Elephants Enter Race

photo: cafe, rue lavandieres

A corner café-bar, 15 metres from Rivoli - in a
brief sunlit moment.

Who Wants To Be Mayor of Paris?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 6. March 2000:- For a bit of a change, a lot of weather has been coming from the northeast. This means it is a sort that starts somewhere around Greenland, and warms up a bit in the North Atlantic and crossing the British Isles.

By the time it reaches Paris it is mostly rain. Sometimes it is sleet, and sometimes it is between cloudbursts, and at other times it is really serious rain.

This sort of rain is not common in Paris. I know, I tell everybody this, and as soon as the first drops fall every Parisian and every visitor you see suddenly has an umbrella. I don't know where they get them from, but Allan Pangborn says they cost 35 francs.

Once, caught in a bit of serious rain, I ran into an umbrella shop, just after their prices had shot up to 105 francs. I lost that one somewhere. These days, when rain starts, umbrella vendors suddenly appear from nowhere - in theory - and you can buy one on the spot

But I wear a hat instead, keeping two hands free and never have to worry about my umbrella getting turned inside-out by a gust of wind. Without one it is easier to dodge those with them.

I do not know how long this type of weather will last because it is a bit unusual. I don't really care one way or the other because I go out in it no matter what it is. In fact, seeing serious rain is something of a novelty.

The forecast for the coming week has predicted warmer temperatures and quite a bit more sunshine. 'Almost spring-like,' was the phrase used.

The Battle for Paris' Hôtel de Ville

The municipal elections are just over a year off, but an unofficial campaign has been running ever since Paris' current mayor Jean Tiberi announced that he will be seeking for re-election.

The main issue behind all elections is control over the spending of tax revenues. The Ville de Paris has about two million residents - which is not so many - but it has 20 million part-time taxpayers, and they pay a lot.

Paris is France's largest city, located at the centre of France's most populous region - the Ile-de-France. Parisphoto: saussion de paris is also the national capital of France, so it is the government headquarters of mainland France and the country's offshore departments and territories.

A new one for me - Paris 'regional' food - saucisson de Paris, with purée St. Germain.

The city also has a particular administrative status; which is not matched elsewhere in France. Some of the city's administration is national - there is a Prefect, or governor; and this is another administration. Some if not all of Paris' police are national, and the entire fire department belongs to the French army.

The institution of a Paris mayor is a fairly recent one. I think the situation was somewhat similar to Washington DC. With the introduction of a civic authority, the idea is to allow local residents to have more say about their own urban affairs.

When asked to volunteer comments about life in Paris, Parisians mentioned trees, buses, noise, trucks, dogs, the environment, public gardens, youth, the city halls, the métro, motorcycles, parking, older people, the police, garbage containers, cleanliness, personal security, public transport, cars, bikes - and rollers! - more often than a hundred other subjects.

Reading through the past three issues of the Hôtel de Ville's magazine, 'Paris - Le Journal' gives me the impression that a lack of crèches is a major concern to all currently elected political parties - yet crèches are only mentioned a third as often as - rollers! - in the volunteered comments report.

Yet it should be obvious that lack of crèches are a civic minus; more than rollers, for example, are a civic plus. Another aspect is that having crèches costs money - which could be considered a long-term investment. Rollers are relatively tax and investment-neutral, and probably have no long-term value.

It is possible that people who shouldphoto: agri, cognac have commented about the lack of crèches were unable to because they were babysitting their kids.

But overall, it looks like the main concerns of Parisians boil down to three areas: transport, environment and security.

At the Salon de l'Agriculture - the cognac stand, with 88 varieties.

Currently, the actors concerned are gradually improving transport, both in frequency - slowly - and in pollution reduction. This last will affect the environment, but the biggest effect would be achieved by a reduction of road traffic in the city.

Security is a jurisdictional quarrel between the national and local levels of government. More common sense is required here than money.

Parachuting Elephants

Practically every election in France has something to do with picking the next President of France. In a Paris context, this is like saying getting the mayor's job can be a stepping stone to the national presidency - as the current president, Jacques Chirac, proved - although it took him 20 years to pull it off.

After the current mayor Jean Tiberi announced his candidacy for re-election 21 months early, without consulting his party machine - the RPR - there was stillness for a time.

Gradually, competing candidates have declared themselves as ready to run; mostly from within the ranks of Paris city council members.

The mayor's and the other candidacies have filled a lot of pages of the local newspapers, but this is only like a noisy introduction - it is not even 'Act 1.'

This first act has now begun, and it clearly shows that even if topics such as Parisian transport, environment and security concerns become campaign issues, this is not what the election will be about.

