On December 29, 2010, the traffic jams just in the city of Moscow were 3,200 km long (2,000 miles) - the traffic jams in the city streets spread over the distance equal to one between Moscow and Barcelona!
As I was driving on the snowed over Leninsky Prospekt (large avenue) in downtown Moscow a couple of weeks ago, I realized: I had never seen that much snow on Moscow roads. Luzhkov had left the office three months ago, the snow just started falling, and the only snow-cleaning vehicle that can be seen is a lonely parked tractor with a small snow plow. For the matter of a reference, Leninsky Prospect has 10 lanes at its widest parts, and used to be cleaned by 10 fast-moving vehicles in each lane immediately as the snowflakes had appeared in the sky. Three months without an old, allegedly corrupt, and heavy-handed leader, and changes are already visible. Bad changes. I predict that the same awaits Chicago, once Mayor Daley leaves his office this spring. The only difference in the two mayors' departures is: Mayor Daley will leave to an ovation of citizens and politicians; Mayor Luzhkov was kicked out by a president (nearly half Luzhkov's age) after a state-wide media smear campaign.
Under Luzhkov, Moscow turned from a grey communist city of the past into the most expensive and trendy city in the world. Moscow's economy improved, large construction projects in the city, including the building of a new financial district, took place, and Moscow's skyline transformed into a crossover of Paris and Dubai. Having visited most of the European and American cities over the past two years I am making a statement: Moscow became the world's cleanest Western capital. At the same time, Luzhkov was accused of corruption, bulldozing historic buildings, and poor handling of traffic, as well as the city's smog crisis during the 2010 Russian wildfires. On September 28, 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev removed Luzhkov from his position for the "loss of trust."
Instead, Medvedev appointed Mr. Sobyanin, a former mayor of a Siberian city Tyumen as the new Moscow's mayor. Today, Muscovites joke that "Tyumen has not become Moscow, thus Moscow will become Tyumen." One of the Christmas comedy TV shows featured a funny skit: an actor playing the new Moscow mayor claimed that there were no traffic jams in Tyumen or Ryzan, because there were no roads. Moscow got its traffic problems after Luzhkov built all those roads and the new economy enabled all the people to buy all those cars. His double-solution (in the skit) was to demolish the freeways, and make people poor, so Moscow could get rid of the traffic jams! Jokes aside, on December 29, 2010, the traffic jams just in the city of Moscow reached their historic peak: 3,200 km (2,000 miles) - the traffic jams in the city streets spread over the distance equal to one between Moscow and Barcelona!
It takes a certain kind of person to lead and transform a city as complex in its climate and weather, politics and finances, and social culture, as Moscow or Chicago. Many have accused Daleys (the father and the son) of being heavy-handed and corrupt, yet Chicago today has the fourth largest GDP of the world's metropolitan areas. Moscow is not quite there yet, but what an improvement from 1991! Both cities owe to their leaders.
A painful detail in the process of Luzhkov's departure is the fact that Moscow is equal to a state in its status, and Moscow's mayor is equal to a governor. While the presidential appointment of governors makes sense in less sophisticated areas of Russi, where people may be easily prone to corrupt officials buying their votes, Muscovites' inability to elect their leader is at the very least insulting.
President Medvedev, there is nothing anyone could do about the forest fires, especially when they spread 60 feet underneath the ground. And I would love to remind you that firefighting in Russia is the federal (your) responsibility. Furthermore, it is managed now by an old-time friend of yours and Putin, Mr. Shoygu, the flamboyant corrupt minister of the Ministry of Emergency Situations who was promoted to a three-star general without serving a single day in the military. He should have been fired for the fires, not Luzhkov.
Moscow's traffic jams are caused by your motorcades. Have you heard that there are nearly 1,000 "public servants" who use blue lights in Moscow and officially do not have to obey the traffic laws and police officers? Also, additional thousand or so vehicles belong to private companies that bribed enough officials to put the blue lights on their cars. They cause accidents, drive drunk, run children and pregnant women over, and break the windows of the drivers who don't free up the road fast enough. Your crazy driving policies, President Medvedev, cause the traffic jams in Moscow, not Luzhkov's management.
If Luzhkov was so corrupt, and you defend the Russian automakers with a 110% tax on imported vehicles, why do you drive Porsche Cayenne, and your security drives Mercedeses? I strongly recommend switching to Ladas and Volgas. You defend their manufacturers; you encourage Russians to buy them. Lead by example, so we, the Russian citizens, don't think that you may be corrupt, and so you do not "lose" our "trust" just as Mayor Luzhkov lost yours.
Mayor Luzhkov, the people of Moscow appreciate all you have done for this city. Your wife did become Russia's wealthiest woman, and maybe you should've known better to slow down the family's enrichment, but still - you have transformed our city forever and for the better.
Mayor Daley, make sure to thank Chicagoans for supporting you all these years, and the United States of America of making it impossible for President Obama to fire you before the end of your term with one stroke of his pen.