Monday, May 12, 2008
The Innovative Mayor of Paris
Bertrand Delanoë was elected in 2001 as the first Socialist mayor of Paris in recent times. Since then he has survived an assassination attempt, a failed bid to secure the 2012 Olympic Games and a declaration of a state of emergency when riots engulfed the city’s suburbs.
Born in the French colony of Tunisia in 1951, Delanoë has lived in France since his teenage years. He was first elected to the Paris City Council in 1977 and has also served in the French Senate. The Socialists’ control of the city council is significant, as it is the first time since the Paris Commune of 1871 that the city has been run by the liberal left. M. Delanoë’s popularity currently outstrips all other political figures in France.
Although strict privacy laws protect French public figures from intrusion into their private lives, M. Delanoë has never hidden his homosexuality. He is the only major French politician to be openly gay. However, an attempt was made on his life in 2002 by a would-be assassin who claimed that the mayor’s sexual orientation incited him to make the attack. The mayor was not seriously injured.
Delanoë was elected on a pledge to control car traffic and pollution. His administration reduced access on the city’s major thoroughfares to truck, bus and bicycle use, leaving only a lane or two available to private cars. After the success of last year’s launch of a system of 20,000+ short-term bicycle rentals (Vélib), the mayor is going ahead with plans to introduce Autolib', a network of 2,000 small cars available to short-term users from stands on street corners. He also intends to make the streets along both banks of the Seine free of motorized traffic in the near future.
His initiation of Paris Plage, an artificial recreational beach installed along the banks of the Seine every July and August, has been wildly successful and popular, attracting millions.
Because of his able leadership and track record of problem solving, often in innovative ways, Delanoë is now spoken of as a probable contender for the French presidency. Bertrand Delanoë was overwhelmingly re-elected mayor of Paris on March 21, 2008, and it is widely anticipated that there will be a Delanoë-Sarkozy face off in 2012. Stay tuned!