Now warming up in the right corner of the ring we have the formidable Philippe Séguin forphoto: agri carnival the RPR. This is both Jean Tiberi's and the president's political party; the same one that has self-imploded since the election of Jacques Chirac.

The RPR has had such bad times that Philippe Séguin nearly gave back his party card. In a nutshell, most centre-right conservatives don't know who they are anymore. The hefty Philippe Séguin, however, does.

A little bit of carnival for the food fair in Paris.

Over in the left corner of the ring, former socialist culture-czar and current mayor of Blois, natty Jack Lang, has just climbed through the ropes to begin warming up - only to find the Paris' city council's socialist leader, Bernard Delanoë already in place.

This leaves the diverse group of other candidates in the ring looking like they've showed up for the wrong weight division, the wrong bout, maybe even the wrong card.

This must be very distressing for them. These sincere people have been laboring over Paris' management problems on a day-by-day basis for a long time. They have their roots in Paris; many of them are also mayors of Paris' arrondissements.

There is a move afoot in the RPR camp to organize some sort of 'primary' election, so that a single candidate can be democratically selected.

Apparently this will be no easy matter, as there are only about 8000 card-carrying RPR party members in Paris and 2000 of these are registered in Jean Tiberi's 5th arrondissement.

Meanwhile, the Socialists are having their maneuvers too, but with the advantage of having a fairly cohesive single-party machine in the city. At the moment, Jack Lang doesn't care for Bernard Delanoë's proposals of debates before party members, and Bernard Delanoë doesn't care for Jack Lang's proposals.

In the European elections in June 1999, the Paris socialists did well in the city against a disarrayed gaggle of right-wing parties.

The Greens' Card

Given the local issues that may concern Paris voters more than anybody's presidential ambitions, the environmental party Les Verts will likely play a pure Paris card - and may throw whatever weight they gain to the socialist corner as they have done on a national level.

If the race is close, the greens could force more greenness on Paris. Jack Lang will probably go along with anything that looks popular. A 'green' Paris could be popular worldwide.photo: agri, wagon of plenty

Philippe Séguin in contrast, is a rare RPR idealist. He commands respect, he has weight and experience. But the RPR itself is fragile, and only rules in Paris now with the help of other parties.

France has 'wagons of plenty' instead of modest-sized horns. Photo: Allan Pangborn©2000

Philippe Séguin will in the Paris municipal race to 'stop the socialists' from taking over the Hôtel de Ville. Although he would make a fine mayor, 'stopping socialism' is probably not in itself a winning campaign slogan.

For Paris' new budget, opposition spokesmen on the Paris city council have noted that the amount for city 'public relations' has been boosted by more than 20 percent. There's an election coming up.

Café Metropole Club's 21th Session

The 21th weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' came off with more than its usual panache last Thursday. You can read all about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page.

Starting last week, the Thursday meeting 'report' will be re-run in this week's 'Club News' feature, so you won't have to go back to read about it.

However, this week's 'Club News' will not be an exact copy of last week's 'update' version. At the meetings, club members give 'Ed' tips and other news. Often these can only be included later, for Monday's regular edition.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.10 - 8. March1999 - The Café Metropole column was headlined: - 'Coming Soon: Another Birthday!' 'Au Bistro' had 'French Tabloid.' This issue had one feature, entitled 'Rare Chinese Ceramics.' This issue's 'Paris' Scene' hadphoto: s'adresser pour les sacrements 'Rare Chinese Ceramics.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Astronomist, Not Astrologist!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.10 - 9. March 1998 - The Café Metropole column was headlined 'Frankfurt Sends Its 'Bong' By Radio.' Something really silly.. The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Fake Cow Annoys Farmers.' This issue had two features, entitled 'Here Comes, There Goes, the Salon de l'Agriculture' and 'Rain and Shopping and More Rain on Rivoli.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Take Your Picture?'

The Metropole Paris Countdown to 31. December 2000:

Even though readers are specifically not asking for any countdown to the probable beginning of the next century, to the next millennium, whatever it is, this tedious countdown continues brainlessly with the 10th issue of 2000 because once something silly like this is started the longer it goes on the more idiotic it gets unless somebody complains but no one has yet.

This new countdown will last only 366 days, minus the 51 days already gone. The official reason for doing this is to give the Tour Eiffel a new chance to 'get it right' - and for a leap year it ought to - because so many count-down fans missed shouting 'Zéro' on Friday, 31. December 1999. The 'unofficial' reason will be revealed in due time.

There are about 301 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium.
signature, regards, ric

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