George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol
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Mayor of Bristol (UK)
The winner and runner-ups of World Mayor 2014 will be chosen based on the number of nominations in relation to the size of their cities and, more importantly, on the persuasiveness and conviction of testimonials received during this year's World Mayor Project. Below we publish a selection of testimonials received to date for WM nominee George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, UK.
Comment: I would like to vote for George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, UK, as world Mayor because I believe he has the breadth of vision, passion and civic leadership qualities to enable cities across the globe to learn from each other's mistakes and successes. He also has a sense of fun and believes in people enjoying their city. His 'Make Sundays Special' programme (where the city becomes full of fun and adventure on a Sunday) has brought communities and generations together in a sense of shared enjoyment. (By Carrie P, Bristol)
Comment: I am supporting the candidacy of George Ferguson as he has made such an impact on the political inertia for the City of Bristol in the (less than 2 years) he has been in office.
Whilst other cities are thinking about and planning their way to a sustainable future, George has harnessed the abundant enthusiasm and knowledge of local citizens to create and support initiatives to make it happen. Bristol, for some decades, has been a hotbed of radical ideas. Organisations such as the City Farm movement and Sustrans (Sustainable Transport) were founded here and the Soil Association, the Schumacher Society, Triodos (ethical) Bank and others have chosen this city for their headquarters.
Hence there is a raised awareness of environmental issues in the community. George has capitalised on this and brought forward initiatives to diminish/exclude car use, promoting cycling (leading by example) and supported a range of initiatives that have restored the local confidence in bringing forward ideas. The recent water slide down Park Street is a good example. All of this will be chrystalised next year when Bristol assumes the title of Green capital of Europe, which George personally supported the bidding for. This will be a first of the UK.
George is an Urbanist, one of the founders of the Academy of Urbanism. Through his membership of this and his extensive career as an architect he has learned what makes a good city and is actively applying the lessons to Bristol. Though he is not yet half way through his first term, he has secured millions of pounds of inward investment from the private and government sectors and supported the re-development of decayed inner areas. He is also bringing forward a plan to construct a deal of social housing over the coming years and has addressed the waste and inertia in the Council offices by re-organising the officer teams to work more effectively with massively reduced resources. (By Geoff H)
Comment: I was nearly born in Bristol in 1946, but came in 1947 with my parents. My father wanted to help, as a general practitioner, in setting up the NHS in an area where there was a lot of need.. He worked with the then MOH to set up health centres in Bristol, and started campaigning at the same time, with Tony Benn, to get a hospital in South Bristol. The health centres began to be organised in the 1950s, but the hospital was only opened recently, after 60 years of campaigning; 60 years to have a hospital in the most disadvantaged area of our town. Where was the leadership then?
Why George Ferguson? Within a short period of time he is turning Bristol around quickly, and this is very important. We have had a poor record of local government for years, largely due to the fact that we have always elected the council, a third at a time, every year and that the political parties have tended to fight one another rather than fighting for the good of Bristol. This system will change in 2016, thanks to George. Now we have someone who is prepared to be bold and dynamic and who, despite the horrible criticisms of short-sighted people in Bristol who do not seem to want Bristol to get on well, just does it. We have to have someone like George who sees a long-term plan and will resist the NIMBYs. We have a marvellous city, which can only get better with a leader with vision. I am not expecting him to solve all the problems at once, dealing as he must with a central government, which insists that he makes cuts in essential services.
This is a man who knows what is needed in Bristol, has attracted capital to the city; heaven's above, it appears that we shall soon have an arena for popular events, located near the main railway station. He is making the City environmentally friendly and has has captured many awards for Bristol, not least the Green Capital of Europe next year. He is also well aware of the problem areas and is trying to regenerate them and bring hope to the disadvantaged who live there.
