04 / 2002
Bobigny, prefecture town of 44,000 inhabitants, committed to the participatory democracy in 1995. To support this municipal wish, in 1998 the town created the division Life of the citizenship districts, which, since 2000, has recruited four coordinators responsible for involving the residents in local decisions.
There are several tools at Bobigny: the "Speak Openly" meetings, the observance of commitments, the citizen initiative committees. Other initiatives are more specific, like the Town Conferences and Consult’action.
"Speak Openly" meetings
Launched in 1995, the "Speak Openly" meetings aimed to involve the residents in decision making and to listen to their needs. Two meetings take place each year in each of the thirteen districts of the town. Open to all, these meetings enable citizens to communicate directly with the council about issues affecting them. These meetings are coordinated by councillors who listen and respond to the residents. The mayor often participates in these meetings. A director general is present so that the residents’ requests are processed by the town council. Sometimes other council departments attend.
The dates of meetings are announced by posters, in the local newspaper and by letter. People registered in the database of participants are notified of the date of the meeting by telephone, thus enabling them to include the questions of those who cannot be present on the day of the meeting. Forty to fifty people participate in these meetings, their number varying according to the district and the problems there.
How are the residents’ comments taken into account?
The district coordinators write up the minutes of these meetings; they serve to establish a summary of questions brought up, which is sent to the relevant council departments. A study is underway with regard to the general management to ensure better follow-up of the questions asked.
Town Conferences and the Consult’action
The Town Conference is a time for debate between the population and their elected representatives, a time for the council to update the residents about their expectations and concerns. The first Conference was held on November 28th 1998. Its preparation was based on the "Speak Openly" meetings, thematic workshops and a Sofres survey relating to the needs of the residents. At the end of this meeting, the council made commitments and notably offered residents an urban requalification project for Bobigny.
At the second Town Conference, on December 2nd 2000, four urban requalification projects were presented to the residents and the four participating teams were taken on to draw up the final project together. The residents were able to evaluate the project during the "Speak Openly" meetings and at the project centre, situated in the Bobigny 2 shopping centre, which displayed a model of planned changes.
The appraisal of the project by the residents was expressed mainly through Consult’action whose slogan was, "The whole town decides". Between October 18th and November 22nd 2001, each resident and user of the town of Bobigny was invited to give their opinion on the project through a questionnaire filled in with the help of 400 volunteer consult’actors. Almost 10,000 questionnaires were thus filled in and processed by Sofres: a quarter of all residents replied, including 3000 youngsters, which is more than the number of voters in the town. On December 15th 2001 the first results of this consult’action were presented to the community. Enhanced and approved by the residents first, the urban requalification plan was then validated by the town council at the beginning of 2002, committing the future of the town for the decades to come.
The communication established at the Conference gave rise to commitments defined together: 132 commitments in 1998, 127 in 2000, distributed and published. An independent watchdog composed of residents judges the performance of these commitments.
The citizen initiative committees
Since 2000, six citizen initiative committees (CICs), open to all, have been constituted. Somewhat different to the "Speak Openly" meetings, the CICs do not tackle the daily problems in the district. They are more of a project nature. Within the CICs the residents are sought to be at the forefront of proposals and initiatives in all areas which seem necessary to them in the district or the town.
A new division of the town has been made in such a way that each CIC covers both residential areas and communal housing areas. The members of the CIC are residents or people employed in the area, elected representatives, associated campaigners and retailers. A charter setting the terms of operation of the CIC and its relations with the council (elected and management) has been adopted by all members of the CIC. The residents are convened to meetings by an elected representative who is also responsible for running them.
The operation of the CIC is unequal, only four function properly and meet every month as there are only four coordinators in Bobigny. The recruitment of two further coordinators should resolve this. The coordinator is in regular contact with the elected representative in the CIC. He undertakes CIC relations with the council, writes up the minutes of the meetings, and helps in the achievement of initiatives decided upon by the CICs, like for example, the creation of a newspaper, or negotiation with the RATP with regard to the circulation of buses. The CICs have no budget to realise these project, but may benefit from help from the council.
Lastly, the CICs have a right of seisin over the municipal council on all issues concerning their district or the town: this step has already been taken twice, notably to request the employment of educators in a Prevention Club.
Contact : Fathia , MESLI Bob, LAKEHAL Abderrahim, Local Democracy Service, Hôtel de ville, 31, avenue du Président Salvador-Allende, 93000 Bobigny, France - Tél. : + 33 (0)1 41 60 93 93 - Fax : + 33 (0)1 41 60 93 00
Interview with MESLI Bob, LAKEHAL Abderrahim