The Jakarta Post
Opening parks, clearing the streets of prostitutes and vendors, organizing dozens of international-scale festivals and getting out and about with ordinary residents were among the tactics Jokowi used to keep the electorate happy, despite his failure to reduce the stubbornly high poverty and unemployment.
As Surakarta mayor for seven years, Jokowi managed to transform a number of the city's pivotal areas into attractive public spaces, to the lasting credit of his leadership.
Among his success stories were the relocation of hundreds of street vendors from the Monument 45 area in Banjarsari district to a newly built market in Pasar Kliwon district.
The story of his 54 lunches with the street vendors to lure them to relocate even made headlines in the national media.
Representatives from other cities and regencies across the archipelago have since visited the market and taken away lessons from city officials.
The lunches managed to reassure the vendors that the city's plan would not harm their businesses, resulting in an amicable relocation.
'The previous mayor had intended to relocate us to the current location, which was notorious for prostitution. But the deal was never brokered because we couldn't come to a win-win solution,' Rusmanto, deputy chairman of Notoharjo vendors association, said at Notoharjo Market, Pasar Kliwon, Surakarta.
According to Rusmanto, what made Jokowi's efforts different was that the mayor used a soft approach and he managed to convince the vendors that the relocation would not be carried out if it harmed their businesses.
Jokowi also built a number of traditional markets ' including an antiques market and a home appliances market, proving his support for people in the lower income sector of society.
He even rejected a plan to bulldoze a heritage building, Sari Petojo ice factory in Purwosari, Surakarta, and turn it into a modern shopping mall.
The decision caused a rift with then Central Java governor Bibit Waluyo, who had endorsed the construction of the mall.
Jokowi, who is known for his fondness for nature, also built a 7-kilometer city walk with a 3-meter wide pedestrian walkway along Jl. Slamet Riyadi, Surakarta's main street where the mayor's official residence is located, and revitalized the Balekambang city park and Sriwedari Park.
Under his leadership, anyone who wished to cut down a tree in the city had to secure approval from Jokowi himself instead of simply an agency head.
Aiming to improve the city's image, Jokowi rebranded and promoted Surakarta as 'The Spirit of Java', a Javanese cultural and heritage center, batik capital and tourist-friendly city.
Surakarta has also hosted numerous cultural events and festivals held in public spaces or on streets, putting the city on the tourism map.
To ensure that the residents would always be heard, Jokowi initiated a number of regular forums and events in which the city leaders could directly communicate with the residents, such as mider projo ' literally visiting kampongs ' every Friday.
During the event, Jokowi and his subordinates rode by bicycle, visiting random kampongs and talking to residents.
Jokowi, working with a local radio station, also initiated Meet Mister Meyer (Meet Mr. Mayor), an off-air talkshow which was held regularly in different schools to accommodate students' aspirations.
'Jokowi attempted to reach out to all groups of people in the city,' Anggit Noegroho, Jokowi's campaign team leader, said recently.
The mayor also set an example of integrity to his bureaucracy by prohibiting his family ' which owns furniture factories and a catering business ' to tender bids for the administration's projects.
He also banned the Graha Saba Buana, a meeting hall owned by Jokowi, from hosting administration's events.
'I have always prohibited any members of my family from taking part in public procurement projects,' said Jokowi in a recent interview.
While Jokowi focused more on bureaucratic reform, his deputy FX Hadi Rudyatmo devoted his attention to social welfare programs.
Rudy had a better understanding of how to deal with marginalized groups, such as members of gangs, illegal squatters and prostitutes.
'We did what we were good at, and we didn't interfere with each other's work,' Rudy said.
A prominent local politician, who demand anonymity, said that Rudy was actually the driving force behind Jokowi's success in Surakarta, but refused to take the credit as he had no other ambition other than serving the Surakarta people and the party.
'Jokowi is only good at approaching the media and the grass roots. Rudy is the one who actually did the work, laid out the strategy and dealt with all the troubles,' said the politician, who is also closed to Jokowi.
Rudy did not deny nor confirm the issue.
Critics have also pointed out to Jokowi's development achievements that turn out to only scratched the surface.
Poverty among the 400,000 residents remained high at more than 13.3 percent during Jokowi's tenure. The rate is higher than the national rate of around 11 percent. Slum areas are still visible while the open unemployment rate was almost 9 percent, also higher than the national rate.
'It is a fact that poverty in Surakarta is still high, and I have tried my best to reduce it,' said Jokowi when asked about the protracted problem.
Highlights of Jokowi's legacy
'¢ Relocating hundreds of street vendors to several new traditional markets.
'¢ Building new traditional markets ' including an antiques market and a home appliances market.
'¢ Constructing a 7-kilometer city walk with a 3-meter wide pedestrian walkway along Surakarta's main street.
'¢ Revitalizing the Balekambang and Sriwedari parks.
'¢ Stricter regulations on cutting down trees along the city's main streets.
'¢ Rebranding Surakarta as a center of Javanese culture and tourism under the tagline 'The Spirit of Java'.
'¢ Promoting the city as a center for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE).
'¢ The blusukan culture, the manner in which Jokowi made impromptu visits to certain areas to hear directly from the people their needs and criticisms.
'¢ Prohibiting his family members from bidding for city projects.
'¢ Healthcare insurance program for all residents.
'¢ Public transportation in the form of double-decker buses and the railbus.
'¢ Solo Techno Park, which helped develop the Esemka national car.
- Sita W. Dewi and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas