Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Opinion
Unbroken will
By Bong Lacson

Oct 10, 2017

“TO ENFORCE well our traffic laws and re-engineer the flow, we created Task Force Balacat, an interim group to provide immediate traffic solutions including public safety and order. The TFB operates under the paradigm of “Broken Windows Theory,” a tried and tested formula used in the cities of New York, California (sic) and other cities.”

Of Mayor Crisostomo Garbo’s MCG@100 report or the state of the City of Mabalacat in his first 100 days as mayor address, consisting of accomplishments grounded on statistical, measurable, tangible authenticities, the paragraph above is what struck me most.

“Broken Windows.” Garbo’s mention of it is but the second time I heard the phrase mouthed in local governance.

The first instance was in 2009, in the City of San Fernando during the administration of Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez. Its sayer though was not the now much-missed Oca but the then city attorney-general – lawyer Ramsey Ocampo, by then a retired police director – at the launch of the city government’s Task Force Habitat which he headed.

Coincidentally, if not serendipitously, Ocampo was in Garbo’s audience for MCG@100, as VP for security of the Clark Development Corp.

Anyways, San Fernando’s TF Habitat hewed closely with the city government’s vision of becoming a “Habitat for Human Excellence” in the near future.Modesty be damned now – I coined that phrase during a workshop early in the first term of Mayor Oca.

Per Ocampo’s briefi ng at the time, TF Habitat would employ the “Broken Windows” concept to address the “growing need for the integration of services aimed at promoting the safety, cleanliness, orderliness and beautification of the city, lifting the standards of this capital city from the alarming stage of decay and deterioration.”

Rued he then: “At present, the city proper does not showcase the city as we envisioned it to be, for just like any other city, it depicts a picture where there is struggle for survival.”

TF Habitat aimed at the specific target areas of traffic innovation, jurisdiction over streets and sidewalks, waste management, urban greening and beautification, and some such others.

Much like what Garbo said.

The concept

But much like the majority of his audience, maybe, the entirety of his constituency, media covering MCG@100 did not have an iota of an idea of what the Broken Windows concept is all about.

Here’s part of what I wrote here on January 21, 2009: For the clueless, “Broken Windows” came from an article of the same title in the March 1982 issue of The Atlantic Monthly written by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which the latter later expanded into full book form.

“Broken Windows” was culled from a passage in the said article, thus:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

Fix the problems as they start, small – and therefore fairly manageable – as they still are, says Kelling. Repair a broken window, so as not to attract vandals to break more.

Kelling’s article indeed finds resonance in any Philippine city.

Allow a small bag of trash to be dumped on an open lot. Soon that lot becomes the garbage dump of the whole neighborhood.

Let a hovel stand on a dry riverbed. Soon a whole shanty town takes over the river bed and the banks as well.Take a good look at the Abacan River in Angeles City and weep.

Permit a shoe shine boy to ply his trade on the sidewalk. Soon all sorts of trade and commerce converge on that sidewalk.

So how fared “Broken Windows” in its full implementation?

New York

The best example here is New York City at the onset of the term of office of Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1993 onwards to its climax in 2001.

The former district attorney who battled New York’s crime syndicates inter-phased “Broken Windows” with “zero tolerance” – a nononsense enforcement of laws, and “quality of life” – clean-up drives and community action. Which resulted to the plunge in the crime index for both petty and serious crimes for 10 years straight.

Giuliani first carved his niche in the American psyche for having cleaned up New York City of its dregs before becoming the poster boy of strength and determination in presiding over the city’s phoenix-like rise from the devastations of 9-11.

Two immediate impacts of “Broken Windows” were Central Park taken from the grip of criminals and muggers and given back to the New Yorkers and the millions of tourists that flock to it every year, and the transformation of seedy, smutty, 42nd Street from being the mecca of pornography into a chic, familyoriented strip of restaurants and boutiques. I should know. I was there. Solo in 2000, then with the wife in 2006. And immensely enjoyed The Big Apple both times.

“Broken Windows.” As it was with New York City so it would be with the City of San Fernando?

Better believe it. For as it was with Mayor Rudy Giuliani so it shall be with Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez. As they were fired in and formed from the same forge, cut from the same cloth.

Can do

THAT TODAY the Fernandino pines for the years of Mayor Oca at city hall, and hopes are high for his return, speak well of what an actualized Broken Windows concept wrought. Alas, all too dismissively shunted by the administration that followed.

So, can Garbo do an Oca? The better proposition is how can he not.

As he concluded his MCG@100 thus: “And this is what we should ask ourselves – a CHANCE TO CHANGE. That is all. For employees, a chance to become true public servants by words, by deed, and by heart.

“For elected officials, this is our chance to lead the city to the direction of progress with clean hands and clear conscience.

“And for every Mabalaqueno, this our chance to finally make a change that assures our children of a better life. Effect this change with me. I am confident that we can.” Aye, doubters will always doubt. But doers will just do.

So, Mabalacat will. So, Garbo can.





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