WikiTribune asked the community what they wanted to know from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. You asked, he answered. [Note: the below is unedited answers for full context, spelling or grammatical errors are directly from the original text.]
Does London have anything to teach American cities about inclusiveness and diversity?
London is the greatest city in the world, not just because of our social, cultural and economic might, but because we view our diversity as one of our greatest strengths. Here in London you can be whoever you want to be. We are proud that we are one the most diverse cities in the world, with over 300 languages spoken every day, and we are committed to doing everything we can to show that London is open to all.
I believe strongly that where you come from should have no bearing on what you can achieve. It’s important that at City Hall we lead by example, and that’s why I’m proud that my team of deputy mayors are representative of our city. It’s also why I have published our first-ever ethnicity pay audit and ensured that all recruitment is completely anonymised.
There is no doubt that our communities are changing rapidly but, importantly, we have been working hard to break down barriers and bring Londoners together. I appointed London’s first-ever Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement and developed a ground-breaking strategy to promote social integration and forge strong relationships across our diverse communities. Together we are taking action to make sure everyone believes they have a stake in our great city.
I am lucky to have met with Mayors from many American cities and Im sure it is fair to say that we have all learnt something new from each other.
I particularly enjoyed attending the US Conference of Mayors when I attended the SXSW festival in Austin last year where inclusivity and diversity, particularly in the tech sector, were amongst the topics we discussed.
How can the news media do a better job of bridging the urban rural political divide?
London is one of the media capitals of the world with all the UK’s major broadcasters and newspapers based here. We are also fortunate to have a vibrant local press culture too.
However, in many areas outside the capital newsrooms have been badly affected by cutbacks and many local papers have been forced to close or reduce production. This has a negative knock-on effect for local democracy.
We are now seeing some media organisations taking positive moves to redress this imbalance. The BBC have relocated a significant part of their national news output to MediaCityUK in Salford, whilst Channel 4 recently announced that it will be setting up a new headquarters in Leeds, alongside creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow. The BBC is also funding 150 Local Democracy Reporters – working here in London and across the country – who together have filed more than 30,000 stories in their first year.
How do you feel we get the Information Age back on track in the era of such disinformation?
I expressed my concerns about responsibility of the tech sector and social media platforms at SXSW last year. The main thrust of my speech was that although tech companies have brought huge benefits to society, they have also had a significant negative impact – fuelling fake news, extremism and online abuse among other issues.
Platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have bought huge benefits to society. They’ve made it easier for us to stay in touch with those we love, meet like-minded people, and have easier access to information we want.
But, understandably, there are growing concerns about some of the ways the biggest companies on the planet have impacted our lives and the overall wellbeing of our societies.
In some cases, these new platforms have been used to exacerbate, fuel, and deepen the divisions within our communities. The impact is and continues to be profound and should worry democracies around the world.
In my SXSW speech, I was clear that some of the biggest tech companies must take greater responsibility for the impact they’re having on the world. No business or industry should ever consider itself above the local rules, or laws set by democratic nations
Are you actively trying to influence real estate developments in London? You made a declaration with Barcelona’s mayor titled ‘City properties should be homes for people first – not investments’ and yet recently we see the design of the Tulip Tower erecting in London skyline.
Since taking office, I have made tackling the housing crisis a top priority, faced with the previous Mayor’s horrendous legacy of a city full of luxury flats and zero social homes in the pipeline.
That’s why I am focusing resolutely on building new council, social rented, and other genuinely affordable homes. Last year, I broke records by starting more social rented homes than the rest of England put together, and in October I announced £1bn funding to increase council homebuilding in the capital five-fold.
By incentivising developers with fast-track planning permission, I’m also helping London to remain an attractive development opportunity whilst ensuring that a good proportion of their homes are genuinely affordable for Londoners.
Plans for the ‘Tulip Tower’ you mention are still at an early stage, and they haven’t yet come to me for a planning decision. Although the proposal doesn’t include plans for housing, I am clear that all plans for new homes must include more social rented and other genuinely affordable homes – not just luxury apartments for investors.
How are you (Sadiq Khan) supporting the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to rid London of knife crime?
The causes of violent crime are extremely complex, but there is no doubt it has been made far worse by huge government cuts to the police and youth services. London has already lost 3,000 police officers and 3,000 Police Community Support Officers because of huge government cuts and it’s about time ministers show they’re taking violent crime seriously by reversing the £1bn of cuts to the Met.
Despite Government cuts I’m doing all I can to tackle violent crime. That is why I have invested in the Metropolitan Police’s Violent Crime Taskforce, which is making thousands of arrests and taking hundreds of knives and dangerous weapons off our streets.
I am also leading a long-term public health approach to tackling the extremely complex causes of crime – which will challenge the perception that it’s safe to carry a knife and better understand where positive interventions can be made – and I have invested £45m of funding for positive opportunities for young people. Giving young Londoners something meaningful to get engaged with through sports, culture and other activities is essential in helping them make the right choices and ensuring they do not end up on the wrong path.
London has reduced its carbon emissions by 39 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, many of the world’s major cities have increased emissions. How can London be a leader and help the rest of the world’s cities to reduce emissions?
I’m proud of the positive steps we continue to take as a city to reduce our carbon emissions but I’m under no illusions that so much more needs to be done to tackle London’s toxic air and the climate emergency we are in. I’ve introduced a series of measures to tackle climate change– from investing £500m in low carbon technologies to divesting pension funds from fossil fuels and setting out a detailed plan of how London can get to zero carbon by 2050 and what more needs to be done by national government to get there,
But this issue goes far beyond the capital and requires the co-operation of cities and governments around the world to ensure that our children and grandchildren do not face a blighted future. Other global cities frequently look to London for leadership on these issues and I am working with them on a new Divest/Invest Forum which I launched with Mayor De Blasio of New York in September. I am co-chairing with Bengalaru the C40 Air Quality network to work with other cities around the world to share best practice on how to tackle this important issue.
But I can only work within the confines of the powers devolved to me by government so my message to ministers is: stop dragging your feet and gambling with our future and give London and cities across the UK the real powers and funding needed to protect our future generations.
London still has illegally high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, what are you doing to further reduce emissions in the city?
London’s air is so toxic it damages children’s lung growth, causes thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia. We know that dirty vehicles are responsible for half of our NOx air pollution so I have been made it my mission to deliver hard-hitting, urgently needed policies to tackle vehicle emissions. These include cleaning up the bus fleet and introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, 24 hours, seven days a week in central London from next April.
However, I can’t do this alone. We all need to play a part in cleaning up our toxic air, whether that be individual decisions to walk or cycle to work or school, London’s taxi drivers switching to cleaner electric taxis or the Government having the courage and foresight to introduce a new Clean Air Act that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
Do you support another Brexit vote? Furthermore, how can Greater London stay afloat and remain a formidable site for international investment following a “hard” Brexit?
There’s no doubt we face some challenging and uncertain times ahead for London, but I’m getting the message out to the world that we remain optimistic about our future. Despite Brexit, London will still be one of the most exciting, entrepreneurial, international, innovative and outward-looking cities in the world – a city still bursting with creativity and opportunity.
This is what my London is Open campaign is all about – it’s about saying loud and clear that that London is open: open for business, open for new investment and open for new talent.
With so much at stake, and the devastating consequences that a bad Brexit deal or a no-deal Brexit would have on jobs, growth, public safety, food supply and living standards, the Prime Minister must immediately withdraw Article 50.
In the absence of a General Election, withdrawing Article 50 would allow time for a public vote to be held so the country can decide what course it wants to take.