WORLD MAYOR 2016
The 2016 World Mayor Prize will be awarded to a mayor who has provided immigrants with the facilities to contribute to the city’s society, economy and culture. The City Mayors Foundation is looking for mayors who have recognised that people, whatever their origin, status or background, are the greatest capital the world has to offer. This year’s World Mayor Project will identify mayors whose cities have done the most to welcome immigrants and have used their skills to enrich and diversify society culturally, economically and socially. Bart Somers, Mayor of Mechelen, Belgium, has been shortlisted for the Prize. |||


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WORLD MAYOR 2016
• Results 2016
• Project 2016

• Shortlist 2016
• Longlist 2016
• Code of Ethics
• World Mayor Prize
• World Mayor History

• Raison d'être

INTERVIEWS WITH
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Mechelen


TESTIMONIALS
• Mayor of Aleppo
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Cologne
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Grande-Synthe
• Mayor of Hettstedt
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Lampedusa
• Mayor of Lesbos
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Philadelphia
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd

ESSAYS BY
• Mayor of Aleppo
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd

PROFILES OF
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Cologne
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Grande-Synthe
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Lampedusa
• Mayor of Lesbos
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd



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Nominations for
Bart Somers
Mayor of Mechelen (Belgium)

Nominated by Claus F. R., Germany:
European cities that will thrive this century and beyond are those that harness the experience, skills and creativity of both local people and newcomers. Cities that will reject new blood, new ideas, new cultures will wither and become irrelevant in a world that flourishes on global connectivity. Bart Somers, mayor of a medium-sized city in Belgium, has in his 15 years in office shown what inclusivity can achieve.

Nominated by Herman De V., Belgium:
It was in March or April of this year. I had a meeting at the Kazerne Dossin. Collegues from Mechelen told me to leave the railway station by the back door. Then it would take about 15 to 20 minutes walking to reach the Kazerne Dossin. Usually the back of a railway station is not the way you want to get to know a new city. But in the case of Mechelen, it was not what I expected to be seeing.

This part of the city was very well renewed. Young families had invested their money to make their new home there. Both young people born in Mechelen, but also young people who had their roots abroad. This became clear to me during my walk to my destination, not only by seeing a big mixture of the people, but most of all because of the fact that these people were talking to each other in the street (and not alike what I was used to see in my hometown).

But most of all I was struck by a young man, an immigrant passing by, who welcomed me saying “Goeienavond meneer”. This never happened to me in Ghent or Courtrai or any other city, and I mean not to be unkind to the policy makers of these cities, but it was so remarkable to me that I will never forget this. Was it a coincidence ? It could be. Yes, perhaps. But then, after having read about the policy of Mechelen and having heard what people told me living there, I don’t think it was a coincidence. It is the result of a policy that makes no difference upon the background of people and encourages interaction between people of different backgrounds.

Nominated by the Mayor of Genk, Belgium;
Graag wil ik collega burgemeester Bart Somers aanprijzen als een van de beste burgemeesters ter wereld. 

Ik ken Bart als een zeer goede burgemeester die zijn jarenlange bestuurservaring (o.a. als Minister-President van Vlaanderen) ten volle benut om zijn stad Mechelen verder te ontwikkelen. Bart is mij gekend als iemand die fysiek en menselijk een breed beleid voert in zijn stad, als een burgemeester die – zoals dat hoort – de partijpolitiek overstijgt.

Nominated by Frédérick T., Mechelen:
Voor mij en vele Mechelaars zou Bart Somers een verdiende World Mayor 2016 zijn.
 
15 jaar geleden zat Mechelen aan de grond. Er was niets te beleven en het imago van de stad was ondermaats: onveilig, grote polarisatie tussen verschillende bevolkingsgroepen, vuil en vergane glorie waren haar deel.
 
Bart Somers heeft Mechelen echter zijn fierheid terug gegeven. Tal van mooie projecten herstelden de binnenstad opnieuw in zijn waarde en hij was eveneens de drijvende kracht achter verschillende projecten buiten de stadsrand.
 
Nog belangrijker dan de stenen, heeft Bart Somers de inwoners van de stad opnieuw op de kaart gezet. Mechelaars zijn van nature uit pessimistische mensen, doch hij heeft ze weer fier gemaakt.
 
Bij Mechelaars kan veel discussie bestaan over welke partij nu aan de macht zou moeten zijn, maar over de burgemeester is de grote meerderheid het eens: Er is maar één burgervader de naam waard: Bart Somers. Hij verbindt mensen, van welke afkomst dan ook en steekt zijn nek uit voor de zwakkeren in onze stad.
 
Hij vaart tegen de populistische stoom in, in huidige tijden bijzonder moedig. Ook buiten Mechelen krijgt Bart Somers terecht veel lof.

