According to political observers, Ridwan Kamil (Kang Emil) won big in the 2013 Bandung mayoral election because the people were sick and tired of the corrupt local elites who are implicated in various graft cases. But knowing Kang Emil’s track record in social activisms in the city prior to entering into politics, we can understand why a great many people in Bandung voted for him. It seems to us that Ridwan Kamil is not just the better option, he is also a good leader who have given meaningful contributions to the people and to the city of Bandung.

As Mayor of Bandung, Kang Emil has continues his creative and progressive approach to resolving the city’s problems with garbage, floods, gridlock, and the declining amount of greenery and public space. Kang Emil wants to focus on creative solutions because to him focusing on creativity is a proven method.  One of the main problems in Bandung, according to Kang Emil, is the difficulty to find places where people can be inspired, this is why he focuses on what he knows best, the city’s parks.  It didn’t take Kang Emil long to revitalize many of the city’s parks. He also created new ones. By focusing on the greeneries, Kang Emil also hopes to tackle the city’s problem with floods. He said that ideally 30 percent of the city’s area must be allocated for green space and water catchment areas. His administration is still working on developing more green space and stopping the conversion of public and green space into commercial areas.

Kang Emil and his team at the Municipality of Bandung has other programs designed to tackle the city’s problem with flood. The city of Bandung is building new reservoirs, artificial lakes, and water tunnels. And then there is a typical Kang Emil style of social empowerment program called Sejuta Biopori program. The program aims to create a million of absorption holes across the city. Kang Emil also uses the same approach in his effort at getting the people to using public transportation. His #SeninGratis Bus Damri (Free Damri Bus on Monday) entices the residents of Bandung to switch from using their personal vehicles to using public transportation to reduce city’s gridlock. Additionally Kang Emil also launched the #JumatBersepeda (Friday bicycle riding day) program, #ReboNyunda (talking Sundanese in Wednesday) program, and #SelasaTanpaRokok (tuesday without cigarettes) program. The hashtags refer to the Twitter tags for the programs. Kang Emil is an avid user of social media.  We can monitor his activity through his personal Twitter account @ridwankamil.

Kang Emil has also began holding various festivals and events throughout the city like the Braga Culinary Night. Through such events Kang Emil wants to develop a distinctive feel and identity for his city. He mentioned Kyoto as an example of a modern city with strong sense of identity. Kang Emil’s community empowerement approach to solving Bandung’s various problems will also eventually become Bandung’s identity. This is perfectly aligned with Kang Emil’s philosophy of collaboration.

Rumors come with popularity. The latest rumor regarding Ridwan Kamil is that he may join the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the largest political party outside the government led by former President Megawati Soekarnoputri. But Kang Emil, talking to journalists on the sideline of Braga Culinary Night festival, denied the rumors saying he will join PDI-P.  “I’m actually a PNS [a civil servant], [by virtue of being] a lecturer at ITB (the Bandung Institute of Technology). By law, I’m prohibited to join a political party. I obey the law,” Kang Emil said. “Being a lecturer is in my blood. So, I wil retire as a PNS [civil servant] … And there is no such political lobby for pursuing political career. That’s the truth,” he added.

Kang Emil shares similar leadership characteristics with other new generation of leaders in the country like Jokowi, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, and Tri Rsimaharini. He is down-to earth, but assertive. He is also brave and prefers the no-nonsense approach to solving problems. He actively goes around his city to meet with his people and to listen to their thoughts. He is also able to push his municipality team to work faster and to become closer with the people — he requires his senior staff members to open their own Twitter accounts. It is truly interesting and exciting to watch developments in a city/regency with a leader like Kang Emil. So let’s keep an eye out for Bandung.

By Haryanto Suharman

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