9 May 2019
Local Environmental Groups urge Cork voters to support a directly elected mayor
The position of a directly-elected mayor is all about the future of Cork city. And no part of the future is more critical than responding effectively to the urgent environmental challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. Cities around the world are leading the practical response to climate change and sustainable development. Even when national governments have fallen short, many cities have stepped up to the challenge of acting responsibly to secure a better future. But for this to happen, cities need strong political leadership.
That is why community groups focussing on the environment and sustainability — Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Climate Action, Cork Trees Trust, and Cork Cycling Campaign — are calling on voters to support a directly elected mayor.
An elected mayor would bring vision, coherence, accountability, and responsibility. The mayor would be a leading voice at local and national levels. He or she could articulate a new vision for the city, demand results from city hall, lead our local councillors, and be our voice at the national table. And the mayors could be removed if they failed to deliver.
We have many fine policies at local and national levels. What is missing is effective implementation.
Cork today is a proud and ambitious city. It’s a city of tremendous opportunity, but also of tremendous challenges. We will see huge population growth over the next 20 years. At the same time our planet is facing the urgent need for a transition to a sustainable society. We need a strong mayor who is responsible and accountable for handling Cork’s growing population, for housing everyone in energy efficient buildings, for delivering efficient and attractive transport options, and for providing high quality parks and green spaces for our residents and wildlife. Cork needs a clear and coherent vision to develop a sustainable and liveable city that delivers an exceptional quality of life for everyone.
At present, Cork cannot articulate and deliver this vision because no power and funding is devolved to a local level. For example, the city council cannot even put in a pedestrian crossing or shift a bus stop without getting permission and funding from Dublin. Cork needs increased power and funding. The environmental groups believe having a directly elected mayor is the best approach to achieve greater local control.
A strong mayor could drive big projects without excessive delays. The Events Centre, Tramore Valley Park, the Marina Park, and the Lee-to-Sea Greenway are all amazing opportunities for Cork. Right now they’re stalled because no one is responsible. With an elected mayor, there’ll be no doubt about who’s in charge.
Bernie Connolly of Cork Environmental Forum said “Cities are seen as the primary vehicle to deliver sustainability and directly elected mayors are very well placed for good urban governance and to deliver on more varied agendas.” She pointed to the example of how Jaime Lerner, the Mayor of Curitiba (Brazil), shifted the city’s course of development and succeeded in delivering a sustainable transport system, green areas, better social conditions and recycling initiatives.
Dr Dean Venables of the Cork Cycling Campaign noted “Cycling is an immediate step people can take to reduce their carbon emissions and boost their health at the same time. But it must feel safe. We have seen how City Hall can ignore serious concerns from the community and from councillors, even when it comes to public safety and responsible use of taxpayer money. That must change.”
Rob Hamilton of Cork Climate Action said “Climate Action needs to be Local Action. City mayors the world over are leading and inspiring the switch to sustainable living. Cork has had inspirational mayors in the past – now it’s important for the office to have real authority as well.”
In March, Cork’s young people marched in their thousands to demand action on climate change and the environment. The environmental groups urged voters to particularly remember their responsibility to the younger generation and to prioritise environmental issues at the polls.
Cork has a fiercely independent streak. The groups called on the people of Cork city to reflect this proud tradition and vote for a directly elected mayor.