In Honour of the Truly Worshipful Mayor...
My city is a verdant, lovable, overgrown village spread over an area of just about 600 sq km. Nestled between world heritage hill ranges and the azure ocean; you can realize that this is truly blessed countryside. As with all cities though, the population is ever-increasing and civic issues like governance, housing, transport, education and employment also keep pace.
The Mayor of my city is a well-loved and well-admired administrator. She was quick to identify lacunae in the working of her organisation - the City Corporation, when she took over. Despite the fact that hers is an elected appointment, she set about addressing issues in a non-partisan way.
Housing: With abundant local, simple, cost-effective technologies available, the Mayor formulated a plan for affordable housing for the populace. Local co-operative construction groups have built aesthetic housing complexes with buildings no more than three floors high. Realising the poor occupancy levels of many skyscrapers, the city’s town planning department has stopped issuing building permits for multi-floor apartment complexes.
Transport: If ever the Mayor of Bogota wants an example to illustrate the sensible dictum, ‘A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation’, he only needs to cite my city.
With mostly narrow roads, the transport department brought about a revolution by introducing small, clean-fuel buses that ply round trips, leaving the roads relatively free for pedestrians and cyclists. Of course there are thousands of car owners residing in the city, but they avoid driving three days a week, and instead travel by public transport.
Buying a first or second hand car now makes no sense anymore; besides, the costs are - thankfully - prohibitive.
Education: One of the most notable actions carried out by the Mayor has been the improvement of facilities and the teaching community in government schools. I think she’s been recommended for an award to be given under the Central Government’s RTE Act.
Employment: This is where my Mayor has achieved the most pleasing results, though you are likely to hear other people from the city sing the Mayor’s glory while talking about the easily accessible, well-maintained heritage monuments and public utilities like parks, libraries and cultural spaces. Why am I partial on the subject of employment? IMO, the Mayor addressed two issues...three, rather, quite sensibly and reaped the best results. She convinced big businesses to set up recycling plants. She mobilised students to create awareness about proper segregation of waste and their safe afterlife. Not only are the solid waste management practices the best in the country, other Mayors are implementing the model to take care of employment issues in their cities as well!
Governance: (I wish to note that I have been involved in a small way in the matter of good governance). The city corporation’s financial records are now an open book. Even a homemaker with some spare time can look up ‘MayorBalSheet’ online to check the route followed by every rupee paid as tax.
Here’s the best news of all. The organisation called ‘City Mayors Foundation’ is soon going to feature my city’s Mayor among their achievers, because, in their words, this lady has adhered to their Code of Ethics for city leaders who wish to perform their duties beyond all reproach. The preamble from the Code reads ‘Good and honest local government is the foundation of any nation that strives to provide its citizens with happiness, security and prosperity. Incompetence, corruption and misconduct in local government threaten fundamental decency in a society.’
Truly a Worshipful Mayor, you will agree, when you WAKE UP!
Note: The City Mayors Foundation is an international think tank dedicated to urban affairs. It consists of professionals working together worldwide to promote strong and prosperous cities as well as good local government.
Established in 2003, City Mayors encourages city leaders from across the world to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to long-standing urban challenges such as governance, society, housing, transport, education and employment.
City Mayors also debates ways to meet the latest environmental, technological, social and security challenges, which affect the well-being of citizens.
(The author, a former Flight Lieutenant with the Indian Air Force, has worked as a scientist with National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore).