Toronto being the world's most multi-cultural city, and now having a socialist mayor, we have joined the cool club of Socialist Mayors of the World.
Did you know the 3rd Socialist International World Conference of Mayors was held in Athens, 7-9 December 2001? The second was in Morocco in 1998. Will the 4th be in 2004?
The Athens conference starred some socialist mayors you might not expect:
Traian Basescu, Mayor of Bucharest, Romania (pop. 1,897,000), President of the Democratic Party of Romania (PD), a member party of the Socialist International.
Hafid Boutaleb-Joutei, Mayor of Rabat (pop. 1,619,000), from the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), Morocco.
Hermes Binner, PSP Mayor of Rosario, Argentina (pop. 1,295,000). Chair of the SI Committee on Local Authorities.
Akram A. Omer, Mayor of Arbil (pop. 891,000), Iraq, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Dimitris Avramopoulos, Mayor of Athens (pop. 762,000).
Muhidin Hamamdzic, Mayor of the City of Sarajevo, pop. 603,000, Bosnia-Herzegovina
But today the club has some more really cool members, a major part of the world city mayors' club. Some are famous, like Ken Livingstone and Bertrand Delanoë. Others you might not know:
Marta Suplicy is Mayor of the world's second-largest city and Brazil's largest city, São Paulo (pop. 10,333,000), and Vice-president of the Worker's Party of Brazil's president Lula. During the most violent period of the military dictatorship in Brazil, which lasted from 1968 until the early 80's, Marta studied in the United States. (She admits that she smoked marijuana once during the '70s, but said it made her cough.) She received her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at Michigan State University (1973). Now 57, she is a psychoanalyst who shot to fame in Brazil by hosting a talk show about sex called Sexual Behaviour, and was the first person in Brazil to utter the word 'orgasm' on television. She became the second woman mayor in Sao Paulo's history on January 1, 2001.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (PRD), 50, Mayor of Mexico City (8,235,000), denies presidential aspirations but remains a favorite potential candidate for elections in 2006. Baptized "The Mexican Lula," Lopez Obrador said it was time to answer the people on issues such as employment, housing, health, education, services and the economy. His government's main emphasis contrasts strongly with federal government programs. Lopez Obrador backs social programs such as the construction of schools and homes. But he has also woven alliances with prominent industrialists, particularly with tycoon Carlos Slim, with whom he shares a project to revitalize and beautify the historical center of the city. The popularity of Andrés López is remarkable. Historically mayors of Mexico City have usually been unpopular as they failed to cope with the city's massive problems – crime, poverty, unemployment, corruption and pollution, among others. López Obrador, an eloquent populist, has broken the mold. He has sky-high (83%) approval ratings in Mexico City. He moved into politics after a career in political science and public administration at the Independent National University of Mexico. He gained public fame by participating in street protests in his native southwestern Mexican state of Tabasco, demonstrating against the practices of his former party, the Revolutionary Institutional Party, or PRI.
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London (pop. 7,100,000), was born in London in 1945 and educated at a Comprehensive School. After eight years working as a technician at a Cancer Research Institute in London, he qualified as a teacher in 1973. He was a Labour Councillor from 1971. In 1973 he was elected as a Labour member of the Greater London Council (GLC), and was elected Leader in 1981. He remained Leader until March 1986 when Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC. From 1987 to May 2000, he served as Labour MP. He was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party between 1987 to 1989, and from 1997 to 1998, defeating Peter Mandelson to gain election. In 2000 he was elected Mayor of London as an Independent, with 58 per cent of votes cast.
Luis Eduardo "Lucho" Garzon, 52, was elected the first ever leftist mayor of the Columbian capital city Bogota (pop. 6,422,000) on Oct. 26, 2003. In what some are calling one of the most important victories of the Colombian left and democratic forces in many decades, Garzon, the former head of the oil workers union and the CUT labor federation, was elected with the highest number of votes in the city's history. Many observers have compared him to Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, Brazil's president who comes from a similar background. Garzon defeated his rival, Juan Lozano, by 47-40 percent. Lozano was backed by Colombia's right-wing president, Alvaro Uribe, and by the country's wealthy industrial and financial oligarchy.
Klaus Wowereit, 50, is Mayor of Berlin (pop. 3,386,000) since 16 June 2001. He became Germany's first openly-gay senior politician earlier in 2001, using a sentence which has achieved cult status. "Ich bin schwul und das ist gut so", he declared - "I'm gay and that's ok", or "I'm gay and it's good that way". The phrase "und das ist gut so" caught on. Like Paris, Berlin now has an openly-gay, left-wing mayor - with a name non-linguists wrestle with. Mr Wowereit (pronounced vovv-er-ite) in Berlin and Mayor Delanoe (de-la-no-way) now share a similar quest: to be remembered not for their sexuality but for their politics. Educated in law, Wowereit was a Berlin borough councillor 1979-1984, and District Councillor 1984 - 1995. Since 1995, he has been a member of the Berlin House of Representatives. Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party in the Berlin Assembly 1995-1999, he then became Leader of the Social Democratic Party in the Berlin Assembly.
(By the way. Wowereit's deputy mayor is Harald Wolf of the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Variations of a SPD-PDS coalition now govern in half of the states which constituted the former East Germany. Wowereit's first deputy mayor was Gregor Gysi, leader of the PDS, who resigned in August 2002 after abusing frequent-flyer points.)
