4 Juillet 2020
The Metropolis of Greater Paris, the forgotten city of 2020
A return to a disappointed ambition by Pierre Mansat & Simon Ronai, 24/02/2020
Keywords : #metropolis | #GreaterParis | #suburbs | #environment | #climate | #inequality | #municipalelections | #pollution | #wealth | #Paris
Publié sur https://www.metropolitiques.eu/La-Metropole-du-Grand-Paris-grande-oubliee-des-municipales-2020.html
For Pierre Mansat, Deputy Mayor of Paris from 2001 to 2014, and Simon Ronai, who has been observing the Paris region for 40 years, the Greater Paris metropolis is today a victim of communal and departmental egoism. In a cross interview, they discuss their bitterness but also their proposals.
Interview conducted by Emmanuel Bellanger and Frédéric Gilli.
Pierre Mansat, you were, under the mandate of Bertrand Delanoë, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of relations with local and regional authorities between 2001 and 2014. What is your feeling today, a few weeks before the municipal elections, about the stakes of Greater Paris?
Pierre Mansat: I am very worried and bitter. I am worried because, with the very notable exception of the Grand Paris Express, I do not see the emergence of powerful public policies at the metropolitan level that would help fight the environmental crisis, improve the quality of life of the inhabitants and reduce the social inequalities that continue to grow. I am also bitter because for twenty years we have, with Bertrand Delanoë and a handful of modernising elected representatives, laid the foundations of a metropolis of solidarity whose foundations are now being called into question.
Simon Ronai, geographer and director of a research firm, you have been an observer of the Paris region for over forty years. How do you react to Pierre Mansat's comments?
Simon Ronai : I share Pierre Mansat's disappointment and bitterness. Today, there is a striking contrast between, on the one hand, the attractiveness of the Paris region and its capital, in terms of international investment, tourist numbers, the financial centre... and, on the other hand, the increasingly poor living conditions of the inhabitants who are faced with congestion and urban densification, the congestion and fragility of networks, the intensity of the mobility suffered, multiple pollution, the explosion in housing prices, land speculation, the relegation of the working classes, the social specialisation of neighbourhoods and the explosion of territorial inequalities. In the world city that is Paris, tensions are constantly growing between planners and inhabitants, residents and foreigners, those who benefit from metropolitan centrality and those who are excluded from it. In this powerful, dynamic metropolis that combines wealth and segregation, what worries me is that there is no political power capable of explaining, regulating or reformulating a federating project. But what can justify a slight optimism, however, is the arrival at the helm of new generations of actors for whom the metropolitan fact is no longer a subject of polemics; it is an obvious fact in the face of the archaism of communal and departmental egoism.
Pierre Mansat, what is your current political analysis of the Greater Paris Metropolis (MGP) and the Territories [former conurbation communities] that make it up?
Pierre Mansat: With regard to the period prior to 2001, marked by the isolation of Paris and the surrounding communes, the evolution is nevertheless notable: the elected officials have got to know each other, they have become more aware of each other, they have become more involved, they have become more aware of their own identity. Although they talk to each other, joint projects have been and are being drawn up, these advances remain very modest and fragile in relation to the powerful public policies that need to be implemented to regulate, control and guide metropolisation which, left to its own devices, produces segregation, hyperspecialisation and inequalities. In order to combat pollution, adapt to climate change, change the home-work relationship, and distribute the financial resources of local and regional authorities more fairly, the relevant scale, I repeat, is the metropolitan scale. The last decade has unfortunately given birth to a soft "metropolis of mayors" that is not up to the challenges of our time.
But how, today, do you perceive the relationship between local elected representatives and the metropolis and the metropolitan fact?
Pierre Mansat: In the early 2000s, the term "metropolis" was completely absent from the analyses and speeches of the political class, in Paris and the suburbs. Even today, the metropolitan fact is still not understood in all its complexity. The political project of Greater Paris was born nearly twenty years ago on the initiative of Paris and some twenty suburban mayors of different political opinions. A dynamic took shape with the creation of the Metropolitan Conference in 2006 and then Paris Métropole in 2009, which brought together more than 200 local authorities. Most of us were driven by one conviction: that of breaking with the isolation of Paris and the extremely fragmented political system of the Paris metropolitan area, a system that is no longer adapted to the challenges of a world-class metropolis.
