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):
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.
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.