Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Our new urban heroes.
Meet Alexander Yakob, the city manager for the Russian metropolis of Yekaterinburg. He was unfortunately caught once vowing to residents of the sprawling Ural city that “all streets will be repaired.”
And then there’s this guy, Mayor Yevgenij Porunov, who committed the even graver political sin of giving an actual timeline: “Repair of all potholes will be finished,” he said, “by April 2012.″
By mid-summer, all streets in Yekaterinburg were decidedly not repaired, which isn’t terribly surprising if you follow the politics of potholes in Russia. And so, logically, some enterprising Russian artists tried the only tactic left to them: They painted Yakob and Porunov’s mugs – alongside their incriminating promises – directly onto the potholes in question (hat tip to Colossal for catching this).
The campaign, dubbed "Make the Politicians Work," was orchestrated by the Russian website URA.RU and ad agency Voskhod. It also targeted Governor Yevgenij Kuyvashev ("Reconstruction of roads is our main task"), who looks particularly ridiculous here with a manhole cover in his mouth:
Lo and behold, as soon as the protest art hit the street, and then the blogs, and then Russian television news, the potholes were reportedly promptly fixed this summer. (Although the city initially doubled down on its bad behavior: crews were at first dispatched to paint over the caricatures but did nothing to repair the roads. Thank goodness for hidden cameras!)
The lesson for city residents everywhere saddled with feckless politicos? "Three cans of paint, and 24 hours of intense PR, worked magic," concludes this narrator in this great Voskhod video recounting the caper: