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  • How is Amman’s New Mayor Doing? » CSBE
    of Urban Deterioration The Growth of Buildings A Tale of Two Shops The Economics of Zoning Jabal Amman s First Circle Area Nooks and Crannies Surfaces of the City Concrete Signs of the City Empty Plots Everywhere Amman s Most Beautiful District Amman Street Maps A New Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads How is Amman s New Mayor Doing also available in Arabic How is Amman s New Mayor Doing Urban Crossroads 133 This article is also available in Arabic يمكن قراءة هذا المقال أيضا باللغة العربية It has been over half a year since Akel Biltaji has been appointed Mayor of the Greater Amman Municipality GAM Unless a person adopts controversial ideas or carries with him her negative baggage from before the public usually receives new appointees to important public positions with some goodwill This applies to Mr Biltaji particularly since his tenure as the first Chief Commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority from 2001 to 2004 is generally remembered positively As Chief Commissioner he also more or less took on the role of mayor of the city and I have heard a number of people positively comment on his commitment to the city of Aqaba during his tenure Such goodwill however does not last very long unless it is accompanied by positive accomplishments so a new official cannot depend too much on it Soon after Mr Biltaji became mayor I wrote an Urban Crossroads article mentioning that whoever becomes Mayor of Amman is in an unenviable situation considering how the quality of urban life in the city has been suffering over the past few decades This is evident in issues relating to public cleanliness movement in the city the availability of open public spaces and the regulation of land uses I mentioned that any new mayor who wants to realize positive change will need to effectively address these issues and added that any new mayor also will need to work on reforming GAM as an institution since the quality of its performance is in need of improvement and public confidence in it at this stage is very low It remains too early for the residents of Amman to expect to feel any transformations affecting its urban condition Realizing such transformations definitely takes much more than the 100 days that Mr Biltaji initially promised In this context I recall a comment that the famed former mayor of the Brazilian city of Curitiba Jaime Lerner once made Lerner is one of a group of impressive Latin American mayors to have emerged over the past generation who have been able to positively transform their cities The media may have exaggerated their accomplishments but these

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/how-is-amman-s-new-mayor-doing-also-available-in-arabic/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Amman Has a New Mayor » CSBE
    existed before establishing the Greater Amman Municipality in 1987 The Amman municipality then essentially consisted of the Amman downtown area and surrounding hills with a series of independent municipalities such as Sweileh Wadi al Sir al Jubeiha and al Qweismeh encircling it I believe that metropolitan Amman would be best served if it returns to including a set of independent municipalities each of which would have its elected mayor and city council These municipalities would coordinate services that cut across municipal borders such as transportation through one or more metropolitan level organizations It does not seem however that such a solution will be implemented in the near future In the meantime the urban management of metropolitan Amman will be under the authority of a centralized institution that has an appointed mayor with considerable authority If Mr Biltaji s tenure is to be successful he will need to effectively tackle a number of interconnected tasks He will need to quickly implement changes that will have a marked positive impact on the quality of daily life for the city s residents The most urgent of these relates to the state of public cleanliness which has deteriorated at an alarming rate over the past decade or so Streets are strewn with garbage not only because of littering but also from the heaps of garbage thrown in and around the city s communal dumpsters which basically are unsightly and unhygienic garbage dumps spread throughout the city and which GAM uses as locations for municipal garbage collection The amount of garbage continues to increase as the city s population increases but GAM s ability to manage it has fallen behind Although GAM acknowledges the problem it has often blamed it on a shortage of staff and equipment The problem however is much deeper than that Along the street where I live the residents complain about the GAM sanitation worker who may show up for a couple of hours every now and then but spends most of that time sitting on the sidewalk under a tree smoking cigarettes We have yet to see him do any meaningful work The challenge is not about the availability of resources it is about how to manage those resources If Amman s garbage problem is to be efficiently addressed the existing workforce has to do its job more efficiently A recycling program also will need to be established and it is scandalous that none exists Not only will recycling limit the amount of garbage generated but will also result in income for the city GAM moreover will need to revert to the old system of collecting garbage from individual addresses rather than from the communal dumpsters littering the city And of course there is a need to put in place strict regulations against the widespread problem of littering While the issue of public cleanliness is probably the mayor s most urgent priority there are other pressing issues that need his attention but will require more time to tackle Of these

