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The corruption-fighting Greek, the hands-on Indonesian, and eight other game-changing mayors Add to ...

TED Ideas Lab, a partnership between The Globe and Mail and TED, uses trending TED Talks to spark debate and discussion about new ideas. Join the conversation on Twitter with #GlobeTED. Read the related debate at tgam.ca/MayorsDebate and find more from the series at tgam.ca/globe-debate.

City mayors should have more control over global policy, suggests political theorist Benjamin Barber, since they are politicians who get bold things done. Here are 10 mayors from around the world whose bold accomplishments have improved their cities, and even their countries.


 

Yiannis Boutaris

Thessaloniki, Greece

“Since there is no money to buy votes, politicians actually have to produce results.” — In a 2012 interview with German media

Thessaloniki, Greece

Population: 322,000

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since November, 2010
  • A chain-smoking, heavily tattooed 71-year-old former communist from a wine-making family
  • Came to office after discovering that the sitting mayor, a conservative, had been looting the accounts
  • One of the first changes he made as mayor was to produce a job description for every city employee, reducing red tape and countering the culture of corruption by stressing accountability

Muhammad Yunus Nawandish

Kabul, Afghanistan

“Because the fight against corruption and the land mafia is not so easy, I purchased a piece of land for my grave.” — In a 2012 interview with Al Jazeera

Kabul, Afghanistan

Population: 5 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since January, 2010
  • Gets foreign donors to pay for everything from solar-powered streetlights and public toilets to bus networks and overpasses. They build it, he names it
  • Has brought high-level pothole politics to this previously ungovernable, bombed-out city
  • With hardly any tax revenues, he has found something useful to say to the city’s hundreds of aid agencies: “Build me something that will last 10 years.”

Annise Parker

Houston, Tex.

“I have been very careful as mayor to prioritize the things we do to reduce our greenhouse gas in ways that also are important for the city’s bottom line.” — In a 2014 interview with The Houston Chronicle

Houston, Tex.

Population: 2.1 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since December, 2009
  • First openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, Parker, 57, married her long-time partner in January and together they have three children
  • Honoured for her work in implementing the Houston Green Office Challenge, a program that encourages commercial building managers and tenants to reduce energy use, water use and waste by 10 to 50 per cent
  • Has furthered green initiatives including expanding the city’s fleet of alternative-energy cars

Yevgeny Roizman

Yekaterinburg, Russia

“It’s a conditional democracy. We don’t like the way it’s going, but we still remember the [Soviet Union], so we know it could be worse.” — In a January, 2014, interview with The Globe and Mail when asked if Russia is a democracy

Yekaterinburg, Russia

Population: 1.3 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since September, 2013
  • Somehow defeated Vladimir Putin’s party to become mayor; one of few opposition figures in such a post
  • Flouting the stiff dress code of Russian officialdom, Roizman, 51, governs in jeans and a T-shirt
  • Known for spearheading a controversial anti-drugs program, his anti-corruption campaign turned him into a local hero and he may seek national politics
  • Supports a proposal to make Yekaterinburg a federal city along with Moscow and St. Petersburg, freeing it from interference from the regional government

Matteo Renzi

Florence, Italy

“If we want to get rid of grandfather Silvio [Berlusconi] . . . we must free ourselves of a whole generation of executives of my party . . . Enough! It is the moment for scrapping.” — In a 2010 interview with La Repubblica

Florence, Italy

Population: 370,000

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office June, 2009-March, 2014
  • Known as “the scrapper,” he used his mayoral seat, where he defeated the government-backed candidate in 2009, to push for the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi-era politicians and the revival of moderate politics
  • He banished cars from central Florence and created a pedestrian-friendly, tourist-attracting old city
  • Parlayed his reputation into becoming the youngest prime minister of Italy at the age of 39 in 2014

Tri Rismaharini

Surabaya, Indonesia

“My main challenge is how I can quickly increase the welfare of the people in Surabaya, how I can lift people above the poverty line so they have a better life and how to make Surabaya a city that is comfortable and safe for the people who live in it – not just for the rich but also for the poor, for everyone.” — Australian Broadcasting Corporation Transcripts, 5 April 2013

Surabaya, Indonesia

Population: 2.7 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since June, 2010
  • The hands-on, 52-year-old former head of the Sanitation and Parks Office is not afraid to be seen cleaning gutters, sweeping streets and directing traffic
  • She has been on a mission to beautify Indonesia’s second largest city, rehabilitating many of the neglected parks in the city
  • Rismaharini was awarded Mayor of the Month for February 2014 by the City Mayors Foundation for, among other things, increasing port traffic by 200 per cent in the first two years of her administration

Won-Soon Park

Seoul, South Korea

“I want to make a city that can run smoothly with anyone in charge, even without a mayor in place.” — 2014 interview with The Wall Street Journal

Seoul, South Korea

Population: 10.44 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since October, 2011
  • A long-time civic activist, Park, 57, is one of the most followed politicians on Twitter; he launched a campaign to bring street-level culture back to his huge, thriving city
  • Introduced “car-free days,” pushed for electrical-generating independence through alternative sources and live air-quality management
  • Often works beyond the municipal level, reaching out to North Korea and launching an equality-focused charity, the Beautiful Foundation

Olaf Scholz

Hamburg, Germany

“With the signing of these agreements, we are strengthening the societal foundation of our city: We are all Hamburg.” — At the November, 2012, signing ceremony recognizing Muslim holidays

Hamburg, Germany

Population: 1.7 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since February, 2011
  • After winning a large majority (rare in Germany) Scholz, 55, declared he would make Hamburg’s status as a multicultural city of immigration into an asset
  • Introduced citizenship ceremonies, created higher-density housing and revived formerly neglected neighbourhoods
  • Known for his wider politics: Established a coalition of cities and is a high flier in Germany’s Social Democratic party

Mohamed Nur

Mogadishu, Somalia

“Mogadishu is the city I grew up in, the place I love, and it always made me angry the way the warlords cut it into fiefdoms. The problem is that today, the people have simply got used to living in violence, dirt and fear, and they cannot imagine another life. I want to change that.” — In a 2011 interview with The Telegraph

Mogadishu, Somalia

Population: 1.35 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office November, 2009-February, 2014
  • Nicknamed Tarzan, this ex-Londoner went back home to run the world’s most dangerous city; he was the first real mayor in the city after 20 years of terrible violence
  • He focused on modest goals, clearing refuse from the streets and setting up streetlights. Five neighbourhoods now have new UN-Habitat primary schools
  • He planted flowers and trees, for psychological effect, though they often were stolen at night

Boris Johnson

London, U.K.

“If we can get Londoners onto bikes, we can take the pressure off public transport, we can reduce traffic and I believe we can help people to be fitter, calmer, less hassled and to enjoy the glories of the city in a way that is different every day.” — In a December, 2013, interview with The Guardian

London, U.K.

Population: 8.17 million

Mayoral highlights:

  • In office since May, 2008
  • Shambolic, mop-haired, rumpled, stumbling, loose-lipped philanderer has become a fitting figurehead for London and an unlikely uniter
  • While Johnson, 49, emerged from the world of right-wing commentary and politics, he has become a champion of public transit, bike lanes, social services and multiculturalism; launched a massive bike-rental program in July, 2010, bringing 6,000 Bixi bicycles and 400 docking stations to central London
  • Remains very conservative on non-municipal matters and could become next national Tory leader
Interactive by CHRISTOPHER MANZA   Illustrations by MURAT YUKSELIR   Written by DOUG SAUNDERS   Research by RICK CASH   Editing by MICHAEL SNIDER and LAURA BLENKINSOP

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