The People's Mayor
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 1764 Date : Monday, March 10, 2014 - 06:07:46

    Satya Andhika for Forbes Indonesia

    Architects are great at designing buildings-but does that mean they can run a city? Bandung is finding out under Ridwan Kamil, elected in June as mayor. As the founder of PT Urbane Indonesia, Emil (as Ridwan is known) is formerly one of Indonesia’s most prominent architects. But it is in Bandung, where he was born and raised, that he hopes to make his greatest impact on an urban environment—as the mayor. His role model? The Japanese city of Kyoto. “My dream is to make Bandung like Kyoto, it is modern but still has a Japanese identity,” Emil says.

    The analogy is not as farfetched as it might sound. Bandung, like Kyoto, is proud of its history, culture and architecture. Bandung has long enjoyed the nickname the “Paris of Java” and attracts six million tourists for a city of 2.5 million. That success has become its weakness, as the huge influx of people have started to overwhelm the city’s infrastructure. Enormous traffic jams that rival those in Jakarta are becoming the norm. Many of the streets, for example, have not been properly maintained, causing more congestion. The problems are also caused by previous mismanagement and corrupt bureaucracy.

    The city’s former mayor has been declared a suspect in a bribery case by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Progress has been slow—of the 300 problems on Emil’s checklist, only 20 were solved in his first 100 days—but Emil is determined. To deal with those problems, he is bringing innovative solutions so that modernity goes along with Bandung’s artistic identity.

    In a bid to engage more residents in the spirit of urban renewal, Emil created “Bandung Fun Days,” a program for each day of the week. Monday is free bus day for students—an effort to reduce traffic jams. Tuesday is a no smoking day. Wednesday is Sundanese day, during which people are encouraged to speak Sundanese and wear West Java attire. Thursday is for speaking English. Friday is bicycle day (even Emil bikes to work—he says it stimulates creative ideas).

    The new government has also renovated public parks—and opened new ones. One of the latest is Taman Jomblo (jomblo is slang for single) under the Pasopati Bridge, where scavengers and the homeless used to seek shelter. Located just across from a mall, the young people seem to have more fun there, sitting or skateboarding in the park. “We want people to have more time outside their houses and I’m not surprised the park is now crowded by people,” says Emil.

    Emil believes that social media can help make his government more efficient. He requires every government office to have a Twitter account, and he encourages officials and subdistrict heads to communicate using Whatsapp. (If a citizen sees a problem, he can snap a photo of it and send it in.) In the long term, however, Emil is focused on improving  Bandung’s infrastructure. “In the next three years our energy will be focused on infrastructure, and after that is settled then the city can start to innovate,” he says.