Paris : Can Mayor Hidalgo Succeed Where Presidents Fail?

Interesting piece about Paris in The New York Times about Anne Hidalgo ! "If you want a lively dinner party conversation in Paris these days,writes Sylvie Kauffmann, just mention “les voies sur berges” - the express car lanes that run along the Seine — and your guests will soon be at one another’s throats". Sylvie Kauffmann is the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, she also writes for The New York Times;

"Ignoring the advice of an experts’ committee, Mayor Anne Hidalgo last month imposed a permanent ban on trafrficon a centralsection of the drive, which was built in the 1970s, when motorists ruled the city. Today is a different era, of bikers and shared elctriccars. Ms. Hidalgo, a Socialist elected in 2014 with the support of ecologists, wants clean air in the City of Light and the riverside express lanes turned into pedestrian walkways. She has declared war on private cars. Parisian drivers feel trapped in a dark plot to eliminate them. And it hurts.

The Socialist mayor is betting on a phenomenon called “evaporation of traffic.” The experience of other cities shows that when streets are permanently closed to traffic, drivers tend to alter their habits: They change their itinerary when possible, or choose another means of transportation. What is not evaporating, though, in the first weeks of the experiment on the “voies sur berges,” is the anger of motorists stuck in rush-hour traffic on parallel streets, still stubbornly clinging to their steering wheels.

paris 2016

So when the government announced, in the same week, that it was planning to make room somewhere in Paris for a nudist camp — hardly a priority in a city struggling with terrorist threats and refugees, not to mention Kim Kardashian  — tempers flared. Ms. Hidalgo was derided as “Notre-Drame de Paris” (“our drama queen”) by a business magazine, Challenges, and branded “Queen of the Bobos” (bourgeois bohemians) by conservative opponents who accuse her of catering to the left-leaning yuppie voters of a gentrified French capital. They mock her “authoritarian” management style: “She wants to make happiness compulsory.”

Unperturbed, the earnest Ms. Hidalgo is racing ahead. Her quiet determination to enforce her agenda on air pollution, social diversity in housing and transit centers for migrants has made her a distinctive voice in a discredited political establishment. The daughter of an electrician and a seamstress who immigrated from Spain in the 1960s, Ms. Hidalgo, 57 and a mother of three, was herself born in Cádiz, did not speak French when she moved to Lyon, and became a French citizen as a teenager. She made her way to law school and worked as a labor relations inspector until getting involved in politics. In her fierce mayoral battle in 2014 against a shining star of the right, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, she often looked like the underdog, having spent 13 years in the shadow of her charismatic mentor, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë.

Two years later, she is still no firebrand, but she is emerging as a solid, relevant figure on the national political scene, inviting some comparisons with Angela Merkel’s methodic rise. “Could it be her?” one recent headline asked, betraying the yearning for fresh leadership amid a French presidential campaign crowded with worn-out politicians. So far, Ms. Hidalgo shows no interest in national office next year. She has found a much safer power base than the nation-state: the global city.


Picking up on the theme of a 2013 book by the American political scientist Benjamin Barber, “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities,” Ms. Hidalgo has made the political dynamics of global cities into a personal cause. “We mayors,” she recently told the French magazine Society, “are more agile because our governance is more horizontal, we are closer to people, we can enforce best practices of other cities. In France, the government is being engulfed by bureaucracy.” (This from the mayor of a city with nearly 50,000 employees.)

Shrewdly, she prefers to been seen in the company of Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, than with President François Hollande, a fellow Socialist, whom she doesn’t mind confronting on hot-button issues like France’s new labor law. Ms. Hidalgo was the first foreign mayor to visit Mr. Khan after his election, making a point, as an immigrant herself, to congratulate the first Muslim mayor of a European capital. They have published two post-Brexit op-ed essays together, one of them with Mayor Bill de Blasio; they showcased cities that are open to immigrants, green technologies and innovation — one way to point out that even when states divorce, cities can stay close.

Other mayors she likes to cite are Karin Wanngard of Stockholm, Manuela Carmena of Madrid and Ada Colau of Barcelona. Ms. Hidalgo is a firm believer in the virtues of exercising power through persuasion, which she sees as a feminine characteristic, rather than by “putting a gun on the table,” her view of the male technique.

She has been working hard at raising her international profile. She wants the French capital to prevail over Los Angeles to host the Olympic Games in 2024. In Rio de Janeiro in August, she was elected president of C40, a network of cities with “climate ambitions” that represents 85 global cities and, she likes to point out, 650 million people.

The world is her stage. Last December, when Paris hosted the United Nations conference on climate change,  she proudly posed next to Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, among 1,000 mayors from across the planet on the grand staircase of the Hôtel de Ville, the city hall. Like her, those mayors know that more than half of humankind now live in cities and that by 2030 the ratio will have risen to two-thirds, according to the United Nations. They also know that cities consume 75 percent of the earth’s resources and generate 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Smart cities are where solutions have to be found.

According to opinion polls, Ms. Hidalgo has yet to convince nearly half of Parisians — and most people who drive in from the suburbs — that this starts with banning cars on the express lanes along the Seine. Maybe she should try her feminine way of persuasion. The challenge is definitely worth it."

Sylvie Kauffmann, the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.

Read this article :


Laisser un commentaire