presumably to give the councillors time to consider the proposal.
When January 16 rolled around, however, no mention was made of the ultimatum. The councillors discussed business as usual, the topic of discussion being possible changes to the internal rules of the PB for the 2007 cycle.
There is no doubt that Porto Alegre’s PB councillors are frustrated by the administrations lack of support for the PB process; it still remains to be seen, however, what they will do with their frustration. Regardless of their approach, key insights into the sustainability of the PB in the absence of a PT administration will doubtlessly surface within the next two years.
For additional details on the January 9 meeting, see CIDADE’s article, “Conselheiros do OP reivindicam audiência com o prefeito” here.