Municipal concerns | Monocle

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Running a major city is a big job. Not only do many mayors increasingly have profiles prominent enough to rival their counterparts at national level but they’re also uniquely placed to enact real change in an increasingly urban world. Sometimes leaders are able to seize these challenges, surpassing expectations and handling both crises and opportunities with aplomb. Others hit bumps from which they never recover, falling radically short of their campaign pledges. Many fall somewhere in between.

That’s why we’ve chosen to assess the 15 city leaders who, for better or worse, are making headlines around the world. We take a look at how these men and women have faced challenges in their cities – and, where necessary, offer suggestions on how to improve.


Ada Colau


A month after being sworn in as Barcelona’s first female mayor, the removal of a royal bust in the city’s council chambers provoked a cascade of national headlines. It was not a simple act of redecorating: Ada Colau’s party had made no secret of its Republican leanings and the omnipresence of the monarch’s head in the heart of local government was quickly mothballed. The pantomime that played out was a gift to her detractors, re-enforcing the image of Colau the agitator. This, after all, was a woman who had come to prominence as spokeswoman for pah (a grassroots mortgage-victims activist group), getting arrested while campaigning against Spanish banks’ treatment of the poor.

“Removing the bust was entirely appropriate,” says Colau matter-of-factly. “If we want a healthy democracy, Spain needs to surmount the taboo of talking about the past.” The incident highlighted that her team was not prepared to waste any time – or moderate who they were.

After a year in office she has already made progress. Her long-haul effort to curb the city’s transformation into a “tourist theme park” recently saw an extension to her 12-month freeze on new hotel construction, while a municipal census found that many of the city’s 10,000 officially registered tourist apartments were operating without a permit.

“We all value the positive effect of tourism but official data on the unbridled tourism sector is reminiscent of the Spanish construction bubble,” says Colau. “We want to do something sensible; bring order to the chaos.

“For years, defending common sense and people’s fundamental rights has been viewed as a radical act,” she adds, pointing to the paradox of her electoral success. “Ferocious capitalism and a few loud, powerful voices have tried to make the defence of human rights akin to radicalism. But if that were the case I wouldn’t have won the election.” She then takes the opportunity to remind us that her campaign had no corporate backers.

“Barcelona has a history of being open, pioneering and courageous; there aren’t many other cities that would elect someone like me,” she says. As the first woman to lead Barcelona, differences in style and her speech are manifest but her story has captured the city’s attention – and also ramped up the pressure. “I’m well aware that we need to deliver, primarily because we represent a new form of politics with direct links to grassroots citizen movements.

“Today’s world may still be governed by states but the majority of the population, economic activity and decisions are based in cities. Municipal governments aren’t just administrative bodies; they hold the key to democratic regeneration. Rethinking the model won’t be easy,” she says. “But it’s imperative.”

Needs to learn to play nicely

Party: Barcelona en Comú
Elected: 2015
Background: A political activist, Colau spearheads a coalition of activists and organisers that delivered an upset win.
Campaign promises: Putting a brake on Barcelona’s mass-tourism model and more funds for poorer districts.
Key successes: After much doubt a new five-year contract was signed with the Mobile World Congress, a key global trade fair for the mobile telecommunications industry.
Key misses: A pledge to shut down an immigration detention centre has been resisted by national government.
Popularity: A poll marking Colau’s first anniversary in office gave an approval rating of more than 50 per cent.
Media profile: Is able to stay calm while taking TV-interview fire.
Up next: There are rumblings that Colau is forming a new party, which in the event of a secession could see her become the first presidenta de la República Catalana.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Tourism is growing and Colau must prevent Barcelona from losing its essence.” David Guerrero, political reporter, ‘La Vanguardia’
Monocle view: Rethinking Barcelona’s raison d’être is overdue but Colau leads a minority government; she needs to be a unifier.


Yuriko Koike


It’s easy to see why Japanese voters have such high expectations of Yuriko Koike. As the first woman to be elected governor of Tokyo, she symbolises to many what the Japanese capital now needs most: a new direction.

Within days of winning by a landslide vote in July, Koike had ordered a review of the city’s spending for the 2020 Olympic Games, vowed to create more child daycare centres and told city employees to cut back on overtime. She has begun compiling a list of administrative reforms and plans a 50 per cent pay cut for herself – all measures intended to prove her good intentions after the two previous governors resigned amid financial scandals.

