A Basque in Boise

Iñaki Azkuna, Mayor of Bilbao (Basque Country), awarded the 2012 World Mayor Prize

People from Bilbao, my country folks, listen up! The news might seem like one of those bragging jokes from Bilbao, but this time it’s true. Iñaki Azkuna, the Mayor of Bilbao, has been named the best Mayor in the world (sorry, Dave). That’s what the British Foundation of City Mayors decided today in London.


Iñaki Azkuna, Mayor of Bilbao (Basque Country), awarded the 2012 World Mayor Prize

Iñaki Azkuna, Mayor of Bilbao, Spain, has been awarded the 2012 World Mayor Prize. It has been said that Bilbao’s transformation from a declining industrial city in Spain’s northern Basque Province to an international centre for tourism and the arts has been sparked by two events: the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997 and the election of Iñaki Azkuna as mayor two years later.

When in the early 1990s Bilbao decided to spend almost US$230m of public money on a museum for modern art, many doubters accused the city of squandering precious resources. But developments since then have silenced the critics. Annual visitor numbers to the city increased from 100,000 before the museum’s opening to more than 700,000 in 2011. The Guggenheim is estimated to have contributed some €2.4 billion (US$3.1bn) to the Basque Province’s GDP since October 1997.

Since being first elected, Mayor Iñaki Azkuna has used the high profile of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry, to rebuild the city. The Bilbao Guggenheim has become as iconic as the Sydney Opera House.

Unlike most cities in Spain and Europe, Bilbao is virtually debt-free. During the years of prosperity in the early part of this century, the city, under the administration of Iñaki Azkuna, steadily reduced its debt until it was paid off in 2011. The city will now only incur new debt for projects that will strengthen the future of Bilbao.

Runner-up in the 2012 World Mayor Project and winner of the World Mayor Commendation for services to her city is Lisa Scaffidi, Mayor of Perth, Western Australia. First elected in October 2007, the mayor has succeeded in raising the city’s international profile while at the same time making local bread-and-butter issues her priority. She regards social media as the promotional tool of the 21st century and says she communicates through Facebook and Twitter with many citizens which she could not reach by more traditional means.

Mayor Scaffidi became a member of Perth City Council in 2000. She toldCity Mayors that she became involved in local issues and subsequently politics within the neighbourhood to which she had moved in 1998. “In early 2000 some people encouraged me to run for Council so l did so, and won. From day one l discovered a whole new world that l found incredibly interesting and particularly the discussions around the city and urban planning. I have always loved cities and thinking about what makes them ‘tick’,” she explained.

Thanks to an abundance of natural resources in Western Australia and careful planning, Mayor Scaffidi is certain that Perth will become one of the world’s most desirable cities to live and invest in.

Third place in the World Mayor Project went to Joko Widodo, Mayor of Surakarta, Indonesia, who in July 2005 became the first directly-elected mayor of his city and in September 2012 was elected Governor of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. While Mayor of Surakarta – also known as Solo – Joko Widodo turned a crime-ridden city into a regional centre for arts and culture, which has started to attract international tourism. His campaign against corruption earned him the reputation of being the most honest politician in Indonesia. Joko Widodo also declined to take a salary while mayor of Surakarta.

The World Mayor Project

World Mayor, a project conceived and organised by the City Mayors Foundation, aims to raise the profile of mayors worldwide, as well as to honour those who have made long-lasting contributions to their communities and are committed to the well-being of cities nationally and internationally. According to city residents from all continents, a great mayor must possess these qualities: honesty, leadership and vision, good management abilities, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and to protect the environment, as well as having the skill to cultivate good relations in communities with different cultural, racial and social backgrounds. The World Mayor Project started in 2004.The City Mayors Foundation, set up in 2003 as an urban think tank and campaigning organisation, is instrumental in promoting good, open and honest local government through its Code of Ethics.

In 2004 Edi Rama won the Prize for his achievements in turning the drab and neglected post-communist capital of Albania into a thriving western European city.

As Mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyannis contributed substantially to the success of the 2004 Summer Olympics and ensured that the Games would be of long-lasting benefit to the Greek capital. After receiving the 2005 World Mayor Prize, she was appointed Greek foreign minister. More recently, as a member of the Greek parliament, she has acknowledged the severity of the country’s economic situation while many of her political friends still promoted populist policies.

John So, the winner of World Mayor 2006, was Melbourne’s first directly elected Lord Mayor. Born in Hong Kong, he represents an example of the ‘Australian dream’.

Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town, and winner of the 2008 World Mayor Prize, has been described as an ‘amazing lady’ who in a country devoid of present-day role models was making a difference and giving people hope. One admirer said: “Her only equals are Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in Southern Africa.” Helen Zille is now Premier of the Western Cape Province.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of Mexico City, has been awarded the 2010 World Mayor Prize. Described by the French newspaper Le Monde as the leader of Mexico’s mainstream left, Marcelo Ebrard was Mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012. During his time in office, the mayor never shied away from challenging Mexico’s orthodoxy. He championed the rights of women and minorities and became an outspoken and internationally respected advocate on environmental issues.

World Mayor runners-up were:

In 2004: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico City}; in third place – Walter Veltroni (Rome). In 2005: Hazel McCallion (Mississauga, Canada); in third place – Alvaro Arzú (Guatemala City). In 2006: Job Cohen (Amsterdam); in third place – Stephen Reed (Harrisburg, USA). In 2008: Elmar Ledergerber (Zurich); in third place – Leopoldo López (Chacao, Venezuela). In 2010: Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City, USA); in third place Domenico Lucano (Riace, Italy)


While mayors can be nominated at anytime for the World Mayor Prize, the Project is publicly conducted over a twelve-month period. The first round took place from January to May 2012. During that period, the City Mayors Foundation invited a global audience to submit nominations for mayors deemed worthy of being numbered among the most outstanding city leaders in the world. The first-round nomination process ended on 17 May 2012.

During the second round of World Mayor 2012, from 18 June to 20 October 2012, a worldwide audience was invited to select from the shortlist of 25 mayors their choice of title candidate. In order to have their votes registered participants were required, as in round one, to provide a supporting statement. Some 463,000 individuals and organisations worldwide participated in the second round of World Mayor 2012.

When establishing the rules for the project, the City Mayors Foundation emphasised that the strength of argument expressed in testimonials carried more weight than the number of votes. By stressing the significance of well-argued comments, the organisers aimed to ensure that contest participants thought carefully about the merits of their chosen mayors. Publication of many comments on the World Mayor website also enabled comparison. These rules furthermore allowed mayors from smaller cities to compete on equal terms with those from large metropolises.

For more information, visit the World Mayor website here.

Para leer la noticia en castellano, haz clic aquí.

Berria euskaraz irakurtzeko, sakatu hemen.

Thanks for passing by: ↓

Mark Bieter Jean Flesher MARIA JESUS NeskaBaska Ellen Espizua Caamano

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Confianza online