I hope that my comments will help George win the competition to be the World Mayor - he deserves it. (By Judith S, Bristol)
Comment: George Ferguson is a fearless, considered and inspired Mayor of Bristol. He has won the title of European Green Capital for the city, a grant of £8m to improve cycle paths and is tackling congestion by bringing in Residents Parking Schemes and a new 20 mph speed limit on many roads. He has introduced 'Make Sundays Special' by freeing the city centre of traffic to allow markets and various forms of entertainment and is working towards a new Arena and a new Enterprise Zone for Temple Meads, which hopes to attract 17,000 new jobs. (By Sue S)
Comment: George Ferguson is our first ever mayor and he renamed the council house to 'City Hall' to underline it belongs to whole the city. He has rejuvenated the city of Bristol within 18 months. He has done this by encouraging investment in the city and he travels the world, at his own expense, championing Bristol's businesses and enterprises elsewhere. He helped us get European Green City 2015. He has made our city as sustainable as possible by, among other things, supporting the installation of solar panels on council houses. He encourages wind farms. He encourages cycling by cycling everywhere himself. He encourages new and interesting ideas by setting up an 'Ideas Lab' where people can share their thoughts. He has tried to limit cars in the centre by introducing residents parking to make the city as environmentally friendly as possible. He has made one Sunday a month a car free day, 'Make Sundays Special'. This was criticised when it was first started, but it has put the heart back into the city centre. He has no party supporting him so he is a true independent. This means he can get expert help from all parties in the council. He is always listening to the people of Bristol. He replies to tweets, he has question and answer sessions in 'Mayor's Question Time' regularly. He explains all his decisions in detail. He refuses a police escort despite being physically attacked twice. It is clear his intentions are always sound. And lastly, he wears red trousers despite much criticism, but it is this trade mark that helps him get Bristol recognised throughout the world. (By E L, Bristol)
Comment: George Ferguson has brought energy and enthusiasm to his post. As a non-aligned outsider he is able to bypass Political manoeuvrings and take effective action. (By Stefan C)
Comment: I would like to vote for George Ferguson as World Mayor 2014. Since George has taken power he has really energised the city and more people are aware of and take an interest in our local democracy. As with any leader or decision maker, not everyone agrees with everything George does but they have definitely heard of him! In a city that had a stagnant political landscape George has shaken things up and brought new life to the city. He has attracted significant new investment and Bristol has won awards including European Green Capital 2015 and Most Liveable City. His Make Sundays Special initiative has helped people think differently about the inner city and how we use our public spaces. He had a difficult decision to make with huge budget cuts but has shown himself to be open to listening and to make himself available to the public. We now have a much more transparent democracy. His architectural vision and business acumen and contacts have opened new doors for Bristol. I don't think any previous leader of Bristol has had meetings at No 10 Downing Street. Thanks to George, Bristol is now a city people have heard of and a place to reckon with on the national and international stage and people want to live here and those who live here never want to leave. (By Stacey Y, Bristol)
Comment: Bristol is a city of tremendous potential but for so many years the bureaucratic and political nature of local government prevented much change and development. George has changed all that and has reawakened interest in local government and local affairs. Not everyone agrees with the things George is doing but there is now a new vitality that is obvious everywhere. George is realising our city potential. I live in the city and have done so for over 30 years so I really see the change. (By Peter W, Bristol)
Comment: I wholeheartedly endorse George Ferguson for the title of World Mayor. I cannot but repeat and endorse all the comments already made by other citizens. For all the reasons put forward, George is making Bristol a better place in which to live. His independence has been key to him being able to make things happen and he has, indeed engaged people with local issues again. His drive and energy are extraordinary. Bristol used to have an air of complacency about it, but George has turned the city round and things are happening. He is undoubtedly a great candidate for World Mayor. (By Helen W, Bristol)
Comment: Why George? He has put us, Bristol, on the world map - filled a void of civic leadership that has for decades held back our wonderful city from fulfilling its potential. He has emphasised not just the need to be a better, greener, smarter city - but a fairer city where people have more fun! His ambition is not just to be the city of Brunel and Concorde but also Fry's (chocolate bars were invented here!) and Banksy.
In his term we have been elected the European Green Capital for 2015 - and will lead the world's thinking on how to create happy, healthy, sustainable cities for its people to live in, all this in the run up to the Paris 2015 climate summit (20 years on from Kyoto).
George has been political but not a (party) politician - he has shown outstanding civic leadership concerned for all those in the city and its environs - he has proved an inspirational leader. He deserves to win this award as an exemplar mayor of one of the thousands of smaller cities in the world. (By Guy O, Bristol)
Comment: Head in the clouds, feet on the ground. The person who takes on the running of a big city, and not just running it but making it run, making it move, making the city make its mark, that person needs those attributes: big ideas on the one hand, practical contact on the other, contact with reality, contact with the people. George Ferguson has it, the imagination and the ambition, the vision, and also the feet, or in his case the bicycle wheels, firmly on the ground. Part of the vision is a convivial city: come to a "Make Sunday Special" and experience the party in the streets. Hard-headed plans to restrict car parking have met resistance, but the end result will be streets more pleasant and commerce more prosperous. And our Mayor is present, and visible, ready to talk to citizens, and ready to listen. With George Ferguson as Mayor, Bristol has raised its profile, and after talking to the citizens, the Mayor talks to Government. Present, active, far-sighted, and energetic: George ran for office under the label “Bristol First”, that’s where the City of Bristol is going and among the mayors of the world that’s where George Ferguson should be. (By Stephen, Bristol)
Comment: I am voting for George Ferguson because I believe he is a very good Mayor and has done a lot for our city. He has brought a breath of fresh air to the office and as an Independent is not bound by political party rules. he has worked hard to form a coalition with different people of differing political persuasions forming a Cabinet of people who are truly interested in the advancement of Bristol and then people of Bristol.
