Bogota is searching for a new mayor. Voters would do well to heed outgoing New York Mayor Bloomberg`s words about what makes a good leader, argues Kevin Howlett.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro was removed from office by Colombia`s Inspector General (IG) in December leaving the capital in need of new leadership.
Presidential and congressional elections scheduled for the first half of 2014 will now be accompanied by a city-wide plebiscite of Bogota`s 8 million or so inhabitants.
Petro is still challenging the IG Alejandro Ordoñez`s decision, but assuming he is eventually forced out of the Lievano Palace (Town Hall), who are the runners and riders looking to take his place. and what should Bogotanos look for in their new mayor?
A good place to start is with the words of out going Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg:
“Mayors are pragmatists, not partisans; innovators, not ideologues. We are responsible for delivering results rather than debating politics.”
Ideological and divisive, Petro has not lived up to this high standard. Nor did his predecessors Samuel Moreno or Lucho Garzón, for that matter.
Bogota is a city that has prospered despite the odds; a great survivor of her political leaders. Property prices in Rosales and Chicó are famously up there with Rio and New York, and the city remains responsible for around a third of Colombia`s GDP. She is resilient, alright.
But maybe the time has come for Bogotanos to vote in a different type of leader. A business man or woman, an administrator, a pragmatic “doer”, rather than an ideological rhetorician.
The time has come for politics to take a back seat.
Let`s vote for a mayor who promises to deliver a metro – on time and not too much over budget.
Let`s vote for a mayor who will fill in the pot holes – it`s simple, and sounds like small fry but would make a real difference to Bogotá`s collapsing transport infrastructure.
Let`s vote for a mayor who will deliver the desperately needed new colleges Petro promised but work on whose delivery has barely begun. As late as November work had started on just one of the 23 colleges Petro said would be complete within the first two years of his government.
Petro has pitted rich against poor, and business against government. But what the city needs is a unifying voice, not someone to divide it.
Of course it would be unfair to claim Petro has achieved nothing; he has presided over a city whose homicide rates are falling (perhaps partly due to his move to ban Bogotanos from carrying guns), and whose economy has grown healthily.
But with all the money that sloshes around in the capital, with the purse strings opened and by cranking up real public private investment just think what the city could do.
Bogota might not need Bloomberg as such, but the city would do well to go for a pragmatic innovator, focused on results not on rhetoric.
Kevin is a political consultant and lobbyist who cut his teeth working in the UK Parliament. He is a regular panelist on Colombian television, a political communication strategist and a university lecturer. Kevin is the founder and editor of Colombia Politics.