Nominated by Youssef El Y., Mechelen
He made Mechelen big and positive in 15 years time. At this time moment where in every country living togheter is very hard, he makes every citizen of the city valuable.
 
I’m 45 years old, Muslim and very active in the community. I see the changes. He deserves to be the best of the world.

Nominated by Machteld V., Mechelen:
This is to support with the strongest possible conviction, the nomination of Bart Somers as Mayor of the Year 2016.
I am a resident of Mechelen and also the president of the Thomas More University. We are a private university, but cooperate closely with the City of Mechelen as far as developing an inclusive environment for the youngsters of our very diverse city. We actually copied the inclusive policy Bart Somers introduced in Mechelen, in our school. He considers people living in Mechelen all as "Mechelaars", inhabitants, and that is how he is addressing them: not as original Mechelaars and immigrants, not as Christians and Muslims, just as people sharing a small part of the world together. He is firm, does not allow bad behaviour from any person or group and expects everyone to take responsibility. He is known for inviting parents of misbehaving teenagers for a serious talk in his office at the city hall. But he is always inclusive in his words and acts. His firmness together with his inclusiveness reconciled 'old' and 'new' Mechelaars. This is a wonderful place to live, and it is for a large part thanks to Bart Somers's policy that it is this way.

At less than 10 miles from Vilvoorde and 20 from Molenbeek, we have a lot of students from these towns. Thanks to the inclusive policy of our city, which we try also to create in our school , the atmosphere in our city and school remained relatively relaxed even after the terrorist attacks happening at only 11 minutes by train from our campus. We hope to continue in this way, and hope our mayor will be rewarded for his brave policy through receiving the title of mayor of the year.

Nominated by Management Team, City of Mechelen:
English translation:
'Connect': that's the key word in the policies of Mayor Somers: connecting people, connecting parties connect politicians and officials. The smallest metropolis of Flanders, Mechelen, has people from very diverse backgrounds. Under the motto "Everyone Malinois' he unifies them all.

Mayor Somers dares to identify problems and actively tackle them. Always focusing on the positive, on what unites us rather than what divides us, on what people make enthusiastic, where we can make a difference together. He enters into dialogue with associations, neighborhood committees, advisory councils, religious communities, individual citizens, and ask them to do their part, to take responsibility.

Mayor Somers invests in society, in neighborhoods and in people. He does this on the one hand with the hard hand as he invests in police on the street, has a strict security policy and maintains a consistent approach to nuisance. However, he links this always with a soft discourse of preventive projects, of dialogue with difficult and disruptive youth (and their environment) and of social upward mobility.

The mayor also dares to stick his neck out. If the country is in shock after terror, he gets up and unites the citizens in a silent march. Despite the existing countercurrent, he is committed to accommodating 150 refugees, in addition to the efforts already taking place. When everyone is hiding behind rules and objections, he goes door to door to help the weakest in the city.

Still, Mayor Somers, he doesn’t do this alone. He manages to reach consensus with its coalition partners even opposing interests and budgetary hard times. He attaches great importance to good cooperation with the management, he listens to the civil servants and is always receptive to good ideas. Through the years, he built up expertise, but he also can admit that others know better. He is very demanding of his staff but because of his enormous drive, he comes away with it.
As a result, his approach became a sou
rce of inspiration for other governments, at home and abroad, as we can see by the many visits from other boards in our city and the attention to the approach in Mechelen in the international press.

Original Flemish text:
‘Verbinden’: dat is het sleutelwoord in het beleid van burgemeester Somers: burgers verbinden, partijen verbinden, politici en ambtenaren verbinden. Als kleinste grootstad van Vlaanderen, kent Mechelen mensen van zeer diverse achtergronden. Onder het motto ‘Iedereen Mechelaar’ verenigt zijn beleid ze allemaal.

Burgemeester Somers durft problemen te benoemen en actief aan te pakken. Steeds met de nadruk op het positieve, op wat ons verbindt eerder dan wat ons scheidt, op wat mensen kan enthousiasmeren, op waar we samen verschil kunnen maken. Hij gaat de dialoog aan met verenigingen, buurtcomité’s, adviesraden, geloofsgemeenschappen, individuele burgers, en roept hen op om hun steentje bij te dragen.

Burgemeester Somers investeert in de samenleving, in buurten en in mensen. Dit doet hij enerzijds met de harde hand: zo zet hij in op blauw op straat, aanklampend veiligheidsbeleid en een consequente aanpak van overlast. Hij koppelt dit echter steeds aan een soft discours van preventieve projecten, van dialoog met probleemjongeren (en hun omgeving) en sociaal opwaartse mobiliteit.

