The Capacity to Deliver, fairly
Comments on Draft CID Policy and By-Law
The City of Cape Town has drafted a new CID/SRA Policy and amended the associated by-law. Many CIDs will comment directly. I decided to comment in my personal capacity as well, and share them publicly because so many residents are impacted by these organisations. Comments close on Tuesday 15 September, so you still have time to Have Your Say.
The Capacity to Deliver, fairly
In a time of resource scarcity new coalitions are needed. These coalitions, however, can serve to reproduce inequality, power imbalances and imbalances in service delivery standards, or they can serve to bridge gaps.
Furthermore, these coalitions should only serve to complement a functioning government. They should not substitute for it.
Cape Town currently has 47 Improvement Districts, modelled on the American Business Improvement District model, these districts are created by groups of ratepayers coming together and agreeing to allow the City to levy and ring-fence an additional tax on top of their usual rates and taxes, and to transfer that additional revenue to a community-governed NPC that can deliver “top-up” services to that area. The 47 Improvement Districts in Cape Town vary greatly in size and character - from the first, oldest, and largest in revenue being the Central City Improvement District, which has a budget of over R70m per annum and covers the CBD (largely commercial interests, but also some residential), to entirely residential communities such as Llandando or Scott Estate, and everything in between - including industrial estates, the “Main Road” type CIDs (Woodstock, Claremont, Wynberg etc), and Voortrekker Road, which also operates in close partnership with the Greater Tygerberg Partnership which has a mandate to promote development.
Collectively, I estimate these 47 CIDs to have a revenue of over R200m/annum. They cover an increasing geographic area of Cape Town. They have different governance and operational models - from what I call the “Direct and sub-to-serve” model, which typically has just a handful of volunteer directors, with subcontracted service providers (many using GeoCentric), to fully fledged organisations with large staff contingents, and everything in between. Most are small - a few volunteer Directors, a handful of staff, and subcontracted security and cleaning service providers. Some focus very narrowly on security, cleaning and very basic social services; while others are taking on a greater remit of placemaking, developmental and infrastructural maintenance services.
CIDs can only be established by ratepayers, and where rate payers are not in debt. As such, they tend to be limited to more resourced areas, despite the national regulations, policy and by-law specifying that they should not be used to increase spatial inequality, and should be used to improve distressed areas.
The City of Cape Town has updated it’s CID Policy and By-Law and allowed a 30 day commenting period which closes on the 15th of September. I had a few thoughts about the direction that CIDs are moving in, and how policy should respond.
Overall Purpose of CIDs
The Policy and By-Law, as well as recent documents by the City such as the District Plans, emphasise CIDs as playing a role in economic development of areas. While it is not made explicit, I can assume from the fact that there are no higher-order economic development activities delegated to CIDs the link between CIDs and economic development is that “improved basic services” equates to an “improved business environment” - although there is also some mention of attracting investment into areas. Although not explicitly stated, presumably there is an underlying theory of change relating to stabilising of an area and attracting tenants and property owners, resulting in either new developments and/or increasing property prices.
With an increasing number of CIDs being established in residential areas, the link to economic development becomes more about protection of property values. While this can service City’s interests from a revenue perspective in the short term, it can contradict key spatial restructuring and spatial justice mandates, and financial efficiency objectives in the long-term.
The overall positioning of CIDs for purely commercial or purely industrial areas is clearer than those for mixed-use or residential areas, where conflict with other spatial and fiscal objectives of the City can arise. This needs clarification within the range of spatial targeting, incentives and mechanisms sitting at a policy level within the City.
Arguably, establishing a CID in a residential or mixed-use area without other targeted efforts to introduce affordable housing or minimise evictions of vulnerable tenants is regressive in light of spatial restructuring objects of SPLUMA, the MSDF etc (especially where these areas have other locational benefits). However, if done in concert with other mechanisms to stabilise an area for vulnerable populations and ensure that people of all income groups can benefit from the change, it is progressive. To date, however, there is little evidence of the latter being done in Cape Town.
Overall impact on Democratic Processes
CIDs are established by rate payers and ratepayers’ votes are determined by the value of their property ownership in an area. Only ratepayers can become members of the NPC that gets established to run the CID, and a board of directors is nominated by the members.
The City has established a number of mechanisms to ensure that the governance of these structures is transparent - meetings must be open not only to members, but to the public, NPCs must have websites with all details of meetings and up to date documentation, and must comply with various standards of annual reporting and assessments.
Accountability for service delivery in a CID area is quite complex to navigate from the perspective of a resident of that area. Many people are not familiar with where the CID mandate stops and the City mandate starts, CID services are often more “visible” and so they become the line of first complaint (or response in an emergency); and, because of the governing relationship between the City and CIDs, many residents and businesses expect that CIDs have great relationships with “the City” and are frustrated when CIDs are unable to get better service out of the City than an ordinary resident can.
