Dan’s plan to save Bucharest

Nicusor Dan, leader of the Union to Save Bucharest (USB) and its candidate for mayor of Bucharest in June’s local elections, yesterday published his manifesto. You can see it (in Romanian on the USB’s less-than-attractive website) here.

The policy document covers 18 areas, from transport and infrastructure to property rights and culture in the Romanian capital. While there is a fair amount of waffle, there is also an encouragingly large number of concrete solutions to solving real problems faced by Bucharest.

Here are a few selected highlights, with our comments (in italics):

Transport

Completion of the Bucharest ring-road (Soseaua Centura)

Sound, although we are not at all certain that the Centura is actually the responsibility of Bucharest City Hall. Most of it isn’t actually in Bucharest, it’s in Judetul Ilfov.

Dedicated bus lanes, more frequent buses, published timetables.

Very good. You know our views on this subject, we wrote about it only last month.

Construction of a suburban railway network using (or partly using) existing CFR infrastructure.

Again, not new but an excellent idea, one we have championed in the past. However, see above: most of this network would be outside Bucharest’s city limits: does it come under the remit of Bucharest City Hall?

Creation of real cycle lanes

As in, not painted onto the pavement.

Admin & Transparency

Replacing sectors with smaller boroughs to ensure a more local approach to administration

Excellent. How many times have we said Bucharest needs to do away with its sectors? (Once, actually).

Online payment of all taxes and fines

You can already pay certain taxes online (such as council tax) but not many. It’s the kind of common sense idea that really should have been implemented years ago.

Public access to all decision-making forums

This would, we think, be hugely opposed by the traditional political parties.

Publication, online, of the city’s entire budget and expenditure, down to the last ban

This has been a promise of Dan’s far some time. We hope he will be given the chance to deliver on it.

Education & Culture

Construction of enough kindergardens to ensure all children have a guaranteed place

Again, why this hasn’t been a priority until now escapes us.

Creation of a network of after-school clubs where children can go once school has finished

Many schools in Bucharest finish at 11:30. The only after-school provision currently provided is private, and expensive.

Demolition of all illegal constructions (terraces and such like) built over the years in the city’s parks

There are hundreds and the fuss would be huge, but it needs to be done. The mentality that it’s perfectly fine to build on Bucharest’s few green spaces needs to be reversed.

A full inventory of all historic buildings

Incredibly, no such thing currently exists.

Economy

Construction – by 2020 – of a modern, efficient power station to supply heating and hot water to the capital

Ambitious, and does rather encourage people to continue using the inefficient central system. The money would be better spent subsidising the installation of individual boilers and central heating systems in homes. The goal here should be getting everyone to go independent, not continued reliance on the city council for heating and hot water.

The Dimbovita: an axis of creativity. Defining Bucharest as a regional centre of technology, IT and creative industry.

This is a particularly waffly part. What does this actually mean in terms of real measures for real people? 

Free space for start-ups

Who would qualify? Define a start-up.

Opening more markets strictly for local growers of produce. Stalls would be rented for free.

There are a couple of these markets already – one is close to us on the corner of Nerva Traian and Bulevardul Unrii – but the majority of Bucharest’s markets remain in the hands of middle men. Much of the produce sold at them is far from local.

Dan’s main rivals in June for the mayor’s job now look to be Ludovic Orban of the PNL and Gabriela Firea of the PSD. Orban is the front runner to replace Cristian Busoi, originally announced back in December as the PNL’s candidate but forced to step down after polling disastrously. Orban, a former minister in various governments and very much seen as an old school politician far removed from the new kind of politics Romanians would appear to want in the wake of the fire at Colectiv in October, hardly represents an improvement.  The PSD meantime have yet to formally announce their candidate, although they continue to float the name of Gabriela Firea-Pandele, one of the nastiest shits in Romanian politics. (Given how crowded a field that is – up against some tough competition – that’s an impressive achievement). You may remember that during 2014’s presidential election campaign – in which she served as Ponta’s spokesperson – Firea claimed that Klaus Iohannis did not have a ‘complete family’, as he had no children. She has since made not dissimilar comments about others. She is married to Florentin Pandele (himself the mayor of one of Bucharest’s least salubrious satellite towns, Voluntari) and is inexorably tied to her former employer, convicted criminal Dan Voiculescu and his Antena 3 TV station. She has this past week been a fierce critic of ANAF’s move to evict Antena 3 from the studios it wants to repossess, as it is legally entitled to do so following Voiculescu’s conviction.

  • Georgiana A. Murariu

    Seen this little gem from Nicusor, though? VERY problematic to say the least. ‘gandaci’…? https://lacoltulstrazii.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/nd.jpg

    • Parmalat

      Nicusor Dan the Conservative?? No way, I don’t believe it. I always thought he was a Liberal piece of sh*t.

      I may reconsider him, at least in part. However, I need to see some positions on the big Conservative files of today: muslim terrorists, loss of sovereignty to Bruxelles, economic protectionism, Third-World invasion of Europe.

      When you say you are Conservative and Nationalist, it means you have to take a Conservative and Nationalist stance, not only a declaration of Nationalism.

      I take this Conservative and Nationalist stance everyday, I’m being called a racist and a bigot everyday and in spite of that I’m fighting with defiance and with all my heart for Nationalism and Conservatism.

      Which is not something Nicusor Dan would be doing.

      Until I see him actually practicing Nationalism, I still believe he’s a Liberal piece of sh*t.