 De burgemeester durft ook zijn nek uitsteken. Als het land in shock is na terreur, staat hij op en verenigt de burgers in een stille mars. Ondanks de aanwezige tegenstroom, zet hij zich in voor de opvang van 150 vluchtelingen, bovenop de inspanningen die reeds gebeurden. Wanneer iedereen zich verschuilt achter regels en bezwaren, gaat hij huis aan huis om de zwaksten in de stad te helpen.

 Toch doet Burgemeester Somers dit niet alleen. Hij slaagt erin om tot consensus te komen met zijn coalitiepartners zelfs bij tegengestelde belangen en in budgettair moeilijke tijden. Hij hecht veel belang aan een goede samenwerking met het management, hij luistert naar de ambtenaren en is steeds ontvankelijk voor goede ideeën. Hij bouwde expertise op doorheen de jaren, maar kan ook toegeven dat anderen het beter weten. Hij is zeer veeleisend voor zijn medewerkers en komt hier door zijn enorme gedrevenheid nog mee weg ook.

Dit alles resulteert in het feit dat zijn aanpak een bron van inspiratie is geworden voor andere besturen in binnen- en buitenland, getuige de vele bezoeken van andere besturen aan onze stad en de aandacht voor de Mechelse aanpak in de internationale pers.

Nominated by Sarah D., Mechelen:
I do think Bart Somers is an exeptional mayor: he made a city (Mechelen) which was known as a dirty and criminal city into a modern city people like to live and toerisy like to pass by. Even more important: in everything he does and says, he puts his focus on an inclusive city. Everybody who lives in the city, born or immigrant, is a part of the city and is important. He doesn't look at the limits of his political party.

In this times you don't see a lot politicians with long term planning, who are that welcoming and like a father to the complete society. I was born and raised in Mechelen and after leaving for a few years I've come home to Mechelen again.

Nominated by Tom L, Mechelen:
In 15 years Mechelen evolved from a impoverishing, grey city into a model city, a true gem. Instead of ashamed inhabitants became proud again, a unique achievement that can’t be bought. One has to earn it. After 15 years Bart Somers has. No wonder last year Mechelen was tagged one of Europe’s leading lights, European cities of the future, by fDI Magazine, a publication from the Financial Times. For the second time in history, 500 years after the first time, Mechelen emerges as a European capital again. Truly a Copernican revolution compared to 16 years ago, when he began his first term as mayor.

Nominated by Bruno De W., Belgium:
I do follow Bart Somers since he was a young potential and became president of the liberal party of Flanders. He learned fast and was a good listener. Then he became Minister-President of the Flanders Government. He was outstanding good in that function. Since he is Mayor in Mechelen, he keeps attention for the poor and the outlaws in the society, with much respect for them but at the same time a lot of duties. He has a very special talent to see problems in the society and at the same time also the opportunities. He always keeps on speaking terms with everybody without condamning and with serious obligations too.

Nominated by Marino Keulen, Mayor of Lanaken, Belgium:
Mister Bart Somers is a dear colleague of mine and is the right man for the job of best mayor. The way he deals with social problems in the society of his hometown Mechelen, a clear policy has on emancipation and especially never generalizes amongst his citizens. He always takes a look at the individual; there are no Moroccans for him, only Fatima or Mohammed.
 
By giving the people responsibilities and opportunities, they will maximize their chances in life. He pursues a policy of empowerment in his city.
 
Mister Somers makes, as a mayor, the difference in the city of Mechelen. Mechelen experienced a huge evolution since Bart Somers became mayor fifteen years ago. It’s literally physical visible in the buildings and the infrastructure of the city, but also in the minds of the inhabitants. It’s a place where everybody feels like home and a very attractive city. From one of the lowest scoring cities of the Flemish city statistics, it became an example for every city in less than fifteen years. That’s a great achievement.
 
Mister Somers deserves it to be called best mayor of the world.

Nominated by Daan V. D., Mechelen:
My name is Daan and I’m a 32 year old, proud citizen of the city of Mechelen. Born and raised in the city center I experienced the transformation of our small town from the front line.

Growing up my city was a grey zone in the center of Belgium, a small town where people rather drove past than set foot in. We had a high crime rate and the reputation of being ’small Marokko’.  As a kid I didn’t really care, it was only when I reached adulthood that I started to realize the true condition my town was in. Mechelen was ill. A non attractive place, where no sane person would start a career or want to build a life for his family. Our squares were dirty, the main shopping street was a grey and boring lane and most of the properties were in a very bad state. The infrastructure definitely needed a make over, but what was even worse, was the totally divided population. Most of the time you would here the people talk in terms of ‘us' and 'them' (Immigrants).

Bart Somers changed the entire perspective of our town. He had a vision of a city, which has become the Mechelen of today. It could sometimes still be called ’small Marokko’, but Somers achieved a society were the ‘US' and ‘THEM' became WE the (proud) people of Mechelen. (rather than Moroccan, Turkish or Belgian).True his national political strength, Somers convinced a lot of parties to invest in the progress of Mechelen. Our squares were rebuild, old (and semi abandoned) neighborhoods were given a facelift, a lot was invested in city marketing to attract even more investors and project developers. Al these activities created a flow of younger people and families wanting to live in Mechelen, which on their hand created a large flow of cultural and commercial activities in the city center. The beauty of it all is that he created a snowball effect in which now the people of Mechelen became their own marketeers. I constantly catch myself bragging about the wonderful stuff that’s going on in my city. Our city is alive and everybody is proud of it. Bart and his team didn’t only change the face of the city, the managed to change the heart (the people). Therefore I vote him for the world mayor award!

Nonimated by EDB, Mechelen:
He has made our city very agreeable. All the cosy new parks are a pleasure for the eyes. Also he refers regularly to the history of our illustrious city and this with fascinating exhibitions. Most important is that he considers the youth and tries to unite them as much as possible. People who have read his last book know that he makes no difference between religion , culture or origin which is most important in a city with several nationalities. Fantastic! When you meet him on the street he is always very kind a real "Burgervader"

Nominated by Anne V and Xavier C., Mechelen:
Since 13 years I live in Mechelen. This is about the beginning of the mayorship of Bart. He earned a city where many wouldn’t like to start to be a mayor. The reasons were well known. Ugly city known by everybody, especially the whole of Flanders, as a city with many problems. Low understanding between the diverse groups of citizens, high rate of criminality, no money, no structural plan to deal with the hopeless circumstances... Bart took his chance and made this city a place where different cultural groups learned to live together. Last year he took the risk and his chance to shelter many Syrian and other refugees. Many people who had doubts about this plan and duty, have to say he was right again. The city center and the neigbouring citizens have seen their streets and parks renewed. He gets the money for these projects as no one did before and even taxes are lower with him now. He dramatically lowered the criminality and raised the growth of jobs. I don t have to show you numbers and statistics about these facts as he wouldn't be in the top 15 for this honorable title, if you wouldn't  know these facts.
The many people who said to me 13 years ago: " You are crazy to have bought an apartment in Mechelen." These people say today: "Who would have known that such a metamorphose of Mechelen would have been possible."

Sometimes the success of a city is because of luck, economic success by luck or circumstances, growth and attracting other people by luck or a hype...neither of this is true for Mechelen. The success of Mechelen is due to a great leader with a vision and a plan. With the talent to connect diverse people and a never ending ambition to do better. The list of the plans for Mechelen are probably even bigger then the many things which have been realized since the day Bart Somers became mayor.

He made a city where shopping, tourism, working, entertainment and living is great again. We just renewed our apartment as we plan to live here until we will grow old.

Nominated by Viktoria V., Mechelen:
My name is Viktoria and I was born and raised in Hungary but I’ve been living in Belgium for over 5 years. I lived in Brussels but moved to Mechelen 1,5 year ago as I moved together with my boyfriend. My friends and colleagues from Brussels asking me all the time if living in Mechelen was not boring. And my answers is not at all, just the contrary. Thanks to the mayor, there are plenty of activities in the city, which is clean, neat and the perfect place to be. With the well-kept city center and plenty of green areas and parks, this is the ultimate urban place to live. I learned that the mayor has been making a lot of efforts to make this city so liveable (as it was not the case until a few years ago with high crime rate and not so good reputation).
 
So I would like to nominate Mr Somers for World Mayor 2016 as he deserves this title.

Nominated by Conny G., Belgium:
I want to support the candidacy of Mayor Bart Somers

I am 53 years old and I went to school in Mechelen, in total 8 years. We lived for several years in Mechelen. Currently, we live in Bonheiden +/- 7 km from Mechelen.

In 2001 Bart has been elected Mayor of Mechelen. On October 8, 2006 he won the municipal elections with 8682 preferential votes, which gave him the possibility to start as Mayor for a second term. During the 2012 local elections, he obtained 10366 preferential votes (1684 extra votes compared to 2006). He thus became the first Malinois politician who earned more than ten thousand preferential votes in the municipal elections.
This increase in preferential votes can only point out that Bart and his team chose the right policies and the Malinois people appreciate him.

Who is Bart Somers?
He's an accessible man who walks through his town and greets everyone. I once called him because of a penalty I thought was unjust and I got him personally on the phone.
He is socially committed. He is a man who prefers a dialogue.
He is a fighter. After the elections of June 13th 2009, after the loss of his party, he resigned as chairman of his party the "Open VLD". Other top politicians would ask themselves at that moment: "Do I continue with politics or do I redirect my life in a completely different direction? He did not even needed to ask this question.
His commitment is such a significant part of his DNA that he will never escape it - everything in him breathes politics. He can not not read newspapers, not not watch the news, not not be interested in what happens in Flanders, in Belgium and in the world - not even for one day.

During the terms of office of Bart Somers there has been a strong emphasis on security in Mechelen and in recent years the city has  positively evolved, both economically and socially. Mechelen became a trendy and livable city. Mechelen is a multicultural city and Bart and his team try to make and to keep the city livable for each resident. In the past Mechelen had many "rotten spots". These areas were addressed in the course of the years and they were turned into trendy neighborhoods where it is nice to linger.

Miet Bourlon is the spouse of Mayor Bart Somers and she is originally from Aalst. She must nevertheless love Mechelen because she is a city guide in Mechelen.
Together they have 2 children a son Jan-Klaas (also socially committed because he is a head leader in a youth movement) and a daughter Liese, what surely indicates that Bart is a familyman.

I hope Bart wins, but anyway, he has won already so to speak with this nomination.

Nominated by Ben D., Mechelen
My name is Ben. Today I live in the center of Mechelen. My family has lived in the town for more than 3 generations. In the 16th century, Mechelen used to be the capital of the southern Netherlands. It had splendor and luxury.

I was born in Mechelen in 1957 and I spent a great youth there. In the late 70’s the town was in decay, dirty and unsave. Those days, Mechelaars were known for their continuous complaints and blaming politics. Wealthy merchants and young professionals left town and lived in the surrounding areas. I left Mechelen when I was 17 and have been living in other cities for nearly 30 years. In 2000, I decided to return to the town and I have been living in it since then.
 
Friends and people visiting wonder how it is possible that the town has improved tremendously since 2000. I joke that it is thanks to me moving back into town.

But obviously, the change was realized by Bart Somers, who has been mayor since 2000. He started with the looks of the town, respecting its history and culture. Then he managed to restore the self-esteem of the people living in it. Recently he turned Mechelen into an example of successful change management with an open minded hospitality.
 
I wish to support Bart Somers’ candidacy becomes he has been able to restore my love for the town. PS: I do not know the man personally, nor am I involved in politics or public services.

Nominated by Wouter Van B., Minderheden Forum:
The reason I vote for Bart Somers. Because he shows his courage to tackle the problems without polarizing and stigmatizing.

Nominated by Paul C., Antwerp:
Why I vote for Bart Somers:
 The world is shaken. There are no more borders and the immigration in Europe increased dramaticly. It’s the first time in his history a big part of European citizens are scared what happens in their cosy comfortzone. Where the US has an immigration culture par excellence - also there “fear” takes over.
 
Mechelen was ten years ago a getto city where people flew. Bart Somers reshaped his community and now Mechelen is” the”  trendy place to be. By listening to citizens, with no fear, with open eye the mayor succeeded to create a multicultural society: an example for all! 12 points go to Mechelen!

Nominated by Linda V., Mechelen:
I have lived in Mechelen and now very close to Mechelen my whole life (52 years).  Before Bart Somers was mayor of Mechelen I was a bit ashamed to tell somebody where I was living. Mechelen was a city with a lot of criminality. It didn’t feel safe at night. Although it is a nice medieval city, it was not very nice to live here.  Now I am proud of telling people I live in Mechelen.  Under the influence of Bart Somers the city turned into a beautiful and safe city. Some touches may seem minor but all in all they seem to make the difference. With 48.9% people with a foreign background in 2011 it is not an easy city to govern.  I think Bart Somers had earned a lot of respect from all the different groups who live in Mechelen. Not by allowing everything, sometimes severe but always in close contact. A quick reaction to problems with a lot of consideration.  One other thing, I have never voted for his political party for the federal government but as a mayor he will always have my vote.

Nominated by Patrik L., Switzerland:
I support Bart his nomination for world mayor because I have seen the city changing drastically over the past decade since he arrived as mayor. I lived and studied in Mechelen so I may say I know the city very well, and now I am living abroad in Basel, CH, and when I visit I noticed the positive changes immediately. These are my main observations which all have to do with Bart his influence on this beautiful city:
• In his own way he made it happen that people with highly diverse backgrounds live together in peace and harmony, there where 30 years ago the city and their locals were not welcoming immigrants that well

• He made the city a safer and more secure place to live
• He renovated the city and made it into one of the more beautiful places in Belgium to live in
• He is very creative and innovative in his approach to make people living together, regardless of religion, skin color etc
• He shows to be a man of the people who does not stand above his citizens

I hope Bart wins this title as he deserves it based on years of dedication, passion and devotion to his city!

Nominated by Abdoul D.:
I support Bart Somers because despite the difficult situation and stigmatisation of migrants in Belgium, he has not bowed down to racist and anti migrants rhetoric. He stands for inclusiveness and has prevented young men and women form his municipality from going to fight in Syria. he does a great job for the integration of migrants and is active in this field both at local, European and international levels.

Nominated by Marc Van B., Mechelen:
I was born and raised in Mechelen and I still live there. I’ve seen the city changing, due to the big immigrant population. Not saying everything is perfect, but Bart Somers succeeded extremely well in working on different levels to make the city enjoyable, successful, and most of all a place where diversity can be seen as wealth. Not so much as a stain.

Nominated by H., Belgium:
Bart Somers is een integer en vastberaden burgervader,tracht met elke leefgemeenschap in beste verstandhouding samen te leven,biedt hen de mogelijkheid tot dialoog en neemt dan de juiste beslissingen.Als hoofd van de politie ondersteunt hij zijn korps en geeft hen de nodige werkingsmiddelen en materiaal ! Ook op gebied van netheid en ruimtelijke ordening levert hij prachtig werk, Mechelen is niet meer de verloederde stad die het tot voor enkele jaren was, aanplantibgen,speelpleinen,perkjes,iedere inwoner zal dit beamen. Ik woon zelf niet in Mechelen en heb dus niet de minste belangen om Bart te nomineren. Ook als parlementair zijn zijn tussenkomsten gevat en onderbouwt, hij staat achter zijn projecten en stellingen en ik heb hem nog nooit horen schelden of collega's bekladden. Tot daar mijn betoog, hopelijk haalt hij het !

Nominated by Katrijn Van G., Antwerp:
I vote for Bart Somers as best mayor. He made from a city who was know for his dirt, violence and inhospitality a city were it’s beautiful to live. He gets all different communities and cultures to work together. He turns hatred between citizens into collaboration and love for one an other. The city centre turned into a nice walking area, with bar’s and restaurants.

Bart Somers is a mayer who uses his power for only one thing, changing his city in a place were everybody wants to live. I’m from Antwerp. I hope one day, we will have a mayor like him. Because the one we have now, is a shame for our city.

Nominated by Wouter D. Denmark:
I would like to support the candidacy of Mayor Bart Somers of the city of Mechelen.

In the nineties, when i was a teenager, growing up in one of the neighbouring villages, Mechelen was a city i didn't like to go to. It didn't feel safe, streets were quiet and dark in the evenings. Squares were not made for people, but for cars. I would only go into the center if i had to.

Today, the city center is vibrant, people get out in the city and get together again, more and more events are organized. Streets and squares are nice environments where soft traffic has priority. Go to the main square to see for yourself: you will not notice a single car, instead the square is intensely used for events.

My parents still life in the same neighbouring village and they now go more to the city centre, and often on foot or by bike. They are in better shape themselves and more happy. I often travel back to Mechelen to visit friends and family, and it's a joy to walk in the city now. Instead of guiding my international friends to neighbouring famous cities as Brussels, Antwerpen or Gent, i know always show them first Mechelen.

Mayor Somers took great part in this city evolution. I know he works for it, he came for example to Copenhagen to study soft traffic solutions. Over the past decade, he acted efficiently and true to his ideas. I also think that despite he is from the liberal party, he became a party-independent mayor for all Mechelen's inhabitants. He is the type of mayor i would recommend to any city, to everybody.

Nominated by Laila K., Mechelen:
I would like to support my mayor Bart Somers.
I was born, raised and living in Mechelen.  Over the last years, Bart Somers turned Mechelen into a beautiful, environmental, child-friendly city. He turned people from Mechelen in proud “Mechelaars” (referring to people living in Mechelen). He also has a strong heart for the poor and recently for refugees. I strongly give my vote to him and hope he wins this contest, because he deserves it.

Comment by Julin W., Mechelen:
N daar mij mening kan ik wel begrijpen waarom Mr. Somers op de lijst staat de samenleving in Mechelen is er op vooruit gegaat ,nu weet ik niet wat de rede daar van is ,zijn er toegevingen gedaan tegen over de allochtonen gemeenschap ? ik weet het niet
maar wat men ziet op straat zijn er al veel minder verbaal en fysiek geweld tegenover burgers dan vroeger ,toch heb ik bedenkingen bij het groeiend aantal vreemden in de stad dit moet stoppen , vermits anders het evenwicht wordt gestoord

Nominated by Robert D.:
Bart Somers is the best mayor in the world because he made of Mechelen a nice town were everybody, black, brown, yellow is welcome. I am an inhabitant of a village in the neigbourhood of Mechelen.

Nominated by Irene W.:
Ik steun BART SOMERS  , daar hij een enorme MAN IS VAN ZIJN WOORD. MECHELEN MAG HEEL BLIJ ZIJN , VAN ZO ’N  BURGEMEESTER TE HEBBEN. WIJ HOPEN DAN OOK DAT HIJ DEZE PRIJS IN EERVOL EN GEWETEN , MAG WINNEN SUCCES  BART SOMERS. WIJ DUIMEN ME U MEE

Nominated by Els N.:
Voor mij mag Bart Somers deze prijs winnen. Ik woon niet in Mechelen maar sinds hij burgemeester is, is Mechelen een hele mooie stad geworden. Vele historische panden zijn terug mooi gerenoveerd en zelfs de deelgemeente liggen er mooi bij. Een dikke pluim! !!!!!!
Mijn stem heb je zeker.

Nominated by Franky K.:
More than 10 years ago I did live in Mechelen for 10 years.... that is the period that Bart became major... he made promises at that time and I must admit that he kept his promises: he made of Mechelen a beautiful city, did a lot of work to make the center more pretty than it was already... he left the parliament to be a good major of his hometown and sincerely he does it very good! Now I live in the city of Aalst and I see the same things in that city.

Nominated by Renaat Van H., Belgium:
Mr. Somers should become mayor of the year because under his mayor-ship Mechelen turned from a dirty old town into a beautiful city where it is good to life. Not only for the rich or trade people but also for youngsters, retired or colored people. He unites instead of divides like a good mayor should. He succeeds to let different communities live together in a more a more polarized world.

Nominated by Koen D., Brussels:
I have great admiration for how mayor Somers and his team have changed Mechelen for the better (much better) over the last years. He managed to turn a city center that was ‘to be avoided’ many years ago into one of the coolest towns in Flanders. A lot of focus as well on bringing communities together. I live in Brussels myself, but I own a house in Mechelen and I must admit that I sometimes envy my tenants.

Nominated by S. G.:
As a former resident of Mechelen, I would like to nominate Bart Somers for mayor of the year. This not so much for his recent activities and efforts towards the integration of migrants, but for a record of a decade.
Mechelen in the ‘90’s was known as a rather gloomy town, rampant with dirty streets and unsafe quarters at night (or at least, it was perceived as such).
Segregation of racial minorities and neglect of public buildings and social housings were major causes of this.
After becoming mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers stubbornly got rid of this image. Not only did he invest a lot in the public sphere (buildings, activities), making Mechelen agreeable for all its residents, his government also took care of the “more difficult” quarters and challenges. Mechelen has a very diverse population (with a significant Moroccan and Turkish minority). Engaging minorities was in this sense done over the years by Somers via a good mix of openness and respect for diversity, dialogue and inclusion of minorities in decision-making processes. Particular attention was given to the younger generations in this regard. This inclusive process led to a city in which all its citizens can feel at home and are heard. Mechelen’s current migration policy only mirrors this. Summing up, Bart Somers and his team made Mechelen “Een stad om te Zoenen” (a city to be kissed).

Comment by Armand, Mechelen:
I am a resident of Mechelen for over 10 years and I am shocked that Mayor Somers is elligible for receiving your award.

The immigrant policy is one of looking the other way. Mechelen is a city with a great number of residents but diversity is an issue. There are several communions where there is an over concentration of foreign non integrated citizens. This translates in direct to unsafer neighbourhoods where people are afraid of going outdoors after dark. Where kindergartens are faced with classes filled with non natives where Belgian children are a minority.

There should be a more diverce population where Belgians help out their 'newcommers' but in real life this isn't happening.
 Budgetwise this office that's been led by Mr Somers for the last 8 years has increased the total debt for high prestige projects that don't benefit the city in the forms off direct jobs. For example the complete rebuild of the train station in the center.
A big budget project but how does Mechelen and its residents benefit?

Mr Somers also attracted corporations to the region but at the expense of the infrastructure. Traffic jams that clog up the city for multiple hours a day because a program to recruit a more local workforce is not in place.

I support the cause of this election but I hope you can consider the time I am taking to write this mail is also a signal that not everything is as sunny as people might think.

I really believe Mechelen has been placed on a track for further growth and prosperity , but sometimes at the expense of really fundamental problems because a more prestigious project was  also on the table.

The focus should remain on the renewal of neighbourhoods and the future of our younger generations to come. A modern station is nice to look at but a good school and neighbourhood would be a bigger win for Mechelen and everyone loving there.

Nominated by Mohamed El M., Mechelen:
I'm second-generation immigrant from Morocco. Bart made Mechelen feel like home to me. He is a non-bulshit mayor with vision and a big heart. Bart for World Mayor!µ

Nominated by AMW, Belgium:
My enthusiastic support goes to Mayor Somers.
Even though I would probably never vote for his party as such (in the last election, communist candidates got my vote, quite at the other end of the political spectrum), Mayor Somers has my deepest respect for his accomplishments in Mechelen and I give him my utmost support for this award. 

Lightyears removed from the divisive and often discriminatory choices made by Antwerp’s politicians, Mayor Somers and his team stand out in their efforts to walk the talk of an inclusive society that fosters diversity, time and again, also when terrorism hits close to home (and I am saying this as a former very happy inhabitant of superdiverse NYC: I really think Mayor Somers is as talented as the best NYC Mayors).

Also, judging from his media appearances, Mayor Somers seems to be an exceptionally nice, warm, humble and affable person, and that’s something that really matters these days, with all the challenges we face.

I admire the Mechelen local policy makers and their Mayor so much, that I am now seriously considering moving to Mechelen, even though I have no relatives or friends in the area (yet), but just because it is such a pleasant place to spend time these days (in the meantime, when seeing friends from Antwerp, we often meet in Mechelen, intially we did so because it is halfway for both of us and looks inviting, and now we do so because it is always great to be in Mechelen)— I hope this counts as an impressive accolade!

Nominated by Christiaan B., near Mechelen:
Bart SOMERS takes efforts as Mayor and boss of the local police force to increase the employment, participation of the local people with an immigrant background to work for he police. He launches the  slogan ‘the local police force wants all colors’. A few time ago an historic event took place in the city of Mechelen, due to a legend there was need of 4 boys out of one family; the organisation supported by B SOMERS choose 4 boys out of an Assyrian family. More recently the decision has taken to invest in an Islamic cemetery by the city.

Nominated by Chris S., Belgium:
I want to support Bart as best mayor in the world.
I'm born and raised in mechelen in 1968 and have seen the transformation which has taken place. He has not only made Mechelen a beautiful place again, but has also brought communities more together. And although he has his political colour. As a mayor, he listens to all citizens and protects the rights and needs of all.

Nominated by Marc M., Belgium:
I'm 47 years old and I have seen the city of Mechelen change from a car polluted city in my childhood to a modern car free city, but with good and fast access for cars to a central parking. It's encouraging to see the innovative approach in the centre with lots of space to walk and enjoy. You feel smart architectural decisions were taken to uplift the old city centre.

Nominated by Ingrid Van B., Mechelen:
Als inwoner van Mechelen  heb ik het volste vertrouwen in onze burgemeester Bart Somers.  Sinds hij burgemeester is heeft hij schitterend werk geleverd qua veiligheid. Remember dat voor zijn aanstelling de stad Mechelen "klein Chicago" werd genoemd.  Onze stad is ook op vele plaatsen verfraaid echt een stad om te zoenen met mooie bloembakken tijdens de zomermaanden.  Verder doet hij uitstekend werk qua integratie van vreemdelingen. Ik hoop van harte dat onze burgemeester een monsterscore zal behalen voor al het werk dat hij heeft geleverd. Top Bart!

Nominated by Filip C., Belgium:
Bart Somers has literally turned around Mechelen from being a neglected, unattractive and marginalised town to a flourishing, vibrant, modern and family friendly city.

I had the occasion to live in Mechelen "before Bart Somers" and return 10years later to "Mechelen made-over by Bart". My wife and I actually just bought a new historic building in Mechelen to start a small business. We would not have thought to do that ever, but given the "hope" and great future that Mechelen these days best describes, we are really looking forward to being part of what Bart has in store for Mechelen.

It's amazing to see how a mayor, and his team of course, can turn around a city. Mechelen is always active in terms of family events in the streets, business initiatives ("small markets"), new appartments being built, cultural investments across town etc ..

And last but not least, Mechelen is one of the few cities, or example cities where the approach of the mayor made a great difference in terms of safety in the streets. Bart is being considered a "best practice" as mayor in terms of getting it right with safety matters being taken very seriously while respecting all ethnic groups and their background.

He deserves, as a young mayor, to be named best mayor of the world!!

Nominated by Sara Van B., Mechelen:
I think Mr Somers should win this contest because I very much like how refugee children are being integrated into our schools. All the schools, regardless of affiliation (both catholic and community schools – both are equally strong in Belgium) are working together closely to offer these children a 6 months crash course in the Dutch language. A pop-up-school is being installed at the refugee centre where each school in Mechelen donated some chairs, tables, teaching materials, etc…) to organise this. After completion of this course, these children will be integrated in the regular schools. I think this is an extraordinary idea. I know this because I myself live in Mechelen and my son goes to school here. I have heard from a friend in Antwerp that refugee children have just been dropped into their grade without the slightest preparation, no understanding of Dutch whatsoever. So I am very proud the way Mechelen is doing this in a different way, preparing these kids the best way possible to find their way in our schools.

Nominated by T.S., Mechelen:
I live in Mechelen for 10 years. The city changed a lot with B.Somers. There is a less of crimes. There is a less of discrimination. He is very strict when it is necessary. It’s a major who lives for his city. We feel that on thousand ways. He earns to be nominated.