The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Election Addendum

I happened to have my camera with me as we were out for a Sunday-evening promenade along the newly-reopened Berges du Rhone (riverbanks) and snapped these photos of an official poster-display area on the back side of the Chamber of Commerce building. As I mentioned before, poster advertising is an important part of French politics because of the restrictions on TV and radio ads. Each candidate gets space for two large posters and a smaller card.

I believe the order of candidates from left to right mirrors the order in which they will appear on the ballot, rather than any sort of placement on the Left-Right political spectrum [pic showing Lefty Sego between Nationalist Righty Villiers and Right-Left-Hell-I'm-Goin-Fishin' Nihous].

Some of the lesser candidates try to cram everything they can about their platform onto the poster; others assume you know what they're about already and opt for the glamour shot and catchy slogan.

You can probably gauge a neighborhood's attitude toward a particular candidate by how quickly that person's poster becomes (literally) de-faced. I think the LePen posters come from the printer pre-defaced, with a Sharpied-on Hitler moustache at the very least. Sarkozy seems to fare poorly in Lyon [pic].

The other pictures are of the Berges du Rhone project, a city effort to revitalize the riverbanks-- which for years had been little but gravel parking lots--by building bike and walking paths, green spaces, playgrounds, splash fountains [pic], a skate park [pic], and some big sections of nothing but terraced benches for sitting in the sun. You can now walk all the way from Stade de Gerland up past Parc Tete d'Or, through Parc Feyssine, and clear out to Parc Miribel, a good ten miles or so.

There are also a good number of riverbank cafes open now, too--but not enough, since I didn't see a single open table as we walked along.

The city of Lyon seems to be pretty good at this sort of thing, the public-works project. There always seems to be something new opening up or breaking ground--new metro lines or tramways, underground parking decks, playgrounds, additions to the library, and so on--and they seem to be able to do it without the delays and cost overruns you see so often in the States. Perhaps that's an advantage of a socialist system (that's with a lowercase "s", though the city government is also dominated by capital-S Socialists); interestingly, I've never heard anyone complain about high taxes, the bete noir of a socialist system. It's unclear whether that's because the taxes actually aren't that high, or because people just aren't aware that taxes are lower elsewhere.

Or maybe I just hang out with people who work for international organizations and don't pay taxes. Maybe I should spend more time hanging out with the punters at the local PMU cafe (parimutuel, off-track betting) to hear the true cigarette-roughened voice of the average or slightly-less-than-average Frenchman.



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