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/amman-has-a-new-mayor-also-available-in-arabic/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History » CSBE
    present and looks at examples from Asia and the Middle East Europe Africa and the Americas For those interested in the evolution of cities during a specific period or in a certain part of the world they will find chapters in the Handbook that address their interest My contribution to the publication fits within this chronological geographic coverage since I wrote about cities in the Middle East from 1950 to the present The book also has a good number of thematic chapters Rather than emphasize a period or a region these chapters look at overarching themes that link the evolution of cities across stretches of time and geographic expanses I found myself particularly drawn to the thematic chapters on cities during the modern period i e the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and I will devote the upcoming part of this essay to the subjects they address These thematic chapters examine issues as diverse as industrialization migration poverty inequality social segregation infrastructure and even the portrayal of cities in cinema They also address creative cities the metropolitan cities that have brought preexisting cities towns and villages into interconnected urban conglomerates and even colonial cities suburbs and port cities In these thematic chapters we see how industrialization was initially enabled by the growth of agricultural surpluses that allowed for the movement of both investment and populations from rural areas to urban centers where industrial production came to be based This process began in England during the second half of the eighteenth century and from there spread through much of Western Europe and North America Industrialization initiated a large scale process of migration into cities from rural areas and by the end of the nineteenth century Western Europe and North America had achieved the highest levels of urbanization in the world even though they had lagged behind Japan and the Middle East before that High levels of urbanization in the developing world did not take place until the second half of the twentieth century This was related more to practices of centralizing economic and political activities in major urban centers primarily national capitals rather than merely to industrialization In the final result however over half of the world s population today lives in cities The thematic chapters also address issues of urban poverty inequality and violence These problems are widespread in cities today particularly in the developing world Even in the affluent cities of the West problems of poverty and inequality have increased over the past three decades The policies put in place in various countries in the West since World War I that aimed at achieving higher levels of social justice and at building safety nets for disadvantaged groups have been weakening The emphasis instead has shifted towards implementing policies that encourage economic growth even though the benefits of such growth have been very unevenly distributed Income disparities therefore are very high today in cities everywhere Such disparities correspond to high levels of physical segregation in cities along socio economic lines In

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-oxford-handbook-of-cities-in-world-history/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The Newest Phase of Amman’s Growth » CSBE
    unit apartment buildings on the two plots The story does not end here We live in a duplex that also is located on two plots one of which is a garden extension Over the past few months more than one developer has offered to buy the property in order to build two eight unit apartment buildings As a result we will soon be getting three buildings containing 24 new apartments in the area where our house is located Had we agreed to sell our house the number would have increased to five buildings and 36 apartments All these new buildings will be located in the relatively small area of about half a hectare Amman has reached a new phase of its continuous growth For the longest time and until the late 1990s Amman was a city with a ubiquitous amount of empty plots Although the price of land was continuously on the increase there also was a regular and considerable supply of empty land inside the city s ever expanding borders Moreover it was not until the early 1990s that apartment buildings became widespread in the city Until then it was common for people to obtain a piece of land and build a single family or a two unit semi detached house on it With time they may add apartments on the second or third floors four stories were not allowed until about two decades ago Their children would live in those extensions when they started their own families or they would be rented out A number of factors allowed for the spread of apartment buildings as a form of real estate investment in Amman The first was a change in legislation that took place in the early 1970s Until then one legally could not own an apartment in a building Instead one could only own a percentage of the building With the new legislation it became legally possible to have apartments in a building owned by different owners rather than have all of them collectively own the building Although this change set the stage for the spread of apartment buildings as real estate investment projects their proliferation did not take place for some time A major change in Amman s urban fabric began to take place in the second half of the 1990s when it became possible to obtain relatively long term housing loans With that one could purchase a residence without having to pay all of its price upfront One only needed to save part of the price and borrow the rest from the bank This opened up the housing market to a considerably larger segment of the population As expected many of these new home owners particularly newly weds chose to live in apartments rather than single family homes They neither needed the larger houses and gardens nor could they afford them And of course as the price of land gradually went up the cost of owning a single family home eventually became prohibitively expensive for the