We are met by a smiling Koike in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building shortly after returning from Rio de Janeiro, where she accepted the Olympic flag as the host city in 2020. She is so new to her post that the hallways and windowsills around her are still overflowing with orchids that were gifts for her electoral win. Today the governor – who leads a metropolis of more than 13 million residents – is rushing between back-to-back meetings and yet she appears unperturbed, speaking animatedly and occasionally switching to fluent English.

During her campaign Koike promised to find a solution to the Games’ rising costs, now estimated to be at more than ¥2trn (€17.6bn). “We need to know the reasons for the cost overruns. We’re probably spending too much on temporary facilities,” she says. “In Japan we say mottainai: we want to discourage wastefulness. I want this to be a theme for the Tokyo Olympics.”

Koike is often asked about her plans to promote women. In Japan’s national parliament women account for just 12.6 per cent, well below the global average of 22.7 per cent, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. Given how few Japanese women are appointed to Cabinet posts or promoted to high-powered executive jobs, Koike – a former environment minister and defence minister – is a pioneer. “There are too few women in decision-making positions,” she says. “The city of Tokyo employs 166,000 people – 38,000 of them in this building. More than 30 per cent are women. I want to increase that figure. Tokyo is already ahead of the national government and the business sector.”

One problem, she says, is Japan’s culture of overtime, which forces people to choose between career and family. “If you work long hours here you’re a star – but actually you’re just tiring yourself out. I want to reward people who don’t work overtime.”

You wouldn’t want to bet against her. When Koike was environment minister in the mid-2000s she led a national campaign to save energy – known as Cool Biz – by having Japanese businessmen shed their jackets in summer so companies could use less air-conditioning. More than a decade later the practice continues. That is the sort of technocratic approach to solving problems that Tokyo needs to move on from the scandal-tainted tenures of Koike’s predecessors.

Newly enrolled, stay tuned

Party: Liberal Democrat
Elected: 2016
Background: Former cabinet minister Koike was elected governor of Tokyo in July after the previous governor resigned amid a scandal.
Campaign promises: Make public finances transparent and halve the governor’s salary. She also promised to review budget plans for Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics 2020.
Popularity: Won 44.5 per cent of the vote during election.
Media profile: A former TV Tokyo news anchor, Koike was known before entering politics. That visibility and her campaign pledges helped her secure a victory at the ballot.
Up next: Preparations for the Tokyo Olympics are underway.
Monocle view: Koike wants to cut wasteful public spending and show the rest of the country the benefits of giving employees more leisure time and adding more women to the payroll. It’s a promising start and her ideas could help improve living standards for city residents.


Charlie Hales

Portland, Oregon

Portland city hall, a squat and stately beige edifice, sits in the centre of a city in the midst of a boom. Down the street in either direction, two shiny high-rises are sprouting from once-vacant lots. The construction cranes are indicative of the city’s growth; about 30,000 people are moving here each year. For the past four years mayor Charlie Hales has overseen this once-sleepy city as it transforms into a technology, manufacturing and tourism dynamo. He is handing over the reins of the city to his successor, mayor-elect Ted Wheeler, in January; here he reflects on what is going right for Portland.

Monocle: Portland is having a moment. Why now?
Charlie Hales: If your city has a reputation for being a great place then it creates pull. I’ve always believed that quality of place is your best economic strategy. That’s certainly true for the technology sector: you can write code damn near anywhere.

M: What is Portland’s competitive advantage over other cities?
CH: We’re ahead of the game on transport. Another undersold advantage of Portland is the park system. We have 200 parks; every neighbourhood is anchored by one. If you want to go for a run in the woods there’s some place to do that. We’ve made the quality of the natural environment part of the city’s basic structure.

M: What incentives do businesses have to set up here?
CH: We have a relatively business-friendly tax structure. Granted, we don’t have a sales tax so we depend more on business taxes. But our business taxes are pretty modest. The state’s business-tax rate is also relatively benign. Public services are competently run. Whether it’s a great recycling programme or public services such as police, they’re well done and on time. Those basic elements have to work as well as the pretty stuff like parks and food carts.

M: What is Portland’s strength?
CH: We are a city that plans. Take the Central Eastside: it could easily have been converted to all housing. You look at downtown Vancouver: much of the manufacturing sector is no longer near the core. But we still want this to be an employment district so you see people investing in new commercial space. You can spend $40m [€36m] building a dry dock and you know you won’t be pushed out by people who don’t want to hear the noise of construction from their condo.

