Published May 4, 2007
As I watched an historic part of Reykjavík burn down, about two weeks ago at the time of writing, I felt a little sad, both for the people who lost valuables in the fire, and for the history that was lost.
I was even more saddened when I saw Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson, Mayor of Reykjavík; announce an hour after the fire started that the burning houses would be rebuilt in their original state. No questions asked. I guess, to some extent, this showed strong leadership qualities on his behalf. There was no fuss, no hesitation, there was just Vilhjálmsson, looking very much like a person of authority in a borrowed uniform from the Reykjavík Fire Department, making a unilateral decision that could affect the city tremendously, especially after it came to light that his quick decisionmaking could cost the city 400,000,000 ISK.
Vilhjálmsson’s supporters have lauded his ability to make a quick and decisive decision. In their minds, this is the perfect example of what his party, the Independence Party, dubbed ‘action politics’ as opposed to the ‘discourse politics’ that were supposedly practiced by the former Mayor, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir of the Reykjavík Coalition. And, again, I suspect on some level they are right. My understanding of ‘discourse politics’ is exactly that there is a public discourse, a democratic process that should be followed before making major decisions that will ultimately affect the development of the city. ‘Action politics’ as practiced by Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson, are more akin to dictatorship. Instead of ‘one man, one vote’ we have ‘one man, one single decision’. That was not the sort of action I was looking for.
Issue six is the first of the summer issues. Regular readers of the Grapevine will notice some changes to the magazine, and more changes will be forthcoming in the next issue. We are moving into a fortnightly cycle of publication and extending the magazine to 56 pages. As you can imagine, this will more than double my workload, but as always, I will gladly suffer through it for your enjoyment, dear readers. But, some help is on the way. Sparky young summer interns will be onboard soon, which will hopefully make my life a little easier, although there are no guarantees – the nimble youngsters might just as well prove to be too unruly to control for a man of my age.