(Mayor Mike Rama sketched out his “First 100 Days” program at Aboitiz Development Studies Center. His open mind contrasted with the “I- know-everything” attitude of Rep. Tomas Osmeña. Below is an abridged version of our reaction.)

Cebu City is more than just South Road Properties. Rama’s 100 Days is anchored to that premise. We agree.

President Roosevelt, in 1933, used the “100 days” yardstick to launch “New Deal” reforms. The device lays policies for the future.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

“The future is not some place we are going to,” John Scharr wrote. Rather, it is “one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And making them changes both the maker and destination.”

Cebu is about the lives and anguish of 798,809 men, women and children, if one heeds the flawed 2007 census. The mayor is on the bridge. Our grandchildren are in the same boat.

But is this “a drifting boat with a slow leakage” as T.S. Eliot asked? The crew is a mutinous city council. It takes orders from the former mayor.

Still, Cebuanos won’t “be forever bailing.” Who’d make “a trip that will be unpayable, for a haul that will not bear examination?”

Cebu is a treeless, potholed street and flood-prone city. All rivers are biologically dead. Encroachers stud watersheds. Salt contaminates aquifers irreversibly eight kilometers inland despite City Hall’s water diviner.

Maternal and infant death rates here are higher than in Malaysia or Thailand. School dropouts persist. A “youth bulge” is patent in migrant surges that double the national average. Cebu is a major transit and destination for sex traffickers, says the US State Department.

A full quarter of the city budget is gobbled by yen loans. In human development, we’re wedged between Africa’s Gabon and the Palestine Territories. Surprise! La Union life expectancy (74.6 years) now outstrips Cebu (72.6).

The challenge before Rama is not to clone old ways but to make us think different. The 19th century model-–where City Hall is a fiefdom—-is obsolete. Cyberspace ensured “the death of distance.” And “People Power” demands a voice.

City Hall should quit being primary service provider. The alternate model is that of enabler. In this new role, cities increasingly tap the private sector. “This has been the quiet revolution,” World Bank points out. Look at Singapore. Or Porto Alegre.

That “revolution” requires transparency. Secretary Jesse Robredo posts the DILG budget on the web. Can Rama do likewise with City Hall’s budget? Or would Osmeña rebel at having yen loan drains posted?

That “revolution” requires broader dialogue. In ways almost “incestuous,” Cebu’s politicians talk among themselves. They shut out scientists, academics, youth, business and religious groups.

Thus, we didn’t tap major studies like “The Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey.” This University of San Carlos project helped shape World Bank policy on early childhood development, among other things. The 1997 US Laboratory for Renewable Energy report anchored Ilocos Norte’s successful wind farm.

That “revolution” requires effective citizen participation. Can Rama go beyond Osmeña’s failed pledge, before the Cebu Chamber of Commerce, to enable stakeholders to help draft the budget? Over 35 Brazilian cities have citizens draft budgets, clarify land use policies, etc.

If successful, “100 Days” can, at best, begin to recast mindsets and steer away from looming shipwreck. Why, it may even prod rats to jump overboard.

(juanlmercado@gmail.com)