As Lord Mayor, a politician and a citizen, there is a lot I am proud of in Copenhagen. And over the past four years, we have made some enthusiastic strides towards making this great city even greater.
We Copenhageners are increasing by the day. Visitors from across the globe want to come and see what we’ve achieved. On a sunny day, nothing beats this old place. A lot has been done to make the city more appealing on the surface. But what I’m really proud of is what has been achieved down in the city’s engine room.
As I write this, every school is being renovated to accommodate our current and future needs. We are about to wean our city of diesel cars to improve air quality and promote a green environment. We succeeded in changing national legislation to allow for more housing to be built, and we’re en route to constructing 10,000 affordable homes in Copenhagen within the decade. That is the city I’m trying to create – a city for the future, for the many, in blossoming green colours. As mayor I work for small victories, broad coalitions and results.
But Copenhagen is still facing challenges. Some have been taken care of. Some require more work. First and foremost, we must continue to work out ways to create a healthier environment in the city. Copenhagen’s air quality is not good enough when ranked against other European cities. As Lord Mayor, I have started this work. Beginning in 2019, new diesel cars will not be allowed to enter the city. Diesel cars are some of the worst polluters of NOx gases, which are extremely hazardous to humans. We will also offer a cash incentive to encourage residents to discard their wood-burning stoves. While they may have played a notable role in creating ‘hygge’ – Denmark’s greatest export since salted butter – they are also terrible polluters. We have to give up some good things in order to make larger improvements in our lives.
We will also make sure that polluting cruise ships are switched off when docked in Copenhagen, and move more quickly to replace our old fuel-powered busses with clean electric ones.
For me, this type of work is visionary but realistic, and is a classic case of well-executed politics. Some will label me anti-motorist and the mother of all evil, while others think I burn brown coal in my garden – and also think I am the mother of all evil. As Lord Mayor, I will do more to secure a clean city, but we need to do it in a balanced manner so we don’t disproportionately hurt people whose livelihoods are dependent on being able to navigate the city streets by car.
The same approach can be applied to Copenhagen’s housing woes. Our city is popular, so we need more affordable and flexible housing. But it needs to be supplied in a manner befitting our beautiful city. Liberalising our planning laws without concern for the soul of the city will lead us down worse paths, like those taken by other cities when acting out of desperation.
Over the past four years, we have worked on developing affordable housing across the city. First, we amended our national legislation in order to require that a quarter of units in new housing developments are designated as affordable, rent-controlled housing – almenyttigt boligbyggeri. Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s Social Democrat government made this possible in 2015. By 2025, 10,000 of these homes will have been built. In the past two years alone, 2,000 student apartments have been built, and we’re en route to building 4,000 more before 2020.
But this election is about more than clean air and housing, it’s about what kind of society we are striving to achieve, day after day, election after election. In my ideal society, Copenhagen is a city for everyone – rich and poor, young and old, Danes and non-Danes. It’s a city where creativity isn’t just for the creative, but where everyone with an idea and a willingness to try can create something of lasting benefit to us all. As the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, I’m proud of the cultural initiatives that are hosted in our city, from the Jazz Festival and Distortion to Gay Pride and the Copenhagen Marathon. Copenhagen is a city of this century, thriving on ingenuity and equality. So let’s keep it that way. I will continue to perform my duty as the Lord Mayor. You go do yours as citizen: Vote! M