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Thread: What would you like your local government to improve ?

  1. #1
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    Question What would you like your local government to improve ?



    When you vote at municipal elections, what kind of things do you want to see in the political programme of the party you would vote for ? I am aware that the answer will highly depend on the municipality and country in which one lives. The power delegated to the local government is usually fairly limited.

    Usually what matters most are such things as cleanliness, security (e.g. local police), urban planning (including renovation of run-down neighbourhoods), the environment (e.g. more parks), public transports (if they are public), and road infrastructure (incl. tunnels and traffic signs).

    Ironically, these are all the things I want to complain about in central Brussels. Well, not all. There re enough parks and there are quite nice. Roads are also ok. The rest is everything I dislike most about living in Brussels, compared to other places where I have lived (Tokyo, London, Berlin, Rome, Belgian countryside...).

    Brussels is divided in 19 municipalities, and the streets cleanliness seems to be directly proportional to the wealthiness of the neighbourhoods (or more likely the manners of the people who inhabit them). Downtown Brussels having some of the poorest inhabitants, although very nice architecturally, is a disaster of salubrity. Dog turds, cigarette butts, chewing gums and other rubbish everywhere ! Interestingly the EU district, under the same municipality but in a secluded area frequented almost only by EU workers, is much cleaner. This confirms that the problem comes from the people, more than the administration. Indeed the area just around the city administration building is one of the dirtiest ! So it means that the current cleaning system works well enough for "well-mannered" people, but is grossly insufficient for the needs of immigrant districts.

    Security is another big issue in the City of Brussels. The police cannot cope with vandalism anymore. It isn't that serious crimes are so common, but the city centre just feel so unsafe - much more so than bigger cities like London or Rome (well, closer to the "bad neighbourhoods" of Paris). This is because almost all the people living downtown (anything north and west of the Grand Place) are African immigrants (mostly Moroccans). Although I do not like cops in general, I wish there were more police in the street. We only see them casually patroling in their cars, but rarely walking in the streets, ready to intervene immediately in case of emmergency. I applaud the municipality of Schaarbeek (in the Brussels Capital-Region) for copying the Japanese system of "koban" (police box), so as to keep a presence of police in busy areas, near shopping streets, schools, etc. This is something I would definitely want to see in the city centre as well.

    Urban planning used to be good in Brussels, before WWI... Since then everything has been allowed, resulting in an architectural mishmash which make me ashamed of my country's capital. It is also a shame that the nicest 19th-century houses have all been taken up by economic immigrants who have quickly turned them into third-world quality accommodation, while richest people have been forced to move in ugly art-deco neighbourhoods in the suburbs. Naturally, immigrants always move to city centres, near shops and conveniences, so that they do not need a car, but also because it's easier when you arrive in a country and don't know anything. Consequently all the most beautiful neighbourhoods of Brussels (houses with neoclassical columns, high ceilings with mouldings, etc.) are now run-down, dirty and unsafe. Fortunately this is slowly changing. The local government has been giving incentives to renovate the historic centre, and investors are buying such houses (that have become some of the cheapest in the capital) to renovate them into luxury apartments. It will probably take over a decade (if not two) before central Brussels becomes neat and liveable again... :sigh:

    Public transports are the last "black spot" in Brussels. Well, buses and tramways aren't that bad. It is the metro, and even more so the metro stations (again in the city centre especially) that make one think that Brussels is not the EU capital but the third world capital.

    I blame the current Socialist and Christian-Democrat alliance ruling the City of Brussels for all these shortcomings. It made me all the more disappointed to see them re-elected 2 days ago with a bigger majority than before, certainly because these were the first local elections were foreign residents were able to vote. Muslim immigrants typically vote for the Socialist Party, while Black Africans may do the same or vote for the Christian-Democrats. The only party that seemed to have the competences to improve the situation, the Liberal Party (MR), only scored 18%.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 11-10-06 at 09:01.
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    Believe it or not, the state of New York is not as democratic as it seems because of the republican government we have right now. Hopefully, after the midterm election next month and when Eliot Spitzer gets the seat in the governer's office, some drastic changes happen.

    New York has the second highest tax burden in the nation following Maine, and the state's minimum wage is as low as $6.75/h. A lot of people are leaving NY from lack of opportunities.

    I would like them to get the state wide universal health care so that every residence in the state doesn't have to pay so much for medical attention.

    Welfare reform is much needed in this state. There are many perfectly healthy adults who are unemployed and abuse benefits. I've seen so many people come in my store who are on welfare and rent games and movies; people just hang around the park during the day instead of trying to get a job; people who drive around in a big SUV while they are on disability benefits.

    The state needs to spend more money to subsidize tuition for the state universities. Students are paying more and more every year.

    Lastly, I would not like them to give away their grand to develop the state park I live in. They just gave $20,000 to the private owner of recreation area on one of the mountains to build more stuff on top of it. Instead, they should spend their grand for maintaining the trails and preserving the wilderness.

    OK, that is enough of my vent.
    Last edited by misa.j; 12-10-06 at 17:04.
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    Here are a few things I would like to implement if I were elected as a politician (in Brussels) :

    1) criminalising vandalism, with punishments involving prison time (relative to the gravity, but with a minimum of 6 months) with forced surpervised cleaning of all graffiti and repair of all vandalised building or facility in the city.

    2) create "police boxes" based on the Japanese koban system everywhere in the city, so that no area is further than 300m away from a police presence.

    3) establish tougher penalties (heavy fines, from 500 euro upwards) and increased police vigilance for bad-mannered behaviours, including :

    - not cleaning up one's dog excrements in a public place (street, park...)
    - throwing garbage/rubbish, including cigarette butts and chewing gums, outside waste bins or waste bags
    - ban smoking in all enclosed public places (soon to be enforced anyway) as well as in busy streets (city centre).
    - enforce the law on "night din" (tapage nocturne in French), so that anybody making loud noise between 10pm and 7am should be fined at least 100 euro. I would establish a special police "hotline" to denounce such night din. Combined with the system of police of proximity ("koban"), the police should in fact arrive on the spot very quickly.

    4) train more educated police officers for serious crimes, with a better knowledge of modern technologies available, as well as a better knowledge of legislations (something which I find is insufficient in Belgium).

    These are all things which are pretty well established in Japan and in some English-speaking countries, but for some reason (laissez-faire ?) are still lacking in Belgium (or at least at not enforced, even when the law exists).

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    Quote Originally Posted by misa.j View Post
    Lastly, I would not like them to give away their grand to develop the state park I live in. They just gave $20,000 to the private owner of recreation area on one of the mountains to build more stuff on top of it. Instead, they should spend their grand for maintaining the trails and preserving the wilderness.
    Believe me, not much public works can be done with $20,000... That's not even enough to clean the facade of a ten-story (or more) apartment building in New York.

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    You're probably right. They could build another gift shop or something at best.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    4) train more educated police officers for serious crimes, with a better knowledge of modern technologies available, as well as a better knowledge of legislations (something which I find is insufficient in Belgium).
    Maciamo, do you know what the requirements are to become a police officer in Belgium? Do they take a civil service test and go through the academy like the US?

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    In my locality, urban renewal consists of restoration of business district building facades, but the back ends and roads are never improved. Shamefully, many of the oldest and grandest homes inside the city degenerate and residential neighbourhoods are demolished carte blanche, while whole new professional offices and carbon copy housing subdivisions move to the suburban landscape, where thoroughfares are indeed well-paved.

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