What former mayor of Athens failed to do

No doubt the job of running one of the dirtiest and environmentally degraded cities in Europe is a major challenge. Dora Bakoyannis, who just left the post of mayor in order to head the Foreign Ministry, had the good fortune to head City Hall during the Athens Olympics, when responsibilities were great but so were the possibilities. As funds poured into the municipality in advance of summer 2004, the city council managed to conceal some of the uglier aspects of Athens and bask in the spotlight. Bakoyannis was made «World Mayor for 2005.» However, the major changes that everyone was expecting to improve the environment and life in Athens didn’t happen, and nor was anyone really willing to make them. A typical example is the extremely small proportion of green space per person, which in fact decreased further between 2000 and 2005. To a great extent, Bakoyannis always focused on the center of the city, smartening it up – to be fair, she preferred planting flowers to her predecessors’ predilection for installing railings. Considerable funds granted for restoring sidewalks were put to use only in the city center (and even then not in the best way possible) while roads and sidewalks in other neighborhoods, particularly those in more out-of-the-way and downmarket areas, almost look as if they have been bombed out. It is also true that the municipality has no jurisdiction over many of the city’s critical problems. However, it could make itself heard, investigate, make proposals and wage campaigns. That is what we and those who voted for Bakoyannis expected, but did not get. Another of the city’s unsolved problems is the atmospheric pollution that is undermining the health of thousands of Athenians. Unfortunately, the municipal council did not abide by its campaign promises in this area and did not do what it could have to fight the smog. That does not mean that nothing was done, as can be seen below. However, once again the environment was not high on the political agenda.