São Paulo Diary: The More Things Rain, the More Things Remain a Pain

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Imagine if the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges both went down at once, for an entire week. To get to the financial district, you have to route through Long Island City to the 59th Street Bridge, then catch the FDR back down.

Even on a good day, you would better off rowing, or swimming, the East River and rollerblading the rest of the way.
The closure, due to landslides, of the Rebouças Tunnel in Rio — the route from Santos Dumont airport to the Zona Sul — is an event on that order, I think. Which is what makes the Zona Sul — accessible by just two or three tunnels, I forget exactly — something of a Fortress of Solitude, or a Laputa, Island in the Sky.

Meanwhile, official reports are suggesting that weapons caches belonging to the drug trade are being moved to the “asphalt” of the Zona Sul from the favelas due to constant police raids on the shantytown redoubts of the local Bolivian marching powder distributors. See also

The state public safety secretary, while making this point, and defending his commitment to an “intelligence-based” approach to the problem, catches serious flak — fairly or unfairly, I am not entirely sure — over being quoted as suggesting that “coming in blasting is one thing in the favelas, and another thing entirely in Copacabana.”

Reports of major drug moguls living high on the hog in the wealthiest neighborhoods of Brazilian cities are getting more common.

The rainy season has begun.

Here in São Paulo, five minutes after the first good storm of the season gets rolling, a number of things happen: (1) a good portion of the electricity grid goes down, so (2) naturally, the Marinho-Slim global plastic fantastic broadband infotainment network drops offlline for hours and hours, even though electrical service continues in our part of town; and (3) our telephone service goes dark.

The Telefônica repairman has to make three visits before we are communicado again. This time we are lucky: the man from the outsourced service company — a different local provider than last time, I think — is pleasant, competent, and businesslike. A typical hero of Brazilian labor. (As is the electrician who comes in to make sure our electric showerhead — you heard me — is still safe and sane.)

(I mean that: It is not as though pride in craftmanship is unknown in these parts. You should meet the mestre de obras who did a project on our funky house recently. The guy builds amazingly good.)

Last time, an indecent proposal regarding an, ahem, supplemental off-the-books side fee for “real” as opposed to “by the book” service maintenance was proposed.

I have now made my customary mental note not to get too alarmed if LOUD EXPLOSIONS are heard in the neighborhood. AES-Eletropaulo transformers have a tendency to explode when it rains. Which, during the rainy season, it does every day.

Infographic of the day: A local budget watchdog group — inspired by the “participatory budget” process pioneered in Porto Alegre some years back — challenges the municipal government on its budget priorities.

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The subprefecture where we — and the governor, and the federal Treasury secretary, and the former governor, and my in-laws — live is getting a 45% increase in budget allocation, for example, but still receives way less than half the per capita allocation of the downtown area.

Government flacks are out there bitterly, bitterly contesting this analysis, which is being used to suggest — gasp! — that rich neighborhoods systematically receive higher priority in the budget.

Defenders of the current administration note, for example, that the second-highest per-capita spending goes to a neighborhood with an average family income of R$500 per month.

But it is still much less than half the per capita allocation to the Sé subprefecture, and in absolute terms, that much less populous district — Perus — gets R$20 million to the R$140 million allocated to the Sé.

Yes, with the arrival of the rains, the numbers-spinning silly season has also apparently arrived.

Soon, you will start seeing that astonishing footage you see every year, of forlorn boi zebu stranded on islands in the flood, and some poor guy out there in a canoe, trying to figure out how to rescue the only capital asset he has to his name.

(Brazil — one of whose greatest sources of natural wealth is fresh water, flowing downhill like, well, the proverbial mighty Amazon — has a Hurricane Katrina every single year. There are some big hydraulic engineering projects that are supposed to help alleviate the problem, but they face radical opposition on environmentalist grounds.)
Still, it would have been useful, for the sake of the argument the Nossa Cidade É Outra folks wanted to make, to have included a column with that statistic: Average family income in the district. What is the average income of Sé residents? Are we counting the Hoovervilles? Do the dead get a vote?

It would also be interesting to correlate amount of taxes paid with amount of budget allocations received, by subprefecture. Common wisdom has it that rich neighborhoods do not pay their fair share of taxes, and get de facto refunds on the taxes they do pay with de facto budget subsidies. It remains to be proven rigorously by spreadsheet, however, as far as I know.

The Estado de S. Paulo gets into the act as well, noting that the municipal government advertising budget has surreptitiously doubled ahead of next year’s mayoral election.

À s vésperas do ano eleitoral de 2008, o prefeito Gilberto Kassab (DEM) aumentou em R$ 16 milhões a verba destinada a propaganda do governo em 2007. Graças a outros acréscimos feitos durante o ano, o orçamento para o setor, que havia sido previsto em R$ 35,5 milhões no início do ano, chegou a R$ 67,75 milhões, ou 90,84% a mais.

On the eve of the 2008 municipal elections, Mayor Gilberto Kassab (DEM) has increased by R$16 million the budget for government advertising in 2007. Thanks to additional allocations made during the year, this budget item, originally set at R$35.5 million at the beginning of the year, is now R$67.75 million, a 90.84% increase.

Subtracting the original budget item from the figure you just gave me, I get an increase of R$32.25 million.

But you just told me the increase was R$16 million.

Maybe that figure represents just the most recent in a series of increases? As in, “With the latest R$16 million increase, increases to the original city advertising budget on the year now total …”?

Government advertising budgets, and the outsourcing providers who produce government advertising, have been a bottomless font of many deeply cronyist campaign-finance maracutaias over the years, which is why they are so closely watched.

Segundo levantamento do gabinete do vereador Paulo Fiorilo, Kassab já empenhou (prometeu gastar) em publicidade R$ 47,4 milhões, liquidou (quando a Prefeitura reconhece que o serviço foi feito) R$ 40,8 milhões e pagou R$ 39,6 milhões.

According to a study conducted by the office of alderman Paulo Fiorilo (of the PT), Kassab has already committed R$47.4 million to advertising spending, liquidated (the government acknowledges that the service has been provided) R$40.8 million and paid out R$39.6 million.

‘O prefeito gasta muito com propaganda e pouco em áreas vitais para a Cidade. Ele faz propaganda para tentar se viabilizar politicamente’, afirmou Fiorilo. A reportagem procurou a assessoria de Kassab às 16h para obter esclarecimentos sobre o aumento do orçamento de propaganda e sua utilização, mas não obteve retorno até as 22h.

“The mayor spends a lot on advertising and little on vital areas of the city. He advertises to try to promote himself politically,” Fiorilo says. Our reporters contacted Kassab’s press office at 4 pm for comment on the increase in the budget, and how it is being used, but did not get a reply by 10 pm.

Levantamento do gabinete do petista feito a pedido do JT mostra que a ex-prefeita Marta Suplicy (PT), em 2003 – também seu terceiro ano de governo – orçou R$ 41,8 milhões em publicidade. Atualizado pelo Índice de Preços do Consumidor (IPC) da Fipe, esse valor chegaria hoje a R$ 49 milhões. Do total, foram empenhados R$ 41,79 milhões, liquidados R$ 37,9 milhões e pagos R$ 31,8 milhões.

The PT alderman’s office, at the request of the Jornal da Tarde (the Estado‘s afternoon “lite” edition, which is not a bad little commuter paper), checked and found that former mayor Marta Suplicy — in 2003, also her third year in office — budgeted R$41.8 million for advertising. Corrected according to the consumer price index, that would be R$49 million currently. Of that, $R41.79 was contracted out, R$37.9 million worth of services were rendered, and R$31.8 million was paid out.

Kassab planeja tentar reeleição, mas deve ter resistência de parte do PSDB, que quer a candidatura do ex-governador Geraldo Alckmin.

Kassab plans to run for reelection, but should meet resistance from the PSDB, which wants former governor Geraldo Alckmin to run.

They do? Who says? I understood that the local PSDB was locked in a tense cage-match to the death between the Pinhamonhangaba Mob and their internal rivals (whom they have taken to mocking as “PToucans” — that is, as crypto-pinko political traitors. These elections should provide some hardy and exotic specimens of the rhetoric of the gabbling ratfink, I expect.)

Some interesting parallels with the internal dispute in Mexico’s PAN right now, I tend to think.

The last I heard, Alckmin was at some risk of being declared ineligible over accounting regularities in his presidential bid. If the matter was resolved, it was resolved very, very quietly, because I have not yet read that that matter has gone away. See

In theory, use of public funds for electioneering purposes constitutes “abuse of economic power” and can get you removed from office.

The Garotinhos in Rio de Janeiro have been targeted by a number of such charges. The standard “I will pave your street if you vote for me” kind of stuff.”
There has been a flood of Kassab-focused advertising on the local boob tube lately for the DEM (ex-PFL) party, in fact, which does not seem to be part of the regular free political airtime that parties gets.

Kassab in a hard hat handing the keys over to new residents of housing projects, yada yada yada.

Enforcement of these rules, however, and electoral jurisprudence in general, is hard to get your head around. See, for example,

Oh, well, when it rains, it pours. Pontos de alagamento (“points of flooding”) will now feature prominently in the local “weather and traffic on the 1s” reports.

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