Praise for and Appraisal of…the Mayor of Paris
The Paris Mayor’s race is gearing up as the elections are scheduled to take place this coming March 23 and 30, at the same time as other French municipal elections.
Bertrand Delanoë, Paris’ openly Gay Socialist Mayor for the past 13 years, is preparing to give up his office to one of the two primary candidates, both women (!), Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party) and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (UMP Party).
Prior to Delanoë taking office, he was a virtual unknown, but his bold initiatives have put him firmly on the historical map that Paris will never forget. While he has his fair share of critics, he has many awards on his shelf for which he can be proud.
“Paris Plage” was opened in 2002, soon after he was elected — the beaches on the banks of the Seine for four weeks every summer where one can sunbathe, build sandcastles, stroll, dine, play ‘petanque’ and much more, while others may be vacationing elsewhere. It was the first of now several to have been copied by other cities.
While Bertrand Delanoë can’t take credit for the concept (concept credited to Jean Blaise, who founded the Research Center for Cultural Development in Nantes), he can take credit for bringing “La Nuit Blanche” to Paris, an all-night cultural festival held every October. The event has spread now to cities across Europe and other parts around the globe.
Another one of his first endeavors was to reduce pollution by cutting down on traffic within the city. A multi-fold approach to solving the problem included the Vélib public bike rental system, along with special bike lanes to encourage the safe use of two-wheel transportation, which has been enormously successful — one of those added benefits to city life that bikers now can’t imagine living without.
Autolib came a few years after the Vélib, an electric car sharing service that within two years can boast of over 2,000 “Bluecars” and 105,000 registered subscribers. Other French cities have adopted the program and the U.S. city of Indianapolis has it in their plans.
Meanwhile, all over the city, there is more evidence of his campaign to reduce traffic by making it so difficult to drive in Paris that it further forces the reduction of the use of vehicles — something he is criticized for by drivers and praised by pedestrians. Streets are being narrowed, sidewalks widened making way for more trees and street lamps while parking has been reduced. Everywhere this has happened, the quality of life on the street has improved and property values have increased. My own Rue de Bretagne is a perfect example of how the one-time scruffy Marais shopping street has become a center of life for the “quartier” and a success for all its merchants.
If you’ve passed near Les Halles lately, his campaign to rectify what he called “the worst urban disaster of the city of Paris” is well underway — the new Canopy is shaping up and shaping the whole district for a major rejuvenation that is sure to bring back the good life to Les Halles and surrounding “quartiers.”
Delanoë had a few setbacks along the way, too — such as the failure to secure the 2012 Summer Olympics and once during La Nuit Blanche, when he was stabbed while mingling with the public.
It’s been my good fortune of being in Mayor Delanoë’s presence on many occasions — once in his own office at the Hôtel de Ville along with Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington D.C. — I was one of three journalists allowed into the private meeting! Other occasions with U.S. mayors and M. Delanoë included meetings with Michael Bloomberg of New York, Richard Daley of Chicago and Gavin Newsom of San Francisco. There have been numerous events at which he spoke and even an encounter on rue de Bretagne when he was ‘meeting the people’ side-by-side with Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of the 3rd District.
M. Delanoë is an eloquent speaker and commands a strong public presence. I have always been enamored of him and respectful of his stance on issues of equality (such as marriage equality, etc.). And while I am not in agreement of all of his opinions and initiatives, I doubt there has been a previous mayor of who has accomplished so much is so short a time
For more information about Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, visit the Web site about city mayors.
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
P.S. Reserve your place for “The Poetics of Work Writer’s Workshop in Paris” facilitated by poet James Navé on March 21-22, 2014 in Paris, France. You’ll learn to break old writing patterns, experiment with new forms, and illuminate your deeper sense of purpose through an intimate examination of the relationship between the writing you do every day and your highest creative ideals. This workshop is limited to 15 people — for more information and to register visit our Conferences & Workshops page.