Simon Ronai, like Pierre Mansat, you have been a supporter of the foundation of an "integrated and united" metropolis. What is your assessment of the current "political system" of Greater Paris?
Simon Ronai: We are the heirs of the 1964 territorial reform that dismembered Greater Paris by creating the current departments of the Paris region. In 2001, the new idea was to put an end in stages to the isolation of the dominating capital by rebuilding its links with the suburban communes. It was not yet a question of a large metro that had become the flagship operation of Greater Paris; it was a question of correcting this spatial, social and political separation and gradually inventing a new metropolitan reality of political significance. In the end, it was the planning approach, decided from above, that prevailed over the political project of inventing a metropolitan government. The PPM has lost its relevance because it is now in the hands of mayors. Since the failure of the Paris Métropole white paper in 2012 and the political changeover of the 2014 and 2015 elections, the unanimously elected representatives have, against the advice of the State, chosen the policy of consensus, the "metropolis as a counterpart", the withdrawal of municipalities and the full preservation of their fiscal resources. All of them, regardless of their partisan affiliation, resolutely prevented the emergence of an elected and legitimate metropolitan political authority capable of defining, or even imposing, binding and inclusive strategic orientations (PMHH, SCOT, PLUI1 ) and redistribution of fiscal wealth. After twenty years of discussion, we are witnessing the triumph of the communal fact, which we know no longer fits in with the metropolitan living space of Parisians and suburbanites.
Pierre Mansat: I share Simon Ronai's observation. Today we are paying the price for years of successive compromises which, by seeking to satisfy all the territories and all the elected officials, have ended up calling into question the initial desire to build a unifying and mobilising Greater Paris. The political system of the Paris region has remained torn between issues of power, representations and philosophical conceptions that are opposed to each other: the metropolis versus the municipality, the metropolis versus the region, the integrated metropolis versus the federated metropolis, decentralisation versus the State, etc. The political system of the Paris region has remained torn between issues of power, representations and philosophical conceptions that are opposed to each other: the metropolis versus the municipality, the metropolis versus the region, the integrated metropolis versus the federated metropolis, decentralisation versus the State, etc. The political system of the Paris region has remained torn between issues of power, representations and philosophical conceptions that are opposed to each other. The absence of clear political decisions andThe financial burden assumed in favour of the metropolis has made us lose our primary objectives: to create metropolitan solidarity. The principle of "everyone at home and the cows are well kept" has unfortunately prevailed.
Simon Ronai: My disappointment is fed by the discrepancy between the intentions stated in the speeches and the concrete results observed in the field: the segregation trends in Paris, as in all major metropolises, have increased and the main dysfunctions, marked by the migratory deficit of young working people and, above all, the distrust of citizens, have not been corrected. Today, we need to put order into the way the metropolis is governed, based on the experience of urban communities; we need to counter these mayors who have never stopped fighting to preserve their power and hide the stakes of the metropolis. They have systematically emptied the metropolis project of its political content. They have opposed the foundation of a more inclusive and welcoming metropolis, reasonably polycentric, more democratic and more legible. Even mayors of poor communes, fearing that they would lose their weak autonomy, rallied their colleagues when they had everything to gain from greater equalization and mutualization at the metropolitan level.
A shock is now necessary: municipal autonomy must be limited in order to limit the wealthiest municipalities; economic taxation, which benefits only a minority of cities and territories, must be de-territorialized or de-municipalized, whereas wealth is created by people from the entire region and beyond; and finally, the election of MGP community delegates by direct (and not indirect) universal suffrage must be imposed on a metropolitan list ballot. This is the only way to give a political and democratic existence to the metropolis.
Pierre Mansat, you speak of a "real mess", the metropolis not responding to the societal and environmental challenges of our time. What should be done to overcome the impasses you point out?