CIDs are accountable to the City, to members, and to the broader community - there are several compacts to honour. Similarly, the City has several compacts (political-to-resident, administrative-to-political, administrative-to-resident, front line workers-to-administration, etc).
As CIDs take on, by default and by request (more below), greater diversity and intensity of commitments to the City and to ratepayers, the only way to do this is also for CIDs’ budgets to grow.
But, unlike City IDP and budgeting processes, where all residents of the City can procedurally participate and all citizens can be represented through their elected representative, the operational plans and budgets of the CID can only be voted on by members, who are ratepayers.
This takes more and more services, and budget, out of the hands of a majority, and into the hands of a minority. While that budget is an “additional” levy, as we widen the window of what it can be used for, there is a risk that democracy is narrowed proportionately.
The counter argument to this, of course, is that CIDs are hyper-local, and having neighbourhood determination of budgets is a profoundly democratic and participatory process (or at least, has the potential to be that).
Ideally, everyone would “be inclusive”, and run participatory processes, establish working groups for special projects, and allow their votes to be informed by voices at meetings that do not have the vote. But what is this, arguments for “Responsible Government” before suffrage? The solution is evidently simple: allow non-ratepayer tenants a voting mechanism (currently, they can acquire the proxy of their landlord, but this has limitations where a single landlord may have several tenants, for example, or may choose to dictate the vote of their proxy).
Comments on Policy Chapter 2: Establishment of CIDs
CIDs are established as “community driven” processes. On the face of it, this can appear positive - no Councillor can promote the establishment of a CID, and the determination of the geographic boundaries is entirely determined by active residents who get together and determine their viable area of intervention.
In practice, however, there are businesses that have been created who have commercial interests in more CIDs being established, and are identifying and working with communities to establish CIDs. These commercial interests are now determining the shape of the City - both large property owners mobilising as ratepayers across areas, and service providers to CIDs crunching the numbers and seeing where would be lucrative to go next. This is a practice that the City should be more aware of and also have some sort of stipulation for or mechanism to limit the interests of.
Additionally, when ratepayers get together and determine the geography of a viable service delivery area, they will naturally exclude areas that will be costly to service. This creates what is known as “Crocodile zones”. Areas between or on the edges of CIDs where the levy generation potential is too low to include within the CID weighed up against the cost of providing services to that area. Often, these are large public open spaces, or civic precincts with large numbers of publicly owned properties, or areas with large numbers of low-income households where the properties are valued lower than the neighbouring area, or where there are a large number of indigent households or households in arrears. “Crocodile zones” become the areas where “crime and grime”, and homelessness, gets displaced to.
The establishment of CIDs should, thus, also incorporate a consideration of crime displacement, as well as the impacts for large public spaces that might become points of increasing contestation - with communities frustrated by the comparatively poor levels of management, security, cleanliness, etc (the Liesbeeck River being a current case in point for nearby OBSID).
Chapter 7: Expanded role of CIDs
This comment is on Chapter 7, but also generally an observation regarding the creeping expansion of the mandates of CIDs, with abandonment of service delivery in CID areas and CIDs by default becoming the first-responder to pick up the action (and/or expectation/complaint from the community); as well as more direct and explicit requests from City counterparts for CIDs to take on additional services. This includes everything from maintenance of parks, to fixing of broken street signs, replacing of drain covers, painting road markers, cleaning of storm water drains, fixing potholes, and of course - the ever widening needs in the social development and safety and security spaces.
This expansion of the role of CIDs is potentially exciting in that it may free up further resources for the City to attend to service delivery in other areas. (It would be very interesting to see any analysis showing evidence of that reprioritisation of budget and progressive spend allocation).
However, not all CIDs are the same - as mentioned above, they are structured differently, and resourced differently. Some are better positioned to take on new mandates, while others would need to fundamentally shift their organisational structure.
Additionally, an ability to pay assessment would need to be done to determine the ability of ratepayers in the respective CIDs to cover the additional service asks - CIDs cannot absorb these additional services within their existing budgets, unless the expectation is to reduce the level of service of an existing programme. Ratepayers are currently paying for these services - shifting the cost to an increased SRA levy will increase the total municipal bill, without a total increase in service level to that resident. How has this been considered from the perspective of the ratepayer?
This may also cause confusion - where residents of a smaller CID performing the “traditional” top-up services may get frustrated by their lack of interest in pot-holes, having seen another CID fixing them... clear communications become then another challenge for all partners - City, CIDs and service providers.
If insufficient resources are available (an issue to date not adequately addressed), overall service levels can decline.
