Holding the reins of government for an urban community, small or large, must be a stressful business. But some mayors just seem to ask for the angst.
Take Washington DC incumbent Vince Gray, who didn't even get as far as standing for re-election next year. He was trounced by Washington Post-endorsed city council Muriel Bowser in a democratic primary this week. Why? It didn't help, to say the least, that he spent most of his first term enmeshed in a series of campaign finance scandals -- although he has yet to admit to (or be charged with) any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Toronto's not-quite-favorite son, Rob Ford (it's that man again) is being wooed with music. Or better, pursued. Pranksters #UnethicalHacks ("life hacks for an unethical world") has been trying to recruit a tuba player to follow the mayor for a day, adding a suitably brassy soundtrack to discharge of his public duties. A Craigslist ad for the gig was taken down, so we don't know if it's going to happen. But the unethical ones left us with a glimpse of their inspiration:
That's not quite as mature as holding him accountable in court, of course, but who knows if that's ever going to happen?
But since "positivity" is Future Cities' middle name, let's leave this round-up of the week in mayor-dom by acknowledging the election of Anne Hidalgo as the first female mayor of Paris. Hidalgo, like her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, is a member of the Socialist Party, extending the socialists' 13-year lock on the office.
The challenge facing the new mayor is to reimagine the future of a city which is deeply invested -- not least thanks to tourist dollars -- in preserving as much of its historic fabric as possible. One successful example of modernization which doesn't come at the expense of character has been the Vélib bikeshare plan. Enduring pain points include:
The Metro (subway system), which still closes soon after midnight
Sunday closing -- tourists or no tourists
Limited green spaces (and the continued neglect of important parks like the Bois de Boulogne): There are plans to convert parts of broad Avenue Foch into a park and pedestrian zone
One of the blemishes in the history of Parisian urban planning was the relocation of the historic food markets from Les Halles to the suburbs, leaving behind a concrete tangle of bland shopping malls. The new Les Halles being created in the heart of the city (and due for completion in 2016) is one of the most exciting redevelopment projects in the city for years.
Re: More fitting accompaniment With getting re-elected or at least keeping one's job for as long as possible, it's not easy for Mayors to do what one would think they're hire to do, run a city. But, at least the foibles make for good reading, and an astute PR person could run with the "bad" news and keep their client's name before the public, maybe even re-electing them, despite the buffoonery.
More fitting accompaniment Not sure that a tuba is the best choice; I mean, it certainly is bumbling enough for a buffoon like Ford. But I'm thinking the wa-wa-wa-waaaaa of a muted trumpet (clarinet?) may be a more fitting accompaniment for His Honor.
Il faut nager The pools in/on the Seine have long and storied historical prcedents. You definitely wouldn't want to swim in the river, but takers of the waters have enjoyed the river for more than a century, from an early Tarzan swimming hole to a more modern counterpart (plus à la mode, bien sûr).
Relocation The loss of Les Halles to Paris is a small tragedy. it was one of the more genuine parts of the city for the tourist to visit. now it is nothing but a bland collection of stores and dull buildings. Same thing happened in London a while back when they moved Covent Garden fruit and veg out to Battersea. Fortunately there are still plenty of the original markets still going in london including Spitalfields which always throws up some interesting things.
Re: Les Halle's Totally with you on this one, Resurgent phoenix. Having visited Les Halles a few years back when it seemed really at odds with the rhythm of Paris -- a lot of concrete and bad design -- I'm excited to see how this reinvention works out.
parks and paris Yes I agree that the lack of park land is an issue but with places like la villette and many mini parks I dont thinks as bad as all that. What may be an issue is areas being neglected in which case green corridors should be created and integrated into the street fabric. What we mus tnot do is use a top down approach to green space in a city that is so complex and has so many years fo development overlays that trying to do so would be as useless as it owuld be offensive to the people of Paris, given its bohemian traditions and serendipitous culture.
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