City-Based Departments of the Commons

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Example

= Naples was the first Italian city to establish a “Department of the Commons” and the first to change the municipal statute by inserting the “commons” as one of the interests to be protected and recognised as the functional exercise of fundamental rights of the person.

Discussion

"The city of Naples recognised seven public properties occupied by citizens and associations as “emerging commons and as civic developing environments” through a Council Resolution. All these buildings were public properties, which had for years been in a terrible state of neglect and decay. Citizens and social movements transformed these spaces to places “that create social capital in terms of collective uses with a commons value”. The seven properties identified by the Resolution are very different in terms of origin and historical evolution, but they have in common the fact that the Neapolitans were worried about possible privatisation of the buildings or speculation. This concern drove them to take the decision of acting first and restoring them to the public interest.

The municipalist government of De Magistris has allowed social organisations to continue developing processes of cultural creation and productive innovation emergence: Government Resolution no. 446/2016 has as its objective “the identification of areas of civic importance ascribed to the category of the commons”. Immediately after its publication (the resolution is dated June 1 2016 but was publicised recently), some members of the City Council criticised the Neapolitan Government, because according to them it would be better for the city to sell or rent these public spaces to increase the city’s income. The Government was also accused of “legalising” an illegal occupation of public buildings. However, Resolution 446/2016 does not provide leases or concessions for the social movements that occupy the spaces; it only acknowledges the “civic use” they do with them. It is still not clearly established though who has the official responsibility for maintaining the space (regular checks, cleaning etc), meaning that it it is not clear if it’s the Government’s responsibility, the occupants’ or both. The resolution specifies that “the person temporarily in custody of the property management of municipal assets identified as a “common good” will have to respond to the principles of good performance, impartiality, cost management, and resource efficiency, respecting the public interest”.

The Neapolitan Administration defines as common goods “the tangible and intangible assets of collective belonging that are managed in a shared, participatory process and that it’s committed to ensure the collective enjoyment of common goods and their preservation for the benefit of future generations”. The administration has also created a “Permanent Citizen Observatory on the Commons” in the city of Naples which studies, analyses, proposes and controls the management and protection of common goods. The Observatory has eleven members, are all experts in the legal, economic, social or environmental fields. Seven of these members are appointed by the Mayor and four are citizens selected through simple online procedures.

Following the spirit of the rebel cities, the Resolution 446/2016 is important because it recognises the social value of the experiences living in the occupied spaces and not only the economic value of the properties. It is also important as it establishes “the recognition of public spaces as part of a process of constant active listening and monitoring of the city and its demands, in relation to the collective use of spaces and protection of the commons”.

To analyse the forms of management and regulation of the occupied buildings, there are already public discussion tables where citizens have co-decision power with the Administration. Each space is different so the required management and the profile of the spaces varies from one to another. They all have in common the protection of the commons and the objective of keeping alive cultural, social and political matters, sometimes even in the form of workshops and training centres for women, children and unemployed citizens." (https://euroalter.com/2016/naples-common-good)