  • Zalacain

    Sporting facilities. There are very few in Bucharest. Very few swimming pools, or indoor facilities of any kind. There is no culture of sport for the young.
    Underground parking spaces. At present people park on the pavement, one day this will become illegal and people will have nowhere to park. Bucharest has to build tens of thousands of parking spaces.
    Tourist attractions. Bucharest needs to think what kind of tourists it wants to attract and build more attractions. More and better museums would be a start. Why not make a beach and swimming area on part of the Dambovita?
    As somebody else has already mentioned, a good market. Madrid and Barcelona have excellent markets that are destinations in their own right for foodies and tourists.

    A competition run by the city council that asks for ideas from the people for the improvement of the city. The best ideas get implemented and the originator gets a prize. I know this is open to corruption, but properly run, it could produce some original thoughts and solutions to problems.

    • Not sure about the Dambovita part, but good suggestions otherwise.

      • Zalacain

        Paris has done it and that is a working river. The Dambovita is more of a canal than a river so it would be quite easy to do. You don’t need to do so much work, add some water filters, build swim platforms, and a sunbathing area. In summer, it’d be full.
        It could be made to look good, it would be good for locals and an added tourist attraction.
        The Mayor could have a competition of Romanian architects, see who comes up with the best design.

    • Parmalat

      Did you ever feel the smell of Dambovita? It smells like rotten fish mixed with shit.

      I want to see luxury hotels and casino resorts in Bucharest.

      Also I want to see prostitution legalized and many brothels opening up to the public. With imported workers too, cause I want an Estonian girl.

  • The main thing should be redoing hala Unirii. A peasant market albeit a tad upscale. As soon as you get to Unirii and south the city changes into a sort of monument to the 1980s. Why? It’s 2016. The curb stones are a foot high, everything is different.

    • Andrei Nedelea

      I agree. That’s precisely what I think should be done. Excellent comment!

  • Hope he doesn’t shut down all of Bucuresti’s hipster bars. I went to get a beer tonight and sit outside in the spring weather at A1 where I often go and was shocked to find it has permanently closed suddenly. I suppose a whole new underworld of Bucharest nightlife will develop now with all the seismic risk commercial space closings and the no smoking ban on 16 March. . .

    https://www.facebook.com/BAR-A1-561444793894801/

  • Ethan

    While the Mayor may not be able to dictate what happens outside the city, I have seen that strong local leaders can rally people together to influence events regionally. If he’s dedicated and diplomatic he can probably get a lot accomplished in the environs.

    As far as the hot water is concerned, in- home systems are expensive and can take a lot of space. Money and space are two things many families in Bucharest don’t have.

    • Parmalat

      We can not install boilers and in-home heating systems because:

      1. They are expensive in the first place

      2. Require modifications to be made to the building (as in redrawing the gas pipes) which will never find consensus from the apartment owners

      3. The European Union taxes them extra as of 2016 and expects us to change them every 10 years

      There is only one solution to the heating problem:

      – Subsidize heating for 30 more years, until people will be able to pay for it in full

      If people won’t be able to pay for heating in full, even 30 years from now, it means the West had lied to us in the first place and they should be sued and demanded money from!

  • Parmalat

    With Soros in the back and cycling lanes upfront in an overcrowded city, I’m sure he will win the elections in 2125.

    Personally (leaving Soros out of the business, if that were ever possible) – I wouldn’t vote for cycling lanes even if Bucharest received their weight in gold as a compensation!

  • Filip

    Besides the waffly things, such as the Dâmbovița bla blah, the power station (actually, he’s got a new idea in this area: brand new heating pipes in the staircase of every apartment block!) or the suburban rail network (most likely not enough demand for such a thing), I think Nicușor Dan has two categories of blind spots:
    – first, plainly irrational ones: he doesn’t mention trams or light rail at all, while the Bucharest tram network is impressive. In 2012, when I was collecting signatures for the guy, I went to a public meeting where someone asked him about trams, in particular tram 32. He was like ‘I never heard of that thing’. Tram 32 is one of the most important trams in Bucharest, as frequent as 41 and 21.
    – upper middle class blind spots: while parks and bicycles are an issue for the upper middle class in northern Bucharest, people in the south have no money and no time to waste in several buses to get to Herăstrău. Also, almost 40 thousand households have no indoor toilets. There is basically nothing in his program to respond to the demands of the ‘south’: a true safety net, sanitation, health care and basic education. Yeah, kindergartens, but the after-school thing, while schools in poor neighbourhoods are kaput, is a visible upper class marker, so let me doubt that.
    So, while his parks & bicycles program will get him votes in that part of the middle class which is not hopelessly car-addicted, he ain’t gonna get nothing here in Ferentari. Also, the car-addicted middle class rather hates him.
    He needs to expand his comfort zone, but I think it is too late. He had four years.

    • I agree with much of what you say, most of all his failure to get out of his comfort zone. Communication even within the USB is appalling. He has indeed not made the leap we expected his too, and has not learned from his mistakes.

      He also puts far too great an emphasis on transparency: achieving this will be relatively easy and should not take long. But then what? Transparency does not solve problems itself.

      All told however, of the candidates currently on offer he is streets ahead and gets my vote.

      • Ethan

        You’re right in that transparency itself doesn’t solve problems (except the problem of lack of transparency), but it is necessary for accountability. Systemic accountability is a good and necessary base on which to tackle problems.

    • Parmalat

      If we pour gasoline and burn everything from Piata Victoriei to the North, we’re gonna catch in the fire 80% of the evil that holds Romania captive.

      That being said – if he’s looking for votes in the North, he will never win Bucharest. Real people live in the other areas.

      He should have settled for Sectorul 1 and give us all an example of bicycle lanes from Podul Baneasca to Arcul de Triumf during rush hour…