M: What’s the biggest challenge for Portland right now?
CH: The average price of a single- family house is zooming up past $400,000 [€357,000]. We had the highest year-on-year housing price increase in the country. How do we maintain a modicum of affordability? We’re moving forward with inclusionary zoning, which requires developers to build affordable units when they build market-rate units.

M: What do you think Portland needs to do to support its growth?
CH: Phoenix is spending $31bn [€27.5bn] on expanding its transit system. Our entire light-rail system has an asset value of about $5bn [€4.5bn]. I’m worried that Portland is being too timid to support the growth we’re having.

Mixed legacy

Party: Democratic
Elected: 2012
Background: As a member of city council from 1992 to 2002, Hales established a reputation as an advocate of urban development. He also worked for a private engineering firm to consult on streetcar design projects across the country.
Campaign promises: Maintaining basic city services and being able to hit the ground running.
Key successes: Balanced a budget shortfall of $21m (€18.5m).
Key misses: Portland’s homelessness and affordability crises aren’t likely to end any time soon.
Popularity: A voter poll in May gave Hales a “C minus” job-performance grade.
Media profile: He has been criticised for failing to build a coalition in city hall around his initiatives.
Up next: Hales’ term ends in January 2017 (he did not seek re-election).
City-hall reporter’s view: “His legacy will be mixed. He got swept up in responding to a series of crises, including homeless and affordable housing. They were presented as emergencies but they are nothing new.” Jim Redden, reporter, ‘Portland Tribune’
Monocle view: Overseeing a booming city can be challenging. Hales has much to be proud of but Portland still faces obstacles.


Kadir Topbas


Party: Justice and Development
Elected: 2004, 2009 and 2014
Background: An architectural historian and one-time preacher, Topbas began his political career as the district mayor for Beyoglu, where he tried and failed to curb the sale of alcohol.
Campaign promises: His recent pledge was to make Istanbul more pedestrian-friendly and extend public transport as the city edges towards a population of 15 million.
Key successes: Transport infrastructure in Istanbul continues to grow significantly, with the undersea cross-continental Marmaray train now in operation.
Key misses: Green space has dwindled under his watch and the pedestrianisation of Taksim Square has turned the landmark into a concrete carbuncle.
Popularity: Though polls differ according to the politics behind them, one ranking placed Topbas as fifth most popular mayor in Turkey.
Media profile: Regularly pictured in a practical-looking hard hat, Topbas has made some less measured outbursts of late: following the July coup attempt, he ordered a “traitors cemetery” be dug next to a dog shelter.
Up next: A proposed canal through Istanbul is back on the table, as is the plan for a mall in Gezi Park that sparked protests in 2013.
City-hall reporter’s view: “He is known as Istanbul’s ‘Kadir Abi’ [brother]. Yet even though he has done a lot for transport, the current metro is not enough to solve the city’s traffic problem.” Fatma Aksu, reporter, ‘Hurriyet’

Monocle view: Topbas has steered Istanbul through bombs and a coup but now he needs to make sure he reassures the world that the city is safe, tolerant and open for business.


Rahm Emanuel


Party: Democratic
Elected: 2011 and 2015
Background: He carried out fundraising for Bill Clinton and took on roles in his administration. He was also a three-term member of the House of Representatives and joined Obama’s first administration as chief of staff until October 2010, before focusing on his mayoral ambitions.
Campaign promises: Tackling debt, pensions and crime. He also promised to overhaul the poorly run education system by giving parents more power to decide the outcome of failing schools.
Key successes: A bike-share scheme and last year’s popular Chicago Biennial.
Key misses: The severe spike in gun violence has been a disaster. The delayed release of footage showing the police shooting of African-American Laquan McDonald led to calls for the mayor’s resignation.
Popularity: Low, largely due to the Laquan McDonald debacle. A May poll found that 62 per cent disapprove of his performance.
Media profile: The media have turned on him over the police shooting.
Up next: Emanuel is focused on overhauling the police system in order to restore community faith.
City-hall reporter’s view: “There’s no way he wants to retire blemished. He works hard to accomplish things – he’s not a layabout – and he wants to be successful at this job. But he hasn’t been.” Carol Felsenthal, contributing editor, ‘Chicago’ magazine

Monocle view: Emanuel needs to rescue his falling political star. To improve his standing he’ll need to see through his commitment to cleaning up the Chicago police department.


