Los Angeles to Lines Area: what Karachi can learn

A charter city like LA can’t make any changes without the vote of the people


Mahim Maher May 21, 2015
Farhan Zaheer (second from left). PHOTO COURTESY: SHEHRI

KARACHI: Urban planner Farhan Anwar of Sustainable Initiatives wants Karachi’s politicians to think about fresh models of local government.

On Wednesday, at a Shehri event to discuss party manifestos, he gave city residents the example of Los Angeles (LA), a charter city, which is a lot like Karachi not just because they are both highly multi-ethnic, but their weather is similar, both have ports, have to transport their water from long distances and have sprawl. Karachi could become a charter city like LA so it would have a considerable degree of ‘home rule’ that would allow it to design its own form of government and develop some political and government autonomy. It is ridiculous that Karachi is broke when it makes so much. “It’s not sustainable to rely on financial packages from the centre,” he said. But because LA is a charter city it can have a City Administrative Officer who works like a chief financial officer to manage its budget.

A charter city like LA can’t make any changes without the vote of the people. It identifies the main governing bodies of the city along with their powers and duties because it is not run under state laws.

Elected officials are all subject to recall by voters. Elections are held on a non-party basis and there is a mayor and city council. Charter cities have neighbourhood councils, which get warnings about upcoming decisions.

If the MQM MPA invited to speak about his party’s manifesto at the event were listening perhaps he might want to push through the idea that Karachi should be a charter city. For one thing, it would end this complaint he had: “You should not have a mayor who is always sitting in the waiting room of Chief Minister with his files.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2015.

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