MUSTAFA SARIGÜL :“We are the first municipality to apply Urban planning concept”

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Eklenme Tarihi: October 7, 2013 MR X
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Mustafa Sarıgül’s proudest action is that he is the first mayor to think of and apply the concept of urban planning… “We especially analyzed and took an example of how European cities apply urban design and city planning. We took everything that looked good or that we found well without looking at who made it, without any prejudice, we developed it and we applied it.”

 

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He is Turkey’s most famous mayor… Mustafa Sarıgül is the mayor of one of Istanbul’s biggest districts, Şişli, however he is known all throughout Turkey. He started his political life at an early age as a deputy and he has been the Mayor of Şişli Municipality for three terms. Mustafa Sarıgül, who wants to get further in politics with his candidacy for CHP’s chairman position and his efforts to establish a new party, is now being discussed for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. CHP is expected to nominate Sarıgül for the position. However we had a discussion with Sarıgül about topics besides politics like municipal work, Şişli, his grandchildren and his family.

When people ask you what your profession is, how do you reply?

I am an educator; I finished Marmara University Faculty of Education. However I did not become a teacher, circumstances brought me to other things. When it comes to being a politician, I do not believe that politics can be a profession; because there is no school for politics. Yes, there are political science departments at universities however you do not become a politician by studying it here. Politics is about loving the community, it is about love and it comes from the heart. And it can only exist when the community corresponds. It does not have any boundaries or working hours like other jobs and professions.

Why do you think people who at one point in their lives have been involved in politics, never say “Enough is enough, now I want to work on my hobbies”?

Like I said previously, politics can only continue when the people correspond. However once you are really involved it is very hard to leave it. As long as you have the energy and the people have demands and kindness, you keep doing it. I agree with you, unfortunately in our country a lot of politicians retire when they pass away.  I will tell you this; if you see that the work you put in pays off when you go out on the street, go to a neighborhood or a wedding, in other words, when you see the people’s appreciation and admiration, there is no greater pleasure in the world. Maybe this might be the answer to your question. I believe the only exception to this in Turkey is Erdal Inönü, he set an example by retiring from politics at his own will.

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Is politics a way of life, work or a hobby for you? How do you evaluate it?

It is definitely a way of life. I do this because I really love it. Besides you cannot do it if you do not love it. It does not have any time, location or limits. To look for and solve people’s problems is very joyous, however it is also quite difficult. This is why you cannot do politics as only a task, if you do, you will not be successful. For 35 years I have been involved in every aspect of politics, it is now my way of life.

You have brought a new style to municipal work and mayoralty in Turkey. How did you build the foundation for this approach? Were there any applications you took as a model or did you and your colleagues develop the system?

The day I was elected as mayor, I sat down with my friends and we thought about what we were going to do. There was the local government legislation and the people of our districts demands and expectations in front of us. And we decided on this: Anyone who lives in Şişli or anyone who passes by is our concern. After that day, we shaped our entire vision according to this. First basic municipal work was going to be done without delay; furthermore there will be projects created for the citizens every social, cultural, educational, psychological and health needs and expectations. We tried to build a model, citizens later called it the Şişli Model. There were not enough schools, so we built schools, there were not enough health centers, so we opened policlinics, we listened to the problems of the retired people, we opened rehabilitation centers for the handicapped. In other words, whatever the people who lived in this district needed, we listened. This lead to a merger and unity between the community and the municipality. While we were doing this, we especially analyzed and took an example of how European cities apply urban design and city planning. We took everything that looked good or that we found well without looking at who made it, without any prejudice, we developed it and we applied it.

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YILMAZ BÜYÜKERŞEN IS VERY SUCCESSFUL

Are there any municipal applications or mayors that you admire in Turkey or in the world?

In Turkey, Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality sets a very good example. Mr. Büyükerşen gave the city a modern European identity. We studied many foreign cities; we were especially in touch with the mayors of Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin and our contract still exists.

Which of your municipal applications received most attention?