Anne Hidalgo


Party: Socialist
Elected: 2014
Background: Hidalgo was Paris’s deputy mayor from 2001 until 2014, which helped her beat rival Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet to become the city’s first female mayor.
Campaign promises: She pledged to tackle pollution and make public transport electric by the year 2030.
Key successes: Hidalgo’s compassionate, determined leadership in the aftermath of the Paris attacks was exemplary.
Key misses: A spike in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks suggests that the city needs to tackle fractured relations.
Popularity: Recent polls found that more than 50 per cent approve.
Media profile: In the absence of an official First Lady, Madame Hidalgo is often seen at the side of President Hollande at official functions. She has also impressed the domestic and international media with her command of foreign languages, a rare asset in French political circles.
Up next: Hidalgo has campaigned hard for her city to host the 2024 Olympics. If Paris is chosen it will be a century since the city last stepped up – and a coup for Hidalgo.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Hidalgo has managed to convince voters of her left-wing credentials in a way that her colleagues in the government have not. In terms of her municipal policies, reclaiming swathes of the city for pedestrians has been widely welcomed.” James Creedon, political commentator, France 24

Monocle view: Hidalgo is a competent leader and Paris is in safe hands. Watching her follow in the footsteps of former mayor Jacques Chirac and transitioning from Hôtel de Ville to the Élysée Palace isn’t hard to imagine.


Gregor Robertson


Party: BC New Democratic (provincial); Vision Vancouver (municipal)
Elected: 2008, 2011 and 2014
Background: The former owner of a juice company, Robertson was voted into office in 2008 with 54 per cent of the public vote.
Campaign promises: He vowed to decrease homelessness, address housing affordability, improve public transport and make Vancouver the greenest city in the world.
Key successes: The city has introduced a bike-share programme and more electric car-charging stations.
Key misses: In 2010 the mayor was caught on an open microphone speaker in council. The tirade went viral and he eventually made a public apology.
Popularity: Recent polls put his approval rating at 43 per cent.
Media profile: Friendly but distant; very few reporters, if any, have his personal email address, let alone his mobile-phone number.
Up next: He plans to build 400 new affordable homes in Vancouver, the first step in a long project that aims to combat rising property prices in the area.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Robertson has emerged as one of the more activist mayors in Vancouver’s history. He came in with a centre-left agenda that seriously shook up the established civic administration and challenged the public’s view of civic government being mostly there to pick up garbage and run parks.” Jeff Lee, reporter, ‘Vancouver Sun’

Monocle view: While Robertson has made great strides in making Vancouver a more sustainable city, he needs more innovative approaches to social housing. The eastern side is still rife with homelessness and drug problems.


Ko Wen-je


Party: Independent
Elected: 2014
Background: The political newcomer and surgeon ran as an independent, upsetting Taipei’s traditional two-party politics in the process.
Campaign promises: Ko vowed to crack down on corruption, improve transparency at city hall and find a way to fix traffic congestion.
Key successes: Ko’s signature i-Voting initiative enables residents to easily vote on everything from new commissioners to urban-planning proposals. He has also been praised for his support of the LGBT community.
Key misses: Traffic in Taipei remains as slow as Ko’s progress in fighting corruption.
Popularity: His approval rating has plummeted and he is ranked last among Taiwan’s six mayors.
Media profile: Comfortable in the spotlight, he has hosted his own political chat show during this year’s presidential elections. However, a blunt manner makes him gaffe-prone.
Up next: Taipei hosts its biggest sporting event next year: the Summer Universiade. Preparations so far have been hampered by delays to the construction of the Taipei Dome and the resignation of several ministers.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Ko’s popularity is nowhere near what it was two years ago but he still has a strong voter base to support a second term. The result in 2018 will ultimately depends on whether there is a competitive candidate to go up against him.” Matt Yu, reporter, Central News Agency

Monocle view: Ko has a grand vision for the city but to see it through he'll need another term. Taipei's urban regeneration is his best shot at leaving a legacy.


