Mayors talk pitfalls and successes in the Corona pandemic (Part One)

The Corona pandemic forced municipalities to react promptly to unprecedented change and thus mayors to operate throughout the different layers of the crisis with diligence, resourcefulness and grit. 

Being a mayor of any city is a big challenge in itself. But the increased pressure and demand to provide communities with relief during the pandemic makes it critical for citizens to remember that mayors are – above all – people, who must navigate through the same loss and grief as everyone else while remaining strong pillars of leadership. 

That is why in this blog series we asked members of our ACT NOW Mayors Network to share their biggest challenges and successes throughout the pandemic:

Beata Klimek, Mayor of Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland

“The Coronavirus crisis is a big challenge that has forced us mayors to create a completely new approach to local policy. As the Mayor of the city, I have set myself the goal of implementing completely new activities that would help in the fight against COVID–19, such as: free masks for inhabitants, financial aid for the hospital, a support hotline for residents. In a gesture of European solidarity Ostrów also donated 2,000 masks to two Italian cities.

The Coronavirus crisis taught us one more thing:  that in times of crisis we are able to show solidarity, to act jointly and across sectors. This solidarity is also visible among the city’s inhabitants, who – as part of the volunteering campaign launched by our city – provide help to those most in need (seniors / people with disabilities). Currently, the biggest challenge is the creation of a Mass Vaccination Center. I’m sure that this place will allow us to vaccinate as many inhabitants as possible.”

Mohamed Saadie, President of Union of Dannieh Municipalities, Lebanon

“COVID–19 has changed the way of life worldwide. Local authorities are at the forefront of this pandemic because they are the closest to people. In Dannieh, the major problem faced was to ensure safety to people in the absence of governmental support during the pandemic.

The Union of Dannieh Municipalities was keen to cover this shortage through the inclusive participation of volunteers, experts, and CSO’s. We created a Crisis Responsive Plan composed of fifteen committees to cover all the needs. Then, with this cooperation, we established a medical center to serve people infected with Coronavirus and reduce its impact. Although we achieved those successful initiatives, the challenges remain important on different levels: we have a lack of coordination of NGOs, besides the bureaucratic procedures and the shortage of materials for sterilization.”

Roman Götzmann, Mayor of Waldkirch, Germany

“The COVID–19 situation is particularly challenging because it’s hard to predict how things will develop and our circumstances as well as the respective rules and regulations are changing rapidly. The major challenge for me consisted in creating a better comprehension of the rules that came into force as well as in improving the efficiency of the application. We had to create a common spirit of cooperation, help and understanding which would help us to deal more effectively with this situation. 

I regard it as a great success that we could make, despite adverse conditions, small– scale events possible which improved social life under pandemic conditions. To give one example: the wine presentation on our marketplace allowed people to join individually and to enjoy special wines from our local wine producers. Many people said that they were very grateful for these moments.”

Radomír Brtáň, Mayor of Košeca, Slovakia

“We are all aware of the fact that moments are transient. We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. The COVID–19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health.

The protection of our residents has been considered the top priority since the very beginning of the pandemic. Due to severe face mask shortage we started making homemade fabric face masks and distributed them to all residents. We also offered our help with food and medicine deliveries to households. Later we provided the elderly with respirators and vitamin packs. In addition to all this, we continuously worked on investments: the primary school and kindergarten canteen extension, multi–functional playground, sidewalks, roads.

Last year we received the award on European level for Digital Innovations in Politics, in the category of Digitalisation, the project No Data Waste in Košeca. We keep on seeking out new ways to improve our tendencies and work on other eco–friendly solutions. To support community life by developing its course and giving a boost to cultural, sports events and social life are necessary goals.

In Slovakia, municipalities, cities, regions have always been, will always be the closest partners and helpers of people. Manifested humanity is reflected in the form of trust that is constantly given to us. Our duties are not easy, especially in times of the COVID–19 pandemic. However, if we never cease to put our hearts into everything we do, we will always be the greatest support for society.”