Before new legislation for a Dublin Mayor is introduced, Dublin City’s Lord Mayor, Emer Costello, explains how a Mayor can work under the existing legislation
Last June I was deeply honoured to be elected the 340th Lord Mayor of Dublin – the seventh woman to hold the position. I was elected unanimously by the City Council, the first time this had happened in over 100 years.
The Lord Mayor can exert influence in all spheres of City life that can transcend the limitations of the office. Certainly, being Lord Mayor opens doors and presents opportunities to the incumbent. The challenge is how to maximise those opportunities. Leadership is the key and I have striven to lead from the front.
From the outset I decided that economic renewal in the City, specifically dealing with the increasing problem of unemployment would be the focus of my term as Lord Mayor. The stark figures showed that urgent action was needed – 71,000 jobs lost to the city between June 2007 and June 2009. In June 2009, when I became Lord Mayor, 100,000 people were on the live register and 1 in 4 were considered long-term unemployed. At the same time, the greater Dublin region accounts for four out of every ten jobs and half of all goods and services produced in Ireland and must become the engine of national economic recovery.
One of the first actions I took was to establish the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment to promote employment and economic renewal in the City. In September 2009 the Lord Mayor’s Commission put out a public “Call for Ideas” in a bottom up approach which really caught the public imagination. We received 120 submissions, with many innovative and creative ideas for boosting the City’s economy, creating employment and improving our competitiveness. The Commission is examining all of these proposals and holding workshops and conferences .
The soul of any City is its people and the Lord Mayor of the City, the first citizen, needs to find and understand that soul. Since last June I have travelled the length and breadth of the City and met an extraordinary range of individuals and groups. Each of these experiences has informed my work. My own professional background is in international co-operation in education. As I wish to make Dublin the jewel in the crown of European Cities, I also sought to create and develop transnational links between Dublin and other cities. My role as Lord Mayor involves meeting with Ambassadors to Ireland and helping to promote and develop links between our countries. I have engaged with our twin cities of Barcelona and San Jose.
In March I will lead a delegation of the City Council and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to Silicon Valley in California and will meet the Mayor of New York to establish business and fraternal links and hopefully create business and employment opportunities for Dublin. The City Council has invested heavily in the promotion of international cultural festivals in Dublin such as the Chinese New Year Festival and the Festival of Russian Culture and I have been happy to play my part in fully supporting these events. As Lord Mayor I have a particular responsibility in bringing the City Development Plan to fruition. Following intense debate over four meetings of the City Council, the Draft Dublin City Development Plan (2011 – 2018) has been put on public display.
As Lord Mayor I have been active in promoting dialogue with our citizens on one of the most fundamental and important vision statements for our City. The challenge for the Development Plan is to ensure that Dublin can project itself as a dynamic competitive city, open for business and capable of attracting inward investment while at the same time ensuring that we protect our quality of life, culture, heritage and identity. The document on display is a proposal and we need the input of the citizens of the City to ensure we get it right.
Other challenges which faced the City Council this year included the controversial introduction of the Bus Corridor at College Green and the extension of the 30K speed limit in the City Centre. The debates on these matters both in the Council Chamber and in the media show that the City Council does have the flexibility and capacity to listen to its citizens and to review decisions in the best interests of all the citizens.
Highlights of my year include the arrival of the Samuel Beckett Bridge which I have no doubt will become an icon for Dublin in future years. The Luas to the Docklands area has greatly enhanced our transport infrastructure and will bring much needed footfall to the area. Dublin was designated European Capital of Sport for 2010. The Dublinbikes scheme has proven to be an unprecedented success. The Innovation Dublin Festival, in November, held almost 500 events showcasing innovation in the City, proving Dublin to be a creative, smart, outward and forward-looking twenty-first-Century City.