He has brought businesses to Bristol, has a very green agenda and has been supportive of arts and culture, allowing the great creative talent, which we have here, to shine forth and be part of the profile of the city. Bristol is a very old city and George has worked hard through out the time he has lived here to preserve our history, look at the truth and make Bristol a very modern city. (By Pauline M, Bristol)
Comment: Mayor George Ferguson should be considered for 2014 World Mayor because of his work to build an entrepreneurial local government with greater transparency and openness. On the first day of taking office, Mayor Ferguson renamed the main local government building to "City Hall" to reflect that the building is for the citizens of Bristol, not for the government employees within. He has worked tirelessly to make himself available to the people of Bristol: for example, taking his cabinet meetings on the road to different parts of the city, holding regular "Mayor's Question Time" sessions where members of the public can ask questions directly to him, and responding to the public directly on Twitter (he has over 18k followers as of today). And the public are responding - for example, the recent budget consultation had the most number of responses from the public in recent history. It's easy to forget that this is a gentleman in his late 60s who suffered from polio as a child, the way he flies around our hilly city on his electric bicycle seven days a week in order to meet members of the public.
Since day one, he has invited low-cost ideas from the public to improve the city, such as his very popular "Make Sundays Special". On these Sundays, the city centre streets are closed to traffic, and the streets are opened for people to meet and play. Another very entrepreneurial idea he launched was his "George's Ideas Lab", a council website which enables the public to submit and vote on new ideas for the city. In just a few short weeks, he had collected over 300 ideas and thousands of votes and comments on those ideas from the public. In his short tenure, he has also launched many major initiatives around the areas of sustainability and education, including a programme to plant a tree for every school student in Bristol and putting in place a city volunteer scheme, an idea he learned from visiting Pittsburgh and New York City. He hasn't just been focused on new initiatives - he has determined how to reduce the city's budget by the required 90 million pounds, brought in new leadership to transform the council, addressed Bristol's traffic congestion and travel issues, and raised the profile of Bristol worldwide through his travel in Europe, the USA, and China. All in just 18 months! He's a great role model for our children: visionary, determined, decisive, an independent thinker, and a champion for experimenting with new ideas. We are very lucky and proud to have George Ferguson as the mayor of Bristol. (By Anne, Bristol)
Comment: George Ferguson is the reason I, and many other Bristolians, got interested and involved in politics again. He stands for the principle of accountability and, without a political party behind him, is prepared to introduce sometimes unpopular but necessary changes to ensure a livable city for the future. George Ferguson takes his salary as Mayor in the local Bristol Pound currency, the city-wide currency that keeps money in the local economy. He lives in one of the poorer areas of the city which he helped to regenerate with large sums of his own money. He has proven his committment to, and love for, Bristol: he was a founding director of The Academy of Urbanism and a founding member of the British sustainable transport charity Sustrans. He has only been in office just under two years but the difference is phenomenal: he gained the trust of central government, has attracted large grants from the European Union and launched a parking scheme that had been 20 years in the making. He is putting Bristol - voted Europen Green Capital in 2015 - on the international map and has changed the mood in the city to one of enthusiasm. He publicly acknowledges that Bristol is a divided city and has made it his priority to close the gap between rich and poor, focusing on affordable housing and urban regeneration. He represents a rare type of politician not driven by political ambition but by the desire to create a better city for all its inhabitants. (By M B, Bristol)
Comment: George is a lovely man who works for the good of the city he loves, not just to line his pockets. He is not afraid to stand up to the bullies of this world and with his strong environmental principles lives by what he promotes rather than just preaching it. If all those in power and politics had even an ounce of his truth and integrity the world would be such a better place. (By Joanne W, Bristol)
Comment: I came to Bristol over half a century ago and, like many incomers, stayed. With the stunning backdrop of Brunel’s Suspension Bridge, many green spaces and varied amenities, it was a very pleasant place to live though I can’t say I regarded myself as a Bristolian. And if those I met were proud of their native city, they were remarkably reticent about it.
Bristol's absorption into the County of Avon in 1974 was nothing short of a disaster. When its status as City and County was restored in 1996 what little civic pride had existed was virtually extinguished.
