How lucky we are to live in the People’s Republic of Sector 3. After a quiet autumn so far our enlightened mayor Robert Negoita (one of just three of the seven Bucharest mayors not to have been arrested*) this week recommenced work on one of the most important infrastructure projects the city has seen for decades. Yep, changing the street signs. Our street got its new livery yesterday morning.
We first wrote about this wonderful development a while ago. As we said then, beyond the pure waste of money, the Sector 3 signs are completely different from those seen throughout the rest of those in Bucharest. In a city which suffers badly from a lack of identity, every bit of unified branding helps. The Paris-inspired blue and green signs are not the best, but they were ubiquitous and readily recognisable. When one sector goes rogue any effort to create a Bucharest brand goes straight out of the window.
Our frustration with Negoita, with Bucharest in its current state and with Romania in general – new government or not – is the main driver behind our decision to actually get off our arses and do something. That and a moral conscience telling us it’s time to give something back to Bucharest. So on Monday – after meeting him and some of his team – we took a leap and decided to throw our bag in with Nicusor Dan.
You may remember Dan from the 2012 Bucharest local election. Standing as an independent, and despite having a minimal budget and facing both incumbent Sorin Oprescu and the USL’s Silviu Prigoana, Dan took almost nine per cent of the vote (three times the votes Gigi Becali got).
If independents had been allowed to stand candidates for the local council, Dan’s group would have taken five of the 55 seats on the city council. As this is Romania – where electoral law is designed to prevent new parties from getting a foot in the door, and to prevent local parties from forming – Dan was not allowed to take even one seat on the council.
This time, Dan is better prepared. Still short of funds – donations are welcome – he is close to completing the formation of an actual party, the Uniunea Salvati Bucurestiul (USB), an extension of the association he founded and still runs, the Asociatia Salvati Bucurestiul (ASB). The USB should officially be registered next Friday. The party can then raise funds and sign up members. We will be amongst the first.
First and foremost, Dan is clean and incorruptible. His current campaign (you may have seen his tents around the city) is based on bringing total transparency to council affairs. He wants the city and sectors’ accounts independently audited, and details of how every penny is spent made available for everyone to inspect online. Who could possibly object to that? (Answers on the usual postcard).
Secondly, he’s already done a lot for Bucharest, going right back to 2008 when the ASB was founded, and prevented the construction of four tower blocks in Piata George Enescu, directly in front of the Ateneu. Since then hundreds of such projects have been nipped in the bud by the association, which is currently involved in hundreds of others. The ASB’s staff – often just Dan and an assistant or two – are in court daily.
Thirdly, he represents the kind of Bucharest, and Romania, we want to live in: one which is well run. Dan is an apolitical politician, neither left nor right but simply committed to honest, transparent, European best-practice administration. At this stage in its development, that’s what Bucharest and Romania needs.
You can read more about Dan’s ideas in this interview he did with Michael Bird a couple of weeks ago. (We still think he is too soft on dogs by the way, but in the grand scheme of things that is now a relatively minor issue. Not least as there are so few left in Bucharest).
Finally, can he win the Bucharest mayor’s office next year? Given the current feeling towards the zombie political parties, there is no reason why not (although this article that claims he starts as favourite is pushing it a touch). A two-round contest would also help. In a one-off, winner takes all election the candidate backed by the PSD is likely to win, given the vast numbers of mindless drones who vote for whoever the PSD tells them.
So, who’s in? Remember: EU residents can vote in local elections. If you have registered at the immigration office you should automatically be on the electoral roll.
PS On the subject of street signs we have always liked the way Warsaw does it: the signs in the city’s various districts are the same size, use the same font and are in the same style, but each district has a different colour. Warsaw’s signs also helpfully tell you which way the streets are numbered. This is rather cool. It would be incredibly useful to have this in Bucharest, and while far from being a priority, if money simply has to be spent on street signs, this is the way to do it.