Sadiq Khan


Party: Labour
Elected: 2016
Background: The race between Khan, who is the former shadow minister for London, and Conservative Zac Goldsmith was nasty: Goldsmith suggested that Khan, a Muslim, was sympathetic to extremists. Londoners weren’t impressed; Khan won 57 per cent of the vote.
Campaign promises: Khan promised a freeze on public-transport fares; he also pledged to build more houses.
Key successes: Following the vote for Brexit he promptly declared that foreigners made London a better place.
Key misses: He walked back on his transport-fare pledge, announcing the freeze would only apply to certain tickets. Insiders at city hall say that he has been too bunkered down with a small pack of advisers.
Popularity: A recent poll found that 45 per cent thought he was doing well; 40 per cent said they “didn’t know”.
Media profile: Between Brexit and infighting in the Labour party, Khan has taken a backseat in political coverage. But he’s maintained a calm and steady profile, which should serve him well.
Up next: He will need to work out how to meaningfully signal that London is open to the world.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Khan has made a lot of promises so he has a lot to live up to. Whether he can truly solve London’s housing crisis will be the issue on which his mayoralty will be judged.” Susana Mendonça, BBC Radio London

Monocle view: The symbolic importance of being the first Muslim mayor of a major western city can’t be overstated, particularly post-Brexit. Now Londoners are keen to see real progress.


Miguel Ángel Mancera

Mexico City

Party: Independent
Elected: 2012
Background: A lawyer by profession, Mancera worked alongside former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, becoming attorney general for Mexico City. He used his position as an outsider – a bureaucrat and not a career politician – to run for mayor on an independent ticket, albeit with support from the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution.
Campaign promises: He promised to deal with security and improve Mexico City’s transport without raising metro prices.
Key successes: A mobility plan was announced in 2015, alongside an initiative for doctor house calls. He also cemented a new constitution.
Key misses: Despite talk of removing Mexico City’s old buses from the roads, many remain; metro prices have also gone up. Not enough has been done to tackle air quality and congestion.
Popularity: Mancera’s approval rating has dropped to 17 per cent according to a recent poll in El Universal.
Media profile: His extension of no-drive days has been unpopular but it’s also given him a lot of media coverage.
Up next: He’s stated that he’s interested in the presidential race in 2018.
City-hall reporter’s view: “One of his errors is being too close to the federal government. Mexico City has been characterised by having progressive, leftist governments [unlike the rest of the country] that have normally distanced themselves from the presidency.” Phenélope Aldaz, reporter, ‘El Universal’

Monocle view: Mancera has had to deal with critical chilangos (city residents) and a hostile press but he has time to turn things around by seeing through some of his more popular promises.


Manuela Carmena


Party: Ahora Madrid
Elected: 2015
Background: Left-wing political force Podemos tapped Carmena, a former judge and UN special rapporteur, to run as an independent candidate just months before the election. She spearheaded a coalition of small parties, mobilising enough young voters to unseat 24 years of conservative rule.
Campaign promises: Carmena pledged to end housing evictions and halt the privatisation of key services.
Key successes: A new office now finds housing before eviction dates and the city’s debt has been reduced by €1bn.
Key misses: The press panned an ill-advised municipal-run media outlet, while efforts to rename Franco-era streets continue to cause a stir.
Popularity: A recent poll put her approval rating at 52 per cent – almost a fail.
Media profile: Her efforts to speak to the entire spectrum of news outlets sometimes backfires due to her tendency to wax lyrical about poorly thought-out solutions to particularly complex problems.
Up next: Carmena has made it clear that she will be at the mayor’s desk for one term so she can get back to enjoying her retirement (she will be 75 by the time she’s finished).
City-hall reporter’s view: “Carmena is yet to find her narrative. The diversity of voices and interests within her government only reinforces the perception of pandemonium.” Bruno G Gallo, senior reporter, ‘El País’

Monocle view: After the toxic rivalry of her predecessors, Carmena's amiable addition to the rowdy political scene is undoubtedly a welcome one. However, she has much to do before she will be viewed as a success.


Bill de Blasio

New York

Party: Democratic
Elected: 2013
Background: A former ombudsman and city-council member, De Blasio bills himself as an average New Yorker raising a mixed-race family in Brooklyn. He won with 73 per cent of the vote, becoming the first Democratic mayor of the city since the early 1990s.
Campaign promises: He ran on a populist ticket of social justice and income equality, including stopping the controversial “stop and frisk” policy of the NYPD.
Key successes: He struck a deal with governor Andrew Cuomo for $300m (€265m) to fund universal pre-nursery care. The New York ID card – which is available to all regardless of immigration status – has boosted liberal credentials.
Key misses: Investigations into campaign-finance violations by his team have hurt and homelessness has gone up under his tenure.
Popularity: He is prone to gaffes that New Yorkers dislike; a June poll saw his approval rating drop to 35 per cent.
Media profile: He’s been scrutinised over the city’s homlessness problem; his spat with governor Andrew Cuomo also garners column inches.
Up next: He is standing for re-election in 2017. With no credible competition at the moment, he will likely win.
City-hall reporter’s view: “He represents not just a change in philosophy from his predecessors but also a change in what he thinks the job entails.” Azi Paybarah, senior reporter, ‘Politico’

Monocle view: De Blasio is one of the US’s most progressive mayors but that said, he needs to do a better job of being a day-to-day manager.


