Feature

How not to govern the capital.

The week's news at a glance.

France

Bertrand Le Gendre
Le Monde

Paris is a dysfunctional city, said Bertrand Le Gendre in Le Monde. The “worst overcrowding” is in the suburbs, scene of last year’s immigrant riots, while most of the hospitals and other services are in the less populous center. Yet there is no one who can decree that tax money flow to the suburbs, because Paris isn’t governed by a single central authority. Instead, it has “layers upon layers” of councils and boards with overlapping mandates that squabble over every proposed development. There is the City of Paris, made up of 20 arrondissements, with a mayor elected by the city council. Then there is the département of Paris, which matches the borders of the City but has its own authority. The nearest banlieues, or suburbs, which are considered part of Greater Paris, have their own governments. And then Greater Paris as a whole is divided into seven councils and 1,300 communes, or townships. No wonder the city can’t make any decisions that would relieve overcrowding and provide infrastructure in the suburbs—there are simply too many competing interests. Paris needs a strong executive, as London has. London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone reigns supreme over his city and its outlying suburbs, an area 15 times the size of Paris. The key is that he is directly elected by all residents. That would be a radical change for Paris: “Suffrage for all Parisians!”

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