I was very excited to find that Barcelona, Spain, has elected their first female Mayor, Ms. Ada Colau. Also, even more significant, she is an outspoken left-wing activist, a founding member of the PAH, which in English, stands for “Platform of Those Affected by Eviction”, a protest group organized in the aftermath of the financial crisis brought about by the collapse of the housing bubble.
Another equally amazing aspect to this, she has a radical agenda, which, if she is able to accomplish, would be a wonderful thing. As an American, it’s hard for me to understand how ANY politician, anywhere, could make such a difference, let alone a mere Mayor. But Barcelona is a big city. The following excerpt is from an interview on Democracy Now! She lists some of her aspirations.
Amy Goodman: A longtime anti-eviction activist has just been elected mayor of Barcelona, becoming the city’s first female mayor. Ada Colau co-founded the anti-eviction group Platform for People Affected by Mortgages and was an active member of the Indignados, or 15-M Movement. Colau has vowed to fine banks with empty homes on their books, stop evictions, expand public housing, set a minimum monthly wage of $670, force utility companies to lower prices, and slash the mayoral salary. Colau enjoyed support from the Podemos party, which grew out of the indignados movement that began occupying squares in Spain four years ago. Ada Colau joins us to discuss her victory.
ADA COLAU: [translated] Well, we already elaborate an emergency action plan that have 30 measures perfectly viable, ambitious but perfectly viable, for the first months in office. This emergency action plan consist of three main measures: first to create jobs and fight against job insecurity, another is to guarantee the basic rights, and the other is to fight against corruption, make a city council more transparent and end with the privileges, for example: lower the salaries of the public officers, of the elected officers, eliminate the expenses and the official cars, things that can seem simple, but are very symbolic because they send a message of an end of impunity, of an end of a political class distant to the reality of the citizens. So, end with this privileges is something that we can do immediately, is only a matter of political will. Without a doubt one of the first decisions as mayor will be to convene publicly to all the banks who works in the city to sit them around a table of dialogue in order to stop the evictions, and to demand that the empty dwellings they have in the city to be available for rent, as social rental (social housing) for the families that need it.
link to Democracy Now article http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/5/from_occupying_banks_to_city_hall
(T. Ashez) Astonishing, isn’t it? First, I see that Mayors have more political power in Spain than they do in the USA. Setting a minimum wage of $650 a month (this applies to the unemployed). Slashing salaries of government ministers, including her own salary. Taking away some of the ‘perks’ of officials, such as having a government car. Forcing banks to stop evictions, and to provide affordable housing for those in need.
My first thought is, “Why can’t we have big changes like this in the USA?” Part of the answer to that is the fact that in Europe, the electoral process is better. It’s not winner take all, and everyone else with minority views just goes away a loser. The races are not only between two candidates, but the vote is divided between coalitions of political parties. Ms. Colau now has her work cut out for her, it’s true; she must put together a government within 20 days. But she has the support of a major political party, Podemos (it means,”we can”), of whom Pablo Igleasias is the leader. He is a wonderful politician himself, a Marxist, but as I heard him say in a speech, he is not such an idealist, but he wants to include voices from the left and the right. (We’ll elect a Marxist here, maybe in a thousand years or so).
Another wonder has occurred in Madrid, as well. Another woman has been elected Mayor there. She is Manuela Carmena, a first-time politician, having never held political office. She is similarly socialist, in her attitudes. She wants to open up an exclusive golf club, which has, up ’till now, been the playground for Spain’s elite, to the public. It would be like nationalizing Hilton Head, and turning it into a public park (a good idea, I think). But she has won the election, and is busy, as is Ms. Colau, getting her government assembled. Why is it that government, in Spain, can be so much more responsive to the will of the people, while we in the USA must beg our government for scraps falling from the table, and nothing radical is possible?
Notice that these people are WOMEN, meaning they are intrinsically more apt to be concerned about the affairs of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and those in need. Meaning more so than men. I believe this would be a marvelous future for politics worldwide, if we could get more women in office. I hurry to add that there are exceptions to this, of course, especially now, in these early days. Some women have become defensive, after being attacked for their femininity, and have let the “pendulum swing the other way”, so to speak, becoming more male, in their politics, than their male counterparts. In other words, and I hate the use of this phrase, but they want to emphasize that they “have balls too”. I’m thinking of one particular woman running for office, who has been very hawkish, in her past voting. I think she will actually act quite like many aggressive men, if elected, to compensate for being female, much in the way that President Obama has at times acted more white than an actual white man would have, to compensate for his race. He felt that he had to reassure everyone that he would be a president for every American.
But, at least in Spain, something great has happened, and we all should take heart from it, and wish them well!