Global appeal of powerful city mayors

Global appeal of powerful city mayors

Representative Image. Credit: Pixabay Photo

Empowered, directly elected Mayors worldwide have not just impressed at the local level but also contributed immensely to the future of their cities with an international appeal.

Reinforcing this is a recent study ‘Big city mayors: Still avatars of local politics?’ by Richard Strena from the Global Cities Institute, University of Toronto and Abigail Friendly, Utrecht University.

From an aggregate level, their comparative study of European mayors showed that “the mayors of the largest cities, responding to a range of interests and extra-jurisdictional pressures, are most likely to promote visionary international futures for their cities.”

In South Africa too, mayors have often been active internationally. Notes the study, “In Cape Town, Mayor Patricia de Lille –elected in 2011 –has an active platform combining local and international initiatives. De Lille promoted the city as a tourist destination and for international investment. She serves as the Chairperson of the Global Parliament of Mayors, a group of 60 global mayors.”

Directly elected Mayors

Citing data from the City Mayors Foundation, the study indicates that directly elected Mayors are common across the world. Out of the 129 capital cities studied across the world, 83 (64%) had followed this path to get their Mayors.

Noting that this is an internationally rising trend, the study observes: “Given that mayors are elected by their constituents rather than appointed by higher-level authorities or selected by other councillors, they should be more responsive to diverse constituencies, and more accountable to the local population.”

Mayor and pandemic response

None of the Indian cities have had Mayors take charge and lead the campaigns to combat the spread of Covid-19.

This is glaring, since Mayors of cities as diverse as New York, Manila, London, Bogota and Nairobi have been all over the media in their countries, articulating the demands of the crisis and
coordinating efforts to combat the pandemic.

To arrest the pandemic spread, the potential of the local government, the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) included, was realised much later. Ministers were tasked with overseeing the crisis while the Mayor and corporators were pushed to the sidelines.

In central schemes such as the Smart City initiative, civic analysts see a
further erosion of the Mayors’ authority.