PROFILE: Marvin Rees - 'I want a Bristol in which we all can flourish'
We will be taking an in-depth look at each of the candidates bidding to be Bristol's first elected mayor.
Political editor IAN ONIONS will be going beyond the manifesto pledges to the background of each candidate and look at how they arrived at this point.
Today, the bookie's favourite, Marvin Rees.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
How long have you lived in Bristol? All my life except for my time at university, a short time working in London and three years working in USA.
Job: NHS programme manager for health and inequalities in public health
Marital status: Married
Children: Two boys
Secondary school: St George comprehensive
University: University of Wales, Swansea. Eastern University, Pennsylvania. Yale
Have you ever been a member of a political party? Member of The Labour Party
City or Rovers? Both. As a child I was drawn to the big clubs on TV but now I want both clubs to do well.
Odds: Ladbrokes 4/7
MARVIN Rees could have easily ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. A mixed-race kid who was born in Bristol, who spent 18 months as a toddler in a Devon refuge and some of his earliest years on a predominantly white council house estate in Lawrence Weston, Marvin describes his childhood as "challenging".
He remembers standing with his mum at a bus stop in Lawrence Weston when he was only five, feeling vulnerable and being on the edge of life, rather than being a part of it.
He grappled with this during his school years at St George comprehensive after he had moved with his mum and sister to Easton. Despite low self-esteem and zero confidence, he knew he had something to offer.
And one of the turning points came when one of his teachers, Bob Jennings, told him: "Marvin, the world could be your oyster, but the way you are behaving now, you are not going anywhere."
Another turning point came when he joined Denis Stinchcombe's boxing club in Broad Plain where he lost his fear of losing.
He discovered it was OK to come second – you just get up off the canvas and try again. Now, as a teenager, Marvin began to blossom. He took his GCSEs, he passed his A-levels and went to Swansea University to study politics and economic history.
He took his Masters in political theory and government before taking a job as youth co-ordinator for a relief agency called the Tear Fund which took him to some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the world. Incidentally, he nearly became a Royal Marine. He passed all the aptitude and physically demanding tests but failed with a sucker punch – his eyesight was not good enough.
He went to work for Jim Wallace, an activist in Washington DC and later took another Masters degree in the States before working for Tony Campolo, one of Bill Clinton's advisers.
He returned to Bristol and started work as a reporter for Radio Bristol and later worked for the Black Development Agency.
He worked for ten months as director of the Bristol Strategic Partnership (more of this later) before taking up a fellowship at Yale University. He currently works as a programmer for the NHS at Frenchay Hospital.
OK, Marvin, impressive CV but what is your vision for Bristol?
"I want a Bristol which is very aspirational, one which sees itself as a global city and has a global presence.
"I want to see a city which is fair and inclusive; the challenge of people being left behind by the Bristol story is one that we need to overcome, whether that's because of economic, geographical or ethnic reasons so that everyone is genuinely included in the benefits which come with that story."
Yes, Marvin but how do you bridge the gap between an ideal and what you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis? "One of the problems in the past is that we have lacked a sense of direction. The danger in any business or organisation is that if you don't know the direction you are going in, then you end up ping-ponging off opportunities and challenges which are presented to you as important as they come along.
"If you don't have a framework, then you can't ask yourself, 'Does this actually have any impact on what we are trying to do?' Having a sense of where we want to go and our values in getting there is critical."
Marvin has engaged in a series of "city conversations", talking to various sections of the community and listening to their own needs and aspirations.
He believes Bristol has all the components to be a world-class city – it's just a question of bringing them all together. His sense of this was developed when he was director of the Bristol Strategic Partnership which took responsibility for bringing all parts of the city together to see how Bristol works and how it could be made to work better.
This vision is one of the reasons why he shies away from what he calls a "to do" list. He understands why a mayor needs to have one but sees the bigger picture of bringing all the strands of the city together so Bristol can fulfil its potential.
He said that during his "conversations", it was very apparent to him that people did not come up to him with a list of "asks". Instead, they were much more interested in his way of operating and how he was going to govern.
One of his first tasks if elected would be to choose a cabinet. Marvin explains that he plans to set up a City Office, the main powerhouse of his administration which would draw on the experience of councillors from all parties as well as experts in their field to get to grips with the issues which face the city.
One of the components of the office would be a cabinet which would be made up of Labour councillors, not cross-party and which he justified by saying: "Within that office, I need to be able to have a Labour Party conversation."
Rather than marginalising backbench councillors even more than they are now, he believes his form of administration would give them more responsibility for what he considers their primary task – looking after the interests of the people in their own wards.
Moreover, if he is to set the ball rolling with his "Bristol story" by bringing together business, the council, voluntary organisations and other sections of the community, then councillors would be needed as leaders to facilitate the process.
It's time to pin Marvin down on his three main priorities for the city. He refuses to put them in any particular order but tells me one of his main goals is a living wage for all council staff so they earn a minimum of £7.30 an hour (the national minimum wage is £6.19 an hour for over-21s).
Another aspiration is universal childcare. He believes that affordable and quality childcare is not just a matter of social justice but brings people back into the marketplace and can therefore pay for itself within four or five years.
Transport is another top priority. "It needs to be cheaper, more efficient and more reliable," he said.
But he said it was no good using a "stick and mend" policy to end congestion in the city. The answer had to be regional and it needed to be a 21st century solution so we looked at what was needed for 2030/40, not just the short term.
He said he would "take a look" at BRT, the bendybus system which has courted a great deal of controversy but admitted "the money might already be stuck to it".
Yes, an arena was a top priority for him and he has already pledged to fight for one as well as support both football teams in their hopes for new stadiums.
More housing, more rights for private sector tenants, more sporting facilities, tapping into the culture of the city and developing tourism, Marvin has many aspirations on a wide canvas.
But what would he do on day one of taking office? He said he would want to meet with all the other candidates who stood because he believed they would have a lot to bring to the table.
He would also want to meet up with the cabinet of the time and set out his stall of how he intended to work.
Marvin, 40, who lives with his wife and two young sons in Easton, is favourite to win the election which makes you wonder whether he feels under any kind of pressure.
He said: "Whoever wins the election, the new post is a great opportunity for Bristol and we should enjoy this opportunity.
"All I can do is say to people, 'This is my offer, this is my history, this is my understanding of the role, the challenges and how I would approach them.'
"If I was to do anything else and not be authentic and I was to win, then the next three and a half years would be agony because I would be constantly masquerading.
"This is about putting something on the table and asking people, 'Do you want this?'
"If they then vote for me, then six months down the line, I can say, 'This is what you voted for'."
Marvin ends by going back to childhood, not his own but those of his two sons, aged two and four.
He said: "I want this city to flourish and I would like to become elected mayor at a pivotal time in my life and my family's.
"I want a Bristol in which my own boys can flourish."