Jessica Dailey

What is a Sustainable City? Four Influential Green Mayors Discuss During the Festival of Ideas

by , 05/09/11

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Sergio Fajardo – Former Mayor of Medellín, Colombia

Like Fetterman, Fajardo never planned to run for Mayor. He was a mathematician who turned a civic movement into politics and transformed Medellín, once the murder capital of the world, into a tourist destination. He came to politics because he wanted to make “what was a privilege for me” — education, a job, safety — “should be a right for everyone else.” Like many other Colombian cities, Medellín was rife with corruption, inequality, and violence for decades. The valleys of the city, which is a mile high on a mountain, became filled with slums and poor communities.

Fajardo gained the trust of Medellín’s citizens by walking everywhere and talking with the people. For Medellín, citizen participation has been crucial to its remaking and drive for sustainability. By being completely transparent with his administration’s politics, Fajardo was able to work with the people to increase public space, transform the transportation system, and build gorgeous public buildings.

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One of his crowning achievements was the construction of the España Library and plaza. The stunning building is built on the edge of a cliff, in an area that was one of the poorest and least safe in Medellín. Fajardo said they built it there to bridge the divide between different parts of the community. Now, the library is perhaps the most well known symbol of Medellín’s rebirth, and the plaza is home to dozens of stands with local artisans selling their wares.

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