Pierre Mansat: I did indeed speak of a real mess and a missed opportunity at a time when the urgency of adapting to climate change, the housing crisis, the reduction of territorial inequalities and the regulation of metropolisation call for powerful public policies designed and implemented at the metropolitan level. Yes, almost twenty years of effort have been wasted. The system of so-called "shared governance" between mayors, of seeking consensus at all costs, has reached its limits when the challenge is to impose on all municipalities a climate plan, a territorial coherence scheme and an accommodation and housing plan against precariousness.
The "left", I like to use quotation marks, has proved incapable or simply unwilling to engage in the political confrontation necessary to defend what was at the heart of its values: the place of social housing or the distribution of financial resources, the concentration of which is now obscene. I could also add the lack of mobilisation against the desire for political secession of the Hauts-de-Seine and Yvelines, a symbol of the selfishness of rich territories, against pollution and against land and property speculation, or for the reception of refugees. No battle has been fought to bring about the emergence of a metropolitan citizenship, including in the ranks of my political family.
Elected representatives have preferred to fight for communal autonomy by refusing local inter-communal town planning plans, even though they are a matter of course in a metropolis where territories are totally intertwined and where social practices relating to work, leisure, culture, shops, etc., ignore administrative borders.
After having long campaigned for a federative approach, I have come to the same conclusion that Simon Ronai and many other observers: only a metropolis whose representatives are elected by direct universal suffrage can bring about change. I am in favour of a proportional election system with a majority bonus, whose constituency would extend to the limits of the current Île-de-France region.
Faced with the challenges of our time, the region and the MGP must form a single institution to channel financial resources and implement ambitious public policies.
Simon Ronai, could you be more explicit about what you describe as the failure of the metropolis?
Simon Ronai: We are experiencing the disastrous effects of territorial corporatism and communal egoism defended on the pretext that the commune would be the ultimate expression of local democracy and proximity to the inhabitants. All of this is a decoy that only serves to justify the existence of a thousand and one institutions: the region, 8 départements, 12 territorial public establishments (the Greater Paris Territories), 131 communes, not to mention a host of inter-communal unions (sanitation, energy, waste, etc.), semi-public companies (Sem) or agencies of all kinds.The challenge is to articulate communal freedoms and the general interest. The deliberate weakening of the Greater Paris Metropolis is clear proof that the accumulation of arrangements between "small communal homelands" is leading to a deadlock, which so far has not affected economic growth or international attractiveness, but which makes us powerless in the face of the climate crisis, the entrenchment of poverty and identity drifts. The mayors know how to agree to denounce the predatory state of local finances and municipal liberties; on the other hand, they do not agree to condemn the social and political fragmentation of the metropolis. Meanwhile, the voices of residents, working people, students and visitors, none of whom know or understand the institutional system in which they live, are not heard. It is in this sense that I speak of a "sleeping local democracy"; I believe that metropolitan power, exclusively embodied by mayors, is in fact confiscated in favour of a role-playing game between competing institutions all opposed to the recognition of a metropolitan democracy.
What you are pointing to indicates a real democratic problem. Is decentralization responsible for the political inertia and consensus that you describe? What role has the State played since the early 2000s?
Pierre Mansat: What stands out is the incredible delay in the political class in identifying and understanding the effects of globalization-metropolization. This blindness comes from very far away. It goes back to the departmental reform of 1964, imposed by the State against the advice of the elected officials of the time. This was a major break with the past because it cut Paris off from its suburbs. This reform was an anti-metropolitan reform. Today, the State must assume its historical responsibilities. I continue to believe that it must play an essential role because the influence of the Greater Paris Metropolis is a national and international issue. It has not assumed this role for more than forty years by refusing, for example, to invest massively in public transport. In the 2000s, the State returned to the forefront of the scene. It allowed for an ambitious housing programme and resolutely carried the metro bypass project around Paris defended by Christian Blanc, the minister in charge of development in the capital region, and his successor Maurice Leroy. At the same time, however, it has allowed the inequalities in health, safety, education and justice, which particularly affect Seine-Saint-Denis, to worsen. A Senate report by Simon Ronai: I agree with Pierre Mansat's observation. Since 1983, decentralization has reinforced the figure of the mayor without overcoming the original contradictions between the fight against territorial inequalities and the defence of communal autonomy. We are here at the heart of the matter. Communal autonomy crystallizes inequalities. While the employment and housing markets tend to unify and compete with each other as the transport network becomes denser, each coalition of elected officials and territories defends its own square, to the point of caricature.
