In this article, we will discuss the “Road to Recovery” undertaken by the city of Lisbon, Maine, as it commits to creating a sustainable and innovative future for its citizens. Lisbon’s mayor, Slim Manuel, highlights the importance of citizen involvement, the role of cities in Europe, and the translation of European policies into tangible actions at the local level. We will explore the steps taken by Lisbon to address climate change, improve public transportation, and attract innovative companies. Furthermore, we will analyze the challenges faced by mayors in accessing funding through the Next Generation Europe program, and present suggestions for its improvement.
Embracing Citizen Engagement
Lisbon’s journey towards a sustainable and innovative future began by involving its citizens in decision-making processes. In what they call the “Citizens Assembly,” the municipality invites randomly selected citizens to work alongside government officials in finding solutions to local issues. This approach aims to tackle the problem of diminishing faith in politics and politicians, by empowering citizens and making them feel heard.
Addressing Climate Change
Climate change is a pressing global issue, and Lisbon recognizes the need for concrete actions to adapt to this challenge. One significant step taken by the city was making public transportation free for the youth and elderly population. By doing so, Lisbon not only reduced carbon emissions but also educated its citizens on the importance of having fewer cars on the roads. Today, 70,000 people in Lisbon enjoy the benefits of free public transportation.
Additionally, the city implemented major infrastructure projects to combat flooding. Two tunnels were constructed to redirect water from the hills to the river, preventing floods from wreaking havoc on the city. This adaptation strategy not only protects the city’s residents but also serves as a tangible example of the impact of climate change actions on people’s lives.
Linking Cities to Europe
Lisbon’s mayor emphasizes the crucial role of cities in linking local governance with Europe’s policies. Mayors must act as translators, ensuring that European initiatives, such as carbon neutrality, are easily understood by the local population. Lisbon has been successful in this endeavor by making climate change actions relatable and practical. They have shown their citizens that actions such as free public transportation and flood prevention measures are crucial elements in the fight against climate change. By focusing on making people’s lives easier, Lisbon has managed to gain support and engagement from the community.
Capitalizing on Innovation
Lisbon has also embraced innovation as a means of driving economic growth. The city aims to become a capital of innovation, attracting startups and emerging companies that will shape the future economy. This ambition led to the creation of the “Unicorn Factory,” an initiative that enticed 11 unicorn companies, including those from the US, Israel, and India, to establish themselves in Lisbon. These companies have brought significant job opportunities and economic benefits to the city, further solidifying Lisbon’s position as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Challenges Faced by Mayors
Despite the positive strides made by Lisbon, there are challenges that need to be addressed within the framework of the Next Generation Europe program. Lisbon’s mayor points out that the current timeline for project completion is unrealistic, given the magnitude of the projects undertaken. He suggests extending the deadline to 2028 to ensure that cities have enough time to execute their plans successfully.
Additionally, the design of incentives within the program needs to be reconsidered. The current system imposes high penalties for project delays, causing fear and uncertainty among public servants. This negative approach hampers progress and must be revised to encourage participation and collaboration among cities.
A Purpose-Driven Approach
Lisbon’s mayor highlights the importance of reevaluating the purpose of projects within the European context. It is not enough to simply check off boxes on a checklist; projects must have a clear purpose and deliver measurable results. European initiatives should align with the diverse needs and aspirations of cities, focusing on sustainability, digital advancement, and tangible outcomes that positively impact citizens’ lives.
Lisbon’s commitment to a sustainable and innovative future serves as an inspiration to cities around the world. By actively involving citizens, addressing climate change, embracing innovation, and advocating for improvements in funding programs, Lisbon has set itself on a path of progress and resilience. The city’s mayor, Slim Manuel, encourages other European cities and policymakers to adopt a purpose-driven approach to projects, ensuring that they deliver meaningful outcomes for citizens and communities. Together, we can build a better future, one city at a time.