Other large British cities had forged ahead, tackling the problems of traffic congestion, public transport and parking difficulties, which stood in the way of attracting new businesses to replace declining traditional industries. Bristol lagged behind. Succeeding councils of every political hue, fearing contentious measures would result in electoral damage, seemed more interested in scoring off their opponents. They allowed the popular wine festival and annual flower show to wither and die while imaginative schemes like the exploding greenhouse‚ of the Centre for the Performing Arts got no further than the drawing board.
Despite such a stagnant outlook and traffic congestion which was the worst of any British city, Bristol still had much going for it:- two universities; a vibrant cultural and musical life; a flourishing foodie scene; two soccer teams; two major television stations; a famous zoo; a lively St. Paul‚s Carnival and Annual International Balloon Fiesta. It is home to Aardman Animation as well as the Soil Association while local lad Banksy has made street art cool. Yet a feeling of civic pride seemed absent. Bristol and Bristolians were like Sleeping Beauty in need of a wake-up call.
Fortunately the prince who would give it the kiss-of-life and open the eyes of its citizens to their good fortune was waiting in the wings. Mounted on a bicycle rather than a white charger, he had better qualifications for dragging Bristol into the 21st Century than being fairy-tale tall, dark and handsome. George Ferguson is an architect who has served as a city councillor and understands the pettiness of local party politics. His time as President of RIBA took him to cities all over the UK and the world, seeing at first hand what works and what doesn‚t. His conversion of a disused Tobacco Factory was symbolic. In adapting a building designed for a once-flourishing industry into a theatre, restaurant and creative industry workspace, he helped transform the previously downtown area of Bedminster into a desirable place to live. And it demonstrated what he might achieve on a larger canvas.
It is significant that of the ten cities offered the choice of a directly elected mayor in 2012, only Bristol voted in favour. I believe it did so because it was known that George Ferguson would stand as an independent. It was a case of comes the hour, comes the man‚. But, given the power of the party machines, it was by no means a given he would be elected.
Instead of imaginative projects fizzling out, Bristol is now fizzing with energy, optimism and a new can-do ethos. It‚s as if someone has flicked a switch. It would be impossible in eighteen months to undo decades of neglect, especially as his election coincided with a £90 million budget cut over three years, but a start has been made. Judging by what he has achieved to date and given a second term, most now believe he will fulfil his inaugural pledge, in which he asked all Bristolians to join, to leave this city better than he found it. (By Rachel A, Bristol)
Comment: The mayor has pushed for fun and sustainability in the city. A flagship policy was to close centre streets from traffic each month for street parties - boosting independent traders, tourism and getting people active. This was so popular the streets are now closed to traffic every Sunday.
The mayor has strongly pushed for safer walking and cycling routes riding everywhere by bike as an example. To support cycling and reduce traffic he has taken difficult decisions to implement 20mph zones and a residents parking scheme.
Bristol now has plans to be a solar city, boost renewables, increase resilience and become an edible city with strong targets for locally grown food. The green credentials of the mayor and city were recognised by the EU by being awarded Green Capital 2015. Elected mayors are still very recent to the UK, and they have far less power than in others countries. However in a short space of time this mayor has created huge debate, boosted local accountability and has helped Bristol punch far above its weight on the global stage. (By J M, Bristol)
Comment: I cannot believe George Ferguson has made the shortlist. It is an insult to the memory of Bilbao Mayor Iñaki Azkuna, who did so much for the infrastructure of my wife's home City!
‘Red Trousers’ has done absolutely nothing for Bristol, apart from imposing huge cuts to public services whilst organising street parties for his supporters. The number one issue here is congestion and public transport. Bristol desperately needs a Metro System and all Ferguson offers are cycling schemes in a large sprawling city that is up to 15 miles across, as he only represents a small area of middle-class newcomer ghettos (containing people who have invaded the Centre and West of the City) rather than Bristolians, who have been forced into the suburbs by London speculators. (By Sean T B, Bristol)
Comment: George Ferguson should not win the Worlds Best Mayor. He is not even Bristols best Mayor. He ignores consultations. He swears at members of the public who question him. He removes OAP's, who are peacefully protesting on public land, from public events, George Ferguson only cares about himself and his business interests. It would be catastrophic to Bristol to massage this man's ego and will only give him more belief that he 'can do what he wants' which is another classic George Ferguson quote. (By Paul T, Bristol)
Comment: The list of what constitutes ‘British values’, usually includes toleration, the rule of law, liberalism and freedom of speech. I would include in this list the right of peaceful protest. This is a vital part of British society today and has a very long and respected tradition in the United Kingdom. It can be a very powerful campaign tool and many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy were gained because people were prepared to go out on the streets and protest. It is unfortunate therefore that the Mayor of Bristol, Mr George Ferguson, has slowly been eroding this right since he came to power. Let’s look at some examples.
