The city is one of the greenest in the country, winning award after award for its business innovation and community activism. We have one of the strongest Green Parties in the country with over 1,700 members, 11 councillors and lots of volunteers.
Bristol also has an unpopular Mayor and a divided Labour Party. A couple of years ago the editor of the local paper told me – the stars would really have to align for Greens to win – there is still a long way to go. But he said to me more recently: “Those stars are aligning!”
We are close to a big win. That means we are close to being able to put the planet and people first and lead the way in the UK. That means we can create a city for the future.
A city with pedestrianised high streets where local businesses thrive and people meet.
A city with open spaces and parks where wildlife thrives; where children are safe to play or cycle down the road to see their friends.
Where public transport is the first choice not the last because it is so regular, cheap and convenient.
Where the air is clean and we are contributing to our climate targets
A city where everyone has the chance to thrive, everyone has a good, fairly paid job, where our children and young people are supported, our elders are looked after and where everyone has a warm home.
I have this sense that as we begin to change our cities in this way we will look back on how we live now with the same shudder as we look back on the cities of the industrial revolution. Dirty and inhuman – not designed for people, but for cars. That can change.
Liveable neighbourhoods are sprouting up in parts of the UK. Paris has a goal of a 15-minute city where all your local shops, GP surgery, schools and community facilities are within walking distance. Barcelona is looking at residential 'superblocs' where only those who live there can drive in the streets.
We know too that good public transport is good for equality – it gives the poorest access to jobs and education. Reduced energy bills play a part in tackling poverty.
And you know we are getting somewhere when the Financial Times writes: “The basic exchange that is required is obvious. Cities need to take space from cars and offices and shops and give it to affordable housing, community and nature.”
We are winning the argument. The problem is that the action doesn't follow.
Bristol is an example of that. We have a Mayor who voted for the climate emergency led by our Green Cllr Carla Denyer, but still supports the expansion of the airport.
In Bristol we have a Mayor who is selling off our public land to the highest bidder and building an out of town arena only accessible by car.
In Bristol we have a Mayor who has failed to meet his promises to build affordable houses and in his recent budget he has missed a green led opportunity to fund more – instead, shying away from the big decisions we need to make to make our city a greener and fairer place.
But as the pandemic has progressed people’s thinking is moving on and past our current leaders. We have understood what is important – family, friends and our communities, open space and clean air – not the daily commute! I see volunteers delivering shopping, brewers turning their breweries into places where hand sanitiser is made, and people tending to their parks for wildlife. Bristol is ready to change!
Thirty years ago I led a campaign to persuade Bristol City Council to scrap plans for an incinerator and instead invest in the kerbside recycling scheme we have today. That is why Bristol has one of the highest recycling rates in the UK. We were ahead of the game.
And now I want to take that experience, and the experience I have gained from growing a small east Bristol charity into the largest youth charity of its kind in the UK to change Bristol.
I have plans to build a cycle network across the city, and insulate 27,000 council homes and build 2,000 more.
I will invest £6 million in public transport each year (the Council currently invests about £400,000) making buses cheaper and more reliable, funded through a workplace parking levy.
I will lead Bristol through an economic recovery from the pandemic.
I will double the support we offer to young people to help them into work and training.
I will invest £10 million in our local high streets – giving them a new lease of life, pedestrianising them and protecting local jobs.
We also have two great candidates for Metro Mayor and our PCC – Jerome Thomas, Cllr and campaigner on transport and Cleo Lake, also a Cllr and lead campaigner on race issues in the city.
We are close to winning but we are not there yet. In May we have a fairer voting system. And we know when there is a fair voting system people vote Green. But we have to get our messages out there as much as we can and that costs – especially in the pandemic. We have a crowdfunder where every pound will help us reach more people.
It is going to be hard work but we can win – we are close! And if we can win then Bristol will truly become the first big city in the UK to go Green and lead the way for the rest of the country.