Fri

Nov

1711:27

MEET THE CANDIDATES – Red-Green Alliance and Social Liberal Party

 
On November 21, the Municipal and Regional elections are being held across Denmark. More than 360,000 internationals are eligible to vote. Up until the election, we will publish Q&As with the mayoral candidates in the Copenhagen Municipal election. Sadly, we don't have space to cover the five regional elections, or the contests in the other 97 municipalities around Denmark. But we hope that these answers will offer insights into how the parties think

Ninna Hedeager Olsen – Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten)

What is the biggest challenge facing Copenhagen today?

One of the greatest challenges in Copenhagen today is growing inequality. The government’s reforms of unemployment benefits have had a huge impact on many citizens in Copenhagen, who are having increasing trouble paying their rent. Homes are becoming more and more expensive, so the unemployed, teachers, and social workers are having to move further away from the city. The ill and homeless are being treated terribly due to across-the-board cuts to social services and job centres.

What can City Hall do to reduce gang crime?

Copenhagen needs to be a safe city for all of its residents, regardless of one’s background or where one lives. It is therefore extremely important that we put an end to the ongoing conflict. We must build preventative and inclusive communities that offer an alternative to the destructive communities of gangs. At Enhedslisten, we have proposed investing in local citizen initiatives, expanding the opening hours of city clubs and strengthening social work at the street level. It is vitally important that we prevent young people’s participation in these gang communities by offering the best recreational opportunities possible for the city’s youth. This very urgent problem must be solved by local police who know the neighbourhoods, and by the people who live in the areas where the conflicts are.

READ MORE: VOTE! Everything you need to know about the 2017 local elections

Are climate and environmental issues highly prioritized at City Hall?

We have a polluted city because there are too many cars. Every year, Copenhageners die from air pollution, and marginalised residents are at special risk. Copenhagen has a goal to become carbon neutral by 2030. But we demand that this happens now. Copenhagen should create less CO2 and damaging particulates. We need to make more space for bicycles – after all, it is the most popular form of transport. We need to make sure it is easier to get around the city, so we also need to invest in more climate-friendly public transport.

What can be done to make Copenhagen a better city for businesses and entrepreneurs?

We must strengthen the wellbeing of Copenhageners, as welfare contributes to the creation of security. In addition, we must ensure that Copenhagen has good schools that can educate citizens that are wise and capable of critical thinking. Last, but not least, we must of course provide infrastructure that enables businesspeople and contractors to get around the city quickly. We want the municipality to support non-profit companies that aren’t driven by profit, but by the goal of creating space for people in the labour market. We want to take social responsibility by creating sustainable employment opportunities for those who have been out of the labour market, but who can and want to work.

READ MORE: International voters don’t know their rights

What can be done to better support the city’s most marginalised citizens?

Conditions for the city’s most vulnerable citizens are getting worse and worse. We will put an end to that. We must secure more hostels for homeless citizens so they have a safe place to go. In addition, we must invest in housing for the citizens who are on their way out of homelessness and need to get used to having a home. We must prioritize workers who come into contact with the city’s most vulnerable citizens and provide security for them. We must do everything we can to prevent substance abuse and homelessness, but we also have to make sure that the city’s vulnerable citizens get all the help they need. It requires multiple and flexible efforts and strong professional specialization.

What are your party’s ambitions for the next four years?

Enhedslisten is working hard to ensure proper treatment of and trust in the city’s sick and unemployed citizens. At present, the conditions at city workplaces are so bad, and caseworkers under so much pressure, that there is no time or opportunity for proper treatment. We will put an end to that. We must make sure that caseworkers can provide qualified and individual treatment to all the sick and unemployed who need it. We need to change the culture of the entire system – from the mayor to the job centres – so in the future, we focus on trust instead of distrust.

For Internationals

Tommy Petersen – Social Liberal Party (Radikale)

Editor’s note: Mia Nyegaard was elected the mayoral candidate for the Radikale after this interview was carried out.

What is the biggest challenge facing Copenhagen today?

The biggest overall challenge is to make sure that our children’s opportunities are not negatively affected by the educational and economic situation of their parents. We can see that it’s hard to break that cycle so we need to invest much more heavily in the early years. To do so we need more professionals in our day care to take care of our kids.

What can City Hall do to address to lower gang crime?

City Hall is already doing a lot of things when it comes to the social services, employment and integration projects. We are also discussing how to stop the income that is derived from the illegal cannabis market, and Radikale Venstre supports a trial period of public sale of cannabis to see if it has an impact. Otherwise, it’s a task for the police, which is why Radikale wants fewer police on the borders and more on the streets.

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Are climate and environmental issues prioritised highly enough by City Hall?

They are definitely highly prioritised. It’s a centre of our agenda and City Hall has passed a number of policies to support that, including carbon going neutral. Obviously we can only do so much in City Hall, it’s a task for the EU to set tougher regulations that will make a much bigger impact. Much of the air pollution in Copenhagen, for example, is blowing in from other countries.

What can be done to make Copenhagen a better city for businesses and entrepreneurs?

One of the biggest issues is that we have a lot of startups but it’s hard for them to grow and survive. One problem is access to capital, which is tricky to address from a city hall perspective, as this normally comes from private investors and banks. But we are still looking at how on earth we can assist that. Secondly, in certain industries there are too few caseworkers in City Hall, which creates delays in approval processes. So we can definitely improve their experience with City Hall It’s in our interests to create businesses and jobs in Copenhagen, and I do think we can do much better.

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What can be done to better support the city’s most marginalised citizens?

I think we have reached a point where we really need to put some legislation in place that will allow us to open public hostels to non-Danes as well – currently only Danes can sleep in publicly funded hostels. In theory, EU regulations allow us to deport EU citizens who don’t have a home or job. But it’s not high on the police’s priorities, and European homeless are coming back regardless. From a humanist perspective, we can’t leave them to sleep on the street, we need a solution to that. But City Hall cant do that alone – we need the government and EU.

What are your party’s ambitions for the next four years?

Our ambition is that over the next four years Copenhagen will become even more open and diverse as a place where more people feel like it’s safe to be themselves. We also want to hire 500 more daycare workers. And before the next election, we hope the first steps will be made to turn H.C. Andersen’s Boulevard into a tunnel. It’s Denmark’s busiest stretch of road, but the space should be used for housing and people, not cars.

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By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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