The Baudis dynasty succeeded in turning Toulouse into a
center-right stronghold, whereas historically the city was
leaning to the left since the 19th century. Dominique Baudis
is also known as a writer who wrote historical novels about
the ancient counts of Toulouse, their crusade in the Middle
East, and the Albigensian Crusade.
During his time as mayor, Toulouse's economy and population
boomed. Baudis' policies were deliberately moderate, and he
always tried to accommodate (opponents would say anesthetize)
the left. He tried to strengthen the international role of
Toulouse (such as its Airbus operations), as well as revive
the cultural heritage of the city.
The Occitan cross, flag of Languedoc and symbol of the counts
of Toulouse, was chosen as the new flag of the city, instead
of the traditional coat of arms of Toulouse (which included
the fleurs-de-lis of the French monarchy). Many cultural
institutions were created, in order to attract foreign
expatriates and emphasize the city's past.
For example, monuments dating from the time of the counts of
Toulouse were restored, the city's symphonic concert hall
(Halle aux Grains) was refurbished, a city theater was built,
a Museum of Modern Art was founded, the Bemberg Foundation
(European paintings and bronzes from the Renaissance to the
20th century) was established, a huge pop music concert venue
(Zénith, the largest in France outside Paris) was built, the
space museum and educational park Cité de l'Espace was
To deal with growth, major housing and transportation projects
were launched. Perhaps the one for which Baudis is most famous
is the subway of Toulouse: line A of the subway was opened in
1993, and Baudis succeeded in having work started on line B
(scheduled to open in 2006), despite strong local opposition
to the anticipated costs.
The creation of a system of underground car parking structures
in downtown Toulouse was sharply criticized by the Green
Party, although it certainly fulfilled the demands of downtown
Toulouse store and shop owners, and makes life easier for
people who cannot use public transportation to go downtown.
Today, even opponents cannot deny that the face of Toulouse
has completely changed in the space of 20 years.
Despite all these massive undertakings, the city's economy
proved so strong that Dominique Baudis was able to announce,
in 1999, that the city had finished repaying its debt, making
it the only large city in France ever to achieve solvency.
In Europe, typical per capita city debt for a city the size of
Toulouse is around 1,200 euros (US $1,550). Achieving solvency
was a long-standing goal for Baudis, who had said that he
would extinguish city debt before leaving office. Local
opposition, however, has criticized this achievement, saying
that the task of governments is not to run zero-deficit, but
to ensure the well-being of citizens, through social benefits,
housing programs for poor people, etc.
Despite the controversy, what remains certain is that the city
has decreased local taxes in the recent years, due to the end
of the burden of the debt, and Toulouse has one of the lowest
level of taxation in Europe.
In 2000, Dominique Baudis was at the zenith of his popularity,
with approval rates of 85%. To everyone's astonishment, he
announced that he would not run for a fourth (6-year) term in
He explained that with 3 terms he was already the
longest-serving mayor of Toulouse since the French Revolution;
he felt that change would be good for the city, and that the
number of terms should be limited. He endorsed Philippe
Douste-Blazy, then UDF mayor of Lourdes as his successor.
Baudis has since been appointed president of the CSA (Conseil
supérieur de l'audiovisuel) in Paris, the French equivalent of
the American FCC.
Not as charismatic or well-know as Dominique Baudis, Philippe
Douste-Blazy narrowly won in the 2001 elections, which saw the
left making its best showing in decades. Douste-Blazy has had
to deal with a reinvigorated political opposition, as well as
with the dramatic explosion of the AZF plant in late 2001.
Harboring national ambitions, unlike Baudis who always refused
to become a national figure and preferred to focus on
Toulouse, Douste-Blazy was often perceived as using Toulouse
only as a springboard to launch his national political career
Indeed, in March 2004 he entered the national government, and
left Toulouse in the hands of his second-in-command Jean-Luc
Moudenc, elected mayor by the municipal council. (Douste-Blazy
remains president of the Community of Agglomeration of Greater
Toulouse.) Jean-Luc Moudenc, however, does not command
authority over his majority the way that Dominique Baudis did.
Members of the majority fear that Toulouse could well elect a
mayor from the left at the next (2008) election, and the
figure of Baudis is largely missed. Indeed, his shadow still
looms large over city hall, and many an insider murmurs that
Baudis, who is still closely following local political events
from Paris, will make his grand return to Toulouse in 2007
when he steps down from the Presidency of the CSA.
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