We are the first municipality to think of and apply the concept of urban city planning and we are proud of it. Especially during the years we started working, our renovations of the buildings in Nişantaşı- Teşvikiye, Halaskargazi and Cumhuriyet street, our efforts in eliminating billboard ads and air conditioners and our  restorations of historical buildings were held up as an example in Istanbul and other cities in Anatolia. Especially our urban planning work in Nişantaşı, Abdi İpekçi Street turned these places to attraction centers. Many famous brands that had closed their shops in this street reopened them. Now even New Year’s celebrations as well as other cultural events take place here and this is very important in the promotion and tourism of our country.

 

 

 

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We turn the inactive terrains between neighborhoods, without looking at how big they are, into children’s playgrounds in 24 hours. So far we have built 170 parks in 28 neighborhoods. I am not against tall buildings, however their foundation planning should be done correctly and there should be enough green places and social living areas around them…

 

 

How do you think a modern local administration should be? How would you summarize it?

A modern local administration should firstly look after the city. This is a requirement of civilization. They should not only make projects for the needs and demands of one part of the city, but the whole. Nowadays cities are vastly growing, as they grow we should attach importance to the identity and texture of the city to keep it living. I want to draw you attention to a subject; a mayor serves the city for a time period of 5 years however the marks he leaves in the city lives on for years. Because municipalities possess the right of town planning and urban planning. So a modern local administration should be aware that every step they take during those 5 years will be permanent for years whether it is positive or negative. If a mayor comes and performs wrong applications, he brings the city to such a state that you will not be able to erase his wrongdoings in 100 years.

 

 

FOR MY CLOTHES, I GET HELP FROM MY SON EMIR

You always look stylish and presentable, do you have personal advisors? Who picks out your clothes, do you get help for your nutrition?

I care about what I wear. Because appearance also matters. I believe that a politician should set an example in every matter. I take advice from my son Emir about my clothing. I am also careful about my nutrition; I take some vitamins every day. Of course there are specialists I turn to for support on this matter.

Your son Emir Sarıgül is at the administration of Galatasaray Club. Does this have any positive or negative reflections on your political life?

It has never had a negative effect. I have also been a manager in Galatasaray Club in the past. Now Emir is very successful, I also see him. Of course there is a team in everyone’s heart. However we do not mix sports into politics. We try to give support to every sport and amateur club in our district.

 

 

 

 

 

WE DO NOT HAVE TO KNOW ANYONE’S RELIGION OR RELIGIOUS SECT

During the last few years, religion has really entered politics; however you are at Mosque one day, the next day at Church and another day at Cemevi. People are not aware of your religion or your religious sect, how do you manage this?

Because this is the world I desire. We do not need to know anyone’s religion or belief because we do not evaluate people upon this. We love people, because they are people. The most dangerous thing is making beliefs a tool for politics. In the short run, it might look like this brings votes to the politician, however in the long run this ends the politician. The district I work for, Şişli, is one of Istanbul’s most cosmopolitan districts. People from different religions and beliefs have been living here in peace for years. I am aware of this, so I try to bring equal service to everyone. I support Mosques as well as Churches, Synagogues and Cemevi’s. Because the values of our people are our values.

Şişli has some of Istanbul’s most luxurious neighborhoods while it also has slums. How do you keep the balance between the people of the district? What are your priorities?

We develop different projects for each region. Because foundation problems in places like Nişantaşı, Teşvikiye, Osmanbey and Mecidiyeköy have almost been solved, here we focus on the upper structure, social and cultural projects. In the slum areas we focus on infrastructure, health, education. In the 28 neighborhoods we conduct surveys every month to determine what each neighborhood lacks or needs. We also invite civil society organizations and village headmen to be involved in this process.

There is a lot of skyscrapers being built in Şişli during the last few years and the green areas in the district are decreasing. Is this a preference of Şişli Municipality? What is the district municipality doing to overcome this issue?