The fundamental theory behind CIDs is that they are “top-up” or “supplementary” services to the City’s basic services; and that as the area improves, there is investment and rates uplift, and services can further increase. However, if the basic service level is removed or declined, and/or there is insufficient resource allocation to the CID to take on an expanding ask, the opposite will occur. The issue of accountability then becomes stark - ratepayers will see both rates and an additional levy on their total municipal bill, but in reality experience a stagnating or declining overall standard of service - which is an intolerable situation politically, administratively, and for the CID.
Chapter 7: CIDs and public safety
Chapter 7 specifically deals with limitations on CIDs mandates in the safety and security space with regards to random stop and search, as well as the carrying of arms, which in my opinion is very welcomed. CIDs are intended to provide a visible public safety service in public spaces. They are not an armed response service - businesses requiring those services should still procure them. The last thing we want is more shootouts in our neighbourhoods. Even when armed robberies are taking place, professional armed response units and SAPS are trained to hold back to avoid civilian casualties. Often residents do not understand this and want CIDs to take on greater measures. The provisions of the by-law are thus welcomed.
Likewise, the policy references to current and future regulations regarding CCTV are welcomed. CCTV may act as a useful tool in those CIDs well-enough-resourced to use them as a live monitoring tool; or where SAPS is responsive to crime reports. However, in the wrong hands it can also be used as a tool for racial profiling, exlcusion and privacy violations. These considerations need to be balanced.
Public safety is, however, so much more than security services and CCTV. It is in how we design our public spaces so that there is good visibility and activation. It is wide pavements, and fine grain ground floor design guidelines for new developments that guarantee a door every 5-6meters for a distressed woman to enter into. It is good street lighting (which is notably a new CID service - but arguably an unaffordable one for most) and it is mental health care services, supportive housing programmes and drug rehabilitation. It is addressing structural barriers to inclusion in the economy. Public safety is not just a service provided by CIDs - it is the outcome of all of these things, and without adequate partnership with the City addressing these larger issues at regulatory and design level, CIDs will be left fighting a losing battle.
What this latter comment means in practice for the City is that other interventions should also be introduced. Especially where CIDs are in rapidly developing areas - for example those CIDs along the Main Road and Voortrekker Road corridor, as well as areas such as Maitland. CIDs are one lever towards public safety, but development and densification momentum offers another opportunity to introduce other levers - to introduce regulatory and design overlay zones or design frameworks that stipulate for safety considerations (such as increasing pavement widths, ensuring active street frontages, etc).
Chapter 7: CIDs and social development
In comparison to the other functions, the role of CIDs in social development or the types of services they may or may not offer is not unpacked in much detail. Given the numbers of people living on the streets permanently, as well as additional people begging on the streets during the day, which CIDs are often expected to either “make go away”, “report for by-law infringements”, or help (but without sufficient resources to do alone, and with a struggling network of care) this is a particular weakness of the policy and by-law.
Residents and businesses require clarity on what they can, and cannot, expect of CIDs in much the same way as clarity is now provided from a public safety and CCTV perspective. It is my opinion that CIDs are being left too alone on this issue - and while some adopt more progressive approaches, others are adopting harsh approaches. All experience the wrath of residents who want them to do more - in either direction (caring or punitive) - with little guidance from the City. Indeed, in this area it is often unclear what CIDs are “supplementing” in the first place.
For example, it would be helpful to clarify that CIDs cannot forcefully remove people, employ “move along strategies”, etc. It would also be helpful to denote what support CIDs can reasonably expect from the City. The proposed reporting template for CIDs cites examples of working with the City with safe spaces, for example, when in reality there are only 2 safe spaces currently - compared to 47 CIDs. The CIDs that are geographically close naturally enjoy a closer working relationship with these spaces.
Norms and standards for the provision of safe spaces, ablutions (preferably making available/open City ablutions, but in the absence of that norms and standards for temporary facilities), lockers, fire safety plans for encampments etc would be progressive in this regard. Similarly, mechanisms for support for those CIDs who are able to offer Supportive Housing programmes would be advantageous (notable is OBSIDs one year pilot in this regard to close due to lack of support).
Chapter 8: Informal traders
The introduction to the policy describes CIDs role as supportive of economic development and the City’s IEGS is progressive with regards to the informal economy, yet this provision with regards to the CIDs relationship to street traders implies an enforcement and punitive approach only.
CIDs are often mediating between the interests of formal and informal businesses - where there are complaints about impacts on foot traffic, cleanliness, or visibility. However many CIDs also know that street traders can add to the local economy, serve an important market, and are often the “eyes on the street”. Often, the causes of the conflicts are due to a lack of suitable infrastructure - suitably designed kiosks, ablutions for traders, or wide enough pavements, for example.
