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, envronment and security concerns become campaign issues, this is not what the election will be about.


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