From time to time we get criticism on this issue, however you know that especially big buildings over a certain amount of square meters are decided by Metropolitan municipalities not district municipalities. Also every decision made by the district municipality has to get approval from the metropolitan municipality first. Even though there is this structuring in the city, we are working hard to protect the green areas. You previously asked me about the projects that gained the most attraction and I mentioned the urban design. Another important project is what the citizens call “Shock parks”. We turn the inactive terrains between neighborhoods, without looking at how big they are, into children’s playgrounds in 24 hours. So far we have built 170 parks in 28 neighborhoods. I am not against tall buildings, however their foundation planning should be done correctly and there should be enough green places and social living areas around them.

 

 

“We develop different projects for each region. Because foundation problems in places like Nişantaşı, Teşvikiye, Osmanbey and Mecidiyeköy have almost been solved, here we focus on the upper structure, social and cultural projects. In the slum areas we focus on infrastructure, health, education. In the 28 neighborhoods we conduct surveys every month.”

 

 

THE TIME I COULD NOT SPEND WITH MY CHILDREN, I SPEND WITH MY GRANDCHILDREN

You are now a grandfather, what does it feel like? Has it made any emotional changes on you?

It is such a wonderful feeling that I cannot even describe it with words. In politics, I sometimes did not spend enough time with my own children, I shared their time with politics. Now I have two grandchildren, they take me back to Emir’s and Ömer’s childhood. To be able to look at this world through the eyes of a child, through the heart of a child is very important, I see that. It is a wonderful feeling.

What would be your first action when you become Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality mayor?

Thank you. Istanbul is a big city, there is a lot to be done, however it would be better if I answer your question when the day comes. Thank you very much.

 

 

I TRY TO GO TO EVERY FUNERAL

We see you in many social and cultural events, you are an important name in community life.  Is this a conscious choice for your politics or is it your lifestyle?

A politician should be involved in the community of course, however I am against doing this just because it needs to be done. I like being in the community, being with them every day whether for happy or sad occasions to share their happiness and pain. More than community life, you will see me in funerals in neighborhoods, weddings, the slums… This is not something you do as a role. If you are not with the people, you cannot understand their expectations or needs. It is impossible to sit by a desk and serve the people.

What and which place comes to your mind first when you hear Şişli?

It is hard to answer this question, I do not want to do injustice any area in Şişli. There are 28 neighborhoods and 1065 streets in Şişli. Every week, I walk down each of these streets, on holidays, new year’s for 3-4 days, 36 hours I enter all of these streets. Maybe this might seem like an exaggeration to you, however once I am walking on these streets I remember a great deal of people’s names, and they know me.

What do you think Şişli lacks? Is there anything you would say “I have not done yet”?

Of course, a politician who says “I have finished everything” shows that he is tired, that his excitement is finished. Like all of Istanbul, the biggest problems in Şişli are parking lots and traffic. Our district, is a district where roads that connect Asia and Europe pass from. This is why when at night time the population is 300 thousand, when at day time it reaches more than 3 million, most work here. We built many multi-storey parking lots, however they are not enough. We will be working on this issue.

We see you in many funerals in Teşvikiye Mosque, do you also go to other places?

Of course I go. It is easy to be there for the people on the happy occasions, the important thing is to be there for them during the painful times. There are approximately 3-4 funerals each day in Şişli, I try to attend most of them. The ones I cannot attend, my friends go for sure. We care about funerals. Not just the ceremonies, but also people who pass away in our district but want to be buried in Anatolia. We send their funeral to their hometown.

I MEET WITH MY FRIENDS AT BORSA

Where do you like spending time most in Istanbul? What are your favorite restaurants or places to relax?

I usually do not have a lot of time to sit and relax. When I have dinner with my friends, I usually choose Borsa Restaurant.

What do you do on holidays and vacations? How do you relax?

Holiday time is very busy for me. I do not go on vacations during holidays, I am with the people. Because for our people the value of holidays is very grand. Every holiday I try to go to visit neighborhoods, talk to shopkeepers, I visit poorhouses and orphanages. During summer there are social activities, picnics, weddings and activities of various organizations, I go to those. I go on vacations of course, even though for a limited time.