The state has allowed Greater Paris to become balkanized. Since the international consultation in 2008, it has constantly tried to impose a smooth image, that of Greater Paris as a showcase for France's place in the world and its economic attractiveness. At the same time, however, it has given up its role as a State developer and organiser of the territory. It has thus failed to make the metropolis a key political institution.
The metropolis was already largely absent from the candidates' programmes in 2014. How do you explain this omission, which will be repeated in 2020?
Pierre Mansat: The municipal elections of 2020 once again avoid the metropolitan question. First, because in this area, as in many others, the political parties are not in a position to clearly formulate perspectives because they are very divided and weakened, thus reinforcing the weight of the big elected officials who are withdrawn to their territory. The elected representatives were thus unable to formulate in 2011 and 2012 the political project for the metropolis that the President of the Republic François Hollande asked them to do. For years, the political crisis and mistrust of elected officials have favoured the withdrawal to the municipality. And the fact that the representatives of the metropolis are not directly elected by the citizens reinforces the marginalisation of the MGP on the political scene.
Simon Ronai : In 2014 as today, the metropolis is voluntarily absent from local political debates, even if the inhabitants know more or less confusedly that "something" exists, even if it is only the big metropolis. Many planning experts and business professionals believe that it is time to begin the inevitable reshuffling of powers and resources. But the debate on the decompartmentalisation of actors and levels of power is systematically reduced to more or less opaque interterritorial compromises. Mayors are first and foremost concerned to preserve the essence of their powers by circumventing the MAPTAM and OUR laws of 2014 and 2015, which established the metropolises. It must be noted that the intermediary bodies of trade unions and associations have not grasped metropolitan issues. I think that nothing will change in the next municipal elections, the protagonists and the consensus policies will remain the same.
In your opinion, what is the decisive political question that candidates for municipal elections should be facing?
Pierre Mansat: We have to state loud and clear that crucial issues that affect our future - pollution, climate change, mobility, resources, housing - are crucial. - cannot be resolved within the communal, inter-communal and departmental boundaries. Candidates for municipal elections should commit themselves to these issues, which will be at the heart of their next term of office; they must make them their priority by affirming their desire to see the emergence of a metropolitan citizenship. Groups, including myself, have tried to challenge the candidates, for example with the column "With Greater Paris, the time for metropolitan citizenship has come" (Le Monde, 19 February 2020). But in vain. More than ever, Greater Paris needs a democratic revolution.
Simon Ronai : The climate emergency should be at the centre of political priorities and public decisions, but everyone can see that, on the contrary, the commodification of the city (Gare du Nord, EuropaCity, bridges over the Seine...), the privatisation of public spaces and the reduction of citizens to the sole status of consumers are on the increase. At the same time, local authorities are weakened; their investments are more limited as their social spending increases.
Today, who decides what to preserve, prevent, repair, change, develop? Liberalism cannot be the ultimate solution when the demands for equality and frugality are increasingly strong. Faced with the privatization of the segregated city, is it not time to admit that the atomization and confusion of the old political institutions, like the municipalities and departments of the metropolis, are today a brake, a vector of inequalities, an engine of urban sprawl, a factor of dispossession of the citizens who no longer know who decides what and in whose name?
As Pierre Mansat asserts, citizen involvement, and that of the younger generations in particular, must become our metropolitan political horizon in the very short term.
From the same authors:
Mansat, P. 2020. "La minute nécessaire de Pierre Mansat. Municipal Elections and Greater Paris".
Ronai, S. 2019. "La construction de la métropole du Grand Paris: une histoire à reculons", in E. Bellanger, T. Tellier, L. Vadelorge, D. Voldman and C. Vorms (dir.), Genres urbains. Autour d'Annie Fourcaut, Grâne : Créaphis, p. 107-11.