Elected on 15 November 2012, it was all going so well for a man who prides himself on being ‘above party politics’. That is until the Mayor told a member of the public to “fuck off”. As a liberal, an ideology, which I believe has deep roots in our British identity, I have a natural suspicion of concentrating power into one individual. As Lord Acton famously said in 1887, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The Mayoral system in Bristol embraces and magnifies power in the position of the Mayor.
More recently the Mayor has had to deny ordering private security guards to end a Residents’ Parking Zone (RPZ) protest. The protestor in question, Dee Muir, was peacefully protesting on a public footpath on College Green. A YouTube video proves, she has confirmed that the security guards told her they had been asked to move her away from the Make Sunday Special event by the Mayor.
The Mayor even claims MPs are ‘electioneering’ just by listening to constituents at surgery. At a meeting with a group of Hotwells residents, Stephen Williams MP, the Lib Dem Member of Parliament for Bristol West said the Mayor “needs to listen more” over his RPZ plans. For some bizarre reason the Mayor chooses not to hold surgeries for the residents of Bristol. Even though other Mayors across the country find the time, the Mayor of Bristol has repeatedly said he is ‘too busy’ to allow residents to air their concerns in this way. He therefore described Mr Williams’ surgery as: “A desperate electioneering move.”
Freedom of speech and freedom to protest are closely linked free speech would mean nothing if there was no right to use public spaces to make your views known. I hope that next year, when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta as an embodiment of ‘British values’, we are still able to say we have the right to peaceful protest in Bristol. (By Alex S, Bristol) NB This text is an abridged version of Alex’s original comment.
The philanthropic City Mayors Foundation awards the World Mayor Prize every two years to a mayor who has made outstanding contributions to his / her community and has developed a vision for urban living and working that is relevant to towns and cities across the world. The Prize has been awarded since 2004.
Anyone voting for a mayor is also asked to consider whether his / her candidate is likely to agree to the City Mayors Code of Ethics. Mayors wishing to be considered for the World Mayor Prize will be asked to sign up to the Code.
Votes must be accompanied by a thoughtful supporting statement.
First-round nominations were accepted until the middle of May 2014. A longlist of 121 candidates was published on 22 May. A shortlist of 26 nominees was announced on 18 June 2014. A second round of voting will take place between now and the middle of October. The winner of the 2014 World Mayor Prize and other results of the World Mayor Project were announced on 3 February 2015.
The philanthropic City Mayors Foundation, the international think tank on urban affairs, organises the World Mayor Project and awards the World Mayor Prize. The Prize, which has been given since 2004, honours mayors with the vision, passion and skills to make their cities incredible places to live in, work in and visit. The World Mayor Project aims to show what outstanding mayors can achieve and raise their profiles nationally and internationally.
The organisers of the World Mayor Project are looking for city leaders who excel in qualities like: leadership and vision, management abilities and integrity, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and to protect the environment as well as the will and ability to foster good relations between communities from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds. Mayors wishing to be considered for the World Mayor Prize will be asked to sign up to the City Mayors Code of Ethics.
The winner receives the artistically acclaimed World Mayor trophy, while the runner-up is given the World Mayor Commendation.
Winners and runners-up
2004 to 2014
In 2014: Winner: Naheed Nenshi (Calgary, Canada); First runner-up: Daniël Termont (Ghent, Belgium); Second runner-up: Tri Rismaharini (Surabaya, Indonesia)
In 2012: Winner: Iñaki Azkuna (Bilbao, Spain); Runner-up: Lisa Scaffidi (Perth, Australia); In third place: Joko Widodo (Surakarta, Indonesia)
In 2010: Winner: Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, Mexico); Runner-up: Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City, USA); In third place: Domenico Lucano (Riace, Italy)
In 2008: Winner: Helen Zille (Cape Town, South Africa); Runner up: Elmar Ledergerber (Zurich, Switzerland); In third place: Leopoldo López (Chacao, Venezuela)
In 2006: Winner: John So (Melbourne, Australia); Runner up: Job Cohen (Amsterdam, Netherland); In third place: Stephen Reed (Harrisburg, USA)
In 2005: Winner: Dora Bakoyannis (Athens, Greece); Runner-up: Hazel McCallion (Mississauga, Canada); In third place: Alvaro Arzú (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
In 2004: Winner: Edi Rama (Tirana, Albania); Runner-up: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico City, Mexico); In third place: Walter Veltroni (Rome, Italy)