Toronto’s mayoral race is heating up, Zürich’s mayor tells us what her city is doing right and one of Venice’s bridges gets a revamp.
You could forgive many Torontonians for feeling somewhat browbeaten by politics at the moment. The newly minted provincial leader of Ontario, Doug Ford, has set his sights on meddling in the city’s affairs more acutely – some might say – than his brother Rob did while he was in charge of city hall between 2010 to 2014.
Doug has already vowed to halve the number of councillors in North America’s fourth-largest city, which is also one of its fastest-growing. He has also sacked the chief of the Toronto’s utilities board, while ploughing ahead with other hair-brained priorities, such as subsidising alcohol in order to bring back “buck-a-beer” nights at watering holes across the province.
All this has, unsurprisingly, created a standoff with Toronto’s mayor John Tory, who is seeking re-election on 22 October. Tory, who represents the centre-right of the city’s political spectrum, wasn’t alone in assuming that he’d be a shoe-in for a second term – he has been viewed as a calm, inoffensive presence at city hall after the chaos of the Rob Ford years. That doesn’t seem like such a certainty now and it isn’t only down to Tory’s shaky response to Doug Ford.
In July, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s popular former chief city planner, announced her own candidacy for the mayoralty. That announcement has energised the younger, more progressive elements of Toronto’s electorate – many of whom had elevated the outspoken Keesmaat to near-rock-star status during her time at the city’s planning department.
It is her achievements in the planning role – pursuing a boosted transport network and advocating for a more mixed array of new residential developments – which she has promised to pursue further if elected.
President-elect Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as Amlo, railed at Mexico’s new airport project in his campaign, lambasting the $13bn (€11bn) cost. Now he wants to offer Mexicans a vote on whether to continue the Norman Foster-designed build or enlarge a military base that can serve travellers alongside the existing airport. Political consultancy Eurasia Group says that Amlo’s asking the public is a sign of “political risk” and adds there is a 60 per cent chance the airport will be cancelled. Though it’d be a win for Amlo, it’d be a huge loss for Mexico City.
After 11 months’ restoration, Venice has a new Ponte dell’Accademia. Well, new-ish. Generations of visitors have contemplated the Grand Canal from the “provisory” wooden bridge erected in 1933, so when plans were announced to restore the crossing, courtesy of a €1.7m donation from Luxottica group, activists were concerned that a modern rethink might spoil their city. Protesters went further, claiming corporate interests were out to profit from Venice’s need for restoration. When the project was unwrapped on 29 August, however, fears were allayed – the new bridge looks very similar to the old. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro suggested that more work could be on the horizon: “Venice is constantly updating.” Nicola Picco, president of the Venice Society of Architects, took an even more urgent tone in light of the Morandi bridge collapse in Genoa. “After that disgrace we need to habituate ourselves to a culture of maintenance.”
Corine Mauch was first elected mayor of Zürich in 2009. She is the first female and first gay mayor in the city. She won a second term in March.
Maintaining quality of life in Zürich was a big part of your campaign in 2009. Is there still work to do in this area?
Two things are important: I want to keep Zürich a diversified and open city; and we have to keep on investing – in infrastructure, culture, education and society.
What about sustainability?
As a society we still consume too many resources. Becoming more sustainable means we have to improve in all fields.
How has Zürich tried to integrate foreign residents?
A friendly welcome makes it easier to integrate. As a community, we are interested in committed citizens. Last year I wrote to 40,000 foreigners who have lived in the city for 10 years or more and asked if they would like to apply for Swiss citizenship. We’ll soon be welcoming several hundred new citizens.
How are you future-proofing?
Strategies Zürich 2035 has a plan to tackle different issues. Zürich must adhere to openness, diversity and solidarity; this is what has made us successful and it’s what we should keep doing.