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-newest-phase-of-amman-s-growth/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Innovation. Design. Fabrication: The story behind the film » CSBE
    the past generation or so the use of the term along with its close cousin creativity has been progressively expanded to encompass a wider diversity of human endeavors It is no longer primarily used to describe the work of artists and inventors The business community for example has enthusiastically adopted the concept of innovation as an integral component of how it should develop both physical products and services The concept also is making its way into fields such as education public policy and community development Interestingly enough however if one examines an artistic discipline such as architecture which traditionally has been viewed as a fountainhead of creativity and innovation it is surprising how increasingly disconnected this field is becoming from developing innovative ideas In the world of architecture creating unusual forms is often confused with innovation By innovation I am referring to thinking processes that allow us to go beyond or even break the borders of conventional thinking which confine us to approaching issues in specific predetermined ways This in turn allows us to implement new ideas and also to come up with solutions to existing problems and challenges that others have not thought of All societies need to accommodate and foster a significant amount of innovative thinking among their members to move forward in today s highly competitive globalized environment The challenges to promoting innovation however are significant in a society such as Jordan s where the weight of convention is extremely strong if not overbearing and where various activities are carried out in a certain manner not because that manner is particularly optimal but simply because it is how things have been done Therefore while certain societies may naturally promote and encourage innovative thinking ours does not In some cases various institutions of our society even resist it It is with this assessment in mind that I have become interested in knowing more about the experiences of Jordanians who have been able to surpass or break the boundaries of convention and to apply innovative approaches in their professional lives I have been particularly interested in knowing more about those involved in making physical objects we use on a daily basis Making such objects can bring together innovation utility and economic development In this I have been very impressed by the unique efforts and accomplishments of a few people I have come to interact with and I feel that their experiences should be shared with as wide an audience as possible This is how the idea behind the film Innovation Design Fabrication that we produced arose The innovators whose work I have come to know are Ammar Sajdi an electrical engineer who has developed electronic elevator control panels Rawan Qubrosi an architect who has been working on developing shelters that may be easily assembled and disassembled and Laith Al Qasem a mechanical engineer who along with his partner Fawaz Al Zoubi an automotive specialist created Jordan s first car Badiya All of them rejected the conventional boundaries that have

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/innovation-design-fabrication-the-story-behind-the-film/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The Singapore Model » CSBE
    Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads The Singapore Model The Singapore Model Urban Crossroads 128 This article is also available in Arabic يمكن قراءة هذا المقال أيضا باللغة العربية I got the chance to visit Singapore this summer The visit was particularly educational for me since I attended a conference on urban planning The conference was organized through a collaborative effort between the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore the National University of Singapore the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture The participation of two Singaporean institutions in this event gave me the opportunity to come into direct contact with Singaporean planners and to get firsthand information on a number of planning projects taking place there This southeastern Asian city state has made impressive achievements since it gained independence in 1965 particularly when considering that it has a population of about five million people occupying a group of islands that collectively only amount to 700 square kilometers about 40 the area of Amman Its per capita income in terms of purchasing power parity is among the highest in the world It has the world s tenth largest foreign currency reserves It is the world s fourteenth largest exporter and the fifteenth largest importer of goods Its port is among the busiest in the world Its airport is among the best anywhere It is a major industrial center with impressive industries in the fields of electronics petroleum refining chemicals mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences It is a major tourism center Its educational and health systems are superb And it is one of the world s least corrupt countries I would like to concentrate on Singapore s experiences and accomplishments in urbanism As expected these too are impressive As a country with a high level of population density tremendous efforts have been made to ensure that the land on which Singapore is located and also the resources of that land are used in a most optimal manner This is evident in how Singapore deals with issues such as housing building density water resources waste management and transportation The issue of housing is of considerable importance in Singapore It has implemented policies that aim at achieving high levels of home ownership Housing in Singapore is the responsibility of the Housing Development Board HDB which has been developing decent housing that is made available to Singaporeans at affordable prices Most of this housing consists of high rise apartment buildings Today house ownership rates in Singapore reach 95 with 82 of the population living in apartments that HDB built Since the vast majority of Singaporeans live in high density conditions great efforts have been made to provide ample green areas About 47 of Singapore s area consists of green zones that include nature reserves parks and