Limiting the mention of informal trade to clause 220.127.116.11 which is relating to enforcement of by-laws only, limits the potential role that CIDs can play in a more inclusive agenda and mandate. In line with any public spaces policies, plans or projects, as well as relevant trading plans for local areas, CIDs should be able to provide infrastructure or relevant support to traders as part of the local business community.
Overall: Role of the City
The soft term for this sort of increased reliance on non-state actors for service delivery and public value creation is “networked governance” or “government by network”, but I’ve had people say “it feels like they are creating “mini municipalities”.
Looking at the increasing levels of reporting required, there is some humour in this that is not lost on me. Part of the tradition of government is dealing with complex accountability routes through ever complex reporting lines, and implementing systems that structurally inhibit local discretion - thereby creating “the bureaucracy”.
Apart from the operational burdon that this imposes on CIDs, many of which simply do not have the staffing to comply (the varying operational models described above), an issue I am sure many CIDs will respond to directly, the Policy and By-Law have incorrectly reduced the role of the City in its relation to CIDs as that of of the CID-office - the officers who manage the compliance of the CIDs with regards to establishment, governance and reporting.
There are far more lines of co-dependence between the City and CIDs to get things done (as alluded to in various sections above). There needs to be a code of reliable practice with the relevant line departments that they are going to do their remaining part of the function (experience shows when CIDs take on a small part, then slowly the department disappears).
The City has previously established “Partnership” organisations, which it has then proceeded to substantively partner with. These include Cape Town Partnership, Greater Tygerberg Partnership, Philippi Economic Development Initiative, Metro Central Partnership and Hout Bay Partnership (and that is only the area-based partnerships, not issue or sectoral ones). In some instances a lack of focus, poor governance, or poor transition management on the parts of the organisations has played a part in poor collaboration with the City, but there have also been issues with the City’s ability to meaningfully engage with these organisations.
“Pay and walk away” (handing over financial resources by one department, but not setting up the transversal commitments from other line departments that hold the levers to the full realisation of the objectives of the partnership), “setup and mistrust” (actually actively undermining or blocking the work of an organisation the City is itself funding), and “hot potato” or “lemon” risk (handing these organisations all of the doomed-to-fail tasks and projects) are among a few of the behaviours observed over the years.
The expanded CID model heads towards these partnership models without addressing any of these institutional patterns - are we setting up 47 (and counting) areas for this level of frustration, pillar to post, mistrust and ultimately failure? What sort of training, shared services agreements (on both sides) etc will/can be put in place to prevent this?
Has the City even formally recognised that this is the journey we are all on and set up suitable transversal change processes?
One of the major criticisms of the CID model is, of course, that is can potentially leave lower-income areas even further behind in terms of service delivery standards and subsequently investment by the private sector (and public sector - to the extent that public sector investment often follows private sector investment, to enable development applications and so forth).
This is something that the City needs to urgently address. For many years there has been talk about “CID-lite” models. The City has within its data science and finance teams the capability to proactively model areas where ratepayers may have the capacity to create CID-lite models, but are unaware of it (it is, of course, a myth that “the Cape Flats do not pay rates”). While CID establishment ought to be community driven, the City can play an interventionist role in promoting the opportunity. Similarly, the institutional structure might be possible to be established with a grant-in-aid type transfer to areas where there is genuinely no rate payer capacity, but dire need - if participatory budgeting gains, and/or efficiencies in service delivery are believed to be possible through this model.
Finally, CIDs can be a place of experimentation. There is a big shift in the American BID model towards much more democratic participation processes, towards expanding boundaries to avoid crocodile zones and include neighbouring low income areas, to include (among the more well resourced and established organisations), and eventing portfolio that puts on open streets days, pride events, and tactical urbanist interventions aimed at improving universal accessibility and non-motorised transit. They are also zones of digital experimentation - with smart street lights, public wifi, bins that measure waste and communicate with City waste when to be collected, count pedestrians and share that intelligence with the local grocer as well as City transport - and so much more. The Policy is potentially missing the experimental potential of CIDs in relation to some of the City’s other policies.
Again, however, the full burden of this cannot be put on to CIDs - it needs to be a genuine collaboration - where citizens can say “we’d like to test a new heritage project, and this is the help we need” just as much as the City can say “we’d you to help collect new data for us, and this is how we will help”.
A practical way to start, so to not overwhelm all CIDs, not require all of them to restructure to fit into new reporting and operational processes, would be to actively categorise CIDs - by geographic size, revenue size, land use combination (residential only, mixed use, commercial only, industrial only) and adopt a differential approach to managing them based on stage, purpose and nature. Now wouldn’t that be a new form of localism.
I emailed offering to engage on this topic earlier this year. The offer remains.
Written in my personal capacity as an interested citizen.