The new left-wing mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó of the regionalist party Compromís, has announced that he is selling off one of the two luxury cars that his predecessor used to move around the Mediterranean city.
The armored Audi A8 will no longer be necessary, partly because of its inefficient gas mileage – it guzzles 20 liters for every 100 kilometers – and partly because of the image of excess that it conveys.
Ribó made this announcement on Wednesday on his first official act, a visit to the local police headquarters, where he arrived in a city-owned Ford Mondeo.
Ribó also said he will reduce the mayor’s salary, although he did not specify by how much
“The Mondeo is a super car and it is made in Valencia, so I don’t see why we can’t drive around in one of these, there’s nothing wrong with it. There are gestures that show one wants to seem above the rest, but I like to be just a regular guy,” he added.
“I take my bike to work, but I would like to attend these official events in a different way out of respect, and the bicycle is not the best way to do that,” he said. “I have a car and I like to drive it, let me make that clear, but we need to encourage public transportation and bicycle use in the city.”
Ribó, 67, led by example on Monday by biking to City Hall on his first day on the job. The environmentalist has said that one of his priorities will be to launch a municipal bicycle agency.
Vicent Aparici, a senator for the PP, tweeted a picture of Mayor Ribó going to work on his bicycle earlier this week and recommended that he be fined for not wearing a helmet.
But cycling associations quickly pointed out that wearing a helmet within city limits is only mandatory for riders 16 or under. Aparici has since deleted his message.
In another symbolic step, the new mayor ordered the doors of Valencia City Hall to remain open from 8am to 3pm, thus allowing any citizen to come and take a look at the place where decisions get made.
Ribó said he will reserve one day a week for one-on-one meetings with individuals and associations wishing to make requests or complaints. These will be his “connection lines” with the citizens of Valencia.
The new local leader, who reached power with support from the Valencian Socialists and the leftist group València en Comú, wishes to visibly break with his predecessor, Rita Barberá of the Popular Party (PP) conservatives. Barberá, a controversial figure whose name has cropped up in connection with several corruption scandals, including Gürtel and Nóos, had ruled the city uninterruptedly since 1991.
Ribó said he will reduce the mayor’s salary, although he did not specify by how much. He also proposed creating a local anti-corruption office to allow people to file anonymous complaints.
Another early move will be an audit of the city’s finances. “City Hall is the first company in the city, and when you take charge of something like that it is your obligation to know what the situation is like,” said Ribó. When she turned in her councilor’s seat on Friday, Rita Barberá said that Valencia had a surplus of €100 million.