Yesterday's announcement by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit that he would resign his office came as a surprise to most people, but it wasn't completely unexpected. The nearly three year delay (and counting) in opening BER, Berlin's new airport, raised questions regarding Wowereit's credibility and management skills.
Wowereit, Berlin's charismatic and first openly gay mayor, did much to shape Berlin's image as an attractive international city. During his 13.5 years in office, he saw Berlin transform into one of Europe's most vibrant and popular destination points. When Wowereit became Mayor in 2001, Berlin was near bankruptcy and many felt the city was in a downward spiral. His personal style helped calm nerves as illustrated by his slogan "Berlin ist Arm aber Sexy" (Berlin is Poor but Sexy). Known in some circles as the "Party" Mayor, Wowereit hobnobbed with the rich and the famous while never neglecting Berlin's multicultural population. I even had the opportunity of briefly chatting with him at a ceremony commemorating gay victims of the Holocaust. As expected, he was very personable and charming.
However, Wowereit was not without his critics. His handling of the BER Airport fiasco reinforced Berlin's image of mismanagement, graft, and bureaucratic red-tape. At one time, Wowereit was one of Germany's most popular politicians, but with rising costs and a still uncertain opening date for the BER, Wowereit became an easy scapegoat.