Corine Mauch, Mayor of Zurich, Switzerland

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Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch:
All citizens must benefit
from the city’s success

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

25 December 2009: In an interview with City Mayors, Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch said maintaining the city’s quality of life, improving its sustainability and delivering housing for all - not just the well off - were the main issues she would be judged on at the end of her term in office.

Corine Mauch was elected mayor of Zurich in March 2009. She succeeded the popular Elmar Ledergerber, who caused a surprise by stepping down before the end of his term. She is the first female mayor of Zurich and also the first openly gay one. She was the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SP) candidate in the election and was successful in a two round contest. In the second ballot on 29 March 2009 she won comfortably against long-term city councillor Kathrin Martelli from the Free Democratic Party. Corine Mauch is from a political family. Her mother, Ursula Mauch, was chair of the SP Group in the Swiss Federal Parliament from 1987 - 1995.

Mayor Mauch supports the strongly pro European Union position of her party. “Joining the EU will be the right thing to do in the future,” she says. “We are situated in the very heart of Europe. We exchange 60 per cent of our exports and 80 per cent of our imports with EU countries. Global issues like the impacts of climate change or migration across borders affect Switzerland and the EU alike and cannot be approached by a single nation. Switzerland and the EU have a lot to offer to each other. To be the odd one out would put us at a growing disadvantage,“ the Mayor told City Mayors.

Corine Mauch grew up in Aargau, a region in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and arrived in Zurich in 1983 to attend university. She graduated from the ETH University in agricultural economics and from the Switzerland Graduate School of Public Administration.     

Mauch began her political activity in the city as a citizen and was later a member of the city parliament where she was floor leader of the Social Democrat group and president of the audit committee. “To campaign for mayor and get involved with the city’s issues on the executive’s side was the right next step for me,” she says. “I am proud and thankful that the people of Zurich entrusted me with this challenge.”

Although some press attention in the election campaign focused on gender and sexuality Ms Mauch says this was not a central issue for the voters. “Fortunately this was not made a central issue at all. People in Zurich are very open-minded, liberal and tolerant. I could base my election campaign on political topics.“

Foremost amongst these was quality of life. The mayor emphasised that maintaining that quality of life required work and investment especially in the cultural sector. She believes that fostering and supporting what she describes as ‘ new and alternative forms of culture‘ mark the heartbeat and mentality of a city.

Her other two prime issues were housing affordability and sustainability. She campaigned for strategies that might deliver flats for all people not just the well-off to maintain Zurich’s social mix

Mayor Mauch highlighted the social mix in her priorities in office too. “Housing is an urgent issue. The city is growing and more people want to live here than there are flats being built,” she says. The success of the city has made it difficult for families to pay the rising rents,” she explained.

Zurich’s population is projected to increase to over 400,000 by 2011.

Corine Mauch has cited pressing on with Zurich’s sustainability polices as crucial to the success of her first term and welcomes the attitude towards action on climate change which citizens have demonstrated in referendums and elections. “Zurich voters have anchored sustainability in the city constitution,” she says. “It is an obligation for us to develop our city in a sustainable way. We must also diversify our economy and strengthen sectors other than the predominant financial industry. Life sciences and Clean Tech are two clusters with future potential.”

The city has reduced its carbon emissions by 8.3 per cent between 1990 and 2006. Its citizens have already voted to reduce their emissions from 6 tons per person in 1990 to 1 ton per person in 2050.

Zurich’s energy efficiency efforts have been rewarded with the gold standard in the European Energy Awards in recent years, placing it regularly at or near the top performers amongst the 170 cities which participate in the measured system..

One of the less attractive aspects of the city in the 1990’s was the extent of drug addiction and related crime and ant-social behaviour. The mayor strongly supports the strategy implemented in recent years. She says it is effective because of the commitment of the public authorities involved and its basis of four concerted fields of action. Prevention, rehabilitation, harm reduction and law enforcement.

Stadt Zurich’s employee numbers have been rising though, as in most cities, staffing costs are likely to become an urgent and difficult issue in the present circumstances. The city had 23,311 employees in 2004 and this had risen to 25,466 in 2008. However, so far, it has been able to deal well with the changing economic circumstances.

Corine Mauch told City Mayors that the city had a reduction in tax income of 20 per cent and an overall decline in economic activity of around five per cent when the banking industry was hit by the financial crisis. “But thanks to prudent financial policies during the boom years, the city had accumulated a reserve of one billion swiss francs by the time the 2008 crisis impacted on us. That is why we do not have to delay or cancel our major projects,” the mayor emphasized.

Corine Mauch said following Elmar Ledergerber, her high-profile predecessor, was a positive factor. “The city of Zurich benefits from the effort my he made and from the awareness he created for the city and its issues. Beyond that, every mayor has their own way of promoting and pursuing specific policies.” The mayor sees her role very much as representing the city and its interests on a national and international level as well as locally.

Mayor Mauch says that opportunities are a feature of life in Zurich. “I came to the city 26 years ago as a student to attend one of the outstanding universities in the city. I was part of the city’s cultural life playing bass guitar in different bands. I worked here and got involved in city politics as a member of the city parliament.“

“It was the city’s educational offer that brought me here, its economic offer that allowed me to stay and its cultural scene and quality of life that made me a true fan of Zurich.”

Alluding to her sexuality Corine Mauch told City Mayors that it was the open social and political structure that offered her the possibility of running for office. “Zurich benefits from people bringing their ideas, their culture and their commitment to the city and make it this special place it is today.”

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