Virginia Raggi


Party: Five Star Movement
Elected: 2016
Background: With the city government being in the throes of a corruption scandal dubbed “Mafia Capitale”, which led to the resignation of predecessor Ignazio Marino, Romans were more than ready for a radical, preferably non-political alternative. Raggi, who is a lawyer, fit the bill and won 67 per cent of the vote.
Campaign promises: She ran on an anti-corruption platform that would allow Rome to be “great again”. Fixing waste collection was also a key promise.
Key successes: A soft approach might describe the first few weeks since Raggi’s swearing in. So far she’s focused on making frequent community appearances.
Key misses: She has fielded criticism for being too slow to tackle waste collection.
Popularity: Still enjoying a post-election honeymoon, she has the full backing of mercurial party leader Beppe Grillo and is in a good position to enact reform.
Media profile: She is very active in terms of civic issues on social media but she has yet to engage in anything approaching a charm offensive.
Up next: This autumn she will launch various city-hall dossiers aimed at laying out her vision for Rome in practical terms. Her apparent aversion to, and probable cancellation of, Rome’s 2024 Olympic bid could prove unpopular.
City-hall reporter’s view: “Raggi won by a very clear margin and that patrimony hasn’t dispersed yet.” Stefano Cappellini, ‘Repubblica’

Monocle view: It’s high time the Campidoglio (Rome’s city hall) cleaned up its act and made life better for ordinary Romans. This, above all else, will be what Raggi is judged on.


Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles

Party: Democratic
Elected: 2013
Background: A former Oxford Rhodes scholar, Garcetti was city council president from 2006 to 2012 and represented the 13th District from 2001. With 54 per cent of the vote, he won the 2013 mayoral election at the age of 42, making him the youngest LA mayor in more than a century.
Campaign promises: His catchphrase of “back to basics” meant a focus on public transport and job creation.
Key successes: Pushing to make LA more public transport-friendly; the recent Expo Line light-rail extension has been a success. He also bumped minimum wage up to $15 (€13.50).
Key misses: Homelessness has risen 12 per cent during his term. His plan to equip the LAPD with body cameras has stalled over costs.
Popularity: The Los Angeles Times gave Garcetti’s performance a C last year; many believe he hasn’t done enough in office.
Media profile: Good-looking, young and charismatic, he still struggles to escape the suggestion that he isn’t a strong enough leader.
Up next: Garcetti has already launched his campaign for re-election in 2017 and has significant funds behind him.
City-hall reporter’s view: “He is talented and knows the city but when it comes down to it, he won’t turn the corner. This is partly due to ambition: it can make you a risk-taker or risk-averse. Garcetti is the latter.” Gabriel Kahn, contributor, ‘Los Angeles Magazine

Monocle view: If Garcetti is going to leave a lasting legacy he is going to have to become braver.


Michael Müller


Party: Social Democratic
Elected: 2014
Background: A printer since the mid-1980s, Müller still runs a small printing press with his father. He’s been a state MP since 1996 and is the leader of Berlin’s Social Democratic party. Its members elected him successor to retiring mayor Klaus Wowereit in 2014.
Campaign promises: Keeping Berlin humane, peaceful, cosmopolitan and affordable, as well as free from the populism of right-wing parties.
Key successes: He’s risen above the fray of messy party politics and has quietly taken credit for Berlin’s economic growth.
Key misses: The city needs more teachers, affordable housing and an airport.
Popularity: A poll found that more than half of Berliners would vote for him, whereas his party polls only about 20 per cent.
Media profile: Müller presents himself as a mix between a respectable citizen and reliable caretaker – boring but serious. It’s an image that also works well for Angela Merkel.
Up next: It is likely that he will stay in office after the September election but will have to form a coalition municipal government, most likely with the Greens and the left.
City-hall reporter’s view: “His attempt to lead a metropolis that is €59bn in debt into the digital age by modernising its administration has ended with many projects but little implementation.” Sabine Beikler, political correspondent, ‘Der Tagesspiegel’

Monocle view: Müller is right to emulate Merkel’s stance in favour of an open and inclusive society but it requires more than words: the administration must invest in infrastructure and housing to help the city cope with growth.

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