March 22, 2016

Mayor as Celebrity or Let's Make Bogotà's Mayor More Famous

Today Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at age 46. RIP. Click here for my earlier post about it. It got me thinking about famous current mayors.
Mayor as celebrity is growing. Historically, we are now experiencing the most significant migration to cities globally and their growth, rapid change, and impacts are confirmed by how many mayors people now know.
Twenty years ago you might have known your city’s mayor and the one in the next town over, if you voted municipally. Now names like Lisa Helps, Don Iverson, John Tory, Gregor Robertson, Naheed Nenshi, Boris Johnson, Bill de Blasio, Dr. Zekra Alwach, and their nicknames cascade or erupt from people who haven’t even visited that mayor’s town yet.
Famous mayors in Canada – household names – contrast starkly with Rob Ford’s former lifestyle with their glow from bicycle riding, tweeting, and travelling to meet each other to share best practices and lobby the feds.
Perhaps one day Enrique Peñalosa Londoño will be a household name and people will gush his quotes – and not just that famous one:
“Every Sunday we close 120 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles for seven hours. A million and a half people of all ages and incomes come out to ride bicycles, jog, and simply gather with others in community.”
“A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.”
“We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bike way. A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way.”
“One symbol of a lack of democracy is to have cars parked on the sidewalk.”
“We’re living an experiment. We might not be able to fix the economy. We might not be able to make everyone as rich as Americans. But we can design the city to give people dignity, to make them feel rich. The city can make them happier.”

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  1. Have you talked to the citizens of Bogota? They are of a much more divided opinion about sainthood for Penalosa though they just reelected him. As well, the Cyclovia (car free Sunday) started long before his term as did the bike lanes. And the Transmilleneo, the rapid bus system he and his brother, Gil, are credited for, started in Medellin.

  2. Post

    Thank you for comment. Interesting to have that added info. Because of your question, (a friend of a friend of mine lives in Bogota and) I’ve asked for her opinion on the mayor but haven’t received a note back yet…
    You’ve likely heard of the phrase “no one is a prophet in their own country”.
    My post was a comment on the media (and societal) attention on quotes from mayors like Rob Ford vs. the type of quotes we would love to hear from more mayors.

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