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-singapore-model/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Assessing The Quality of Life In Your Neighborhood » CSBE
    Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Assessing The Quality of Life In Your Neighborhood Assessing The Quality of Life In Your Neighborhood Urban Crossroads 127 This article is also available in Arabic يمكن قراءة هذا المقال أيضا باللغة العربية We all have clear opinions about the quality of life in our neighborhoods A main challenge is how to quantify that quality of life Let me begin by defining what makes a neighborhood in terms of area There is no single definition for a neighborhood For some it is no more than a stretch of the street on which they live For others it is much larger than that The largest extent of a neighborhood is the area around your home that you feel is generally familiar and easily accessible to you This often consists of an imaginary circle with a diameter of about one kilometer with your home as its center A kilometer is a distance that many people feel comfortable walking and for which they do not feel the need for using a means of transportation It should be noted however that one kilometer often is longer than the distance that most people feel comfortable walking in Amman This is because of the various impediments to pedestrians that exist in the city such as dysfunctional or non existent sidewalks and heavily trafficked streets that are difficult or impossible to cross So how do we assess the quality of life in such an area that can occupy as much as three square kilometers On a most basic level people need essential services relating to running water sewage disposal electricity and garbage collection Equally important is protection from violence criminal and otherwise If these services and such protection are not available urban life simply collapses Once these basic services are provided the quality of life in a neighborhood essentially depends on zoning and land use policies and on how effectively and efficiently these policies are implemented Zoning and land use policies determine the density that exists in the neighborhood This translates into how much of the neighborhood is built up and how much consists of open spaces or of streets For the built up areas these policies determine how large a building may be in terms of footprint and height Zoning and land use policies also determine the uses that are allowed in the neighborhood s buildings and spaces If a neighborhood is cut up by high volume high speed roads daily life in it can easily become nightmarish and unsafe Also if a neighborhood cannot accommodate the cars that end up parking along its streets this will be a cause of considerable congestion that translates into stress and tension for its residents Planners are increasingly calling for regulations that allow for relatively high building densities and for mixed uses It is more efficient to provide infrastructure services for a relatively large number of people located in a small area than for the same number of people if they are

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/assessing-the-quality-of-life-in-your-neighborhood/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Local Governance » CSBE
    Urban Deterioration The Growth of Buildings A Tale of Two Shops The Economics of Zoning Jabal Amman s First Circle Area Nooks and Crannies Surfaces of the City Concrete Signs of the City Empty Plots Everywhere Amman s Most Beautiful District Amman Street Maps A New Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads Local Governance Local Governance Urban Crossroads 126 This article is also available in Arabic يمكن قراءة هذا المقال أيضا باللغة العربية As is the case in most Arab countries the political discourse in Jordan has become very lively over the past year and a half Politicians and decision makers both present and previous ones have been energetically presenting their views about the current state of political life in the country and to where it should be heading In spite of the wide variety of views they may express almost all seem to view politics as a centralized activity that takes place on the national level The empowerment of local government primarily expressed through municipal government is generally absent from their thinking One notable exception is provided by Walid al Masri the former mayor of Irbid He has strongly advocated empowering municipal authorities in a real and meaningful manner He emphasizes that the authority of municipalities should extend beyond issuing permits paving streets and collecting garbage to an active involvement in matters such as public health education and mass transportation This means that the ability of municipalities to collect taxes and to develop and implement bylaws should be expanded and strengthened As authority is increasingly decentralized and transferred from national bodies to municipal ones people will be able to have more influence over many of the issues that directly continuously and intimately affect their lives Also decentralization will relieve national politics of considerable pressures and will make them less divisive and conflict ridden It will allow many issues to be addressed and resolved on the local level rather than pushing them to the already overcrowded and overstressed arena of national politics It is at the municipal level that the practice of participatory democracy truly begins and much of its takes place Here people can come together both as individuals and groups to address and influence a wide range of issues affecting their daily lives On a most basic level these include how their buildings may be constructed and used how traffic moves through their streets and where cars may park They also include how their garbage is collected and managed how their water and electricity services are delivered and how their sewage is disposed of and treated They also should comprise how their children are educated their public health clinics are run and their public

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/local-governance/ (2016-02-13)
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