Ahmet Piristina is Mayor of Izmir (pop. 2,456,000), the third largest city in Turkey. (The mayors of the larger two are conservatives.) Member of the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), Turkey's affiliate of the Socialist International. Piristina was a strong candidate in a left-leaning, democratic Izmir that has a reputation as a bastion of the left. His plan to clean up the Gulf of Izmir was implemented, making it possible for people to fish in the gulf today. They have built a walkway along the shore. He plans to extend the Metro (subway) and then extend it further by rehabilitating the existing railway. Insetad of building a shoreline highway and filling the shore with rubble, there is a now recreation area at Kordon Sunset. Izmir, known as Smyrna in the past, is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a newly discovered past stretching back 8,000 years. They won an award with the Agora project, the only excavations being carried out in a city center in Turkey, at a meeting of the Union of Historical Cities. They know about downloading too: "our 5 percent share of taxes collected in the city has dropped to 3.5 percent. But I remain optimistic. I can see that with this law some municipalities' authority would be increased. Some social responsibilities would be increased, but financial resources for these social responsibilities should be also established." He is seeking another five-year term in the March 28 2004 elections.
Walter Veltroni, 48, was elected May 27, 2001, mayor of Rome (pop. 2,453,000). Formerly Leader of the Democrats of the Left (DS), an ex-communist party which has joined the Socialist International. Veltroni began his political career as a teenager in 1970 in the Italian communist party's youth federation (FGCI), where his communications skills were first noted. In 1975 he became provincial secretary of the FGCI. Two years later he became responsible for propaganda in the Roman federation of the communist party (PCI) and, in 1980, was made national deputy head of press and information. In 1987 he became responsible for the propaganda and information commission, was editor of the daily newspaper L'Unità, and was first elected to parliament. He supported the founding of the new PDS, the democratic party of the left of which he became head of communications. In 1996, together with Romano Prodi, he founded the Ulivo (Olive Tree), the centre-left coalition that came to power in the same year. He was a Minister in the Italian government from 1996. From 1998 he was the political Secretary of the DS. In 1999 he was elected to the European Parliament.
Fernando Damata Pimentel (PT), 51, is mayor of Belo Horizonte (pop. 2,388,000) in Brazil. An economist, he was elected Vice-Mayor of Belo Horizonte for the mandate Jan. 1 2001 to 2004, and took over when the mayor was given leave for health reasons. Like Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte operates the extensive public consultation budget process that the PT is proud of. As a young man in 1970 fighting the military dictatorship Pimentel is said to have been imprisoned after taking part in an attempt to kidnap the American consul in Porto Alegre. He got a degree in Economics in 1978, and a Masters in Political Science in 1981. He was responsible for 17 years for the Financial Direction of the Belorizonte Leathers Company. He was Coordinator of the Center of Extension of the College of Economic Sciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais and Assistant Professor of the Department of Economics of the UFMG. He was Vice-president of the Association of University Professors of Belo Horizonte, and Director of the Union of the Economists of Minas Gerais (1986/1992). Before assuming the position of Vice-Mayor he was Secretary of Government, Planning and General Coordination.
Bertrand Delanoë has been Mayor of Paris (pop. (2,152,000) since 25 March 2001. One of his first actions on moving into the prestigious Paris Town Hall building was to scale down the Mayor's living accommodation and to earmark the left-over rooms for a day-care centre. Born in Tunisia in 1950 and a PR adviser by profession, he has been both an MP (1981-86) and Senator (1995-2001) for Paris. Delanoë ran in the 2001 elections against the outgoing right-wing mayor Jean Tibéri and the official right-wing candidate Philippe Séguin. He is the first Socialist mayor of Paris, and the first openly gay mayor. His administration is a Socialist-Green coalition. In 1993, Delanoë became the head of the Socialist Party for Paris.
Lord Mayor Tim Quinn, 54, of Brisbane, Australia (pop. 1,553,000): says "a strong focused Labor Team is the only option for our city. My priorities before I took on this job were to ensure Brisbane's residents continue to enjoy "a city that works". I want to focus on the long-term future and build Brisbane as an economically prosperous city, that manages growth, protects greenspace, as well as providing opportunities for all residents." In 1973, Tim graduated as a secondary teacher with a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Education. Tim has lived in the same house since 1975. He bought the house when it was derelict and marked for demolition. After they married, Tim and Bronwyn renovated the house, which is now a local landmark. In 1978 he was employed as Secretary/Organiser for the Independent Teachers' Union, which took him all over the state to represent teachers' interests. He returned to teaching in 1983. In 1985 he was elected Councillor. Tim served as Deputy Mayor of Brisbane from 1997 and became Lord Mayor in 2003.
Michael Häupl, Social Democrat Mayor of Vienna (pop. 1,539,000), has been Mayor of Vienna since 1994, and is also President of the Association of Austrian Cities. He first studied biology and zoology at the University of Vienna and worked as a research scholar at Vienna's Natural History Museum.
Who have I missed?
Of course there are some from smaller cities, such as:
Annika Billström, 47, Social Democrat Mayor of Stockholm (pop. 700,000). Elected Mayor of Sweden's capital city in 2002. The new Mayor, who leads a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, said that she would continue to strengthen Stockholm's position in Sweden and in Europe by pursuing a policy of development, fairness and ecological sustainability. Of the 101 council seats the Social Democrats have 35, the Greens 6 and the Left Party 11. At 19 she moved to Stockholm to work as an assistant treasurer at the Party organisation for the Social Democrats in Stockholm. At 33 she was elected to Stockholm City Council.